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Inbound Marketing

Winning the Debate over Social Media Marketing Automation

I’m not sure what it is about the Presidential debates, but the more I watch them, the more I find myself weighing the differing perspectives on other matters as well. Who was the best, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird? Are Star Wars Episodes IV, V, and VI better than Episodes I, II, and III? Should Robert Pattinson have taken Kristen Stewart back? Sometimes there are so many arguments to consider, I end up paralyzed in thought. My wife sends me to the store for milk and I stand in dairy aisle for 45 minutes looking back and forth between 2% and skim.  

Another topic I’ve recently been hashing over is as to whether social media automation can be effectively in marketing. On one hand I can understand why it’s not a great idea in the sense that automation runs counter to elements like engagement and authenticity that constitute the social part of social media. Scheduled posts can come off sounding robotic or spammy. Irrelevant content is auto-published uniformly across platforms and forgotten about.  Opportunities to engage are missed or ignored altogether.  And of course, there are those infamous bots and auto messaging tricks that really give automation a bad name. Hmmm, those are some valid points.

On the other hand, though, I also see where social media automation can have some positive uses. For example:

Gauging successful content

Your blog probably already has Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. sharing buttons, but let’s say you have a really good whitepaper and you want to get an idea of its reach. By including social sharing buttons within the paper you not only encourage people to pass the content on to their network, but by using an embedded tracking code in the buttons, you can also see how often the paper was shared as well as which social platforms were more effective.  This same tactic can work for emails and newsletters too. Bottom line, though, is that tracking the social performance of your content should help in creating even better content and in determining which social channel is best for publishing it.

Gathering meaningful data

Marketing automation tools like those found in HubSpot can collect social data on those interacting with your content which opens up a number of possibilities. For one, this data allows marketers to create targeted segments which they can then reach out to with more personalized messaging and content tailored to that person’s behavior. Another benefit of this information is that paints a clearer picture of actual buyer personas which in turn, allows marketers to better understand their potential clients’ needs. A third advantage here is that a person’s social activity can be factored into scoring how strong of a lead they may be; after all, if someone shares a whitepaper shouldn’t that count for more than for the person who just downloaded it? Finally, this same social behavior tracking can alert you to brand advocates and influencers who have been touting your company, and who you can now engage with.

Publishing content effectively

I realize I mentioned auto publishing content as argument against automation; however, there’s a difference between publishing content efficiently and effectively. Scheduling content to post across all your social channels simultaneously at the same time each day may be efficient, but odds are it won’t be effective.  What if the majority of your followers use Twitter several hours after you put out your scheduled tweet? Maybe the link in your Facebook update was missed because it was only text and didn’t include a visual element to help it stand out in the news feed. Certain features like those built into Hootsuite can help in avoiding these mistakes, providing users with the capability to schedule content, format it according to a specific social channel, and auto publish it at optimal times.  

So, to automate or to not automate, that is the question. Which side is right? Well… both. The problem, though, isn’t so much about a right or wrong side of the debate as it is a right and wrong way of doing things. If you’re using social media automation incorrectly, then push away from your desk and shoot yourself in the foot. If, however, your automated efforts are aimed at using metrics to create more valuable content, gathering data to better connect with current and potential leads, and publishing content in sync with your readership, then consider yourself a winner.