Everything a Small Business Marketer Needs to Know About Social Media Automation
“Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.”
- Amy Jo Martin, American author.
Social media has fundamentally changed the way people communicate, interact, and shop for products and services. An individual's social media presence even influences their ability to get hired or promoted in today’s corporate ecosystem. And a company’s web presence and social media profile significantly affect a potential customer’s decision to buy.
In 2017 there were over 2.7 billion active social media users, and this number grows year on year.
Image Source: We Are Social
In short - social media isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s influence will only continue to grow and evolve as time goes on. Having a social media presence as a small business owner is not an option if you want your business to be a success - it’s a requirement. A lack of a social media presence in this day and age makes a brand look untrustworthy or old-fashioned.
If you’re trying to gain traction in the online world, you can’t ignore the power of social media. It’s the premier way to gain exposure, get qualified leads, and build a relationship with your customer base. However, if you’ve already got a social media presence, you’re probably familiar with how much time it takes to find and produce content that’s going to resonate with your audience.
As a small business owner, you’re short on time and most likely don’t have the staffing capacity to hire someone to do this for you manually. But if you want to grow your brand awareness, increase your sales, and be seen as a trustworthy leader in your industry, you can’t ignore the power of social media.
So, how can you reap the rewards of a robust social media presence without wasting time, energy, and money getting your profiles into tip-top shape and keeping them that way? You need to embrace social media automation.
Instead of taking time out of your busy schedule to scour the web for relevant posts, social media automation enables you to put much of this process on autopilot. This gives you the outcomes you’re looking for from social media while freeing up your time to focus on the important human elements, such as talking with customers.
What is social media automation?
Social media automation is the process of using technology to automatically trigger the sharing of posts, content, and other engagement activity on social media platforms.
Some common forms of social media automation include:
- Scheduling posts to be published at a predetermined date and time in the future.
- Triggering the sharing of posts to social media profiles based on an event or preset criteria.
- Re-sharing timeless or “evergreen” posts on a recurring schedule to maximize their exposure.
- Automatically curating content from other sources to be shared on social media profiles based on a set of predetermined topics or categories. (This is what Upflow does)
What are the benefits of social media automation?
In many cases, social media marketing is repetitive and can take a lot of time. Your time is money, and if you can effectively automate something as essential as social media, you’re going to see a number of flow-on benefits in other parts of your business. In fact, half of all small business marketers see increased sales directly linked to improved social media marketing within two years.
With social media automation, you’ll get scalable and efficient results. So, not only will you get all of the usual benefits from social media marketing, with an automated strategy, you get them on autopilot. Here are a few other benefits of social media automation:
Save Time and Increase Output
The most obvious benefit of social media automation is the amount of time it can save you. Instead of scrambling to share new content on your social profiles every day, you can deliberately plan ahead by automating curated posts, pre-scheduling content, and ensuring you stick to a strict cadence of sharing.
This means you will be able to share content at times when people are most likely to engage with it. It also frees you up to engage with your audience and removes the risk of the peaks and troughs that come with a day-to-day social media strategy.
Grow Trust and Credibility
Consumers, especially ones within the 18 to 44 age bracket, research a company’s social media page before they buy a product or service. If your target customers are in this age bracket, having an optimized social media presence builds trust with your prospective customers and ensures they can find the information they need before making a purchase.
Build Thought Leadership
With targeted posts, you can share and showcase your knowledge and expertise in your industry. Establishing yourself as a thought leader will enhance your relationship with your core audience because you’ll be seen as the go-to brand who knows what they’re talking about. Thought leadership is an excellent strategy to utilize when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Humanize Your Brand
Consumers have higher expectations for companies than ever before. People want to connect and buy from other people, not faceless, bland companies. With social media, you can humanize your brand.
Humanizing your brand is also a trust and relationship builder, and the better your relationships are with customers, the more your business will grow. Hilton Hotels is one example of a brand who use social media to humanize their business. They even have a dedicated Twitter profile for helping travellers find things they need in a new city:
Most social media users check their accounts at least once per day, and in many cases, several times per day. If your posts frequently and predictably show up in people’s newsfeeds, you’ll be at the forefront of their mind. Obscurity is one of the biggest enemies of business growth, but with frequent and targeted social media posts, you’ll gain much-needed exposure.
Basically, the more you share, the more you’ll be shared. Take eCommerce brand Frank Body, for example, who have grown their whole business on the back of a stellar social media strategy. Check out their Instagram exposure:
How do you create an automated social media marketing strategy?
Too many business owners approach social media with a lack of focus and direction. They appreciate that social media is important, but they don’t understand the nuts and bolts of what makes for an effective social media machine. If you want to make the most of social media for your business, here are some tips for creating a strategy that encompasses best practice and automates where possible:
To be successful with social media and appropriately automate parts of your strategy, you first need to understand what it is you are trying to achieve. Is it about brand awareness and leads? Or are you just looking for a channel to engage with your customers? The goal you determine will greatly influence the approach you take to achieving that goal.
Get to know your customers
The most critical component of any marketing strategy, social media notwithstanding, is that it’s about your customers, not all about you. Remember, you want to use social media to humanize your brand.
If you post too many things that are ‘sales-y,’ you’re going to turn people off and lose followers. In order to create and distribute social media content that is relevant for your customers, you need to understand who they are and what makes them tick. The more you know about your customers, the easier it becomes to create content that caters to their needs.
Businesses that market to target customer profiles are 2-5 times more effective than those that take a generalist approach. Get to know your customers by:
- Identifying their common demographic attributes.
- Asking them questions about their pains, struggles, and aspirations as they relate to your business.
- Determining which social media platforms they are most active on.
- Testing which content types they are most receptive to.
The way you engage with your customers will make or break your social media strategy and how well you can automate it.
Choose your platforms
“Social media” is too often used in a catch-all manner. Every social network, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Snapchat, has nuances in audience and engagement. When creating your social media automation strategy it’s important that you determine the social networks which will have the biggest impact on your desired goals. These are most likely the ones where your customers are regularly active.
Define a cadence
Once you know which social networks you want to have a strong presence on, it’s time to determine how often you will post to these platforms. There is lots of different advice about what is an optimal posting schedule, but in reality, the most important thing is consistency. Pick a cadence that is achievable for your unique situation and stick with it. If you’re looking for some inspiration and guidance, check out these suggested posting times for the top social media networks:
Pick your content types
The time you post is somewhat important, but what’s more important is the type of content you share. Depending on your social media network of choice the content will differ, but in general, you are looking to share a diverse range of content types with a weighting towards the forms that your audience are most likely to engage with. Here are some types of content you may like to consider:
Links and commentary to original content created by you or your team - blog posts, podcasts, videos, webinars, and presentations:
Visual images such as infographics, quote images, and behind-the-scenes footage of your team:
Live or recorded video that you upload directly to social platforms:
Curated content, such as articles, videos, and presentations, from other reputable sources in your industry:
Consider this graphic as a guide for the mix of your social media content strategy:
Automate where possible
Social media can feel overwhelming as you get started because there are lots of moving parts. You’re researching your customers, creating content, choosing a posting schedule, finding other people’s content to share… that’s all before you even think about engaging with your community. That’s why any social media strategy is destined to fail without smart automation.
As I mentioned earlier, social media automation can come in several different forms. From scheduling posts, triggering automatic shares, re-sharing content on a recurring schedule, and curating content, your automation strategy can be greatly varied. And as you can see, if you have these processes in place and are confident in the way they work then you will save an enormous amount of time.
To automate your social media presence, we recommend doing the following things:
- Pre-schedule content, on your determined cadence, for at least a week in advance - maybe even longer.
- Store timeless content in a library that is reused with different copy and imagery on a recurring basis.
- Automate the sharing of new articles from reputable RSS feeds (such as your own) that you know will publish high-quality content.
- Use an automated content curation tool to share relevant articles from other reputable services on a pre-set schedule.
All of this can be achieved through a mix of social media scheduling software like Buffer, recipe-based tools such as Zapier, and content curation tools like Upflow.
An optimized, and active social media presence is essential for business growth in today’s digital age. Without a focused social media strategy, you will have a hard time gaining your customer’s trust and building brand equity. Social media automation plays a critical role in ensuring that your social strategy is effective but doesn’t take over your entire life!