Imagine you're invited to your friend's house. But when you get there, instead of getting to spend time with your friend, you end up spending time with her cloned robot. Not quite the fun time you had in mind, right?
Now imagine you're out and about, running your errands and basically just adulting your way through the day, when you come across someone who seems interesting. Maybe you have a couple things in common. So you introduce yourself and a few minutes later, you've made a new friend! Except that a few minutes after that your new friend has shown up at your house wearing a sandwich board about how much he or she appreciates you and, hey — while you're stuck and captive, how about buying that new book he or she just wrote?
Think back to a time when you had to call a company to complain about something: bad service, faulty product, weird bill. Whatever it was, think about how you felt when you heard the person on the other end of the phone repeating the same, cookie-cutter scripted responses over and over again.
Or how frustrated you get when you call someplace only to get lost in their “Interactive Voice Response” system because the computer on the other end couldn't understand you when you said “Billing.”
Automation can suck. For the most part, people hate it. But only when they have to physically interact with it. Automation is wonderful when it comes to things like direct deposit, DVR, or central air conditioning.
Automation Doesn't Have to Suck
Maybe that's why so many people tend to cringe when they think of social media automation. They don't mind, so much, that your email is set to automatically send them a receipt when they've made a purchase, but they wince if you send an automatic thank you note. So let's take a few minutes to look at some of the myths surrounding social media automation.
1. You can't engage with your audience if you use automation. This has to be one of the most common opinions I hear about social media automation, and it's simply not true. When I look around my social media platforms, do you know what I see? Updates. Tips, hints, check out my blog, check out this article I found, top ten lists, funny cat videos, stupid people videos, and look at what we ate for supper tonight. So let me ask you, if any of those had been posted by a person sitting at a computer rather than scheduled using an automation tool… would you have noticed?
No. The answer is no. Would you have ignored it?
No. Again, the answer is no.
People have a tendency to frown at the thought of automating social media, but the truth is automating certain aspects of social media can actually increase engagement because it allows you to post more regularly during the times your audience is likely to be online.
2. You can't be in the moment if you automate, so your updates will be obsolete. This myth perplexes me, mainly because I can't wrap my head around why a scheduled facebook post would be obsolete. I mean, just how far in advance do people think we are automating things? Months? Years?
At most, people automate social media updates about a week out, but usually closer to 2-3 days out. So I'm pretty sure my funny cat videos will be just as relevant on Thursday as they would have been on Monday. And if you are posting updates that are useful and interesting to your audience, they are always relevant.
3. It's a lazy way of marketing. I'm not even sure where this myth comes from, but I've heard it and so it gets a spot on my list. For some reason, people cringe at the idea that you are sitting and relaxing at home while your sales group on Facebook just announced a major sale. Or if you're holding a direct sales party and actually getting to sit and enjoy it rather than running around and working at it. The truth is, there is no difference in the amount of effort that goes into automation versus real time posts. Whether you spend an hour writing, searching, and scheduling your posts ahead for the week, or spend 10 minutes several times a week posting the exact same thing.
Social media automation is a way to work more efficiently, and therefore saves you time and allows you to get more done faster. What is it called when you're working faster and more efficiently? Oh, right, the exact opposite of lazy.
4. It's too expensive to automate. Somehow, social media automation has gained this reputation that only the rich can afford it. Honestly, I think this is a side-effect of the myth that it's lazy to automate. I mean, we all have this dream of making it big so that once we finally make it, we can pause. Lean back and put our feet up.
The fact of the matter is, automation is much more affordable than people think. Many social media sites have built in schedulers to help you automate your posts. Not to mention, there are several services out there who offer social media automation — most of whom have free account options.
5. Automated social media is fake. For some reason, people tend to think that if a person automates any or all of his or her online presence, that the posts aren't real. As if the posts themselves lose their authenticity. Whether it's automated or not, scheduled ahead of time or not, So-cial Me-dia is So all about Me. It's right there in the name…. Kinda. As long as you are adhering to posts that relate to your audience and are posting your genuine updates, your posts will be genuine.
Automate Your Processes, Not Your Relationships!
So, now that these five ridiculous myths have been debunked, you're going to go out there, find a social media automator, and never worry about spending time posting on social media again… right?
No! How do you think these myths evolved? Because people did them wrong They tried automating everything on social media, and they failed miserably. Remember the doorbell in Ferris Bueller? Worked wonderfully until Principal Rooney pressed the doorbell again. Automated social media has the same risk if left unchecked. Here are a couple ideas for how to use it well:
- Use automation to take care of some of your processes, not you. In other words, schedule some of your status updates, blog articles, and funny cat videos. Don't schedule conversations, likes, retweets, or comments.
- Watch your automation and adjust for any hiccups. Unforeseen events pop up all the time, which could change the meaning of that scheduled tweet or scheduled Facebook post (remember the whole “people reap what they sow” fiasco after the Orlando Shooting? Yea — that was a scheduled tweet that should have been pulled). Automation should make your life easier, but it is not something you can “set and forget.”
- Don't automate private messages with people you don't know. Have I mentioned how much I hate hitting that follow button on Twitter, only to receive an automated Direct Message. Hate it. 90% of the time I delete the message without looking and then unfollow the person who sent it. I don't even care so much if it was automated or if that person is sitting on a phone waiting for a new follower to write to. I. Hate. It. Ad it's funny, because if you ask around, reactions to the automated tweet vary from “It doesn't bother me too much” to “hate it” but I have not yet found a single person who has told me they found it to be a kind or helpful gesture. So just don't. Direct messages should be used to carry on private messages between friends, not carry automated junk mail.
- Don't fill your new-found spare time with even more posts. The point of scheduling posts and using automation is to help you make things easier on yourself, to help you post when your audience is online, and to help stop you from overposting. Don't go posting more just because you have free time. Use the extra time to engage more with your audience, instead.
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