Marketing Automation: 4 Things You Should Not Do

I recently came across a post by Kristi Hines on Social Media Examiner about tools and use-cases for these tools with automating your social accounts. Now, I guess you are already aware, that we here at The Social Ms are big fans of marketing automation. That we firmly believe that to achieve a lot with Social Media you will one day need some tools to help you. Or pay someone to do your social media for you. I do not believe that there are many successful people in social media, who do neither use the help of a person or some tools to keep up with all the activity, conversations and information.

However, reading Kristi’s article, I thought “wow, this is dangerous.” And the reason is that blindly starting with marketing automation for your accounts without knowing what exactly is going on will not help you. It will most likely hurt you. To use tools and automation just because you can and because they will help you save some time, I fear many people will lose. Lose the connection to their audience, the knowledge about how their audience reacts to what they do and in the end even reputation.

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I am not telling you “do not use marketing automation”. I am telling you: “do not do it blindly, without really knowing what it will do to your social media.” Think about what you are doing and what your audience will think of it first. Measure what works for you. Get some knowledge and “feeling” for how your audience reacts to certain activities. Revisit everything you do once in a while because reactions of people might change over time. Even your standing in social media can change things.

Here is my list of thoughts for some of the tools and automation ideas suggested by Kristi Hines in the article mentioned above:

1. Automatic signup for 100 social networks with KnowEm

Pro: Save your name or handle on several social accounts. If you want to make sure your name is not taken once you decide to become active on one of these networks this might be a good idea. It might also be good for agencies or social media pros, who have a deep knowledge of all social networks in question and just do the same signup process for multiple accounts over and over again.

Contra: I think this is a bad idea for social media newbies. I start getting a feel for a network when I signup and figure my way around the profile I have to fill out. Find out what images I can use, how many words the bio allows me. I take a sneak at some other accounts to see what they are doing and figure out what I might want to copy. This is all part of mastering a new social network. Having someone else setting up all of these accounts sounds to me like missing an opportunity to get to know the basics of these networks. Getting active in these networks would then cost me much more effort or even worse I might be missing some crucial points.

I find it rather dangerous to start an activity on any social network with marketing automation. My way would always be: Try out something manually and then see if there is a tool which can help me with what works for me. For average people, I do not think this automatic setup saves time. I think you are going to lose this time again later when you lack the basic understanding of a network you are already a member of.

2. Get email notifications of mentions in social media with Mention

Pro: I think this is a good idea in the beginning. When you are just starting out, you want to know when someone starts talking to you. Especially for Twitter the email notifications of Twitter itself might be totally sufficient.

Contra: Once your account grows and the activity increases the constant stream if incoming emails about mentions, and other activities in social networks get annoying.

I use the notification tab in Twitter or Tweetdeck to view the mentions in Twitter.

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3. Curate and Share Content with IFTTT, Feedly and Buffer

Kristi Hines describes an interesting combination of IFTTT (If This Than That), Feedly (See our article here) together with an email address and Buffer. If content from your favorite blogs (which you monitor with Feedly) comes in, you set an automatic action with IFTTT to send this new content automatically via an Email address to your Buffer.

I find this rather dangerous. I do not recommend you to post any content to your social accounts without taking a look at it before sharing it. Even if you trust the bloggers you follow with Feedly, you might not agree with all the content they publish. Automatically sending these out to your social accounts might give voice to something you do not agree with, without you ever noticing.

Still, if you do use this for a short time (could be you are on holiday), this might be a good solution to keep your account busy.

However, this case shows how flexible tools like IFTTT in combination with other tools are. So, if you have some activity you want to automate for a while: Take a look at it and be creative.

I am a huge fan of Buffer – I also think everyone should know about IFTTT. It is so flexible and allows to set up a lot of automation. But I think you should handle any such automation with care.

Some more automation in the same line can be done with Sendible. Sendible allows you to favorite and/or retweet a set number of tweets per hour, which mention certain keywords or hashtags. I would not recommend doing this with personal accounts. But we used it for a while when we were building multiple topic accounts for our publishing platform exploreB2B and were a bit short in the right topic related content.

4. Outsource routine Social Media updates with 99 Dollar Social

Pro: Don’t worry about your social accounts. Someone does all the updates for you.

Contra: I guess, you do not have to worry much about your social accounts anymore. They are doomed to fail anyway. I have seen a lot of social media accounts, which were active for ages without any success regarding building an audience, traffic, reputation and sales. If you just want to be visible in social media but do not care for any results go ahead. If you are looking for something more measurable, I do not think this is the way to go. And I am not saying this because I want the job of doing your social media activity for you. I firmly recommend you doing most of your social media activity yourself – even if you use some tools and automation to aid you.

To get a feeling for what your audience likes and what they respond to, you need to communicate with them yourself. I doubt if a service for 99$/month will bother what your audience says and adjust activity accordingly.

Final words on Marketing Automation:

I have written before about what I do for automating our social media accounts and some of the tools we use. I think marketing automation is a very legitimate way of saving time and money and scaling up business in social media. I also think that many tools and tactics leave a lot of room for creativity. In some special occasions some of the tactics I normally would not recommend, are totally good.

You need to figure out for yourself which marketing automation tactics are good for you and your special situation. As said before: In social media, you are allowed to do anything as long as your audience does not object. In the end, it is your audience which decides what works and what you should better not do.

But I also think, especially if you are new to the game, you should start with doing a lot of the activity manually first. Monitor very closely what your results are and how your audience reacts. Only then should you think about how to automate and possibly scale your activity.

The danger with marketing automation is, that once you have a tool do your social media it is always harder to keep track of the outcome. What might even work on a smaller scale can go totally in the wrong direction if you automate it. But since it is so convenient to forget about your social media accounts – after all, the tools are doing your job – it is very easy to forget about measuring and questioning the results on your way.

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Marketing automation is a very legitimate way of saving time and money and scaling up business in social media. Doing it blindly can hurt your business.

  • Davina K. Brewer

    Read that post and had the same objections (if we skip past the obvious one, aka using social media solely for sales/marketing). IIRC I even tweeted that post w/ a comment about the $99 thing being a complete waste of time and money, and that tools are only as good as the person w/ the talent and skill to wield them.. in as much as 140 characters would allow. 🙂

    As you say, using tools smartly to streamline rote actions that are repeated the same way, that don’t damage or distance your SM efforts from your community, from your goals — that’s fine. But engagement isn’t ‘set or forget”, true curation doesn’t work on autopilot, and a business can waste a lot of time and resources buying this tool or outsourcing that function when what they really need is to be a better business. FWIW.

  • John Holling

    Hi Sussana (and Davina below) 🙂

    Excellent post and comments. You might be surprised to know that I agree with you. If $99 Social claimed to be a replacement for everything a company should be doing on social media, we would indeed be missing the mark, and it would be a waste of money at any price point.

    Here’s what we do, and what we attempt to detail carefully on our site:
    We will post once per day on your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts. The content is human-curated by Content Specialists in the US (all are in the Phoenix area where our office is). Our Content Specialists are trained to find content that is relatable to the client’s target audience and is engaging. They are also taught how to write intro text for each piece of content that will help to spur engagement and make the post more interesting to the client’s followers.

    What does this do for a business owner, and why is it worth $99/mo? It ensures consistent posting on social – but not just consistency. Consistent, quality content. So when someone clicks the FB icon on your site, for example, they find an active page with great content, rather than a sparsely updated page with salesy or ineffective content. It helps with credibility because we find highly relevant content, and consistently posting helps SEO (Google has admitted this is the case).

    With some companies charging upwards of $300 or more for the above service or even much less (I’ve seen $400/mo for 2 posts a week!), we know it’s a great deal. But we also acknowledge you need to do more on social media than just posting quality content daily.

    For example, as Sussana mentioned, listening to your audience and interacting with them is important, and we encourage our customers to continue these activities while letting us save them the time it takes to curate great content. We also encourage clients to provide ongoing feedback, and we’re very happy to adjust the tone or direction of our content based on the info they give us.

    Engagement is indeed not ‘set it and forget it.’ But daily posting of content that your followers will appreciate and want to interact with can be, and that’s the piece we hope to provide at $99 Social.

    Again, thanks for the great info. I’d love to answer any questions you have.

    John Holling
    $99 Social

  • Sue – NSMarketing

    Great post. I just had the situation with a client that used some tool to automate his Twitter account. He was JUST starting out, so it wasn’t like he was juggling a lot, but he still automated. Bad move – the app he used started posting “Hey! I can’t wait to meet my 30 new Followers!” “Hey, I can’t wait to meet my 10 new Followers!” 10x/day. Since he was just starting out, these automated posts (which also included a link to the tool he was using) dominated his feed and there was no way to turn them off. Lesson learned for him, and I told him exactly what you said – you should get a feel for any new social media site you’re using first, and then, when it becomes too much, automate.

    Also, I find it refreshing – and a lot more thoughtful – when someone I follow on Twitter tweets the “Twitter way” and then when I see them later on say, LinkedIn, they may be saying something similar, but it’s clearly targeted to LI-speak. Taking the time to speak to the audience on each social platform in their own language is important – and is sometimes missed when using automation.

  • Judy Caroll

    This is great. Well somehow we need someone to remind us of the things that we need to avoid. As I read your article, it come up into my mind to write related article about this. I get inspired by your write-ups. Well you explained very well the pros and cons of each one. Thanks for this and I’ll share this also to my circles.

  • Alex Nejako

    I think this is a good article but I think “marketing automation” might be used too broadly in the title vs. what is being discussed within the article here. As far as I understand it (from experience), marketing automation contains a variety of processes (and connected technologies) that are used to run campaigns and workflows/processes, generate internal notifications, gather approvals from stakeholders, communicate with customers/prospects, and generate leads for firms across the world – and these activities and their results get captured in one or more back-end system that can be used to report results/metrics.

    Before marketing automation technology was available, for the most part these processes had to be done manually (including database segmentations, email sends, and approval workflows)…

    However, I don’t really agree with the “set it and forget it” orientation toward marketing automation. Current marketing automation technologies allow for many marketing/CRM and other connected processes to be automated, but it’s always important for the right stakeholders to have approval over what is configured and how, to be able to approve content before it is posted/emailed or otherwise made available to the public, and to be able to make changes to automated processes to accommodate changes in campaigns, corporate branding, or other factors that arise as time proceeds.

    I do think that it is a very good idea for a human being to read over the content of corporate tweets before they are sent out, to check for a variety of things such as branding, grammar/spelling, and messaging. It can certainly head off embarrassing mistakes.

    The points that you make in the article are very good, though!