Why strategic social automation should be a part of your online marketing strategy

When used as part of a well balanced social media strategy, smart, dynamic and tailored social media marketing automation can help your business to scale many social media acquisition activities without compromising on quality – enabling your company to save time and money which can be reallocated for other marketing activities.

A word of caution:
Any type of social automation should be used sparingly, with care and careful consideration and only as a small part of an overall strategy.

If your social media messaging is mostly or entirely automated, then your business is missing the whole point of having a social media presence (as well as the benefits of ‘doing it right’), and you ultimately risk damaging your brand too.

Social Automation Benefits

Social Media Automation Strategy
Social media marketing is exceptionally cost-effective when compared with other marketing activities. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook give marketers access to powerful platforms from which they can interact with and broadcast to targeted audiences, build brand awareness, and earn leads and conversions.

Some aspects of execution of a comprehensive and effective social media strategy can be very time-consuming and often exceptionally repetitive, however Social Network APIs (Application Programming interfaces) and other tools enable social marketers to make their automated systems talk to and interact on social media networks (to make posts/shares/interactions on your behalf, or the behalf of your users, for example).

Five benefits of social media automation

  • Scalabilty – Automate some of time consuming and repetitive tasks which are part of your social strategy without compromising on quality or image.
  • Measurable Campaigns – You can track and measure the effectiveness of each automation in order to refine and optimise the process using analytics tools or url shorteners (eg. bit.ly) which provide click statistics.
  • Always running – Scheduling means you can be actively social marketing while you sleep.
  • Shooting fish in a barrel – Some aspects of automation are extremely simple and very effective.
  • Cost savings – Time = money. Huge annual hour savings can be made bu automating a variety of tasks wherever possible

The question is – what to automate, and why?

Social Automation Scenarios, Solutions + Benefits

Let’s look at some scenarios where social media automation could be applied to yield big benefits in terms of potential time / money savings which a well-planned tactical and dynamic automation campaign can provide:

Scenario 1

Example website: Electronics Deals Website.
Action Type: Serve Temporal deals data from a website database to twitter 4 times per hour.
Sample Broadcast: “10 minutes until our exclusive 40% discount on the iPhone5 expires – bit.ly/mytrackerlink”
Manual Preparation & execution Time: 2 minutes.
Action Frequency: every 15 minutes
Time Saved / Year : just over 3 hours per day – or 1160 hours per year! (2 minutes x 4 times hr x 24 hours a day x 365 days a year ) = 70080 minutes = 1160 hours.

Scenario 2

Example website: Holiday Website.
Action type: Automatically Search Your Holiday Deals Database and tweet the deals with the biggest savings which are expiring soon.
Sample broadcast: “2 last minute deal packages left for Whistler @ £920 per person – book now or miss out – bit.ly/mytrackerlink”
Manual Preparation + execution Time: 5 minutes.
Action Frequency: 4 times daily
Time Saved / Year : (5 minutes x 4 times x 365 days a year) = 7300 = 121 hours.

Scenario 3

Auto-Reply to a Specific Tweet Text Fingerprint

Example website: Blue Widgets Website.
Action type: Find an exact text string in a tweet and reply with a specific reply.
Search Fingerprint: ‘I want to play in the Blue Widget contest”
Sample Reply: “Best of luck in the contest – by the way, you can find 150+ blue widgetd contests daily listed on http://mysbluewidgetswebsite.com”
Manual execution Time: 10 seconds.
Action Frequency: 100+ times daily
Time Saved / Year : (1/6 minutes x 100 times x 365 days a year) = 6083 minutes = 101 hours.

In this scenario imagine a segment of twitter users who are interested in blue widgets.
Global Widget manufacturer WidgetCorp is running a Twitter competition whereby one random winner will be chosen from those Twitter accounts who share a specifically crafted message supplied to them by WidgetCorp.

Identifying (and engaging with) these accounts is simple – and only takes a quick (automated) search!

The added bonus is that if you know and understand what people are tweeting about in advance, and there’s a significant volume of users tweeting an identifiable signature (with prefabricated tweet text allowing your to easily fingerprint them) then it’s possible can pre-sculpt a natural looking reply which is useful and adds some value to the conversation – before automagically tweeting it to them as a reply.

This way, we can get big results on a large scale, and importantly we can make it look natural.

it would be remiss not to automate this process if it truly lends value to our social marketing campaign (test manually – if its a ‘winner’ – automate it and scale it up!).

In our own social automatic reply campaigns we have observed excellent results:

  • Some reply recipients will follow the marketers Twitter account
  • Some reply recipients will Retweet the marketers Reply
  • Some reply recipients will Share the marketers Reply
  • Some reply recipients will Favourite the marketers Reply
  • Some reply recipients will actually thank the marketer for letting them know about their wonderful related product or service
  • Tweet & Profile Links lead to Website Leads & Conversions – make sure to use trackable links to these tweets to measure campaign effectiveness

What better automation is there than that which generates leads and interaction, and for which people thank you for?!

Scenario 4

Example website: Marketing Blog
Action Type: Broadcast your popular blog posts of the week every Friday morning and Afternoon.
Sample broadcast: In case you missed it : Our most popular post this week: – bit.ly/mytrackerlink”
Manual Preparation + execution Time: 5 minutes.
Action Frequency: twice per week
Time Saved / Year : (5 minutes x 2 times x 52 weeks a year) = 520 minutes = 8.6 hours

Off the Shelf Vs Custom Social Media Automation

Off the shelf, there are a number of tools which can help with very basic automation and scheduling for marketers (for example pre-scheduling posts or drip-feeding posts from an XML feed or CSV),

The big problem with off-the-shelf social packages is that ‘no one size fits all. These packages are not as configurable and feature laden as a power-user might like. Specifically social automation tools will generally take input from RSS feeds (e.g your latest blog post feed, or a category feed from your site), or from a CSV file which can be uploaded ahead of time for scheduling. Off the shelf packages just aren’t dynamic enough (enabling if-this-then-that type automation).

In fact, nothing comes anywhere close to offering the power, flexibility and atomic customizability of having bespoke code written for your social campaigns which use Social APIs such as the Facebook API and Twitter API.

Update: (29/08/2014) We published a social media automation case study with some encouraging and very interesting results – you can check it out here: Social Media Automation Case Study.

Contact us to discuss how we can build a powerful social media automation campaign for your business centered around your specific business goals and needs.

  • Gecko Create

    Great article, eyes opened and ashamed to say we’re definitely not making the most of social media. Time to get started.

  • Style Dabba

    Nice article and valid points.