Let’s face it. Social media is one of those warm, fuzzy, but murky activities that exist in the business world.
It can be a conversation — a cocktail party — or a content distribution channel.
For some, it’s both. And more!
Regardless of how we choose to use it, we naturally have to ask: What’s the return on our investment?
I think Gary Vaynerchuk said it best when responding to a CMO who demanded to know how to determine the ROI of social media:
What’s the ROI of your mother?
Gary’s got a point. Sort of.
When it comes to social media activity, Gary is a force. A freak of nature. He even wrote a book about it. Seth Godin, not so much.
So which marketing giant gets it right?
Tough to tell. There are no hard and fast rules. Just best practices.
I have to be honest: I have a love-hate relationship with social media.
Yes, I get giddy like a school girl when people retweet, favorite, or like my content. But some days I’m tempted to simply delete my accounts so I can focus and get some work done.
Every writer needs distraction-free time. The novelist Zadie Smith uses the software apps Freedom and SelfControl. Me, I just schedule my tweets to give myself a break from the Internet.
This practice, however, can raise some serious protest among the purists. Dan Shure vows never to automate.
His conclusion boils down to this:
You’re playing the numbers game and not the human game. Numbers are the result of being human but not the original input or cause of those results.
… If you pay attention, you can ride that ebb and flow to your advantage, and time your posts just right. To resonate with the sentiments, feelings, and discussion happening at that moment.
Kind of like having a conversation, I guess. There are some good arguments in favor of scheduling posts on your social media accounts.
Here are four primary reasons:
- Double your traffic.
- Become more productive (see the paragraph above about Zadie Smith).
- Engage with the part of the world that’s awake when you are sleeping.
- Pace your posting (see below).
Automating some of your content may be beneficial for both you and your audience. Keep these six automation tips in mind as you set your social media strategy.
1. Maintain human oversight
Lauren Dugan argues you should never automate campaigns citing some particularly cringeworthy examples. Coca-Cola became the butt of jokes and the New England Patriots had to apologize for retweeting a racial slur because of their automated campaigns.
But these benign campaigns were victims of dubious behavior. Not a flawed concept.
There is a lesson to be learned, though: don’t automate and walk away. Monitor your account, respond to replies, and thank people for sharing your content.
2. Do not automate direct messages when someone follows you
But when I notice the account never replies, retweets, or engages with anyone but merely shares its own content or brand messaging on an endless loop, I may conclude pretty quickly that there’s actually no one behind the curtain.
Besides, anyone who does this demonstrates they picked up their networking skills in the social backwaters. It’s out of fashion and creepy.
3. Space out your content
Before using scheduling apps like Buffer or Oktopost, my Twitter stream looked like this: empty between 10:00 p.m. and 9:33 a.m. … then a spasm of links from 9:46 a.m. to 10:16 a.m. Quiet until noon, spasm, four-hour drought, another 10-minute frenzy, quiet.
Enter the social scheduling app.
Now, I tweet links in moderation and can utilize those periods when I’m unavailable or asleep. The corollary to this best practice is this: Don’t become a spammer.
4. Be mindful of tragic events
In 2013, the universe let Guy Kawasaki know that it frowned upon his high-octane “auto-tweeting spambot machine” that was running while the Boston Marathon bombing unfolded.
I’m undecided on this one, but here it is: If there is a major disaster going on, and you know about it, go dark at least for the duration of the event. At least that day or the next day. Announce your plans, and when it seems right, ease your way back into the game.
5. Never ambush a hashtag
Ambushing a hashtag happens when shameless marketers and self-promoters wait anxiously for the organizers of a big event to announce a hashtag — and then jump in with meaningless messages for the cheap traffic.
According to advertising attorney Brian Heidelberger, you are “trading off of the goodwill of an event without being an official sponsor.”
Don’t do it: A thousand years bad juju. Not to mention, you might find yourself being sued for trademark infringement.
Instead, refine your message to add value to the hashtag: educate, entertain, or inform the audience. Or create your own.
The backbone of any online activity should be results. Tangible results. (Sorry, Gary V.)
And you don’t have to be an analytics geek. Fortunately, most platforms have some form of baseline measurements. What should you assess?
- Is there a time of day (or day of the week) when you get the most engagement?
- Which headlines work best? (Remember to share the same piece of content in a variety of ways).
- Is there a decline in activity when you share too often? What happens when you share infrequently? Is one scheduled tweet every hour the sweet spot?
Experiment, adjust, measure, and repeat. This leads to a better performance, and despite the way some feel, it will make you more effective.
The only hard-and-fast social media rule you should never violate is the one about digital sharecropping.
Social media is an extension of who you are
Social media accounts reflect who we are. They’re like the cologne or perfume we wear.
And Jerod Morris is friends with everybody.
Who is doing it right? All of them. They are simply expressing their personalities and shaping the public’s perception of them through their activities. To do otherwise would be fake.
In essence, social media is an extension of who you are. Let your social media activities reflect that. Even if you choose to automate those activities.