Is Automation Killing the "Social" in Social Media?

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Social Media
Customer Experience
Imagine this. You decide to follow one of your favorite brands on Twitter and moments later, you experience the briefest jolt of excitement when you see that said brand has sent you a direct message on Twitter. Yet instead, you find the most generic marketing message conceivable: "Thx for following. We'd love to have you as a fan on our Facebook page, too..." Womp, womp.

Imagine this. You decide to follow one of your favorite brands on Twitter and moments later, you experience the briefest jolt of excitement when you see that said brand has sent you a direct message on Twitter. Yet instead, you find the most generic marketing message conceivable: "Thx for following. We'd love to have you as a fan on our Facebook page, too..." Womp, womp.As automation moves into the social sphere and marketers can easily automate tweets, messages, Facebook posts, and more, there's a risk that automation will make social media less, well, social. But automation doesn't have to defeat the very purpose of social media. When it comes to balancing marketing automation with social outreach, here are several tips to keep in mind.

DON'T automate "personal" messages.
The biggest problem with automating social posts is that an automated response abuses the personal communication aspect of social media. Direct messaging on Twitter is intended as a private and, therefore, more personal way to communicate with followers. So, if you chose to use this more personal form of Twitter communication, make sure that your messages are, in fact, personal. Provide a special discount or offering exclusively for new followers, or skip the automation and take the time to write a personalized message.

DO automate content distribution tweets.
It is perfectly acceptable to automate some of your social activities. Use automated postings with messages that don't need to be personal; for example, content distribution or product announcements. Social media is ideal for delivering information to a large group of people, and scheduling posts like these can actually create a win-win situation: it saves you, the marketer, from having to post the announcement of a new blog post to each of your company's multiple social media channels; and provides your followers with valuable and timely information.

Consider the issue of timing. Your followers are still active on social media on days off. Schedule an extra blog to publish over the weekend, and schedule a social posting to alert followers of the release. Or, if you have weekly webinars, schedule posts reminding followers when they will happen and where they can sign up. Automating messages like these can help reach prospects and clients in different time zones, and, unlike email, the same message can be sent several times without becoming a nuisance.

DON'T "set it and forget it."
Social media marketing is a great way to quickly distribute your content to a large group of people, but what really makes this form of marketing unique is that it provides your company with the invaluable opportunity to personally engage with prospects and clients about your content. This personal communication is social media's greatest value to companies, and it can't be faked. So remember that while scheduling postings can save you a lot of time, it's not an excuse to leave your social media channels unmanned. Even if you've a scheduled a whole fleet of content distribution postings, actively monitor your social media outlets and personally respond to feedback within 24 hours. A good rule of thumb is to log on to social media pages daily.

DO take advantage of reporting features.
When handled correctly, integrating social media with marketing automation software can have numerous benefits. Not only does it allow the marketer to schedule postings in advance, integrating marketing automation with social media marketing also allows marketers to see detailed reports on prospects' interactions with their posts, and build a more comprehensive prospect profile. Having a record of these exchanges is valuable to sales reps and can also help marketers figure out what works in social marketing.

Finally, remember that finding a balance between automated content distribution postings and personal interactions is an ongoing process. Manually check in on your social media channels once a day, and make sure that you're posting at least one personal interaction daily in addition to automated tweets. It can be a response to feedback on your posts or something as simple as re-tweeting a helpful article--any action to let your followers know that you're actively engaged with your social media outlets. Marketing automation can help marketers get the most out of social media efforts; just don't overdo the automation and defeat social marketing's most valuable advantage: personal connections.

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About the Author: Molly Hoffmeister is marketing content specialist at Pardot.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION