Arguments for Automating Social Media (and How to Do It)

To begin from a point of clarity, complete and total automation of your social media presence is not a great idea.

If you want to see real results, you still need to use the right tone, images, and content on each channel to get results. You also need to avoid the terrible fate of those brands whose scheduled tweets go out during a crisis and seem appallingly insensitive.

In an ideal world, we’d all have dedicated people running our social media 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In reality, there’s rarely enough time or energy to get the most out of the dozens of available social channels.

That’s when automating your social media efforts starts to make sense. Here we’re going to look at three common situations that call for some degree of automation, complete with steps to start along your automation journey.

When Social Media Automation Makes Sense

First of all, here are three totally legitimate reasons to (sort of) automate social media:

  1. You’d like to have a life outside of responding on social media. From a customer service perspective, the majority of your customers’ inquiries (60%) will come when you’re not in the office.
  2. Your social media team is small (or non-existent). Despite the integral place that social media has in modern digital marketing, many departments lack an employee who is dedicated social media marketing.
  3. Social media just isn’t your priority. Yes, social media is important. Yes, it’s a linchpin of marketing marvels in every industry. No, it’s not always the most important thing on your list. When it’s not, automation can fill in the gap.

Each of these situations has its own unique needs, so I’m going to categorize the following social media automation tips (and, dare I say it, hacks) based on the above reasons.

Hopefully this will allow you to find tools that fit your particular situation most closely without needing to wade through a massive list.

Responding on Social Media Outside of Office Hours

Unless you’re getting paid overtime, you shouldn’t be expected to worry about requests, inquiries, or complaints that come in outside of business hours.

While it’s tempting to throw together some automatic IFTTT (If This, Then That) recipes that will respond to people when you’re not around, you run the risk of replying in a way that comes off as inappropriate.

Consider these highly embarrassing examples from American Airlines and Progressive.

Hopefully they’ll convince you that it’s worth having a slightly longer time to reply on social media rather than risk automating service after hours.

At most, you could turn on a kind of “out of office” notification that sends people direct messages on Twitter if they submit a service request after hours, but without seeing the actual content of the tweet this is still a risky move.

Adding More Power to a Small Social Media Team

If there just aren’t enough hours in the week for your team to squeeze some ROI out of social media, IFTTT is going to be a lifesaver for you.

Your primary goals should be:

  1. Engage efficiently with your existing social media audience.
  2. Drive conversions whenever possible (so you can get more budget/personnel).
  3. Reduce time spent on menial, non-productive social tasks (like posting updates).

Some key IFTTT recipes that you’ll want to try out:

  • Automatically add people to a Twitter list based on the content of their tweets. This way you can collect accounts to engage with in one handy place.
  • Choose your primary social media channel(s), then set up IFTTT recipes that create posts on less important channels each time you post on your best one(s). You can’t be everywhere all the time, but you can invest time wisely.
  • Drive content shares based on RSS feeds from your own blog as well as those of key influencers.

Other tools you should make sure to have up your sleeve:

  • Include a call to action when you share other people’s content. Now content curation helps you while helping others. Win win.
  • Buffer, Hootsuite, Coschedule: Small teams just can’t get by without some kind of scheduling tool. Pick your favorite (Buffer is mine), and get scheduling.
  • Social analytics: The only way to prove that your harder smarter work is paying off is to track results. Your scheduling tool should have analytics included, but make sure you also have goal tracking set up in Google Analytics so you can monitor social traffic all the way through a sale (or other conversion).

When Social Media Just Isn’t Your Priority

Social media can be a phenomenal driver of traffic, leads, and sales, but the sad truth is that it can also be a black hole of time and energy.

Every hour you spend sharing content on social media is an hour you didn’t spend following up on leads, creating content, or coming up with the next great marketing idea.

For those who only have a certain number of hours available to devote to social media marketing, that time would be much better spent engaging with your followers or participating in live chats rather than mindlessly posting to each and every social channel.

So, how do you put social media to work for you, rather than being chained to its demands? More IFTTT recipes, of course!

Hernan Vasquez has a very useful guide over on Foundr for using a blog’s RSS feed to automatically share new articles via your social profiles. You can even create individual boards on Pinterest based on your blog’s categories.

As with the other automation systems we’ve discussed, you need to devote some time to creating your IFTTT recipes up front. But once they’re live they’ll run on autopilot for you.

Some other fantastic tools for automating your social media when it’s not your top priority:

  • Bulk Buffer: A tool that lets you upload a CSV file to rapidly schedule multiple posts via the social scheduling software Buffer.
  • Coschedule: If you publish content via WordPress, you can use this plugin to manage your social media from inside that CMS.
  • Make your content curation do double duty by adding a call to action each time you share someone else’s content.

Does Automation Work For You?

Have you had good results incorporating automation into your social media management system?


Let us know your favorite IFTTT recipes and tools in the comments!

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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