Many social media and content marketers use some kind of automation to supplement their content distribution and promotion efforts. Whether totally relying on technology to syndicate and schedule posts or simply using it as a backup plan when taking a day off, there are advantages and disadvantages to the strategy—so make sure you fully understand the effects before jumping in.
There are several content automation platforms available, from mass post uploading and scheduling platforms like SocialOomph to dashboards created to give more insights into the performance of your posts like Sprout Social. For the most part, the primary intention of these platforms is to allow marketers to schedule social media content in advance and monitor the results. They can be great tools, if used properly, but there are some real disadvantages to plotting out your content in advance.
Most of the benefits of content automation are practical, saving time and maximizing your efforts. With a handful of clicks, you can theoretically set your social media profiles to run on autopilot for weeks at a time.
The first and most obvious benefit is being able to plan for the future proactively. Instead of logging into your Twitter account, typing up a message and hitting send each time you want to post something to your followers, you can do a week’s worth of work in the span of a few hours. If you keep a running list of your onsite content, you can upload that list and automatically distribute those posts at regular intervals for any stretch of time. Alternatively, you can type in and schedule posts one by one until you have an even spread across your chosen time period.
This is advantageous because social media demands regular updates, and not everybody has the time or desire to make all those updates manually. It’s a form of protection against taking time off, becoming busy with other tasks, and even forgetting about posting. A regular habit is reduced to a single task, making everybody capable of being a full-time social media manager.
This automation also allows you to make posts with perfect timing. Rather than necessitating a login at a specific time to make an appropriate post, you can schedule your posts in advance. It may take some time before you are able to tell which times are the most popular for your brand, but once you do, you’ll be able to take full advantage of it. For example, if you figure out that your posts get more responses at 1:00 pm than any other time, you can schedule your most important posts at 1:00 pm, and never have to worry about logging in at that time.
It’s also a valuable feature for holidays, when it is common practice to make a holiday-themed post, but most full-time employees are enjoying the time off with their family. With content automation, you can avoid the need to log in during holidays but still make posts announcing or celebrating the holiday.
Whether you use an analytics-based scheduling platform or not, if you automate the posting of your content, you can measure your performance more consistently. For example, if you post content at random times, sometimes once a day and sometimes ten times a day, you’ll have random data that doesn’t align into any one coherent picture. But if you use automated content to post every hour, on the hour, every day of the week, it will soon be very clear which times and which post types are the most popular. You can then use that information to paint a picture of your “average” follower, and customize your posting strategy to cater to them.
Content automation also gives you a chance to make controlled experiments. For example, you can use one Monday as a “control” measure, scheduling posts as you normally would, and use another Monday as an “experiment” group, making a variation in post type, frequency, or timing to measure which is better at attracting interest.
There are, however, a few downsides to relying on content automation for the bulk of your social media campaign. Scheduling your posts in advance is a great way to save time and stabilize the consistency of your posts, but it also leaves you vulnerable to a handful of risks.
Over time, if you automate your posts enough, they may grow to become predictable. For example, if you post hourly from 9am to 8pm, Monday through Friday, people will grow accustomed to your updates and might tune them out as white noise. A good way to avoid this is to shake up your scheduling by rotating the types of content you post or by alternating your posting schedule every once in a while.
Some forms of predictability can actually be helpful. For instance, if every Monday at 1:00pm, you post a new coupon code that’s only good for a few hours, people will get excited and begin to anticipate that 1:00pm reveal. However, if your content becomes stale and unexciting, you’re going to lose followers. It’s fine to keep automating your posts, but keep things fresh.
Automating your content posts also takes you out of the driver’s seat, and leaves you unable to immediately respond to people who are interested in your posts. By letting a machine take care of the posting, you’re taking the “social” factor out of social media. Engaging with your followers regularly and as often as possible is the best way to build an active, involved community, and without that factor, you could risk alienating your followers. The best way to avoid this is to check your profiles regularly for new comments and interactions, in addition to core scheduling.
Automated posts also means you can’t respond to news items as quickly. If you’re trying to build a reputation as a thought leader in the industry, you should be watching industry news channels and jumping at any chance to express your opinions immediately. Automating your posts in advance can rob you of these opportunities.
One inherent risk associated with an automated campaign, whether social or otherwise, is the potential for building a large number of backlinks to your website in a way that looks unnatural. While it may not be done purposefully, the search engines may see your efforts as a spammy link building tactic. Automation can also include duplicate content issues for your website. Such issues can also cause a search engine rankings downgrade, which is exactly the opposite of what you ultimately would want for your organic website traffic.
Automated posts can also make you seem impersonal. It’s possible, and certainly ideal, to schedule posts in advance that strongly display your brand’s unique, personal voice, but there’s only so much you can do to make your robotic posts seem human. If readers see a tag such as “This post was scheduled by…” they may immediately distrust the source. Over time, it becomes increasingly easy for users to identify automated posts, and while some users have accepted them as a reality of social media, others will be turned off by the impersonality of the strategy and feel as if they are being advertised to. To remedy this, make sure you vary your strategy often and get involved directly in the community with your individual, personal voice.
For most marketers trying to make an impact in content marketing, automated distribution and scheduling tools are more beneficial than harmful. Be aware of the drawbacks of this strategy, and incorporate regular natural posts to make up for them. Actively monitor your social media activity, including the opinions of your followers, and make adjustments to keep your business presence personal and your community happy.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here.