“Why don’t we just automate Social Media, we can then go back to doing our day jobs” #CustExp


Big Bird

“Why don’t we just automate Social Media, we can then go back to doing our day jobs”

This is a direct quote from one of my “social media savvy” colleagues in Dublin the other week.

I was then dragged into a conversation of the relative merits of @Buffer vs @hootsuite. Which one was the best the best at scheduling Tweets.

To Schedule or not to Schedule

Tweets have a short “self life”, research shows that they tend to have an active duration of about 18 minutes.  This is crazy from a Marketing prospective were you are looking for your message to have penetration, reach and longevity.

You could Tweet every 18 minutes, but you would come across as a spammer and need a full time Tweeter.

The Argument for

Automating repetitive tasks is a good idea. For example, if you are running a conference you can automate Tweets; coming up sessions, quotes from speakers.  This would actually free you up to be more reactive (customer focused) on the day.

It can also help getting content to an audience that might other wise not see it.  55% of my followers are in the US and active when I’m asleep.  I therefore schedule Tweets during that time to make sure I can reach followers mainly on West Coast time.  Myself, like many brands like to have an “always on” approach to meet our global audience.

I found @Buffer made a significant impact to me.  My day job is with a large American software house and the demands of this role mean I don’t have time to Tweet during the day.  Buffer enables me to schedule a number of Tweets so I can tweet while in meetings.

The Argument Against

I’m writing this sitting in my favourite Deli in West London; Zoran’s.  Zoran knows all his customers, he knows I like table 5 and I drink Americano. This level of personalization is not new, in fact I would call it old fashioned.

The web has provided us with many benefits, it changed our life’s (for the better).  But the web has distanced us from our customers.

Social Media was sent to save us. Social Media enables us without being creepy (well you can be creepy if you want but don’t recommend it), to get closer to our customers.  To get back the level of personalisation we lost when we implemented the web.  We can now have a conversation with our customers, find out what their wants and needs are.  In fact we can engage with our customers, I would go so far to say that customers who love our brand want engagement.

For example, many consumer goods companies are combining the web and Social Media to support new product introductions (NPIs).  They are doing this via Crowd-Sourcing or via brand advocate programs.

Just think all that collective knowledge and intellect out there ready for you to tap into.  No more brain storming sessions on how to innovate your products. Dive right in.

Immediacy vs Spam

I’m a big believer in using Buffer but you still have to have the the personal touch. I love the way my followers interact on Twitter, some great opinions, these people are bloody clever.  So while I may use Buffer I always build in time in the day to respond.  In my opinion, without that common touch and immediacy, the Twitter feed can become spam.  In my opinion Social Media automation should extend no further than scheduling posts.

I’m aware of somebody that when I retweet them, they send me an automatic Tweet “thank you for the retweet”.  I stopped reweeting them until I had a conversation with them and it was switched off.

Social Media is all about people-to-brand and brand-to-people engagement.  Why would you want to dehumanize this engagement?


I’ll leave you with two questions:-

Are scheduled Tweets with no immediacy just spam?

If people and corporations just schedule Tweets and LinkedIn updates will this, in time, kill Social Media?


Further reading.

Following the recent Scredible conference I attended there was a big debate about automation.  Certainly recommend reading this article by  Social Media Automation – http://socialdojo.co.uk/social-media-automation/

16 thoughts on ““Why don’t we just automate Social Media, we can then go back to doing our day jobs” #CustExp

  1. Two very interesting questions Tim.

    Scheduled Tweets that are ignored and not followed up will lack intimacy. Therefore it’s best to have a platform like TweetDeck or Hootsuite available to “keep an eye” on the reactions you receive. Even if you can’t be there immediately to respond, not responding at all is worse. The twitterer will be happy with a reply whatever time you can get to your PC/tablet/phone or whatever, and if they are present and willing, then a discussion will happen.

    Social media will never be killed, even if businesses and corporates saturate the Twittosphere with automated content that is never followed up. There will always be someone online to interact with. It will be the unimaginative automators that fail to understand the necessity of interacting who will die off.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Social media is called “social” for a reason. It’s about the conversation. Too many people use it for flagrant self-promotion and don’t use it to promote other people. Self-promotion is fine as long as it’s used to engage others. I don’t think automated tweets can help actually promote others. It’s fine to use it for a time, but it loses its charm for your followers if it’s used all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t care for automated responses so I don’t uses them. I do use Buffer from time to time because it frees me up for my regularly scheduled life but I also find it important to interact with those I follow. I love knowing someone is really out there and I find that those I interact with do as well. Social media could and has for many become the end instead of a means to an end which isn’t healthy in my opinion. I like to remain in the real world and Buffer lets me do that while staying engaged, but I certainly wouldn’t only use Buffer so for me it’s a mix.


  4. Thoughtful post, and well written.

    Like anything, abuse of automation is bad. Both for followers (regardless of platform), as well as for the reputation of the content creator.

    Multiple posts from the same person in close succession start to look like spam, which builds a case for some kind of scheduling.

    When done intelligently, automation helps to keep the conversation open. And just like Alice Elliot says: others “will be happy with a reply whatever time you can get to your PC/tablet/phone or whatever, and if they are present and willing, then a discussion will happen”.

    Buffer, Hootsuite, et al should be used as tools for furthering the interaction; not as an enabler for “facelessness”.

    The internet/web/social is evolving, though. More value and emphasis is now on real people all over the world engaging in lively discussion. Less room for intrusive bots.

    Automate social media? To a degree. More like “enable always-on” social media.

    Social media will evolve as our patterns and habits evolve. Tools will go away or change eventually, but the conversation remains.

    Great post.


  5. Great article Tim. I think the best way to go about your social media strategy is to use a combination of Buffer, and then Hoot Suite or Tweet Deck to be sure that you can see the interactions.


  6. Excellent post Tim.

    I’m a huuuuuge fan of social automation (as part of a balanced strategy) – the business benefits are immense, and the potential is huge.

    Most businesses never bother to quantify the cost-savings possible via social automation either which is a shame (as once resources are allocated to automation, the savings can be used in other marketing activities).

    do you find that the available tools out there (hoot, buffer etc) are adequate for most automation campaigns? (I’ve moved away from generic tools towards APIs , dynamic conversations and cron jobs)

    Here’s a post I wrote recently about the biz benefits of social media automation: http://digitaldestinymarketing.com/blog/why-strategic-social-automation-should-be-a-part-of-your-online-marketing-strategy – would love to hear any comments / feedback you might have in this regard!



  7. How many different types of interactions do you have face to face in any given week? Well, social media is like that: it is no one single thing, it’s simultaneously conversation, link sharing, messaging, customer support, content marketing and much more:

    So there is no one single answer. Scheduling and automation can have a place, although if you do not engage on a personal level, spontaneously and without a ‘marketing goal’, I don’t really think you are using social media socially.

    I joined Twitter in 2007 but probably didn’t schedule my first tweet until many years later, when I realised that I was doing a lot of link-sharing and didn’t want to engulf followers’ timelines. Around a year ago I introduced automation, but only as part of my link-sharing – basically, I now share most of my Diigo bookmarks on Tumblr and Twitter via IFTTT, so every now and then IFTTT tweets for me.

    The key is that it’s clearly labelled as such (for those interested: http://mathewlowry.tumblr.com/post/59662964425/taming-the-firehose-scan-queue-tag-and-share) – it’s when you try and pass off anything automated as personal that you run into trouble. People can smell inauthenticity on social media a mile away.


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  9. I’ve only recently started scheduling my tweets with buffer and I’ve noticed a huge change in engagement. The improvement seems to be due to the fact that the tweets are now showing when more of my followers are online.

    It doesn’t change the fact that I still have to respond to actually create “engagement”, and it does add the problem of some tweets happening at peculiar hours (for my home location). I still feel that the benefit justifies the automation.


  10. Twitter was fun for a while but it quickly became a huge time sink and a distraction. Sure it was nice to learn things in (almost) real time but keeping up with the world is time consuming. So I quit following everyone. I still have my twitter account but I never check it and I don’t care. I check Facebook about once per day (sometimes not at all) and try not to spend much time on it. The only reason I even read this article is because someone on my inner circle shared it on Linkedin. But I consider Linkedin more of a professional networking tool than a social network.


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  12. Excellent, thought-provoking article, Tim. I really like the immediacy of live tweeting and rarely schedule tweets. However, your point that half your audience is in the U.S. and that you can’t reach them as well without scheduling tweets makes sense. Carefully selecting the tweets that are best to schedule and getting back to people who respond to them (so that they feel a real connection with you) is a good strategy.


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