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Where Marketers Go to Grow

August 2, 2011 // 3:00 PM

When (And When Not) to Automate Your Social Media Updates

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describe the image This is a guest post by Nikki Peters, community manager of MarketMeSuite . MarketMeSuite now has thousands of users and a fast-growing global customer base of small businesses and consultants.

One of the most common questions that gets asked in the social media world lately is, "Should I automate my updates?" You will also hear some very convincing answers that make the case for both the "yes" camp and those who say "no." Because there is no clear cut answer to this question, let me explain when it is a good idea to automate and when you should stand up and take an active and forward approach to social media engagement .

When You Should Interact and Take Control

Social media is, at its very heart, a social tool. It was created to give you the opportunity to engage, interact, and build relationships and connections yourself. Automation was created as an afterthought, but real people are at the core of what makes social media work. Therefore, it's critically important for businesses and marketers to take the time to be social and actually interact with their audience personally.

Here's Why:

1. It's Courteous: If someone takes the time to tweet at you or message you, it's only courteous that you should take time to reply to them personally in return. You won't make a customer feel special if you set up automatic and generic responses. In fact, automated responses in these circumstances can actively harm your customer relationships, and these should be avoided as often as possible. Think of the common adage your mother taught you...

"Treat others how you yourself would like to be treated."

2. It Breaks Down Barriers: Engaging personally breaks down that fourth wall. It lessens the barrier between you and your clients and makes them feel special (because they are!). And when your customers are happy, you'll get positive reviews , which can help increase your overall audience. Happy customers equal a good reputation, and this is something that every company should work hard to achieve.

3. It Shows the People Behind Your Brand: Remember, people don't interact with "brands" in their daily lives. They wouldn't walk into an Apple store and expect automated robots behind the counter helping them using canned responses. It's just not realistic. So why do it online? People don't want to know the brand. They want to know the people and personalities behind it -- the people who make it all come together and work for them. By being on hand to help these people personally, you are showing that your brand and business has compassion and interest in its customers. This is what they care about.

4. It Enables You to Repond Quickly: If you get used to sending out automated messages and updates, you'll be more likely to start neglecting the responsibility of social media monitoring . This is a dangerous mistake. Not monitoring your social media presence on a regular basis will prevent you from being available to help people who may have questions about the automated messages you send. What impression does it give when a question goes unanswered? Don't build a reputation as the company that neglects its consumers.

5. It Helps Prevent Duplicate Messaging: People and businesses sometimes fall into the trap of scheduling identical or similar posts at different times. This is a bad user experience for your online community. It looks spammy, and you will lose your public's interest. Sending duplicate messages is just not good marketing! Instead of blasting out a batch of the same tweets over and over, create more individual messages yourself to avoid duplication.

When Automation Can Be Useful

Although a dependency on automated updates can be harmful to your reputation and work flow, social media automation, when used correctly, can also be an asset.

Here's Why:

1. Social Media Is Global: Scheduling your news and topics means you are using your time effectively. If you have a global market, you can't really be expected to stay up 24/7 and send manual updates at particular times aimed at peak times in different time zones. It's an impossible and unrealistic expectation. By automating these types of updates, you will be using your time effectively as well as optimizing the timeliness of your marketing.

2. It Helps to Easily Distribute New Content: RSS feeds are a great way to disseminate informative and useful content to your audience, and it's automated! Many blog platforms allow you to connect your blog to your social media accounts so that when you publish a blog post, a link to it automatically gets posted to your social media entities such as your Facebook business Page or Twitter feed. This enables your friends and followers to get instant notifications when you publish new content, and can save you the time of manually posting links yourself every time you publish something new. RSS feeds are a great way of getting your content, articles, and news out to the masses.

3. Frequent Updates Keep Your Presence Fresh: As long as your automated updates are useful and contain good content, frequent updates will keep your social media presence fresh, ultimately increasing follower/friend interest in you and your company. Just be sure to look out for any responses to automated tweets and answer them personally!

4. It's Okay in Moderation: As long as you evenly space your automated updates, you won't have to worry about harassing your fans and followers with endless robotic updates, which can seem spammy and monotonousness. That said, a handful of automated updates spread evenly over time can help you reach your audience without wasting valuable time or testing their comfort zone.

Key Marketing Takeaway

Only you know your company, its ethics, and your audience, so it's up to you to determine what works best for your business. Just always be sure to have that touch of humanity in your online presence, because behind every computer sits an actual person, not a robot.

Image credit: Sebastianlund


Topics: Inbound Marketing Social Media Lead Generation

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