Social media has got to be one of the most fickle tools marketers are forced to use. I say forced, because there is no doubt that it is a necessary evil in today’s day and age.
You may think I am exaggerating, or maybe that I am the worst marketer in the world for admitting that social networking drives me insane. But if you think about it objectively, you probably hate it, too.
Oh, sure, you love the results it can bring, the lead generation, the chance for interactions that would have been impossible just ten years ago, the access to fresh content aggregated and curated in a simple to exploit way. And I agree, all of that is gravy.
The reason social media marketing drives me crazy is that it is overwhelming. Brands much bigger than any I have worked with have struggled to maintain relevance on an ever adapting platform, and to engage with audiences that ebb and flow with memes, current trends, pop culture, and even personal growth and change. How do you stay on top of that?
Many don’t; they throw money at the problem, and through sheer force of their extreme budgets they manage to come out above the little guys who are trying harder. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I call social media marketing a necessary evil.
At the same time, I love it. I love the ability to communicate one on one with influencers. I love the often hilarious comments by customers, and the unending snark. I even love that six months after a meme becomes irrelevant, people are still posting it six hundred times a day (looking at you, Tumblr users). My feelings about it are complex, to say the least.
So, getting away from my personal bias, let’s take a look at some actual statistics.
There are 2.3 billion active users on social media networks across the web.
Out of Fortune 500 companies, 83% are active on Twitter, making it the most prolific business based social network.
Blogging, social media and case studies are the three biggest content strategies, with 65% going to blogging.
Email automation marketing is a bigger fish, with 95% using some kind of system to handle their email marketing campaigns.
A full 46% of B2B companies admit they have no idea if their social media strategy has led to anything.
What does this have to do with social media automation? More than you think. Social media is a difficult animal to pin down. It doesn’t have any clear rules, it is constantly changing, and unlike email and content marketing, it doesn’t seem to offer solid enough stats for almost half of the businesses using it to see measurable results in conversions.
That being said, the one area we can all agree social media is king is engagement. Which makes social media automation a secondary tool, and one that has to be used carefully.
Getting down to the absolute basics, what is social media automation? It is exactly what it sounds like: automating processes that are a part of social marketing, using specialized tools. These have been created to make social media marketing easier, faster, and more efficient. It seems by their demand that I am not the only one frustrated with the time and energy spent on those tasks.
By automating social media use, you can make sure you account stays active without constantly monitoring, and manually posting. It is also an easy way to get the word out on new products and content the moment they launch, as any social media automation tool worth its salt offers scheduled or auto posting for blogs and websites.
For the obvious reasons. Automating any marketing task is going to free that marketer up to do other things that require more careful handling. Plus, it gives us more free time. Everyone wants more of that, especially when that time was taken up posting unending links every hour to people who probably won’t click them.
Not to sound cynical.
With all of that out of the way, let’s look at social media automation and how awesome these tools can really be. Because when you use them the right way, they will vastly improve your overall social media strategy, and actually make it easier to see the positive impact that strategy is having.
For example, when you are manually posting links there is no real organization, no method to the madness. With social media automation, you are creating a patterned social structure that is easier to monitor and understand in the long run. That means the data you gather from analytics tools (which I assume you are also using) will be easier to sync up, understand, and utilize. You can actually narrow down your posting habits, and make them better.
The best way to use social media automation tools is to automate those processes that require no engagement. That is mostly posting links, reminders, and funny / clever / snarky / inspirational/etc. statuses that are meant to be shared out to bring more visibility to yourself and your brand on each platform.
Think of these are solid walls of content spaced out through the day. They are stationary set points that are automated sometimes days, or even weeks, in advance. They get attention, but not interaction.
To make these effective, you need to fill in the gaps between them. This is where social media automation isn’t used. Instead, you are going to be interacting on a personal, one on one level that gives your account more direct engagement than automated posts. When you put these two things together, it equals up to an active, well maintained social media profile that users are going to actually want to monitor.
One of my favorite examples of a brand finding the right balance is @TacoBell on Twitter. Going through their tweets, you can clearly tell which ones were automated, and which were off the cuff or manually posted. Some are links to content that they created, or others created (probably under their guidance), some are funny posts, and some are promotions.
The manually entered tweets are interacting directly with customers. These are what draw in the literally more than 1.7 million followers. They aren’t just there to get benefits from a brand, like coupons. They regularly communicate with Taco Bell, and those interactions go viral all the time. Media outlets were pointing out the brilliant strategy as early as 2014.
So, if you want to see how to correctly combine social media automation with hilarious and effective engagement tactics, follow them.
Marketing is one of the most tedious processes in all of the business profession. Sure, creativity is a part of it. But the biggest chunk of your time is not spent coming up with new ideas. It is consistently doing the same tasks, over and over again. Because that consistency is absolutely the key to branding and promotion, no matter how many experts claim marketing is “fun”.
The trick to getting through it without losing your mind is automating as much of those repetitive tasks as you can. Not only will that clear a lot of the time bogged up in the day to day tedium, but it will give you more brain juice to use on the cool part of marketing: creating.
Here are seven tools that will help you automate your marketing.
1. Get Response
Get Response is well-known for its growing influence in the email marketing sphere. They have hundreds of thousands of happy customers, however, who have discovered that they are much more than that. Their feature list is pretty long, including landing pages, a form creator with multiple templates and styles, webinars, A/B testing, and more.
My favorite feature is their marketing automation. It is a really cool drag and drop flowchart that connects different marketing tasks, and allows you to reach your subscriber at the most suitable moment using customized emails. They take data like customer behavior into account, so you set the conditions, actions, and filters and let it do the rest.
MavSocial is an all around social media platform that is aimed at small businesses, offering features catering to the unique challenges they face.
Their MavRepeater tool is an awesome way to make publishing content a little easier. Basically, you create a “campaign”, which is a collection of posts. You set the timing rules in your MavSocial dashboard, and it will continuously publish those posts. You can set multiple campaigns, so you are always releasing fresh content at the very best times to reach your audience.
3. Viral Content Buzz
Viral Content Buzz works as the social sharing platform. Basically, you hook up with other influencers who have clout on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You ask them to share out your content to their followers, and in return you post something on their behalf to yours. It is a free way of expanding your visibility, and tapping into new audiences.
The RSS Feature is part of VCB premium package that will import your blog RSS feed and auto-upload all new content into Viral Content Buzz. So you can automatically find people to share your posts, without manually entering in each new piece.
4. Social Oomph
Social Oomph has been around for awhile, and it is a popular marketing tool for those who want a more extended campaign. My personal favorite feature is definitely their queue reservoir.
What is the most annoying part about social promotion? Re-promoting the same post over and over again, weaving it in with other posts so it doesn’t overdo it and annoy followers. Social Oomph allows you to set a task to automatically reshare the posts with good spaces of time in between. It automates what is an irritating necessity.
Dlvr.it is a content sharing platform, fully automated, and nothing more. It doesn’t try and stretch into other avenues, and while that is a con for those who want a more integrated marketing platform, its features still make it a good choice for content producers/promoters. It monitors your RSS feed to auto update any new posts from your site.
It allows you to quickly schedule anything you want to share from around the web with a couple button clicks. It even promotes your content to both online and local media to extend your reach and boost traffic. There are a few alternatives listed here.
For those who haven’t heard of it, IFTTT stands for If This Then That. It is a “recipe builder” for life hacks, connecting services, devices and tasks to make a more efficient system.
They have recipes already for everything from Slack to Google Drive, and even those for your personal life, like Health and Fitness hacks. If you want to run your whole life more efficiently, this is definitely the way to do it.
Zapier is somewhat similar to IFTTT. It is more of a marketer’s automator, where the other tool is more personal based. You just select what apps you want to integrate, and to do what tasks. It let’s you build these little processes without knowing any coding at all. It is super easy to use, no matter how little experience you have.
Have a tool that you think makes social media automation easy? Let us know in the comments!
Automation tools can really be taken advantage of when you have other tools that enhance it. These are the ones I would personally suggest to anyone who wants to get more out of automating their brand’s social profiles.
Cyfe is great to make sense of automation activities because it brings so much stats together. You can monitor your channel growth, traffic, leads, and so much more, all from a single dashboard. You can monitor stats from multiple Facebook pages, all Twitter profiles you are managing, Pinterest accounts, Instagram, Youtube and much more!
I am not going to lie, Cyfe is probably my favorite tool to come around in a long time. It is a full business dashboard, offering an all-in-one approach. It basically provides the platform, and fully customizable widgets. You make your own features that cover social media, customer support, infrastructure, analytics, marketing, and sales.
Having everything in one place that was is obviously a huge benefit. It is also a lot easier to use than most tools. They offer a free version, but there is no reason not to pay for Premium. It only costs $19 per month, or $168 annually. So if you want something extensive, customizable and cheap, this is the tool for you.
When are your followers most likely to be on and active? Because Twitter is a live updating platform, you need to catch them right there in their feed, when they are more likely to see it.
Tweriod is a great tool for that. It will analyze your followers based on past activity, demographics like location, and come up with a list of the best days and times to be most active.
Best of all, you can use this to find the best times to automate versus live interaction.
As was stated earlier in this post, it is hard for a lot of businesses to know the real impact that their social campaign is having on conversions. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be gathering data.
Twitter’s personal analytics tool will give you a peek behind who is posting, how often, and what content is gaining the most traction. Knowing this will give you the chance to better strategize and plan. You may find that more or less automated content is needed to begin really building up your Twitter presence.
Narrow.io helps you build Twitter following by using relevant keywords, locations and hashtags. It also helps you manage multiple Twitter accounts and offers advanced analytics.
Knowing trends is pretty much the only way to really make it on social media. Some platforms are more ahead of trends than others, so going off networks to discover what is hot works a lot better than going by hashtags or phrases.
Google is the leader of pretty much everything on the web. Their Insights feature will give you a glimpse of what is popular all over the world.
Where are your followers? Find trends, follower data, demographics and more, based on geographical location. Monitor local feeds (a must for any brand).
There is no doubt that social media has its place in marketing. But with so many other avenues available, and often with much more direct effects, it should be only one tool among many that you utilize in your strategy.
Automation is your best bet, freeing you up for more beneficial engagement with your audience, and connecting with important influencers. Having the right tools, and knowing how to use them the best, is crucial. Don’t just automate… automate better.
Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as the founder of MyBlogU.com. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for 7 years, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable.