Think Twice About Automating Your Social Media Efforts

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I recently participate in an Twitter chat where the conversation turned to whether or not it’s a good idea to automate social media activities. The conversation primarily revolved around whether the “always on” nature of sites like Twitter require that you tweet 24 hours a day, since your followers aren’t necessarily in the same time zone.

Good suggestions that came from the chat included using tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule similar messages throughout the day so all of your followers get the information, regardless of their time zone. Other, more controversial suggestions included allowing automated services to generate tweets for your or using filler tweets like digests, Foursquare updates, and auto-retweeting of certain “trusted resources”.

 Do you automate your social media activities? Is it hurting your ability to connect with your community?

In the end, there was a strong consensus that while some automation is valuable, over-automating your social media activities actually defeats the purpose of building individual relationships with your customers or community members.

Personally, I do leverage tools like, but as an aggregation tool, not for the purpose of filler tweets. I do schedule some of my blog posts and tweets, especially when I know that I’ll be in meetings throughout the day, that way I don’t spam my feed with 10-15 links at the same time during the 30 minutes that I have to surf the web or stumble some favorite site.

I also am not a fan of posting FourSquare updates, quotes from famous people, or trivial content like ASCII twitter art. My thought is that if it’s not useful to those that choose to follow me, what’s the point? These are just my preferences, though.

Do you automate your social media activities? Do you expect those that you follow to tweet/post 24×7? I’d love to hear what level of automation you feel is enough and what is too much.



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Comments And Reactions

  1. Periodically I do but for the most part, most of my shares have been manually selected.
    I curate a number of topics so I go through a lot of material. If I have found a lot of good material, I may save some of it to share at a later and would use hootsuite. I am not a big fan of automated curation- I think it defeats the purpose of building your own competency by reading the material and the selection for your audience.

    If I know I am going to be absent for a while I will also save material to be shared when I am away.

    Like with everything else Sean, I believe there can be a good balance.

    • Sean R. Nicholson says

      I completely agree, Shirley. There’s definitely a fine balance between trying to make social media easier to manage and over-automating it. I cross-post my tweets and blog posts into LinkedIn so I am able to share the content with a broader range of my social contacts and sometimes I schedule my tweets to spread them out over different time zones. This level of automation seems logical.

      I’m right with you on the auto-curation piece though. I am especially not a fan of those who think they can build the next big blog by simply curating the content of other people. If the author of a blog doesn’t write and contribute 80% of the content, then they’re just trying to capitalize on the hard work of others. #Fail.

      Thanks, again, for your insights Shirley!


  2. Clive Roach (@jedi_roach) says

    Heavy automation of Twitter content is not a good idea, and especially making content that you have not ever seen, that you get from a service. Even worse to spam your feed 20 times a day with it.

    That is not in the same league as tweeting a tweet say 3 times via a scheduler over the course of a week to cover time zones.

    • Sean R. Nicholson says

      I completely agree, Clive. There is a difference between autotweeting content that you haven’t reviewed and spreading out announements of content that you have created. One thing that drives me nuts on Twitter is clicking a broken link that the tweeter obviously didn’t check.

      Thanks for the input!


  3. Hi Sean,

    Like most of the comments here I agree that automation is useful. I use it to schedule and post my blogs. I also like Buffer where I can tweet interesting articles such as this but space my discoveries over a period of time. Automation should NEVER replace direct customer communication but it’s great for recommendations, news, and follow Fridays 🙂

  4. I automate some posts so as to not overload my followers, but many (most) of my tweets are still done manually. I guess I am a bit old-fashioned.

  5. bob warren says

    great article….It’s Super Friday Have a Great One!

  6. Anne Thomas says

    Very little, I do sometimes buffer a bit so my responses do not all come at once..

  7. Roger Harris says

    Good post Sean. Some automation is acceptable, even desirable, to ensure consistency and persistence of engagement. But absolutely there is a line not to cross. Scheduling of tweets is fine, IMO. It frees you up to do other things while still (hopefully) providing content for followers. Other kinds of automation (such as copy-pasting canned responses or blog comments) are largely a no-no, since the key to social media is authenticity and credibility. Once you lose that it’s a long climb out of the hole.

    • Sean R. Nicholson says

      Completely agree, Roger! Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can help us ensure that our messages are made public at the best time, but just aggregating and automating takes the personal aspect out of social media.

      …and don’t even get me started on auto-responses 😉



  8. Aidan Crawford says

    I’d say there’s a big difference between automating tweets from your blog/site and scraping third party sites just to keep your feed active.

    It’s a little like the guy at a party who talks just because he loves the sound of his own voice. Pretty soon people learn to tune him out.

    • Sean R. Nicholson says

      Agreed, Aidan! My big pet peeve is those who don’t want to do the work themselves, researching, writing, and promoting…yet they want to make a million dollars aggregating the hard work of others. Luckily, Google has started penalizing these aggregating sites in their algorithms, making it significantly less lucrative.

      Thanks for the comment!


  9. Great article!

  10. thanissaro says

    If original content is shared automatically then this is perfectly acceptable use of bulk process. Anything else is spam and multiple shares of a single piece work is a no no, well for me at least.

  11. Wayne Mansfield says

    I have used Tweetdeck for over 3 years… and the scheduling of tweets helps becuase I am in Australia which is ALWAYS 12 hours ahead of the US so I have to wait for them to catch up!!

  12. Caffeinated OC Mommy says

    Darling, your articles are always interesting and I find them very helpful. Automated? Yeah, some stuff like scheduling a post, but other than that… I like to be real. xoxo

  13. Many people on the internet use auto-responders. I usually shy away from these sites. If I send in a question, I really would like it to be answered by a person, not an automated response meant to cover many different questions.

    The only reason I am a member of any of the social media sites is so I can make new friends and converse with old friends. The problem is, there is so much automation present now that I spend most of my computer time trying to clear out 800 to 1200 emails which are sent automatically from said sites.

  14. Catherine White says

    Me thinks Albert Einstein was talking the application of social media tools when he said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”

  15. Ok, you’ve helped me make up my mind! Thanks!

  16. David Sanger says

    agree completely Sean, I automate very little except selective simulposts from Instagram. Rather I prefer to handcraft my messages.

  17. Whenever I had to catch up on my reading I had to go to two places: instapaper and my twitter favorites. Now I’ve set up IFTTT to send any tweets I fave to Instapaper. Now all my reading list is unified and updated.

  18. Some automation is helpful, I could not imagine trying to post without HootSuite which I have setup for my major 4 social accounts. Even with the help of HootSuite I find it tedious to load it with scheduled posts. One thing I am on the look-out for now, is how can post to lots of the smaller social sites? Do these smaller social sites, or specialized sites just not have API’s, is that why we cannot automate posting to them?

  19. ev aletler says

    thank u for share. great blog and post

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