It's hard to keep ahead of social media, but some tasks just should NEVER be automated.
Social media management takes a lot of time. So much so that it's now some peoples' full-time job. But not everyone has the budget to hire a social media manager or coordinator, so Enter The Social Media Automation Tools. Programs like Buffer, Social Oomph and many, many more all promise to make your social media management easier, more seamless and less time-consuming.
However, we are wary of tools that promise to take care of everything for you. Social media is still social, and nobody likes to talk to a robot when it comes to developing relationships (or talking in general). Some things still need to be done in real time, by a real human. Here's what we think should always be so.
1. Twitter DMs
There is nothing (and when I say that, I mean it) more annoying than automated DMs that pop in your Twitter inbox whenever you follow someone new. It's not personal, it's not interesting, and most of all, it's definitely disruptive. If you want to plug your Facebook page or your website, do so in public. I won't mind if you use a @mention in your public tweet. But for the love of Twitter etiquette, DON'T DO IT IN A DM.
The issue with automated Twitter DMs is that they are neither sincere nor relevant. A DM is a special event, when someone wants to make sure I listen to what they have to say. Sharing a Facebook page or a homepage link is not such an event. Your homepage is already in your Twitter profile–I'll visit if I want to.
Sending an automatic Twitter DM to new followers is possibly one of the most damaging things you can do to your social media reach. Very few new followers are likely to stick around if you bother them this way.
2. Every single tweet you publish
Let's stay in the realm of Twitter for the moment. Although it's okay to use some automation for tweets (we do it too), you should leave space for real conversation and engagement with your audience. Thank your new followers personally. Reply to interesting tweets. Share relevant content on the spot. Favourite a few things. Ask questions and keep up with the conversation. Be a human.
The trick is to find what works best when automated and what's better to do in real time. Sharing interesting content and your own blog posts can be done with automated tools, but replying to conversations, starting them or just being in the flow needs some real, involved brain power.
3. Customer service
The reality is that most customers these days request customer service via social media. Whether it's a tweet or a message on Facebook, customers expect an answer almost instantly.
If there's no real person at the other end of your social media account, your customers are going to notice. Really fast. An automated "thank you for your question" is fine during off hours (as long as you announce every day that your team is offline) but anything less than "as fast as possible" for an answer is going to damage your reputation with this particular person–and everyone who follows him or her. Trust us, if you do something wrong, everyone else is going to know about it. We're quick to complain, and very slow to praise.
4. Following and unfollowing
Some tools let you automatically follow and unfollow people based on certain criteria that you usually set yourself. But honestly, how does a tool make the difference between someone that's worthy of following (even if they don't follow you) and a spammy account (even if they follow you)? This applies to Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and even Instagram.
I like to manage follows and unfollows manually. I can assess the value of an account much better than any automated tool. It's not only whether or not they tweet often, but what they tweet about. It's easy to fool a tool by using the right keywords, but a human? Not so much. If you want to have real control over your network, you should keep a hands-on approach to follows, likes and circles on your social networks.
Is there any other social media task that you'd rather do yourself than automate? How do you feel about those who automate any of the above (or anything at all)? Is there a task that you always automate? Share your social media automation experiences with us.