With an increased demand for social media automation from marketers, here are some must-knows that guide you to identify tasks that are best automated and the ones that can only be better executed by humans
Modern-day marketing needs have turned social media marketing into a must. This has gradually led to an increase in demand for social media automation for various social campaigns, so the productivity and efficiency of marketing teams is enhanced and they can focus on strategies rather than repetitive social media tasks.
Social media marketing plays a pivotal role as a channel to garner leads, as a great way to boost brand persona and for interacting with consumers in real-time. Social selling strategies have helped organizations boost overall business revenues.
When it comes to understanding and unlocking the power of automation for social media marketing, the first step is to identify what can be (or should be) automated, so that it frees up a marketer’s time to allow more focus on strategy and creativity.
Social media automation current trends
With AI now the buzzword in everything martech, some of the advancements that have changed social media marketing are listed below:
- Chatbots: With popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter introducing integrated bots, the use of chatbots for customer interaction will only increase – be it for regular queries, issue resolution, or any other support for customer needs. With this being taken care of, marketers are left with more time to focus on creating customer-centric offerings or to take up tougher customer queries, even as some of the major issues are resolved through automation. Chatbots have also given rise to a new trend – conversational commerce – where chatbots and automation help brands communicate with their customers and shoppers via social messenger apps. Common touchpoints like conversations on product usage, payments, shipping and more are increasingly being handled with auto-replies in this space.
- Virtual Reality: Automation is changing the way people and brands interact with each other. An element of VR thrown into social media marketing is set to further change the way social media marketing is executed by brands online, aiming at a better buying experience for consumers.
- Paid content: There has never been more of a need to engage customers with content that they like and find interactive than there is now. Most platforms have their own algorithm in place to share relevant content in user’s newsfeeds. In the early stages of social media marketing, there was always a big focus on organic reach. But to best capitalize on this, paid content will be a useful way to get your brand’s content featured on most of your targeted audience’s newsfeeds.
- Artificial Intelligence: Snapchat’s popularity was often attributed to their facial filters feature, which makes the network a lot more interactive and engaging than other social media channels. While other social media platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp have slowly started integrating similar features, the increased use of AI in social media marketing is set to become a norm.
- Live-streaming: Today, Facebook Live is a growing trend despite being just a year old since its introduction in 2016. Started as being popular with celebrities, brands have now started exploring live-streaming to connect better with consumers and enhance engagement. Marketers can now capitalize on Facebook’s 360-degree video for Facebook Live users for all pages and profiles.
Benefits of using tools for social media marketing
Traditionally, smaller companies would manually create their social media profiles, and then focus on posting something relevant at least once a day. This is how the business journey slowly began, with Facebook acting as a key platform for individual business-owners and small enterprises trying to use it to create organic awareness and reach.
Earlier, professionals often stressed upon the cost-effective factor as being one of the main advantages of social media marketing. It served to increase brand awareness and reputation online at a lesser outlay.
- Bulk designing Certain tools can create multiple design posts for platforms like Facebook in an instant once you upload an image or template of choice and tweak the lines you want used. For bulk social media marketing, wherein a larger quantity of posts and social media presence is important, this can prove practical and useful. But with every pro comes a con. While these tools can easily help you design for various platforms with a single-click, a few drawbacks, like lack of personalization of design may become an issue.
- Constant social media presence Customers spend a maximum amount of time online. This means businesses need to interact with them in their channels in real time. Automated responses can ensure customers are always attended to. Once you have a strong hold on the gamut of services that fall under social media, depending on the number of social media tasks to be addressed, automating at least a few can keep up with the growing numbers of your followers while also offering instant replies and lead nurturing abilities.
So, how are marketers using popular tools for social media automation and how is it helping them with quick responses to prospects? Naor Chazan, Executive Director of Marketing at SmartLinx says, “While we have a lean marketing department, we do not outsource key marketing functions such as social media. This means we must work as efficiently as possible. That’s where Hootsuite comes in. We use it to schedule posts on our social media channels – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It not only streamlines the process, but enables us to view all our social media content at once. As a company that provides solutions to make workforce management more efficient and centralized, it’s only natural that our marketing department would take advantage of technology that does the same thing for the marketing space. It also enables multiple team members to operate within the same social media (Hootsuite) environment, which really adds to the efficiencies – with multiple contributors, but one person who is responsible for editing the messaging to have a unified voice. Hootsuite is also convenient in that it allows us to create streams to monitor specific industry thought leaders, keep an ear to the ground on key issues affecting our customers, and even see how our partners and competitors are communicating via social.”
Jim Fosina CEO of Fosina Marketing Group adds, “There are a number of social media campaign management platforms (Sprinklr being the leading player) that allow organizations and/or agency partners the ability to centralize the connection between customer/prospect and brand regardless of the specific social media platform they are engaging with. Gone are the days when companies needed to go to each platform and launch siloed efforts. What’s great about these unified platforms is the ability to monitor the interaction between content and consumer on a social media channel by channel basis, they also allow the brand to be a part of the social media community and take an active role in driving and/or coordinating the conversation happening in that channel. The more that the brand can understand the conversation and the content that seems to be resonating with the community, the better job the brand can do to shape their own market message to be hyper relevant to the community. This level of reporting also helps the brand understand who the true leaders and influencers are within the community, by monitoring these channels. Platforms allow brand owners the ability to identify if there are any issues that are being raised that would have an impact on the value of the brand, so that these items can be addressed within the social media community as quickly as possible to present answers and prevent issues from spreading to the general population.
“A coordinated platform allows for ease of use in maintaining a dialogue with customers, identifying issues and remedies to those issues and allows for a contextual path to introduce and/or poll new ideas and thoughts about new brand ideas to those that are truly engaged in discussion regarding the brand and/or related topic.”
Automation for small, mid and larger businesses
Small businesses may end up requiring automation for a fewer number of social media marketing tasks. Hence, it’s common for small businesses to hire an in-house social media marketer to cater to their online advertising needs. Doing things manually is still possible for a smaller brand.
Most digital marketing agencies, who manage multiple social media accounts of mid to large businesses, need to ensure a regular flow of relevant posts while making sure posts go up even on holidays. Automation can offer timely scheduling, thereby relieving marketers from performing routine tasks on multiple accounts or platforms.
When it comes to larger brands or businesses, social media objectives differ. Furthermore, based on the industry, the strategy around social media content to garner followers would also change.
Social Media Automation Tasks
* Scheduling future posts
* Setting up auto-responders for user messages
* Real-time reactions to new likes and followers
Social media marketing and its overall management involve regular posting, customized to each media platform, in sync with the brand’s messaging format and flow of communication. A thorough social media plan would ideally involve creation of a content schedule customized to suit each platform. Automation greatly helps in quick execution, but to enhance the overall effect of your social media goals, marketers need to create a relevant structure and plan that serves as a guideline or reference point.
Social media automation supports a company’s social media objectives by giving them the opportunity to do it better, faster and on a larger scale despite availability of fewer human resources.
When a brand starts growing their number of followers online, instant replies, constant lead nurturing and regular social media activities become necessary. It may not always be possible for social media professionals to ensure all this manually, and with the constant increase in competition, delayed reactions can make you lose prospects.
Most commonly automated tasks
Midsize to enterprise businesses have started using chatbots to reply to social media messages, and it has become a huge draw for them, as elements like scheduling, automatic reposting, replies, content curation can easily be undertaken using automation. Some tools also allow audience segmentation, thereby enabling brands to excel where humans may slack.
Talking about how automation has helped in quicker response times to consumers, Naor Chazan adds, “Last year, SmartLinx won a Stevie Award last for Customer Service of the Year. One reason is our quick response to customer inquiries. We can easily monitor our social media accounts on Hootsuite, and see which customer posts require an immediate response. It’s so much easier than logging in to each platform separately. We can monitor all our accounts and quickly take action where needed.”
Some of the common tasks that are largely automated today include:
Every social media marketer takes actions to collect leads. With online platforms opening the door to more lead-gathering capabilities, automation becomes important for marketers to be able to nurture and manage the rising numbers. It is impractical and nearly impossible to track or nurture leads manually. Furthermore, automation can also help with increasing your prospect universe once you set the parameters you are looking for.
You can never say whether an online campaign will yield the desired results, but automation can help you prepare well. A/B testing (or split testing) is an important aspect of digital marketing. By testing your social media initiatives in terms of content and design, you can know what will resonate with your target audience and what may not do well.
Social media marketing plays a key role in how brands distribute content or engage with customers. Many social media tasks like monitoring brand mentions online, identifying influencers etc can be automated, but some key tasks may still need a human touch.
Businesses today usually have two forms of content created for social media marketing purposes. One is the original content written specifically for the brand in the form of blogs and the other is curated content. Either way, sharing of content on multiple social media platforms can easily be automated and usually is.
Twitter List Building
Lists on Twitter allow marketers to follow larger groups of people at one go. Automating list-building for Twitter and having users automatically added to relevant lists helps garner more leads or followers and even influencers.
Automation can be useful to keep tabs on which company or user is talking about you. This can help brands maintain a positive online reputation, while also helping to monitor brand mentions.
Tracking social behavior of your competitors can also be automated using monitoring tools that give you visibility into your competitors’ actions on social.
However, Naor Chazan advises, “When it comes to making personal connections on social media, there’s no substitute for personal, direct contact. If we are reaching out to a journalist or blogger, for instance, we will send a direct message on Twitter. Automation can only take you so far; we can miss opportunities when we become over-reliant on it.”
Agrees Jason, “Automate what you can in terms of ‘service messaging’ – i.e. shipping notifications, immediate customer response to issues, etc. Make sure that you do all you can within 24 to 48 hours to respond with a human being either via email and/or call center to remind the customer that he/she is being dealt with on a real-time basis with a real person, that if need be can escalate the issue to another human being. Consumers know about the messages that they receive from auto-responders. Where possible make these messages (delivered by email) look and feel less like machine-generated messages from a personalization design and content. The more that you can make it appear that someone (Jim) is sitting behind that autoresponder, the closer you will be to building a stronger bridge between you and the customer. Customers truly crave human connection, and a sense that they aren’t a number to your company, brings the human touch back into your systems, while you automate what you can.
What automation cannot do for you:
* Creating a customized content plan
You can use effective tools to schedule posts or share them on multiple platforms with a single-click. But, to maximize the potential of your social media marketing efforts, your brand needs a customized content plan as to what kind of posts or messaging would be going up week on week, and aligned to the various social channels.
* Incorporating unique and original content
A company blog can be written with the aim to share information that is interesting to the target audience. Automated blogging picks content from other sites and uses machine learning capabilities to create content, but may not always give your brand the desired results. That’s because audiences largely look for the value-add in social media and copied or curated content may just not seem that interesting.
* Tailor-made designs in sync with the social channel
It is easy to use tools to support the various design elements or creative guidelines of multiple platforms. But, at the same time, to retain the overall brand look and feel, tailor-made creatives also need to be planned.
* Breakdown of objectives
Some brands may only aim to have an increased brand awareness or social presence, while others may specifically want more followers and wish to make their content viral
Commenting on where social media marketers should not look at automation to help out, Jim adds, “It is our sense that there is ALWAYS a need for human intervention. The technology is purely a means to make conversation more enabled and efficient. There must be human beings, who review data coming from these channels whether high level and/or granular and determine what is in the best interest of the brand in terms of messaging strategy. No level of automation and/or technology can replace the human being charting the path in terms of the most appropriate and relevant communication and interaction. Customers and Interactors want to know that they are dealing with a REAL company and a real level of human interaction. Automation has not yet mastered that level of true human interaction yet.”
Knowing where to draw the line
It’s important to know what to automate. Finding the right mix and using machine learning capabilities to support your manual efforts can go a long way in achieving desirable ROI on your social media marketing initiatives. Automation helps marketers focus on the larger picture. So, automating the right tasks can allow your brand positioning activities to explore newer formats.
Even well-known news sites like The Washington Post use algorithms to create headlines and story structures, but their posts are further edited by people before final use.
While the numbers of social media automation users continue to rise, due to its increased convenience, when it comes to planning your automation, it is always useful to understand where you can potentially lose out despite automating some key tasks, and what your automation may not be able to cover.
Until AI reaches the point of being or behaving like the human brain, it might not be the best idea to automate social media initiatives completely.
Key points to remember