Social media is to content marketing what networks are to broadcast television. Without networks, nobody is getting anywhere. Through social media, we are able to access our connections and their connections and, eventually, their connection’s connections as our content gets shared. If your shared content gets to 6 degrees of separation and your content goes worldwide (or perhaps you’re more familiar with the term ‘viral’)!
Once you’ve written your masterpiece, the sharing itself can also become ANOTHER full time job – but only if you let it! So, what can be done to spread your message far and wide, without rushing back to post at the most opportune times or sleeping at your computer to make sure you’re ready?
Here’s the answer you’re looking for. It’s AUTOMATION.
So, what is social media automation?
Glad you asked! Most of you are familiar with some form of automation, whether it be mechanical automation, or electronic automation around your home, or email automation that helps you set up and maintain drip campaigns. Social media automation is a lot like this last one.
Automation helps you schedule sharing to space your content and hit optimum times across multiple social networks to reach your audience when they’re there.
Automation also helps you cue up great content, so you don’t have to be prepared to be brilliant every day. Inspiration comes and goes, so when it hits you can do it in advance.
Automation also aggregates your social media content into one place to give you a better feel for what’s going on.
Three main types of automation
There are three basic types of automation used for sharing on social media and across your content marketing platform: syndicators, single platform apps, and multiple platform dashboards.
Syndicators create simple switches that allow your content to be shared into multiple places at once. The easiest is the RSS feed on your blog that allows readers to subscribe. IFTTT.com is another good example and a great place to start if you’re new to automation.
A syndicator simply shares content from one place to another. For example, from your blog to your Twitter feed.
Once you set up a syndicator, it continues to do this each time it receives a cue to share, unless something breaks down, or changes.
Syndicators can also be used in a chain to share, for example, from your blog, to Twitter, to LinkedIn. Check out IFTTT for a really clear example of how this works.
2) Single platform apps
In-platform apps work great for content marketers that want to focus the majority of their efforts on a single social network. Good examples are Facebook post planner (which also posts to Twitter) and Twitter tools like Tweet Deck. They primarily work to automate sharing to a single social network.
Single platform apps typically give you an easy way to collect and store (curate) content for sharing, whether it’s your own, or someone else’s.
Most of these apps provide both scheduling and assistance in finding your audience, through targeting tools and specialized search.
An app like this will perform its assigned task, every time, on time, whether you remember or not.
3) Multiple platform dashboards
The most sophisticated social media automation is the multiple platform dashboard. Tools like Hootsuite and Massplanner are great examples. They allow you to manage and schedule content across several platforms. The bigger ones cover Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and sometimes add-ons for Google+ and Pinterest.
A dashboard allows you to manage an overall sharing strategy across multiple platforms, schedule it and then sit back and respond to the conversation.
A good dashboard will also feature a way to respond directly from inside the software to save the hassle of logging in and out of multiple platforms to keep the conversation going.
Tools like Massplanner are unique. They have onboard browsers that allow the tool to actually post as you, instead of on your account, as the app. This feature makes your automation virtually invisible.
As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about social media automation. Look for an upcoming post with more about the ins and outs of some of the best tools and strategies you can use and how to measure your results on the fly.