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If you’ve read multiple articles about social media marketing, then we’re willing to bet that you’ve also seen some advice along these lines:

For the best results, have someone monitor your social media accounts all the time.

Or maybe…

Social media automation takes most of the work out of social media marketing.

Those both sound pretty good, right? Solid advice meant to help you retain customers and make the most of your social media marketing.

There’s only one problem here. Neither one of the above statements is rooted in reality. Very few companies can afford to have someone monitor their social media 24 hours a day. Likewise, automating everything is a good way to show customers that you don’t care about them.

In other words, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Automation can be useful, but it can’t replace genuine, human customer service.

How and when should you consider using automation? Keep reading to find out.

The Benefits of Automation

Let’s start with the good parts of social media automation. The truth is that maintaining an active social media presence is a lot of work. You’ve got to generate content, work out a schedule, post the content, and monitor messages, comments, and responses.

If your company is active on just one site, it can be hard to keep up. And if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? It would be easy to turn that into a full-time job.

Automation can help you do all of the following:

  • Monitor mentions of your company and industry on social media
  • Recommend content for you to consider reposting to your followers
  • Post content automatically according to a schedule you create

Those are all good things. They don’t interfere with the customer experience at all, and in many cases they actually make it better.

For example, automated posting of content is useful because it keeps your accounts up to date and active even if you’re swamped with work.

However, not every potential use for social media automation is a good one.

The Downsides of Automation

Now let’s talk about the things that social media automation can do – but maybe shouldn’t do.

The main thing is responding to customer messages and handling customer service.

When people contact a company for help, they expect to get it. They expect to speak to a real person who is capable of understanding their problem and solving it.

What they don’t want is an automated and potentially irrelevant response from a bot. It is nearly impossible to have an automated system respond meaningfully to customer messages.

For example, bots are only as good as the answers you preprogram into them. They can monitor for particular keywords but they can’t appreciate and interpret the nuances of human communication.

The problem with using bots is that their uses are limited. Customers don’t like it when they get canned responses.

Using bots can lead to some serious backlash if it becomes obvious that you’re doing it. Don’t believe me? Check out this ridiculous thread of comments from ASOS’ Facebook page. Once users realized that the responses were automated, they piled on – and the end result was that ASOS came out looking like they didn’t care about their customers at all.

To Automate… or Not to Automate?

As you might expect, then, the choice comes down to whether or not to automate – and if you do automate, which automation features to use.

The best way to decide is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. The point of using social media is to connect with your audience and enhance their experience of being your customer.

What does that mean for your automation decisions?

Every choice you make about automaton should be based on the customer experience. Will setting up a regular posting schedule and automating posts enhance their experience? The chances are good that the answer is yes.

Automated posting of content means that:

  • Customers know when to expect your posts and will look for them
  • Your account doesn’t appear to be inactive even if you’re on vacation or swamped with work
  • Followers have a steady stream of content to enjoy

Those are all good things, clearly, and they offer real value to your customers.

The same thing could be said of monitoring mentions, which can help you connect with social media followers and let them know that their mentions of you are appreciated.

However, the rubric of customer experience falls apart when it comes to automated customer service mentions. The one upside is that it ensures that people who write on social media get an immediate response – but that’s where the benefits end.

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  • Customers get boilerplate responses that may not address the issue they raised
  • They may feel that you do not care about their satisfaction
  • Automated messages from bots can make your company look callous or ridiculous

Does that mean that all message automation is a bad idea? Of course not. In fact, there is one way you can use it to your advantage.

Program one – and only one – response into your automation. It might say something like this:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for reaching out to us. Your happiness and satisfaction are important to us. We can’t monitor Facebook 24 hours a day, but we promise that a real live human will get back to you with a response as soon as possible.


Your Company Name

The benefit of this approach is that the customer gets the satisfaction of an acknowledgement without having to cope with an impersonal response. There’s a real warmth to this response, which acknowledges the difficulty of providing 24 hour customer service.

As long as you keep the promise you make in a message like this, you can use automation to let customers know that you care.

Your customers are smart…

And your use of automation should be too. As long as you make creating a stellar experience for customers your top priority, then you can use automation to make your life – and theirs – easier.

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