Before we dive in, let’s dispel the myth that automating social media management is a mortal sin. Every industry seeks to automate time-consuming tasks to some extent, so there’s no need to place social media management on a pedestal that doesn’t exist elsewhere. Aside from that, Dan Zarrella of Hubspot recently released some compelling data that supports the case for automating Twitter.
Anyone who’s managed multiple Twitter accounts for clients knows the job is incredibly labor-intensive. Between finding or creating great content to share, optimizing tweets to maximize clickthroughs, and setting up sharing schedules, time goes right out the window. It’s no wonder businesses look to outsource this work so frequently. Neglecting automation plainly limits your ability to engage followers as often as you should. Essentially, it limits your ability to do what is best for your clients and that’s an avoidable lose-lose scenario.
To emphasize, automation isn’t an excuse to ignore your Twitter account. The purpose of automating tweets is to free up time for engaging your followers — responding to their tweets, driving conversations, and thanking those who retweet you.
Setting Up Your Content Curating Machine
After you set up your Google Reader account , visit a few blogs where you frequently get content to share on Twitter. Most blogs will have an RSS subscription icon or you can simply copy and paste the blog’s URL into Google Reader as the image below shows.
You’ll want to place all the RSS feeds you subscribe to in a single Google Reader folder. I’ll explain why shortly. Once you’ve subscribed to some of your favorite blogs, you should have something that looks similar to the following.
Setting Up a Tweet Schedule with Buffer
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Buffer (referral link). With Buffer, you can schedule specific days of the week and times you want to tweet, then sit back and let Buffer do the work. For example, here’s a portion of my tweet schedule in Buffer.
After you’ve set up your tweet schedule in Buffer, jump to the next step.
Tying Up Loose Ends with IFTTT
Here’s the moment of truth! Now that you have the content ready and the tweet schedule set, the only thing left is to automate the process.
Let me first explain what IFTTT is. IFTTT stands for “IF THIS, THEN THAT” and it works much like a standard IF statement if you’ve ever used functions in Excel. Essentially, we’re setting up a formula that says: if X is true, then do Y.
For our situation, we need IFTTT to pull content from the blogs you subscribed to in Google Reader, then send that content to Buffer where you’ve already set up a tweet schedule. Buffer will then send out tweets at the designated times.
Let’s do it!
Sign up or log in to IFTTT first. When you get to the Dashboard, click “Create” at the top of the screen, then click the blue “this” on the following page. You should see a group of icons like so.
Look through that list and click the Google Reader icon to get to step 2.
Click the box on the right for “New item tagged” and move to step 3.
This is why we placed all the RSS subscriptions into a single folder earlier in the post. Type the name of the folder from Google Reader into the box and click “Create Trigger,” then click “that” on the next step.
You’ll see another group of icons much like you did earlier. This time, select the icon for Buffer.
Click the box on the left for “Add to Buffer.”
In this step, you can tweak how your tweets will be constructed. The default option shown pulls the post title from the blogs you subscribed to, then pulls the related link to that post. You can add a hashtag here as well, but keep in mind this hashtag will be applied to every tweet scheduled with this automation.
Once you’ve settled the details of how you want your tweets constructed, click “Create Action” and you’ll be taken to the final step of the process where you can add a description to your IFTTT recipe. Finally, click “Create Recipe” and you’re done!
Is This a Set It and Forget It Thing?
Automation is extremely useful and convenient, but it doesn’t mean you get to neglect the content your tweeting. You should frequently glance at your Buffer account to make sure the scheduled content is worth tweeting. And, as was emphasized at the beginning of the post, automation is a reason to get even more engaged with your followers, because now you have a lot more time to do so.
Your Thoughts on Automation
What do you think about automating social media? Do you use any specific methods or tools to automate your social media updates? If you know someone who has time management problems with social media, be a good friend and share this post with them.
Leave me a message in the comments if you run into any problems setting up this process. I’m happy to help!