Everybody makes mistakes sometimes – and when you’re lucky, those mistakes happen in a place where nobody can see. If you’re not paying attention one morning and accidentally squirt earlobe ointment on your toothbrush instead of Colgate, it might be embarrassing, but at least you can take that little secret to your grave.
The mistakes you make in public, though? Infinitely worse. Because even when they’re relatively innocuous, everyone can see, and can screenshot, and can link to and pass around and laugh at in perpetuity.
Failing hard on social media is an easy thing to do, and when it happens, the cycle of Internet shaming kicks off with you in the spotlight. And despite how much we advocate for writing updates in batches and automating your social media, there’s a cold, hard truth at the center:
Automating your social media carelessly can lead to some seriously embarrassing screwups.
Just like that old urban legend about the driver who gets into an accident because they think that cruise control is the same thing as autopilot, taking a “set it and forget it” approach to social media automation has accident written all over it.
So how do you avoid making some of the biggest social media automation mistakes imaginable? How do you protect yourself and your brand from the utter humiliation of a major faux pas?
Whether you’re brand new to scheduling social media posts in advance or you’ve been at it for years, here are a few ground rules to keep in mind.
1. Don’t make scheduled posts your ONLY posts
Scheduling posts ahead of time is easier than doing everything live.
That’s not just us talking, either – more marketers would rather skip social media altogether than have to plan and share their posts on the same day.
But scheduling social media posts ahead of time doesn’t mean you NEVER have to engage live. If anything, you might be engaging live even more than you would otherwise.
Say you typically spend two hours a day on social media marketing, and a certain percentage of that time is dedicated to thinking of, writing, and sharing tweets live. You use the rest of the time for interacting with your followers – responding to mentions, participating in Twitter chats, and so on.
If you start scheduling social media posts in advance, you’re suddenly not spending that daily time sharing them manually. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re spending less time on social media, though – it means you’re spending your time on social more wisely.
Automating your social media means taking certain responsibilities off your plate so that you have more room for the things you can’t plan ahead of time – the live engagement that makes social, well, social. It doesn’t replace live posting altogether so much as it makes live posting easier. If you just set up your automated posts, call it a job well done, and promptly stop checking in on social media, you’re likely to leave a lot of fans and followers feeling neglected – and that’s not a good look.
2. Don’t assume everything is working the way it should
Content audits are a seriously important part of any social scheduling strategy, and while you can read our full walkthrough of a successful audit here, the first step is particularly important: check your links to make sure they still work.
Just because you shared a working link a few months or even a few weeks ago doesn’t mean that link still works – and enticing your readers with a curiosity-building update only to send them to a 404 page is just brutal. It’s like dropping someone during a trust fall exercise. (We’re not gonna name names.)
When you’re scheduling social media posts, make sure that links work before you share them, even if you’ve shared them before. Even if you don’t do a full audit, checking just that one thing can prevent an embarrassing slip up.
3. Don’t share the same exact thing ALL the time
It’s no secret by now that if you want an update to reach a sizeable audience, you should think about sharing it more than once. (After all, less than half of your Twitter followers log on even once a day – the odds that they’re bumping into one of your tweets is pretty small.)
That doesn’t, however, mean you can reuse the same status update constantly. For example, say you like to promote a new blog post pretty heavily – maybe twice a day per social network, for a week. Even if you’re just posting to Facebook and Twitter, that’s fourteen posts, and if they’re all the exact same update, it’s not unlikely that someone’s going to notice.
Give your repeats a little breathing room. So for that last example, that might mean writing a small handful of updates for a single blog post and sharing them on a rotating basis. Building a library of updates you can pull from again and again over time doesn’t mean making a list of a dozen and calling it a day – it means adding to it over time, so it accumulates and expands, and the space between repeats gets smaller and smaller. Sharing the same exact thing over and over makes you sound like a robot – and people don’t like to be friends with robots.
(Except Johnny Five, obviously.)
4. Don’t keep the same posting schedule forever
A lot can change over a few months. Maybe you gained a few followers. Maybe you lost a few pounds. (You look great, by the way.)
Point is, the social media schedule you spent so much time pruning and perfecting way back when? It might not be the best one for you anymore. Even the types of posts that worked so well for you back then might not be resonating with your audience the way they used to.
Keep a close eye on your analytics, and every few months, see if your performance is still meeting your expectations. Automation can make you feel complacent about these statistics, so don’t slip into a pattern of assuming that what worked before is still working now. (Otherwise, you could end up sharing all the right things at all the wrong times – or vice versa.)
5. Don’t stop paying attention to the real world
One of the best things about automated social media is that it goes on and on without you having to think about it.
But if you’re not careful, that can also be one of the worst things.
Sometimes, quieting down on social media is a good idea. (You don’t want to be the gun club that tweets in the aftermath of a mass shooting.) Something that seemed harmless when you scheduled it might come across completely differently in the context of the real world, and for reasons you couldn’t possibly have predicted. Maybe you queued up an inspirational quote from a celebrity now embroiled in a scandal, for example – there was nothing wrong with it at the time, but the world has changed since you scheduled that update, and having it automatically posted now may seem insensitive.
Be mindful of the world around you, and don’t forget that your automated social media is going to keep on chugging unless you tell it not to. No matter how smart your tool may be, it’s not smart enough to monitor current events for you!
6. Don’t over-publish just because you can
How many times a day do you post to social media? Five? Ten? A HUNDRED? (You animal!)
Okay, you’re probably not posting to social media a hundred times a day – but you could still be posting too often.
Knowing what you know about Twitter, it makes sense that the more you post, the better the odds that you’ll be seen. That’s easy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t post too much. For example, about 29% of your followers check Twitter multiple times a day. What if you’re appearing in their timelines every single time they do? Or more than once every time they do? Are you willing to risk annoying nearly a third of your followers by posting incessantly?
This is one of those “your mileage may vary” things – nobody can tell you exactly how often you should be posting to social media. Some people have excellent results posting just a few times per day. Others may post once or twice an hour, every hour. But just because you can post every 10 or 15 minutes by automating doesn’t mean you should – not necessarily. (Even if it doesn’t drive your followers crazy, it’ll definitely drive you crazy writing enough fresh material to keep up with that kind of schedule.)
Carelessness kills (your image)
These may not be the only ways that careless automation can result in an embarrassing situation, but they’re biggies. The good news? Avoiding them is really, really easy.
All it takes is a little general mindfulness, and you can keep your squeaky clean social reputation, all while reaping the ridiculous benefits of an automated posting schedule. (And that’s all anybody really wants, isn’t it?)