Wednesday, September 26, 2018Canada's Leading Online Business Magazine

Social Media: What You Can and Can’t Automate

By Melonie Dodaro

Do you wonder what the most effective tools for social media automation are? Or maybe you are unsure about what you should and shouldn’t schedule?

Like most things in social media, the answer is ‘it depends’. What I mean by this is that what, when and how much you can schedule on social media will depend on a number of factors including: your industry, community, business goals, social platforms, social media strategy and of course, how much time you have.

That being said, there are some general rules that you can use as guidelines, when deciding what you can automate and what you can’t (or shouldn’t).

1. Do Not Ever Schedule Engagement

You should never try to schedule or automate your engagement.

Social media is just that…social. When someone replies or otherwise engages with something you have posted, respond to them in real-time rather than scheduling your responses via a third-party application.

Think of social media as a conversation between you and your community members. Just like any other form of effective and successful communication, it requires both parties to listen to what the other is saying and then respond back in a way that makes sense and is timely in nature.

This is how you build relationships with your community and allow them to like, know and trust you, which should be a part of every business’s goals and strategy.

2. What You Can or Should Schedule

You can’t (and shouldn’t) always be on social media, so it can make sense to schedule some or all of your posts (not engagement) to certain platforms.

This is particularly useful if your market is either global or not located in your local time zone. In addition, if you plan your posts for an entire week and schedule them, this frees up time for you to engage with your community in real-time each day.

For example, Twitter is one of the best platforms to schedule your tweets beforehand. You can schedule your tweets in advance to share content that is helpful and interesting to your community. These tweets can consist of content that you or others have created, videos or images you have found, interesting statistics or inspiring quotes.

Each day you can spend time responding to the people who have interacted with your tweets/posts. The more engaged your community is – the more tweets you might want to schedule daily.

Scheduling Posts on LinkedIn

While posting in real time on LinkedIn is usually your best bet, as you can respond right away to any comments you receive, many have only a very small window of time in which to post content on LinkedIn.

If you only have a small window of time for your LinkedIn activities, you may want to preplan and schedule your daily status updates each week to allow for more time to engage with connections who have commented or shared your updates. There may also be times when you want to post something at a specific time when you will not be on the platform. In this case as well, it can be useful to schedule your posts on LinkedIn.

What About Instagram?

Platforms like Instagram, for many businesses get the best results in real time. This is because you will get the most engagement from sharing images that happen and are posted in real time.

These are timely images that will inspire or emotionally connect with your community. An example might be a picture of your business during the holidays or an event that you happen to be attending.

Again, you can preplan and schedule some posts on Instagram, when you are unavailable to post in real-time, but these posts may not get the same response as those shared in the moment. If you do schedule posts on Instagram, be sure to make sure you are replying to the comments and engaging with your community in a timely fashion.

Scheduling On Facebook

I want to address both the what and the how of scheduling on Facebook.

First, I would generally avoid scheduling anything that gets posted to your personal profile.

While you may post about your business on your personal profile… remember that it is a “personal” profile. Most people, especially your friends and family, do not want to be bombarded with your business posts in their newsfeeds.

It does make sense to schedule to your Facebook business page. This can be particularly helpful if you know that your community is on Facebook at particular times and you are not able to post during them. Keep in mind that you will need to be ready to hop on and engage with anyone who comments or posts on your posts.

Depending on your business, you may find that you can schedule most of your posts for the whole week. This may not work for all businesses, for example, if you are a restaurant and you post a picture daily of that day’s special, you may not be able to do it in advance if it’s an item not normally on the menu.

I also want to address how to schedule posts on Facebook. If you are going to schedule posts, I recommend using Facebook’s native scheduler. There has been some evidence that 3rd party software can affect your ranking in the newsfeed.

The best way to figure out what works for you and your community in terms of what and how much you automate on what platform is to test, test, test.

3. How to Automate Your Social Media Activities

As you are figuring out what you can schedule, you will also need to decide how you are going to schedule your posts.

Thankfully there are numerous options available with a variety of different features, user interfaces and price points. Many will even offer a limited free version of their software or a short free trial of the full version, so you can get a feel and see if this is a scheduling application you want to invest in.

Examples of great social media scheduling software that I recommend are: Agorapulse, Sprout Social, Buffer and Hootsuite.

One drawback to using automation versus posting on the platform itself, is that you can’t always predict what the post will look like once it is live on the platform. Whereas, if you are creating the post directly on the platform, you have more control.

Wrap Up

Social media automation provides busy business owners, professional service providers, salespeople, and marketers with a way to make sharing content more manageable in terms of planning, time commitment and effort, but it must be used with care.

When using automation, you must always be aware of current events that might change what or how you are posting. It is important that you can change, adapt or stop your scheduled posts to best reflect the things that are happening in real time, good or bad.

The true benefit of the time you save scheduling your posts is that you can reinvest that saved time into your engagement with your clients, prospects and community members who are engaging with you.

Melonie Dodaro is founder of Top Dog Social Media that helps brands and businesses, use social media marketing and social selling to boost visibility, attract new customers and increase revenue. Dodaro is also the author of ‘The LinkedIn Code’ and the recently-released ‘LinkedIn Unlocked’. To learn more visit www.TopDogSocialMedia.com

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