The Case Against Social Media Automation

Have you ever seen “Wallace and Gromit The Wrong Trousers“? The 1993 stop-motion animated film begins with a famous scene where the main character, Wallace, uses a variety of autonomous machines for household chores. He attempts to cut his dressing time in half with a sweater vest putter-onner invention, and automates his breakfast routine by fashioning everything from a porridge cannon to a jam catapult.

Just like Wallace, I like to be efficient. Most consider me a man of few words; I don’t like waste, and I constantly seek out solutions that help me get the most out of my finite resources. But I’ve also found that the proverbial ‘jam’ is sometimes better spread by hand, and that automation isn’t always the right approach. This is especially true for social media automation.

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While the dangers of using automation for Social Media Marketing aren’t quite the same as getting a porridge bomb to the face, they do exist. If you’re engaging in, or considering using social media automation, I encourage you to consider the following:


Social Media Automation Narrows Your Connecting Audience

Each social media channel requires a unique approach. What works for a company on Instagram won’t necessarily work on Twitter, and vice versa. For example, our client, Mastin Labs, serves various photography demographics. Professional wedding photographers most often engage with Mastin Labs via their Facebook business page. Because we know this, everything we post on this channel is tailored to that specific audience. The wedding photography demographic is a formal audience, so we choose to show them less of the silly side of Mastin Labs, and more of the professional, high-end branding. With a one-post-per-day schedule, we don’t have a lot of room to experiment so we have to keep this channel tailored and consistent.

On Pinterest, we’ve optimized the Mastin Labs account by posting six times a day. On this social media channel, we have the freedom to experiment and display posts that speak to a broader audience. If we used social media automation to connect our Facebook posts to our Pinterest posts, we’d be sorely under-serving our Pinterest audience, and limiting our engagement, opportunity, and messaging scope on that channel.

While there is some overlap in content, Mastin Labs benefits greatly from tailored messaging on each channel. Customizing posts to best appeal to the unique users of each social media platform equates to higher engagement rates, and high engagement is the main goal of a good social media strategy.


Automation Disappoints Audiences On Different Channels

Writing posts that are specific to each platform is essential to meeting readers’ expectations. A tweet is limited to 140 characters and a Facebook post is limited to 60,000. The two platforms can share the same information, but wording and formatting should be maximized to best suit the respective platforms.

One of my favorite musicians, Jason Isbell, falls into this social media automation trap. Almost every single post on Jason Isbell’s Facebook page is a repost from Twitter. The posts are disjointed, brief, and confusing because Twitter posts are naturally not optimized for Facebook. Here’s one of many examples from his page:

Now, this is not to pick on Jason. I love his music, and enjoy following him on Twitter where his posts make sense in the context of a whole conversation. Like Jason, many companies, musicians, and public figures fall into the same social media automation trap. But with a little more effort, these same people can make their whole message heard on the intended social media platform, and see a quick uptick in engagement. Bing. Bam. Boom. Ea$y.


Automation Looks Lazy And Inauthentic

Authenticity from brands is important. Consumers need to have a sense of the real people behind the social media handles.  Consumers want to wear jackets made by Taylor Stitch, where they can visit the assembly line in San Francisco; they want to drink beer from a neighborhood brewery that sources local malt and hops. It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to provide an authentic and positive interaction with their prospective customers when they are on social media. Simply put, lumping all social media posts together through automation looks lazy, and shows a lack of attention to detail. Make it easy for consumers to get to know the best parts of your company by practicing thoughtful social media.

Here is an example of this that we recently corrected with one of our own clients, Uniquely HR.

When we clicked the link, we were directed to this cool, but totally irrelevant, photo of a jet plane.

What does a jet plane have to do with Amazon? If the post had been made specifically for Twitter, the link would have redirected to a LinkedIn post about Amazon, exactly what the caption suggested. When a link isn’t created for a certain platform, it runs the risk of directing to the wrong place or being a dead link. When a consumer clicks on a link that doesn’t go anywhere, the opportunity for starting a conversation about that link dies. This is a clear example of social media automation failure. As soon as we noticed this issue, we helped UniquelyHR sort out their automation to maximize the impact of their social media posts.


Do It Right Or Don’t Do It At All

While I understand the logic behind using automation to manage social media accounts, just like I understand Wallace’s desire to exert minimal effort getting dressed in the morning (thanks to his sweater vest putter-onner), the result can be an embarrassing, misaligned mess that causes misdirection and/or misrepresentation of your brand. Automating your social media platforms may seem like a good idea, but the benefits don’t outweigh the cost.

Every interaction you have with your customers should add value. If you are not giving value to your audience by tailoring your messages, you may be hurting your brand image.

Social media is a direct representation of who you are as a company, and extra special care should be taken if you choose to use any type of social media automation. Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying it poorly. Careless social media automation can ultimately land you with a backward vest and face full of porridge.