So what’s the best approach? How do you strike a balance between being there and being sensible? Business owners dream of being able to spend less time working and more time enjoying the product of their hard work, which is directly linked to how many of your business operations you can put on autopilot. One of the key points that stuck in my mind when I first left the corporate world of employment for the greener (well it looked green at the time) pasture of self-employment and entrepreneurship was that I should be working towards taking myself out of the business and spending my days on sunnier shores while my business made money whilst I played (or slept).
A good place to start is by establishing a distinction between automation and scheduling. To me automation is the destroyer of social media. The various tools – let’s not name them, but we all know what they are; which allow you to bulk follow and un follow people; send multiple direct messages and upload thousands of messages at a time to be broadcast like piped music in a shopping mall – background noise that soon gets ignored – end up creating social media that is little more than RSS feeds unless you take it the time to pop back every now and again to engage with the people who have sent you an @ reply or retweeted you. In my view automation is the set it and forget it attitude that is normally synonymous with overselling, spam (who really wants an automated DMs saying “thank you for following, now visit my Facebook page”) and goofs. Hands up, I once automated a RSS feed from a favourite news channel only to return to discover that I had pre-faced one stream with the words “some great news” which ended up being the introduction to a story about a massacre!!!
Scheduling on the other had is using tools to “schedule” selected information so that a) it doesn’t flood my social media streams all at once and be) I can engage with members of my community that are in different time zones. Another benefit of scheduling is repetition. I know that some people complain that repeating updates, especially tweets, is the equivalent of social media junk mail; however, such people are either always on line and so can’t be considered to be normal or just naive. Very few messages can be delivered once if they are to be effective. Marketing and communication is built on repetition. Can you imagine a major corporation like Coca-Cola or Nike just running an advertisement once? Social media is no different, people dip in and out so repeating your message (only if it’s worth hearing of course) allows more people to hear it and more importantly absorb it.
I can already hear those of you who will argue that scheduling/automation is just splitting hairs. My point is that the case for and against scheduling/automation is like most things in life; a shade of grey rather than strictly black and white. Let’s take Twitter for example, here in a nutshell, are the pros and cons for scheduling:
The case for scheduling your tweets
- Top reason has to be it saves time- time is money and the time saved can be spent on other money making business activities (or even with your friends and family)
- Scheduling helps you to space your tweets out in a way that doesn’t clog your feed. This can be damaging to your twitter reputation because no one want to see your profile image taking up the next 20 tweets.
- Scheduling can actually give you more time to engage. Once you have scheduled your information giving tweets, i.e. directing people back to articles on your blog, you can then spend your twitter time engaging with your community in real time.
- Scheduling enables you to connect with many more people across different time zones so you can connect with a much larger number of twitter followers compared to what you can without scheduling tweets.
The case against scheduling your tweets
- Like the fairy tale of the villagers who were all asked to bring wine for the town festival and each secretly thought “no one will notice if I bring water” – so there was no wine only water; if everyone is scheduling tweets the result is that the level of conversation is greatly reduced, which means there will be less actual social networking.
- You may lose followers by scheduling your tweets if people get frustrated with you because they want to interact and you aren’t there at the time.
- If you don’t remember to update your scheduled tweets they can quickly become irrelevant and/or old
So what are the best ways to automate in order to strike the balance that keeps you engaged but not tied to your computer responding to every update?
Here’s how I think you should use scheduling to get the best out of it without alienating your community:
To post across multiple social media platforms: we all like to think that the same people follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook, connect with us on LinkedIn and interact with us on Google +, however the truth is that it really is each to their own and the various platforms attract different audiences. (That’s not to say that there isn’t any overlap) Naturally there are often occasions when you will want to post the same information to all your connections and being able to do it once using tools like HootSuite (my personal favourite) is a great time saver. A note of caution – don’t bore your community by auto-pushing the exact same content on every network if it isn’t relevant or appropriate!
To manage information across different time zones: The wonderful thing about the World Wide Web is the ability to link inter-continentally with people that less than a generation ago you would not have been able to do business with. The 24-hour world of the Internet requires that it works while you sleep and scheduling updates to go out with and the rest of the world is awake ensures that you get some regular beauty sleep.
Sending welcome newsletters when someone signs up to your list
Drip marketing campaigns
(There must be very few, if any, people who do the final two activities manually these days, however both are forms of automation/scheduling which are considered acceptable.)
When used appropriately, shuttling your social media can actually be good for the health of your business, your brand, your online community and your sanity. Use the right tools and schedule your content at the right times so that if you need to be there to interact with it you are available. Most of all, remember that the people who are the most successful users of social media of those who dedicate some serious time to interacting with their community. Therefore use your scheduling or automation to respectfully supplement your social media activities rather than replace them.
For or against? Do you use schedule posts on your social media accounts? What pros and cons you experienced?
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