Influencers are Wrong. You Should Automate Twitter. Here’s Why…
For years the debate has been raging over social media automation.
Does it suck? Or does it save you time?
Will it get you in trouble (as some brands have found out the hard way)? Or will it give your posts consistency?
Or is it a little of both?
The reality is that it’s a little of both. Automation can get you in trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing. And influencers are right – you can’t just let your posts run on autopilot and expect great results.
But they’re wrong in saying that you shouldn’t automate at all.
In fact, automation for Twitter, in particular, can provide a huge boost to engagement, elevate your brand’s power, and free up space for you to create some really amazing content.
Does Automation Really Damage Engagement?
Chris Teso, CEO of Chirpify, once called automation “the dirty word in social media marketing.”
He often hears complaints from influencers and marketers about it not being as mature as other forms of automation, like email (Chris disagrees).
But another complaint often lodged against social media automation is over engagement.
Many influencers argue that if you’re using a “set it and forget it” approach on sites like Twitter, you’re focusing on ease over quality and missing conversions in the process.
One writer argues that automation “misses the mark of how and why social media is an effective marketing tool,” adding that there are four main reasons why automated posts fail:
- They often use awkward, robotic language that can be seen as spammy
- They can be formatted well for one channel but appear strangely on another
- They can create unintended PR disasters
- They don’t foster real engagement
But all of these points can actually be easily resolved if you know how to automate correctly (we’ll get to that later). In terms of engagement, automation can actually improve it when done the right way.
3 Ways Automation Actually Improves Twitter Engagement
Like any automation tool, Twitter (and social media) automation is designed to save you time. That’s fairly obvious.
But more so, automation can help you manage some of the other pieces of engagement that you might not be able to do unless you had a team of marketers working around the clock.
This includes things like sending out multiple posts, choosing the correct times of day to send them, and giving you enough time to review (and change) them before they’re sent.
1. You can tweet more often. More tweets = more followers.
How many posts could you send in a day if you had to create, review, and send them manually? Five? Ten? Fifty?
While many social media brands probably don’t send more than a handful a day (3-5 on average), that’s still time out of someone’s day at the office to create and send them.
Buffer’s chart, shown below, shows that accounts that tweet the most throughout the day tend to gain the most followers.
Could someone from your office handle five posts spanning from morning to night? How about ten? What if a post needs to go out in the middle of the night?
Having more tweets from your account can also impact how you appear in your follower’s timeline.
Slate found that several factors impact Twitter’s timeline algorithm, with one of those factors being how certain tweets impact the success of the rest of your tweets. In other words, if one of your tweets does well, it boosts the popularity of the rest.
The more often you post, the greater chance of success.
2. You can time your posts with Twitter’s algorithm.
Timing is another factor that Twitter’s algorithm relies on for engagement.
But automating post timing isn’t just about determining which hours of the day will get your post in front of the most people. It’s also about knowing what to post during off-peak hours and which posts will engage the most during the highest-volume times of the day.
For these things, you can use Twitter Counter’s algorithm to find the most actionable Twitter stats for your account, including when your followers are most active online.
This, combined with automation, can help you publish content when it’s most likely to be seen based on your current metrics.
3. You have time to review posts for errors.
Nothing will damage your brand reputation more than “firing from the hip” when it comes to social media posts.
While a quick-fire post might make your brand sound more human – you’re responding to people in real time, talking about real news and events, and so on – they also have the potential to cause harm if you’re not careful.
Spelling mistakes, using the wrong hashtag, responding to a sensitive situation, or even tweeting from the wrong device – all of these things can hurt your reputation.
Automation gives you time to adequately review your posts to ensure that they’re up to your brand’s standards and audience expectations, which can go a long way towards engagement.
Of course, influencers are still right to say that automation can’t be a “set it and forget it” tool. There are certain circumstances where it works well and others where a manual approach might be better.
When to Use Automation and When to Skip It
According to one survey, 30% of brands polled said that their social posting was “mostly” automated, while the majority of respondents (53.8%) said their social media was either “mostly” or wholly manual.
While automation is designed to save time in the practical creation and posting of content, there may be times when it isn’t necessarily as helpful as it could be.
Here are a few cases where you should and shouldn’t automate your tweets.
DO automate your RSS posts.
Automating content from your blog or RSS feed is probably the most popular use of social media automation, but it’s popular for a reason. Creating ad-hoc Twitter posts can be time-consuming.
But the key to getting the most out of your automated RSS feed is to make sure that you’re not just posting links with an article title. You also want to create Twitter posts that are engaging and relevant to your audience (and mindful of the time of day they are posted).
This is a situation where you might benefit from a half-automated, half-manual approach.
As one article puts it, you have to think of automation as “the main pieces of furniture in a living room” with the accessories (pillows, lamps, etc.) being the personalized touches you add to the tweets yourself.
With automation and careful crafting, you can create a complete picture that will boost engagement for your followers.
If you’re looking for social media automation tools, consider adding tools that will allow you to adjust the level of automation as needed. Buffer, for example, will automate your posts (based on timing) but will also let you create and send posts directly from their service.
You might also find these social media tools helpful when scheduling your RSS posts.
DON’T automate when real-world events happen.
One of the challenges you might run into when automating the timing of your tweets is the conflict between a pre-scheduled tweet and a real-world event.
Tragedies, unforeseen events, and disasters can shake up social media, and a pre-scheduled tweet might run the gamut from irrelevant to downright offensive.
Staying on top of the news cycle and media trends is critical for brands on Twitter. Take at least 15 minutes each day to check in on the latest trends and news.
And do your research before you post a hashtag or mention to ensure you’re using them correctly.
DON’T automate direct messages to new followers.
It’s a common practice for many brands to automate direct messages (DMS) like, “Hi, thanks for following @twitteruser.” But automated DMs can also backfire.
Among the many reasons that users unfollow a brand on Twitter include things like “spammy” and “annoying” behavior.
Automated DMs are also frowned upon because they can make it seem like you don’t really care about the individual follower. This relates back to one of the biggest complaints about social media automation – robotic-sounding language.
A generic marketing message that could be directed at anyone will not improve engagement. Sending too many DMs can also get you banned from Twitter if you send more than 1,000 a day.
This is a situation where no automation is better.
DO automate your answering service.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t automate responses if someone sends you a DM.
In fact, you can create a welcome message when customers engage with you. This can be useful for brands that deal with customer service issues over their Twitter account, like questions about discounts or promotions.
In some cases, you can also automate entire conversations with chatbot builders and similar AI messaging services. This goes a step in the right direction when dealing with “robotic” automation, at least in part.
How to Overcome the Biggest Drawbacks of Automation
When it comes to the other drawbacks of automation posed by influencers – robotic language, poor formatting, unintended PR disasters – there are a few things you can do with automation that can help.
1. Write good copy.
Just because you automatically send out posts doesn’t mean those posts have to be bad. There are plenty of ways to craft engaging tweets in a short amount of time.
Evergreen copy can be especially effective with automation, and it can still be humorous and engaging. Take this tweet from Taco Bell:
But it doesn’t have to be totally evergreen, either. JetBlue Airways sent this tweet out at Christmas:
Both are examples of content that is easily automated without sounding robotic. It’s good copy, plain and simple.
If you’re looking to craft a good tweet, consider following a few of these best practices:
- Automated posts should match the tone of the rest of your content.
- Tweets should be personalized to an intended audience.
- Tweets shouldn’t be copy-pasted from other social networks (see point #2 below).
Just be careful you’re not doing any of these other spammy things with your copy that can get you banned from Twitter.
2. Create Twitter-specific messages.
The first rule is: Don’t automate the same message for Twitter followers that you created for your other channels.
Each social media channel is designed for a different purpose. That’s why they have different layouts, rules, and even character limits.
Creating Twitter-specific posts will help you avoid the pitfall of poor formatting.
It can also improve engagement in the sense that Twitter users don’t necessarily want ten paragraphs of text that might draw in views on Facebook. They want bite-sized information.
Link clicks are also one of the biggest way users interact with content on Twitter, with links accounting for 92% of all user interaction.
If you’re going to automate your Twitter account, create messages that reflect the Twitter user, their behavior, and their wants and needs.
3. Set up alerts for news and trends.
If you can catch or stop a scheduled tweet from going out and craft a personalized message (if it applies) instead, you can build good rapport with your audience. Or, at the very least, prevent a PR nightmare.
Setting up Google Alerts for news-worthy events can help with this. You can also create alerts based on specific categories or events.
Look for keywords related to your industry, brand, natural weather events, political events, or anything your audience might find relevant.
While you don’t have to automate everything, you should save yourself some time and effort by automating most of your tweets (be sure they follow the five core principles of automation).
Automation gives you the ability to schedule things out ahead of time, review posts for any potentially PR-damaging mistakes, and gives you the freedom to respond personally to your followers when necessary.
Most importantly, automating won’t sacrifice your engagement levels. In fact, tweeting out more regularly could actually improve them. Look for tools that allow you to adjust the level of automation as needed.
Just don’t forget to pop-in from time to time to watch your feed for major events.