When Should You Automate?

Learn how automation can make or break your reputation.

Aliza Sherman
June 25, 2009
Episode #059


Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

We're all overloaded with the new tasks and responsibilities of participating in social networks, blogging, and microblogging that it's no wonder we're tempted to automate everything to save time. Well, I'm here to tell you flat out that automation can sound enticing but it can turn off your followers and even harm your reputation.

What is Your Goal?

If you're looking to build a solid reputation using social media tools, you have to be prepared to make a commitment to participate. The amount of time you need to devote correlates with how many social networks and other social tools you're using as well as how effective you want those tools to be in helping you achieve your goals.

If your goal is to increase your brand exposure -- either your personal brand or company's brand -- the level of participation may not be as intense as if you're trying to demonstrate your expertise so people will hire you. If you want to sell your latest book, your participation level might be more demanding than if you're announcing a new store opening.

Announcing things using social media tools is easy to do but doesn't necessarily start a dialogue or encourage engagement. Automatically broadcasting marketing messages is almost too easy, but it's even easier for people to tune them out. Even though there is a proliferation of automation tools out there -- especially for Twitter -- that doesn't mean you have to use them all.

Social media is about conversations and building relationships with people. Real relationships take time to cultivate. Automating too many of your social media activities won't build actual relationships.

When Should You Automate?

So when should you automate? When used correctly, automating can be a smart idea. Some good uses of automation tools include:

Scheduling tweets using a service such as TweetLater, Twuffer, or FutureTweets. A good time to use post-dated tweeting on Twitter is when you know you're going to be out of pocket but would like to keep your voice out there in the Twittersphere. Make sure the posts you post-date are more generic ones such as links to interesting or relevant resources. Don't use these services to pretend you're actively engaged on Twitter when those messages post because - let's face it - that's fake, and you'll end up ignoring people who respond to you if they mistakenly think you're online at a particular time when you're really not.

Or how about...

Linking your blog to your Twitterstream or Facebook Page. I'm a firm believer that it's fine to syndicate your blog posts to appear on your Twitter page or Facebook page after you've published them on your blog. But I also have to emphasize that you should not rely solely on these auto-postings as the core content for either account. People are looking to see your active involvement and to hear a more immediate voice or have an actual exchange with you. That said, if you are clear that you've set up a Twitter account as a repository for the content you publish online, then people know what to expect. I do this with my @socialmediamama account on Twitter and blogger Beth Kanter does it with her Twitter account @bethkanter, but if you want to interact with her personally, you should follow her @kanter account.

You can use Twitterfeed to link your blog and other RSS feeds to your Twitter account and either the Facebook's Notes feature or an RSS application on Facebook that will let you publish your blog onto your page.

When Not to Automate

On the flip side, some bad uses of automation tools include:

Auto-following on Twitter. There are too many tools out there that allow you to automatically follow the people who follow you. Trust me, this is a bad idea. I did an experiment where I turned on the auto-follow feature for a few weeks and was bombarded with so much spam that I began to dread accessing my Twitter account. Using auto-following as a tactic to try to build your own following dilutes the value of real connections and genuine relationships that are the basis of social media. Plus I've read that Twitter might start disabling Twitter accounts if you abuse auto-following tools.

Then Automating Direct Messages on Twitter is the next thing you don't want to do. Other tools out there allow you to automatically send a direct message or DM to everyone who follows you. That might sound like a good idea, especially if you're familiar with using auto-responders in email, but Twitter is not about sending canned messages. Auto responses come off sounding hollow and insincere no matter what you say. If you are truly interested in a person who has followed you, take the time to read through their tweets. You can then send them a direct message, but only if you have a valid reason to reach out to them. Never try to start a meaningful exchange on a fake note.

Bottom Line: If you're looking to save time when using social media tools, especially Twitter, think about paring down the number of tools you're using so you can devote the appropriate amount of time to each. Don't cut corners by automating too much or you'll end up with empty and meaningless links with people who don't listen to what you have to say rather than building relationships and connections with people who do.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for all of the links mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at   digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

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Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/

Twitterfeed - http://www.twitterfeed.com/

TweetLater - http://www.tweetlater.com/

Twuffer - http://www.twuffer.com/

FutureTweets - http://www.futuretweets.com/

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/

Facebook Pages - http://www.facebook.com/pages

Social Media Mama on Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/socialmediamama

Beth Kanter's feeds on Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/bethkanter

Beth Kanter on Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/kanter

Automation image courtesy of Shutterstock