We’ve previously covered how important social media is for startups. Being on social is a great way to share your brand and company story, interact with customers and fans and promote your business. But it’s easy for social media to start sucking up time.

How can you get all the benefits of social media without wasting your valuable time? The answer is automation.

What is social media automation?

Social Media automation is when you use software to post and interact with social media on your behalf. Automating your social media could include:

  • Posting your pre-written messages at predetermined times
  • Commenting on posts that meet specific criteria
  • Liking tweets or Instagram photos that include certain hashtags
  • Pushing new blog posts to all networks
  • Retweeting anything that mentions your business
  • Determining your optimal posting time
  • Locating and posting content from other sources

Automating some of your social media activities could help you be in more places at once, but there is a cautionary tale here. If you overdo it, you can come across as genuine, fake or needy. If there’s bugs in the software that manages your social media accounts, you have to be prepared to accept the consequences of a few pissed off followers.

The Startup Starter Kit of Social Media Automation

Ready to try it out? Here’s a few tools we recommend to get started.

Buffer – if you do all your content consumption at one time of the day (say over your morning coffee) you might be tempted to post multiple articles at the same time, thus flooding your followers feeds. Buffer helps prevent this by well, buffering your messages over predefined time slots over the week. You can choose to post as many messages per day per social network as you like. Anything you have queued up will simply wait until the next assigned time to post.

Buffer also includes analytics, so you can see how well your efforts are paying off.

To get started, set up a free account and download the Chrome extension. When you find something you want to share, click the Buffer extension button, edit the pre-filled message and click Buffer. It will head out on your networks at the next available time slot.

Tweetfavy – a really nice way of sliding into the right people’s notifications. Tweetfavy will automatically like tweets that contain certain hashtags or words that you set. For example, you can set Tweetfavy up to like any tweets with a conference hashtag included or to automatically like any mentions of your company or your own Twitter handle automatically. When Tweetfavy likes the tweet, the tweeter will get the notification and see your lovely profile picture in their feed! Twitter also shows tweets liked by you to people who follow you, so it’s another way you can stay present in the timeline without actually tweeting.

IFTTT or Zapier – literally hundreds of automations. The beauty of IFTTT and Zapier is it’s customization. If you can dream it, you can do it. For example:

  • Post new instagram pictures as native Twitter images
  • Share new YouTube videos to Facebook automagically
  • Automatically post any new blog posts to Twitter or Facebook (this is great to have each of your team members set up as well)

Crowdfire – besides having a really nice bot-like interface, Crowdfire does the heavy work of finding interesting content to share with your followers. It also makes suggestions to improve your social networks like updating your bio and making sure your links are up to date. It will also find you influencers to follow and interact with. The end goal? To make you “internet famous”.

The Danger of Automation

While the lure to automate our lives away is strong, there are some pitfalls along the way.

Keep it real – too much automation can make you seem fake, especially if you’re posting other people’s content or words. A good real of thumb is to only use automation to do what you would normally do on social media.

Know how to turn it off – if something goes wrong (ie downtime) or if there’s a tragic event unfolding in the world, the last thing the world needs is your silly marketing tweets. Know how to pause your automations when needed, and don’t forget.

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