Should you schedule tweets?

May 30, 2012

Schedule tweets and posts – or does social automation miss the point? Nowadays there are more social media channels than you can count on your fingers: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr…. It’s difficult to keep up, let alone keep on top of them all. Subsequently tools like Hootsuite, the Wordsocial plugin and Timely have become increasingly popular, allowing people to monitor multiple accounts or schedule tweets with minimal effort.

So what is social media automation? Social media automation is using tools to automate your social media output. So, when you schedule tweets or posts, automatically retweet posts by certain people or contain certain tags, cross-channel posting and automatic responses.

The benefit of automated social media is that it makes things a lot quicker and easier. You don’t have to update each channel individually at regular intervals throughout the day; it’s done for you. It can also save you time by responding to comments or new followers.

Yet, anyone who has received the ‘Thanks for following/Thanks for the follow’ messages on Twitter, has experienced first hand the negative sides to automation.

As Chris Skyoles notes: “automated direct messages sent to new followers on Twitter is the quickest way to let them know you have no intention of engaging with them properly” .

Cross channel posting also has its pitfalls. The problem is that each of these channels is used in a different way. If you schedule tweets to followers on Twitter, the same post may not be appropriate for the more formal LinkedIn. Even if the content is appropriate, the delivery might not be: @s and #s are the bread and butter of Twitter but would stand out a mile on Facebook or LinkedIn. Messages need to be tailored to the social media outlet that you are using and your audiences on them to gain any traction or influence.

Candace McCaffery (Social Media Today) says:

“Two of the most important rules in PR are to know who your audience is and to speak to them in ways that reflect that you know who you are talking to- this is as applicable to social media as it is to traditional media relations”

Automation can also remove personality or appear obviously scheduled/ pre-written. Isn’t social media beloved for its immediacy, spontaneity and ‘human’ element? If we automate the process the channels of communication between you and your audience can become stilted. An automated message cannot interact or respond to feedback and isn’t interaction the whole point of social media?

As Janet Fouts (Social Media Today) rightly points out, automating your social media changes you from an engager to a participator. In order to be a real influencer, you need to engage not just inform. You wouldn’t send a pre-recorded video of yourself to a meeting in place of the real thing: it’s too one-way.  So why allow a similar thing to happen in the other channels that you use to communicate?

Essentially, it’s a balance. No one is saying that you have to opt for the laborious option of updating every outlet separately every day. That is to say we’re not superheroes, technology can be genuinely beneficial at times. To schedule tweets, for example, can work wonders for a well-timed bulletin (especially when you’re spanning time zones). There’s just nothing worse than a twitter feed that is 100% automated.

If you do automate social media, you should still write your own material otherwise it can seem like you just don’t care enough to put the time in. This will not only prevent you gaining any real influence, it could also alienate your audience because, as Chris Skyoles, Lifehack says “people don’t sign up to social media sites to receive marketing messages from robots”.

Social media does take time and it should. Just as conventional PR tasks do, they require some thought and investment of time. You shouldn’t resent it as an addition to your normal work; you should revel in its benefits and integrate it into your everyday working practice

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