Between curating content, posting updates on Facebook, tweeting several times a day, listening to your audience, responding to customers, and analysing insights, you could easily make it your full time job. Time is money, and suddenly social media doesn’t seem as “free” as you may have thought it was originally.
Naturally, many small business owners would love to find some way to make things a little bit easier. There are many tools out there for pre-scheduling posts for your social media, such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. Facebook even has it’s own feature for scheduling posts in advance, equally so does Twitter. Other socialnetworks seem to be following and soon will all have their own 'scheduled posting' system.
So is automation the key to saving time? Many critics will say no, and that automation takes the 'social' out of social media. However, I believe that automating posts can be a useful tool for social media marketers, as long as it is used very carefully and in balance with real-time posts and careful monitoring!
Below is my advice for using automation smartly. Every business is different though, so you may need to try some different things to find the right balance for you.
Nothing will make you sound more automated than repeating the same messages over and over. That being said, Twitter moves fast. If you post a link to your latest blog post and your followers aren’t online within an hour (sometimes less), chances are they will miss it. For that reason, I believe some repetition on Twitter is okay, as most of your followers probably won’t even notice. My advice is just keep it to a minimum and if you are going to post the same thing twice, at least change up your wording.
Monitor and respond
Just because you are spending less time posting, doesn’t mean you can spend less time listening. You still need to monitor what people are saying about you and your industry, and always respond to customers in a timely fashion. You can’t just set your account on auto-pilot and walk away.
Post to Facebook and Twitter separately
I am not big on businesses that link their Facebook accounts to Twitter or vice versa. These are two separate channels and people use them differently so your marketing will be more effective if you treat them as such rather than just lumping them together. If your Facebook posts are too long, they won’t fit in a tweet, and no one wants to see a Twitter handle on Facebook.
Facebook Edgerank is higher when posts are created in Facebook, which means that they will reach more people. Using Facebook’s scheduling tool and the Activity Log will make sure you are maximizing your Facebook Edgerank and getting the most views. For Twitter, you can use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to preschedule your posts.
Check on it often
Prescheduling posts is not a set and forget activity. Life is unexpected and things may come up that may affect what you had scheduled to post. For example, during a crisis such as the Boston bombings, you may want to look over your scheduled posts and make sure there is nothing that may come across as insensitive to be posting about at that time.
One tragic example of prescheduling gone wrong happened a little while ago in Toronto. A Radiohead concert was cancelled after the stage collapsed during set-up, killing one person and injuring others. The venue, however, forgot to cancel their prescheduled social media posts to promote the concert. They were tweeting to boost excitement for the concert even after it had already been cancelled.
Add in a lot of real-time posts
Lastly, make sure you are still throwing in some real-time posts when you have the time. Your followers will be able to tell if your account is entirely automated, so keep it interesting and fresh with some spontaneous content.