Marketing takes up a huge amount of time for small businesses, and a marketer's tasks are never done. Small businesses need to invest resource in getting their business known, yet sole traders can quickly run out of time. If you have to manage orders, create content, market, advertise and sell, social media can become an unwanted distraction.
Focusing on marketing can result in you neglecting your core business. You could end up running a top-heavy business that isn't making enough to pay its costs. You may end up marketing on evenings and weekends, or using unethical short cuts to get things done.
The genius of social media automation is that allows you to put some tasks on autopilot while avoiding doing too much or making yourself ill at work.
Before You Begin: The Risks of Automation
Before you implement an automation strategy, be aware of the limitations of this technique. Automation works perfectly well when you're dealing with systems and processes. If you're dealing with people, adopt a more tempered approach.
Social media users are some of the most savvy customers you have. They quickly pick up on automation, so you need to use the technique with care. If cleverly blended with human interaction, automation can still lighten the load of social media maintenance.
Now we understand the risks, let's move on to the cool things you can do with automation.
1. Queue your tweets. Twitter can be a huge productivity drain, so avoid getting distracted by queuing messages in advance. You will also reach more followers on Twitter by spreading your tweets over the course of a few hours. Remember: Tweets with approximately 110 characters get 17 percent more engagement, so make your message short and scannable. Try the awkwardly-named Tweue for this, or sign up for Twuffer.
2. Pick up your RSS feed. Dlvr.it will scan your feed and post an update every time you blog. This simple service can save you a lot of admin time. There's also a Chrome extension to help you stack up social updates.
3. Use unusual, irregular triggers. If you run a travel company, why not use IFTTT to post a cheery greeting every time the sun shines? You can also use this to post out tomorrow's weather report each night, or send a message at sunrise every morning.
4. Share content. Sharing is caring, and Buffer lets you share across your networks by building a list of interesting posts. You can even set a custom posting schedule for each day, and each social page.
5. Recycle RSS feeds. If used in moderation, you can pick up content and repost it using autoblogging. Think of an autoblog as a content importer: it won't post anything new, but it will curate relevant posts automatically. If you're using WordPress, try ThreeWP Broadcast (ideal for networks) or WPeMatico. WP affiliates should try Content Egg, which can generate automatic posts with affiliate links built in.
6. Recycle your evergreen blogs. Creating content takes time, which is why you should create pillar and evergreen content that can be re-shared as often as possible. On WordPress, use plugins like Revive Old Post to automatically share old blogs on social media, and multiply the number of hits they get.
7. Use apps. Most social networking tools have apps for smartphones and browsers, so you can manage automation while you travel. If you can only install one, install Hootsuite for a robust social media management app.
8. Don't forget to log in! Interact socially on all of your networks at least once a day, so that your posts are not entirely automated. It's perfectly fine to neglect social networks while you're on vacation, as long as you pick up the conversation when you return, and don't allow automation to take over completely.
Joining the Dots
Automation sounds great, right? It can save you a lot of time, and it helps you to deliver a consistent brand message. But before you automate your entire social media campaign, remember the three golden rules of engagement:
• Don't overdo it. Flooding your timeline can turn people off. Three messages a day is enough, particularly if you're supplementing with your own personal content.
• Don't forget weekends. Many brands don't interact with people on weekends, because staff tend to work Monday to Friday. For SMEs, this is a golden opportunity to repost content from the previous week. The stats we linked to above prove that people engage with social media from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., regardless of which day they are measured.
• Don't automate personal messages. We recommend that you never rely on automatic DMs on Twitter, or any kind of content scraping or black hat technique.
Used carefully, social media automation could be the missing link in your small business marketing strategy.