Social Media Automation: Yea, or Nay?

Social media automation

Don’t be an evil robot

Geoff Reiner is one of the really outstanding folks I’ve met through blogging and Twitter. A few days ago, he posted “Does Social Media Automation Increase Engagement?

For the moment, I’m not so concerned about that particular question. Social media automation is a tool. Like any other tool, it can be used for good or abused.

My question is, are you using it for good, or evil?

For instance, I have no problem whatsoever with scheduling of tweets or Facebook posts.

I have a lot of time at night. Not so much time during the day. So if I want to give a shout out to (for instance) Geoff Reiner for his great blog post, I write a tweet when I have spare time, and schedule it for a time when more people will see it. The tweet will have a greater audience,  and Geoff and his team might appreciate that.

In other cases, I could tweet about seeing a particular movie, reading a book, going to a tweet-up, and so on. I’m not sure this has to be done in real time.

Some of the very best Facebook posts I’ve seen include a great photo and an intriguing question. Why can’t that be scheduled?

Automate your posts, but listen and respond with care.

Now, scheduling posts is one thing. But listening and responding is something altogether different. If your company uses social media for customer service, you better figure out a system that respects your customers. Keep regular hours, just like you do for the rest of your business.

But for most purposes, you don’t need to respond in real time. You should respond in a timely manner, but defining timely is for you to decide.

I think it’s actually kind of cool that people can engage each other over the course of hours or days. As I told Geoff, if I needed to communicate in real time with someone, I’d pick up a phone, or use Google Hangouts.

How you decide to run your social media presence is your privilege.

On the other hand, it’s easy to abuse your privileges.

I never want to get an automated direct message on Twitter. And boy are those automated DMs easy to sniff out. It’s a real good way to lose followers.

How about you? What do you like, or hate, about social media automation?

27 thoughts on “Social Media Automation: Yea, or Nay?

  1. Like you said Barrett, it’s a tool. And just like any other tool, its use should be dictated by the need. A hammer works better than a shoe when I want to put a nail in a wall. But both will work. So it’s always a decision: what tool works best? And that might vary depending upon the situation, timing, urgency, need and availability of the tool. Cheers! Kaarina
    Kaarina Dillabough recently posted..What is a CoachMentor and What’s the Benefit of Working with one?

    • Yep, having the right tool really helps… Like right now, I’m tapping this out on my IPad… I HATE writing on my iPad! 🙂 I’m really curious to learn why some people are so adamantly against automation. I guess they’re only seeing one side of the coin.

  2. Barrett, is this the place where you are serious? I don’t know about you but my life is filled with tools. Sometimes they’re helpful and sometimes they annoy the crap out of me especially if they don’t do the job the way I intended.

    Nothing wrong with automating stuff but I would have to agree that if you never respond or don’t in a timely manner then it’s curtains for you.

    Here’s one you maybe missed that reinforces your point in a different kinda way.

    Cheers. Get serious for a chnage would ya?
    Ralph recently posted..If you think content is king then you better be a good storyteller.

  3. If you know how to use a tool effectively it becomes a tremendous resource for expanding your footprint and maintaining a presence while still making people feel like you are a real person.

    The problems begin when people think you see them as a number and stop feeling valued.

    For me the question always comes back to a question of will it do more good than harm. We can’t please everyone and it is foolish to try.

    Yet, it is mistake to ignore everyone too.

    Posted by Josh’s virtual assistant.
    Josh recently posted..What I Learned From Richard Nixon’s Speechwriter

  4. You know what I’m starting to think, though? All of us who automate our posts because we’re doing all our reading, ahem, at night?!?! We think running them during the day gets a larger audience yet we’re all here right now! LOL, that’s a bit tongue and cheek but something to think about as I sit here buffering Ll these posts for tomorrow. 🙂
    Lisa Gerber recently posted..Seeking Balance

  5. Pretty much what you said! I’m actually in the process of reviewing my tribes on Triberr because if I were to push out every single post that is currently running in my tribal stream, that’s ALL my Twitterfeed would consiste of, and that’s just appalling to me… because then it becomes so much tougher to see “real” @ messages, etc. And while I have lost a little of my conversational element over the last few months due to various reasons, it’s coming back soon.

    I think it’s as you said at the end – being part of a community is a privilege, not a right. And we shouldn’t abuse that privilege.
    Shonali Burke recently posted..Social Media: The Key to Transforming Doctor-Patient Communication

    • I hear you, Triberr is a tough one. (Note: For those of you who don’t know Triberr — it’s a community of bloggers who organize into “tribes” and support each other with social media promotion via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, etc.)

      I appreciate it but I’m just getting used to the idea that you don’t need to give your stamp of approval to everyone in your tribes, or all of their posts. It’s definitely a beast that can easily get out of control, and it needs to be tamed.

      I’m getting better at it. But it’s a challenge to make it real, and not robotic.
      barrett recently posted..Taking Social Media By The Horns, Where You Live

    • I don’t care for the one-way street folks, except for Eddie Izzard. I admit to following him, because he’s really freaking funny.

      On another note, what is the proper etiquette for people who RT via Triberr. I’m never sure if I should thank them for their RT, knowing that it is automated and they aren’t there anyways.

      I tend to stick to thanking people who RT manually. Is that wrong?
      Brian Meeks recently posted..Later Still

    • I don’t know Brian. I think I said elsewhere that Triberr is a tough one, at least for me. I’m doing less with it than I did at first, but still trying to thank everyone. I’m sure I miss one from time to time.

      I think batching a group of Thank You’s together is not such a bad idea.
      barrett recently posted..Are You A Social Media Expert?

  6. Barrett,

    You the man!

    Thanks for the shout outs and I’m glad I could inspire. I think this post is awesome because I totally agree with it. Tools all come back to objectives. Like many people above said, it’s all about finding the most appropriate tool for the task.

    I love automation tools – they help me become effective and efficient. However, if your objective is to build strong relationships (to your point), more personal tools like the good old fashion telephone would lead to more desirable results.

    Sometimes people get blinded by the shine. There may be a new, fancy tool out that everyone is talking about but if it doesn’t help you achieve your objective, what’s the point?

    Thanks again!
    Geoff Reiner recently posted..The Importance of Expressing Gratitude

    • Dang it Geoff… if you agree with EVERYTHING I’m not doing a very good job of being controversial, am I?

      Building relationships is one objective, but there may be some other legitimate objectives as well: Promoting content and establishing yourself as a thought leader come to mind. Knowing what you’re there for, and not getting distracted, is something to keep in mind. (Yet It slips my mind, constantly!)
      barrett recently posted..Why We Don’t Plagiarize

  7. Awesome job Barrett!

    I completely agree that there is a big difference (and fine line) between use and abuse, but do you think it’s up to us to decide?

    My only concern is when you stated “you don’t need to respond in real time. You should respond in a timely manner, but defining timely is for you to decide.” I think you could potentially run the risk of losing existing/potential customers, but it would obviously depend on industry and situation.

    The flip side is you’ve actually taken the time to identify a filter for “right fit” in your business, and if those people don’t fit within your definition of “timely”, then they don’t make the cut.

    Thanks for a great post, and making my visit memorable…I will certainly be back 🙂



    • Troy, I appreciate your kind words and it’s good to see you here. Being timely is definitely important, but I think the definition changes per your objective. If you’re handling questions about product features for people who are evaluating your complex product, you better be there b/c if not, a competitor will be. But if you’re just being social, what’s timely? I think there’s a lot of leeway there.

      A friend of mine sends DMs to new followers with a 2-for-1 offer for his incredibly tasty burritos — he handles marketing for a local ownership group of a large gourmet Mexican food chain. I’ll take that whether it’s offered instantly, or a week later!
      barrett recently posted..Are You Smart Enough For Marketing?

  8. I’m a nay vote. But then I don’t consider scheduling to be automation or rather, when it’s self scheduled and content curated it’s not.

    Now feeding your friends’ RSS feeds into some tool to broadcast, setting up so you automatically RT everything some guru writes, blind shares and the like – I ain’t down with that. A wise blogger, think it was Neal Schaffer wrote that you can automate a process, not engagement. I agree and go further – you can program and schedule, but you can put relationships on autopilot. Sure use the tools to filter and edit, to target and schedule – so long as there’s a human calling the shots, so long as there’s a person who’s out there actually being social. FWIW.
    Davina K. Brewer recently posted..Think You’re Irreplaceable? Keep Dreaming.

    • Excellent advice Davina! FWIW, that advice is worth a lot.

      It’s funny, some of the automation you mention is stuff I would never even consider. But it’s out there in waves.

      Here’s my favorite– by which I mean “least favorite.”

      Someone follows you on Twitter. You notice that they follow 200 people, but they are followed by 20,000. You follow back. Then a month or so later, they unfollow you. All done automatically, I suspect.

      At least now I know how they have such a high ratio of follower…
      barrett recently posted..Dave Martin, Founder Of The Martin Agency

      • Don’t get me started on that bullshit. I’ve seen so much gaming with social – shares and reshares, the follow/unfollow racket, or not blocking obvious fakes to pretty up your numbers, maneuverings to get higher social scores. And yes, so much is automatic but some of it is just strategic douchery and none of it out of a genuine interest in being ‘social.’

  9. I use HootSuite (in conjunction with BundlePost) and Buffer to schedule good content throughout the day. It isn’t full automation because I read each post before scheduling it.

    Same goes for Triberr – I love using it, and accept the auto-scheduling times it does, but I read each post first.

    I go against the grain of a lot of my best online friends who I respect – in that I do have an auto-DM. I do it as a courtesy, and I try to add a little humor without selling anything. Basically, it says “I don’t always DM, but when I do, it’s often to show appreciation for a new follower. Otherwise, let’s look to engage in the public stream!”

    As for Google+ Hangouts – absolutely love them. It beats picking up the phone because you can get facial expressions and body language…as well as finally meet online friends “face-to-face”. We’ve really enjoyed having Hecklers’ Hangouts on Thursdays, and we even have Dino Dogan from Triberr as our special guest this week.
    Brian Vickery recently posted..49ers Quarterback Controversy – Sentiment Analysis by Mantis Pulse Analytics

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing Brian. You’re making some concessions to the impersonal nature of the auto-DM by the wording of your message, and it may be just enough. But damn, a lot of people abuse it, though not as many as 6 months ago. Do you think word got out?

      With Triberr, I really wish that the free version I use allowed you to schedule your tweets… I wonder if the pro version lets you do that? I figured out after a few months of Triberr to be more selective about the posts I tweet, and that requires reading them all. Plus, I’m a sucker for leaving comments. It can be a real time suck, but you learn as you go I guess.

      In any case, you have to ask, “Am I really serving the people this message/tweet/post is meant for? Or am I just trying to take a short cut to meet my own needs?”
      barrett recently posted..Taking Social Media By The Horns, Where You Live

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