If you're jumping on the bandwagon, be sure to keep social media social. Image by Matt Hamm. Used under a Creative Commons License.

While the virtues of social media have been exalted countless times before and should be obvious to anyone who’s even dabbled briefly with a Facebook account, most of those virtues can be summed up thusly:

Whether you want to market your business, promote your blog or appeal to potential employers in your industry, social media is a quick, easy and effective way to do just that.

In fact, it’s so quick and easy that you hardly have to do anything at all.

Using various tools, you can put most of your social media activities on autopilot, leaving your accounts to work by themselves and freeing you up to do other things.

Yet just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Automating your social media may tick the quick and easy boxes, but it’s far less effective than giving your social media accounts real care and attention.

Truth is, people don’t sign up to social media sites to receive marketing messages from robots.

That’s not to say you can’t use those services for marketing, but by automating all your activities, the only real message you’re giving to potential customers is

“hey, we don’t care enough about you to talk to you personally.”

What is automated social media?

Automating your social media simply involves using tools to keep your social media accounts running with minimal effort.

This could be:

  • Linking your social networks (for example Facebook and Twitter) together so that posting on one updates them all.
  • Automatically sending a direct message (DM) to new followers on Twitter
  • Having your activity on other websites posted on your social networks

Updating all your networks at once

If you manage several accounts across various social networks it might be tempting to use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to update them all at once.

The problem here is that people use each social network differently.

To maximise the effectiveness of each post it pays to tailor your message to each audience. Otherwise, you end up with Facebook posts containing hashtags, @mentions and requests for retweets or, perhaps worse, tweets beginning with the words ‘Hello Facebook!’ At best, it makes you look silly, at worst it goes back to ‘hey, we don’t care enough about you to talk to you personally.’

Writing your posts directly to your followers/fans in any given medium is more likely to get their attention.

‘So What?’

One of the biggest problems with automated social media is that it gives your audience little incentive to care about your posts. Take the way you can automatically inform your Twitter followers when you upload a new Youtube video.

“I uploaded a @Youtube video you.tube/1234abcd Automated Social Media”

Yeah, so what? Scores of people upload videos to Youtube all the time. You’re not special. Why should anybody care about this one? Having Youtube automatically update your Twitter may save you a few seconds of time, but is it really garnering you as much attention you’d receive if you manually posted something along the following lines?

“Interested in learning about why automated social media may be ineffective? You might like this new video – you.tube/1234abcd”

Direct messages on Twitter

Automated direct messages sent to new followers on Twitter is the quickest way to let them know you have no intention of engaging with them properly.

“Hi! Thanks for the follow. Check out my eBook – Why Automated DM’s are annoying”

The consensus amongst many Twitter users is that messages such as that are little more than spam, and it isn’t unheard of for people to quickly unfollow an account on receipt of such messages. If you really feel you must send somebody a DM, take the time to do it yourself. It only takes a second and you’ll develop an infinitely better relationship with your new Twitter friend.

Ultimately, it all boils down to this:

Keep social media social. Talk to people, engage, and be human. Chances are you’ll have much more success than letting robots do your social media for you.

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