Depending on which guru you ask, you’ll get very different—and very strong—opinions on whether to preschedule your social media. Social Oomph and HootSuite give users the ability to write now and Tweet later, but is that really what you want attached to your name?
Anti-autos see scheduling tweets as inauthentic and misleading. The pro-automation set sees them as effective time-management tools that allow them to be "present" on social media—even when they aren’t.
Can we split the difference?
After a six-month experiment, my belief is you can automate content, but you can’t automate connection.
There are a slew of Twitter powerhouses who sit on the pro-automation side of the debate and use scheduled auto tweet services avidly, and many on the opposing side. Two of my favorite Twitter gurus—Chris Voss and Scott Stratten—make contrasting arguments for their personal approach to scheduling tweets. Both have successful businesses with obviously different business models, which could account for their opposite perspectives.
Chris Voss is the CEO of Strategix One Consulting and hosts the Chris Voss Show. With more than 75,000 followers and over 20 years experience as an entrepreneur, he makes no apologies for automating his content. His feelings on the topic are made clear in a post entitled Why People Who Say Automation In Social Media Is Wrong Are Full Of Sh*t.
Scott Stratten is the author of UnMarketing: Stop Marketing & Start Engaging and the just-released second book called The Business Book of Awesome/Unawesome. (Ed. note: He has also written about how to ace presentations and viral videos for Fast Company.) Stratten makes it very clear that a unicorn is killed every time someone sends an automated tweet.
Personally, I was so worried about the well-being of these make-believe wildlife, I stopped my autotweet rotation last January. Now I’m questioning if it was the right thing to do.
My automated tweet rotation included about 100 archived published columns filled with business development advice and 150 short tweets which were quotes taken from the first edition of my book, From Business Cards to Business Relationships: Personal Branding & Profitable Networking Made Easy. I stopped my automatic tweet rotation to determine what impact, if any, it had on my social-media growth and because I didn’t want to offend people. The decision was made despite there being no evidence that anyone was actually offended by my rotations.
The result, six months later, is that my new followers’ growth curve came to a halt, the amount of valuable content I shared dropped dramatically, and thus so did the number of retweets of my material. Granted, my real-time engagement level in creating relationships with current followers remained about the same. In the months I used the automated tweet rotation, my Twitter following more than doubled organically, whereas in the last six months, the engagement approach alone only saw an uptake of approximately 10 percent. It seems that by not having the meaty content continually being shared, growth stalled.
My conclusion is that automation used in the wrong places, in the wrong way, will kill your online potential and your brand reputation, but done properly, it can be hugely valuable to grow your followers and to contribute value.
Here are three conclusions as to why I’m in favor of automation, but only for non-time-sensitive, content-focused posts.
Despite my best intentions to type content tweets in real time when the rotations stopped, it just didn’t happen. It’s not that I don’t have the 10 seconds to type a tweet; it’s that in the midst of all of the other responsibilities of running a company, my brain didn’t shift gears to think, "Oh, I’d better share something clever with my social media followers."
Even when a tweetable thought formed, I wasn’t always in a position to send it on the spot and thus the value-driven content tweet was lost. That is unlike when I sat down and made the focused effort to create a series of social media posts. The planned content was more powerful than posts created randomly. The automation process also meant that there was a consistent rhythm to the content sharing.
If principles that guide in-person relationships also guide online relationships, then to create meaningful, profitable business relationships requires equal part connection and education. Business owners need to create genuine and relevant relationships with the right people, otherwise they won’t feel connected enough to choose them over the competition.
However, it’s not enough to "know, like, and trust" as is often quoted, people also have to believe you are competent in order to drive business. At some point you have to educate people on who you are, what you do, and what you have to offer. Without the education component, prospects won’t understand your value. That’s when you run into the trap of having lots of friends and people who know, like, and trust you, but those contacts don’t materialize into business.
Authentic connections have to happen on-the-fly or they backfire, but content sharing is education, and education is timeless. If pre-writing content equates to anti-engagement, then by definition any written work not read in real time would apply. A worthwhile column isn’t any less relevant or valuable if it’s shared and read 30 days from now. The same is true with automating posts.
Disaster online strikes when people preschedule engagement posts that are meant to launch conversations. When tweets like "So what are your plans for tonight?" or "Can’t wait for Dancing with the Stars to start; popping popcorn now!" are shared through automated tools I cringe. Most likely a unicorn cringes, too, and potentially it dies.
Any time people pretend to be present online while they obviously aren’t, they cross the line and lose credibility.
Automated recommendations for #FollowFridays and inspirational quotes scream inauthentic to me. Both insinuate someone is inspired in the moment, so sharing it in advance seems contradictory. So does the event planner who preschedules a whole weekend’s worth of time-sensitive, event-related conversation starters. These are the situations that leave professionals most at risk for PR disasters. Stratten shares a relevant story to drive this point home in the Worst Scheduled Tweet Timing Ever. This is a perfect example of why, and how, someone should not use automated tweet services.
Like any strategic decision to grow in your marketplace, one must consider their audience and their content and how the two fit together. Understanding the difference between engagement and content posts may mean you are someone who should never use automated tools. If you do not have content of your own that is valuable to share and non-time-sensitive, then just stick with live engagement posts that will let your personality show and keep you out of trouble. However, if you’re someone who has a backlog of information that can benefit your network of followers, then by all means share it using automated tools. What harm can it do? Your unicorns are safe.
Allison Graham is the author of Business Cards to Business Relationships: Personal Branding & Profitable Networking Made Easy! and the force behind ElevateBiz.
For more from Allison, read Hate Small Talk? These 5 Questions Will Help You Work Any Room and follow her @AllisonDGraham.