Let me take you back in time — to May 2017.
I popped into my Agorapulse dashboard and saw this tweet.
“Tools to Help Your Business Succeed In 2016…” followed by a list of tools.
Did I mention that it was May *2017*?
Oh. And one of the tools mentioned in that tweet, Instagress, was shut down a month prior.
Did someone fall asleep at the social media wheel or have automated tools taken over our social media newsfeeds?
I think it’s the latter — which has also spurred on the former.
Both are bad news.
Related Post: Social Media Management
Why social media automation has been so successful?
Social media is time consuming. And most of us don’t have the time to be on Twitter all day.
So here come “social media automation tools” with incredibly powerful claims.
“The Social Media Scheduling Tool That Manages Itself”
“Social Media on Autopilot”
“Set It and Forget It Scheduling”
These promises sound like lifesavers to we busy business owners or professionals. Here comes something we have to do but don’t really have the time to do. And here comes a solution that will help us “be social” without us really “being social?”
These services have nailed the “product – market fit” and they can only experience massive growth. Except for one thing.
They don’t work.
Why the social media automation promise is usually a scam
Looking at the claims in the screenshots above I was thinking: “Are you kidding us? Do you really think our “voice” can be automated? Our content production can manage itself? We can honestly set our presence on social media once and forget it?”
Is this the social media equivalent of all those “work from home” claims we get in the comments on our blog?
How can this really work?
Social media is all about talking to your audience, providing value, and building and maintaining relationships. How can a tool do this?
Would you automate your text messages to your spouse or friends?
Imagine setting a text on auto-repeat to your spouse everyday at 6 pm: “Hey baby! How was your day?”
While it’s a good idea to check in with your better half, do you think this automated message will spark more engagement with your spouse and guarantee a healthier relationship?
Of course not. The automation scheme will be spotted at the second or third message and your partner will feel that you’re trying to fool her/him. The guaranteed result will be a slap in the face, not a healthier relationship.
In due time, you’ll get the same reaction from your social audience.
Is social media automation all bad?
Of course, like most things, social media automation is not all bad and can have some benefits.
We all know that the life span of social media post is pretty short. When you tweet something, chances are that most of your audience won’t see it.
So yes — repeating a tweet will help you get more eyeballs for a particular message over time. Most users who start automating the republishing of their social media posts will notice a significant bump in traffic early on.
Repeating a social media post, especially on Twitter, is a sound thing to do.
We’ve even built our own social media automation function for this purpose. We have a “requeue” option for Twitter in our publishing options and we’re planning to extend this option and improve it very soon.
But the repeating of tweets is being used wrong way too often by way too many people.
So what’s my biggest beef with social media automation?
For all the glorious claims these tools make, they haven’t built in protection against “bad” behaviors.
They will keep posting that tweet promoting your event from last month as long as it’s in their “queue.” They put the onus on you to remember to go in and remove that tweet (and all others) that are no longer relevant, tweeted too often, or have not resonated with your audience at all.
If you can’t remember to tweet regularly, how can you possibly remember to pull a Marie Kondo on a consistent basis?
Autopilot? Set-and-forget? Less work?
It’s actually more work!
As a consequence, irrelevant and outdated content keeps being retweeted again and again.
When we launched our requeue feature, we engineered it to repeat the piece a limited number of times (3 times, 10 times and so on). It’s not as bad because you have more control without having to constantly update your content queues.
But even our social media automation system is not perfect. If you put in “repeat 99 times,” you’ll repeat too much. This function of the tool lets people do foolish stuff. And we all know that people do foolish stuff on social media all – the – time.
I’m not exempt from this. I’ve tweeted outdated content lately because, as most of business owners, I didn’t have time to check my content queues often enough.
So what the heck should we do about this?
Let’s get constructive.
As I said earlier, I think reposting content can be a good thing.
I also recognize the problem: scheduling enough unique content (or adding it to a queue) is awfully time consuming.
Repeating content on social media can help with both: putting a little more content out there and giving it a little more eyeballs.
But can’t we do it in a way that doesn’t make us look automated, irrelevant, outdated, or just plain boring?
Let’s look at the main issues of today’s automation and what solutions we can build for them:
Problem 1: Posting outdated content
This happens when you post something that is time sensitive but is set to run ad infinitum. Remember that post mentioned above about “building your business in 2016” that I spotted in May 2017?
That tweet should have ended in December 2016. Period.
A good automation tool should let you enter an end date. We here at Agorapulse are working on that.
Problem 2: Posting the same content too often
When adding content to a content queue, you usually cannot define how often you’d like that content to be published.
Let’s say you’ve created 5 content slots per day and you add 25 pieces of content in your content queue. Each piece will be repeated every 5 days, for ever, without any guardrail.
In a nutshell, you can do stupid things without knowing it.
You should be able to set a repeat interval that’s reasonable. Like once a week or every 2 weeks. Whatever the amount of content you have in your content queue at any given time. That way you avoid the risk of repeating that content too often.
Problem 3: Posting the same content for eternity
No content queue should be set to “forever.”
A content queue where a piece can potentially be posted hundreds of time if you don’t pay attention is dangerous. You’ll most likely let it post too often.
I’m convinced that the republishing of a social media post should be limited to a sensible time frame.
And you disagree with me because…
How do you feel about this whole social media automation topic?
Am I being too harsh? Or do you agree?
Don’t worry, I’ll still love you if you disagree 🙂