To automate or not to automate has been the subject of much debate since I began using social media. "You have to automate if you're going to have time to do anything else in your business," many have said. "But automation in social media means you aren't engaged with people," the purists argued back.
And, perhaps the purists had a point, at one time. But, with the realities of social media these days, and the number of tools available to assist in your automation, you would be crazy if you were posting on all of your social media networks in real time. And, it would be impossible for you to have a profitable business without working 24/7.
What those who argue against automation in social media miss is this hugely important rule:
Automation does not equal absence.
You can't schedule all of your content for the day at 7:00 a.m., close your social media networks and come back to check them again at 9:00 p.m. But you can schedule your content and still engage. Let's look at how.
How to Schedule Everything
Either the night before, or first thing in the morning, schedule all of your tweets, LinkedIn and Google+ business page posts for the day through Hootsuite. Schedule all of your Facebook page posts using the Facebook scheduler.
Plan your posts for your Google+ personal page and Pinterest.
I know you probably don't use all of these social media networks daily, and I'm not suggesting you must, just pick the ones you use.
Again, either the night before or first thing in the morning, plan what times of the day you'll get back on your social media networks and engage with people. The time you'll spend will depend on (1) how much time you have, and (2) how many people you are connected with on social media. A good example if you're still starting out would be 15 minutes, 3 times a day.
During your planned engagement time, post your earlier planned Google+ and Pinterest posts. Then, spend time engaging with those who have commented on your tweets and other status updates.
Also, spend a few minutes commenting on the posts of those you are most connected with. Use Twitter lists, Facebook Interest Lists, and Google+ circles for quick access to the people that are most important to you.
Finally, post any additional new brilliance that has come to your mind during the day. You should save this for your planned engagement times unless you have the complete discipline to spend 30 seconds updating your status and exiting without getting sucked in to "check what's going on for just a minute." In case you haven't figured it out, "1 minute" on Facebook is "1 hour" in real life time. I'm not sure how that happens, but it does.
Why Automation in Social Media is Crucial
When you use social media as a primary force for building your business, it's easy to justify all of the time you spend by saying, "well, I'm working." And while that may be true, the purpose of social media is to build relationships. And relationships are great, but they don't pay the bills.
So, in addition to building relationships, you've got to sell something to some of these people. And the selling, for the most part, does not happen on social media. It happens when people like you enough to come to your blog, get on your email list, and buy something from you.
Which means you're going to need a blog that rocks with great content, an irresistible free offer, and lots of great stuff to sell people. It's impossible to create all that, if you're on social media networks 8 hours a day.
And while we can all laugh about the addiction level we have to our social media networks, it will keep you from building a profitable business, and there's nothing funny about that.
So, don't think you can build a profitable business without significant automation in social media. And, just as importantly, don't think automation means you aren't engaging with people. You can do it all, if you just do it right.
I'd love to hear how you work social media into all of the other demands of your business. Please share any tips you have in the comments below.