Image courtesy of vectorolie/
Image courtesy of vectorolie/

If I was to follow the social media posting rules I’ve read online, my daily to-do list would sound a little like this:

  • Post on Twitter at least 10 times
  • Update my blog
  • Make five new LinkedIn connections
  • Post one LinkedIn article
  • Re-pin two photos from Pinterest
  • Add five new pins to Pinterest
  • Add two photos to Instagram

This leaves me very little time for the niceties of work, including writing sharable content and helping my clients to deal with their reputation management problems.

So, I’ve been tempted to use social media automation tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, which allows me to write a bunch of content all at once and schedule its release in a trickle. This kind of bulk automation could keep me focused throughout the day, as I wouldn’t feel compelled to check in and update on a regular basis. I’ve also thought about automating my responses on social media sites, so I wouldn’t be required to answer each ping I get.

But so far, I’ve resisted the allure of these sites. And I’ve done that because I’ve seen too many companies face reputation disaster due to automation.

Sad Examples

While I could point to hundreds of examples of automation gone wrong, I’ll stick with two particularly glaring episodes that illustrate the dangers of automation. If these two incidents don’t convince you that pre-scheduled social isn’t the right way to go, I’m not sure what will.

The first comes from the summer of 2012, when the National Rifle Association had a spectacular stumble with this tweet: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” This sounds like a pretty innocuous message from gun promoters, but it was released in the aftermath of a deadly shooting in Colorado. Early reports suggest that the tweet was released via Hootsuite, but respondents were quick to suggest that the writers simply didn’t care about those who died in Colorado.

The next example comes from March of 2014. Designer L’Wren Scott was found dead in her apartment, and that news began to move through social media channels with amazing speed. People were simply shocked by the death of someone who was so talented, and they came onto social media sites to discuss the issue and make sense of it. At the same time, the designer’s social media accounts continued to update with new messages. Her friends and family described those updates as “eerie” and “beyond sad,” and some were even convinced that the reports of her death had been somehow faked. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to see those updates scrolling by.

In both of these cases, the issue is one of insensitivity. Posts that might have seemed wonderful when they were written seem awful, garish or just plain strange when they went live at a later date. That’s something no automation program can control.

Additional Concerns

Social media programs are, not surprisingly, quite social. People are expected to interact with the information they see online, by commenting, sharing or otherwise making that piece somehow personal. In most cases, those comments are positive. But, there are times when something posted online strikes the wrong note, and a reader chooses to respond with a few words of criticism.

Healthy debate is a natural part of a social life, and a quick response to a negative comment can often keep the issue from growing. But, if those posts are scheduled and no one is watching the response, an attack could take hold, and other people could choose to join in.

Automated responses to tweets can also result in reputation disaster, as American Airlines discovered in February of 2014. A disgruntled user complained via tweet about his service (and he used some colorful language in his post that I won’t reproduce here), and he was rewarded with an automated response that began with “Thanks for your support!” Again, this isn’t a great response, and it came about due to automation.

Saving Your Reputation

If writing in bulk allows you to save time and feel an additional level of control, by all means, set aside a few hours on a regular basis to craft a series of posts you can share on your various social media channels. But, keep those posts on a Word document and put them into your channels manually, after you’ve done a careful check and made sure that they’re still appropriate. And when you do post, stay by your computer and take the time to respond to those who choose to chat you up. That interaction is part of what participating on social media is all about, and it’s absolutely vital if you want to boost your company’s profile online. Similarly, you’ll need to check in with your social media sites throughout the day and respond to messages.

Sure, this method takes longer. But, cleaning up a mess made by automation takes longer still, believe me. By taking the slow and steady route, you may be saving time in the long run.

Image courtesy of vectorolie/