Guest post by Anand Srinivasan.
There are several reasons why marketers may want to partially automate their social media campaigns. First, success with social media marketing comes with frequency (plus quality). Studies show that users on platforms like Twitter and Pinterest maximize their engagement when brands post as many as 15 tweets or 11 pins per day.
If you are a global brand catering to consumers in different timezones, you may want to increase this frequency further in order to address to these various geographies. In addition, brands often spread efforts across multiple platforms for each of their campaigns.
Depending on your campaign strategy and target audience, social media marketing could be a 24×7 job. Automating some of your postings can help you lay the groundwork for your campaigns while making sure that technology can help execute it as planned.
First things first
Automating social media activity certainly doesn’t mean a completely hands-off process. Social media platforms and practices evolve constantly. Also, success depends heavily on the originality of your content and how relevant it is to current industry trends. All of this requires constant human input. Automation, in this case, merely refers to the execution of the campaign.
In addition, a significant portion of social media marketing is engaging with your community. This cannot and should not be automated. Not only does human interaction deliver better results, it also makes sure that the marketing team is completely in touch with what customers want and expect from your brand.
Preparing your business for social media automation
Executing an automation strategy needn’t be all that complicated. There are dozens of tools, including market leaders like Hootsuite, SocialOomph, and Buffer, that can help you get started with automating your social media postings. But before you start using these platforms, it is important to prepare a strategy and a roadmap for your campaign.
The first step is to choose which social media sites on which to focus your activities. The landscape of social networks is constantly evolving: Google+ is going away, Tumblr and Flickr are changing, and Instagram is growing: the image-centric social site is highly popular among teens with over 72% of American teens using the social network. So if your target market includes teenagers, for instance, you should probably be active on Instagram.
Besides mainstream sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, there are also niche social media platforms that target specific industries. These includes iShade for accounting, Biznik for small business owners, and Sermo for physicians. Pick the platforms where you want to be active; it is a good idea to restrict your focus to the 2-4 largest social networks for your target group.
The next step is to build a strategy for each of your chosen platforms. Marketers often make the mistake of repurposing the same campaign for each of their different platforms. This may fail to deliver the desired results. Content that works on a platform like Instagram may not necessarily work on Twitter, and vice versa.
In addition to the content itself, each platform has its own unique features that help maximize ROI. For instance, Instagram users make use of hashtags to follow content related to specific topics, and hashtags like #instagood and #photooftheday are known to deliver lots of “likes” for the posts. Twitter, on the other hand, uses hashtags to measure trending topics. Using the same hashtags for Instagram and Twitter may not work well.
Knowing what platforms you want to target, and with your social media strategy in place, the final step is content production. Let’s take the example of an online store selling custom made shoes. Such a business may look at Facebook and Instagram to reach their customers.
The Facebook strategy, in this case, may involve interactive videos and even blog posts that appeal to shoe buyers. Instagram, on the other hand, is more visual and requires investments in high quality photos and videos of your products.
Content production is by far the most expensive and resource-intensive element of your social media marketing campaigns.
Setting up automation
Once your roadmap and strategy are clear, you may set up an automation campaign for your social media submissions. Your schedule will be influenced by the platform you choose and the content you publish.
Typically, it’s acceptable to repeat your content or repurpose posts once every five or six submissions. In other words, Twitter campaigns may be repeated once or twice every day (in order to maximize your reach among various followers) while the same campaign may be repeated on Facebook or Instagram once per week.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule. Social media marketers may experiment with various repeat frequencies to identify how they impact your post views, engagement (likes and shares), landing page visits, conversions, and ultimately your campaign ROI.
While automation helps make your social media marketing more efficient, there are two areas where manual efforts are essential to making social media campaigns successful:
Engagement – Engaging with your audience can’t be automated. Attempting this (e.g., using bots) is unlikely to bring your prospective customers closer to your business, and may even backfire. Understanding what your customers want and expect can’t be achieved through automated tools alone. Human interaction is more productive.
Analytics – A lot of marketing is based on intelligent guesses. Your automated campaigns need to be analyzed in depth to understand what works and what doesn’t. While automation can be helpful in gathering data (for example, running A/B tests), the interpretation of results is best left to humans (e.g., adding a popular but irrelevant keyword to a paid search campaign may increase clicks and conversions, but these will likely be of little value). Use these lessons to strategize your future campaigns.
Contrary to how it may initially appear, automation involves a lot of hard work. It is important to note that social media automation is not about making your job easy, but is rather targeted at scaling up your strategies by delegating redundant tasks to bots and automation software. Understanding what to automate, and how to go about it, is thus critical in executing successful campaigns.
Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. The Hubbion Project Management app was rated among the top 20 in its category by Capterra. You may reach out him @jibber.co/anand