Community management has taken a bit of a drift as of late with the influx of social automation. With auto-publishers and “recipes” available for free or very cheaply, marketers are able to hold a presence online that seems more like a medium of advertising and less like a community driven space. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to advertise via social media, but I think we ought to take a good hard look at what social automation is doing in terms of capturing and maintaining a delighted audience of customers.

Let’s name the players in the game before we get any further. Things that I’m referring to are software programs like Hootsuite, Buffer, and other CMS based social scheduling tools that allow you to create a week’s worth of tweet in a couple of hours, schedule them out over a week, and set it and, in most cases, forget it. 

hoot suite

IFTTT is an interesting service that allows you to create and utilize “recipes” that should make your life a little easier. What’s happened is that you’re also able to set recipes like auto-sending a Direct Message to someone who follows you, thanking them for the follow, or even auto-following someone back who follows you. Everyone has seen the “truetwit” validation Direct Messages that you get when you follow someone and they want to make sure that you aren’t a spam twitter account. There are also applications that go ahead and favorite thousands of tweets every week based on a keyword list you provide in hopes that the favoriting of tweets will gain you followers.

These tools were created to help marketers navigate social media in a way that would also help them be more efficient, but are the very tools meant to help actually harming your social media efforts? Let’s find out.

It really depends on what your definition of Social Media Marketing is. Are you trying to generate leads who will eventually convert to customers via a tweet with a link to your blog? Or are you simply using social media because someone told you to? Either way, studies are showing that using some of these tools and products could actually hurt your social media efforts.

social media logos

Using it for good

Social scheduling can be a good thing, but with scheduling comes a larger responsibility. Creating social messages and tweets in advance can save a lot of time for marketers that aren’t solely doing social. If you are generating content that is auto-published, you need to balance it out with engagement posts as well. That’s true for any social campaign. But with a larger amount of content, you need a proportionate amount of posts and engagement that are “live” and are connecting with customers. Andrew Heyward said that “Every company is a media company,” but you need to remember that you are also a company. You have people that are reading your content, but your customers or potential customers want to know that you are a human. Social Command Centers like Hootsuite are really great for marketers because you are able to get a snapshot of all of your social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Foursquare etc…) all at once. The key here is engaging with your community, and you can’t predict who and what people are going to say on Thursday when you’re typing the tweets or messages on Sunday night.

Using third party applications like Followgen or TweetAdder might help a business get a base of followers when they are getting started, but the practices have been viewed as “fishy” in the social media community. It’s a good way to figure out who you want to connect with online, but once you have a base or community, stop using those programs and gain followers and “likes” the natural way.

 Here’s where it can hurt

There has been a long debated question of Facebook’s Edgerank taking 3rd Party Posted updates and punishing publishers for using such applications to reach their fan base. The punishment? Something like 1 in 6 fans will actually see your update. There is little hard evidence to support or deny that claim, but why take the risk? If you are using social media as a marketing tool, take the time to go to Facebook and update from the site itself. You can also do more there like tag people, update more enriched content, and format your posts better to fit a Facebook audience.

The biggest pain point with most publishing applications is that if you write for one network, that same message will get pushed to other networks with the same reserved characters from other social sites. For example: If you’re writing tweets and sending them to Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+, your hashtags and @ mentions show up in those other networks where they don’t do anything, and ultimately upset and discourage your fans on social media from taking your content as quality. There is a particular underlying message conveyed by posting out from one source that says “I don’t care to be in this community, but listen to what I have to say!”

The point of social media is to be “social” right? If you aren’t in conversation with your customers, you’re missing the point, and they can tell. I think there is a time and place for social automation, but be smart about it. Not every tool out there is for the betterment of your social campaign.