This is actually how auto tweets are made (picture credit - Scott Bedford)

A Social Media Presence is Essential

In this day and age, if you're running an internet marketing campaign, social media is an absolute necessity. 'Social media' is so much more than just a buzzword it's an ever-growing force that's showing no sign of letting up, and there's a whole host of reasons why businesses, small or large, need to take notice. The benefits have been discussed time and time again, and I think it's safe to say that most of us are in agreement that the rewards that can be reaped from social networks are indeed very real.

But to reap these rewards, you must have a meaningful presence in the social media stratosphere. Having a meaningful social media presence can be demanding, but there are numerous ways in which businesses cope with the demands that come with achieving success across the various networks. As we know, a good social media presence requires regular updates, quality content and engagement with audiences. The truth is, many businesses either don't have the resources for a dedicated team to take charge of their social media, or they simply don't understand how important social media can be in the overall success of the business. Those who fall into the latter category will often take a half-assed approach; they set up profiles on the major social networks, sign up to an automation tool, create numerous posts and tweets, schedule them to be published at a later date and let it take care of itself. All the while, they can rest assured that their social networks are ticking over nicely, whilst attending to 'more pressing' matters. We've even seen some of the aforementioned automation tools use the slogan "set it and forget it".

Granted, this strategy ticks some of the boxes; it allows you to update your profiles frequently and you can produce high quality, unique content, which will undoubtedly be relevant to your audience. What this approach lacks is engagement with the audience. How can you possibly predetermine what people will be talking about an hour/two hours/a day or even a week from when your content was created? Without keeping a track of what else is going on across the various social networks, your scheduled updates could at best go unnoticed, or at worst, completely devalue your company's brand.

Social Media is About Listening

Social media is as much about listening as it is about being heard, and automation removes this vital element entirely. Over-automating your social media leaves you open to numerous potential problems. Updates are all about context. If there's a hot topic on a social network, or some major world news is breaking, suddenly, telling your audience about your 50% off sale becomes contextually irrelevant. The chances are that this won't go unmissed and you could end up doing some lasting damage to your brand as a whole. People will often spot social automation a mile off and treat it as spam - there are so many tell tale signs if it is over-used.

Sports store feeding endless Sky Sports News links. Why not just follow Sky Sports instead?

Informative, Inquisitive and Promotional Content

In the simplest terms, social media updates should be a blend of informative, inquisitive and promotional content. Very often, without these three elements, a social media profile can look unnatural, and with the implementation of automated systems, you immediately remove the ability to post inquisitive content. This will only encourage interaction, and robo-tweets can't handle interaction!

If your updates are very one-sided (i.e. your audience is bombarded with information and there is no requirement for a response on their part), you run the risk of losing their interest, just as if you were talking to someone face-to-face. After all, we do call it social media, and to an extent, the same rules apply.

As the example in the screenshot above shows, many businesses take the easy option of feeding updates from other sites. Doesn't this suggest that the sites you're linking to are more reliable sources of information than your own? Where possible, create your own content, become the authority and direct the traffic to your own site.

Whether it be a vain attempt at maximising the SEO benefits of social media or to increase a brand's online presence, a completely automated strategy is flawed.

On the Flip Side...

Using automation as part of your social media strategy is wholly recommended. Without doubt, it has it's benefits:

  • It certainly saves you time. For lots of us, it seems that there simply aren't enough hours in the day. If there's an opportunity to save a few minutes here or there, more often than not, we're in! Unless quality is compromised, that is
  • Your updates have the potential to reach a larger audience. You can schedule updates at any time of the day, so when you are asleep, you can still communicate with other parts of the world that are online.
  • The more frequently you update, the more visible your profiles will be.
  • Tools such as HooteSuite allow you to multitask and update various networks at once. However, remember that each network has its own etiquette to adhere to. Something tells us that this Tweet wasn't originally destined for Twitter..

140 characters - fail.

Keep a Healthy Balance

Although trying so hard to avoid sounding like a cereal commercial, it is so important to keep a healthy balance of both automated and manual updates in your social media strategy. Invite followers to interact with your brand - feed hungry mouths rather than ramming content down their throats.