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What you should NEVER automate on social. And what you should.

Automation is not strategic. People are strategic. Automation technology will water my lawn while I sleep. Only people can instruct that technology where and how much to water. Social is no different. – Me

Ever get a tweet like this from an account that you followed?


Or receive recognition like this on Twitter?



Or direct messages like this (does anyone read their direct messages?)


It’s obvious these tweets were automated. Heck, the automation software is listed in the tweet!

I once received a similar tweet from an industry influencer, and at first I was really excited. “Wow,” I thought, “he noticed my follow and took the time to thank me. What a cool guy.” Then I saw the dreaded “” in the tweet. Translation = this is an automated message because I am too busy to send you a hand-written one.

Take it from someone who receives these messages, you’d be better off sending nothing at all.

Another problem with these automated recognition tweets: aside from that they make you look like an impersonal bot, they look really lame on your timeline:


This guy can type really fast.

I got nothing against marketing automation, when it makes sense. Automation can be very effective for your remarketing, lead nurturing and email marketing campaigns.

But social media is different. Way different! As the name implies, “social” marketing is a form of communication that is focused on interaction and engagement. Therefore it requires a human touch.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are two-way communication channels that allow your brand to interact with its target audience. Automation on these channels marginalizes your brand.

What you should NEVER automate on social. And what you should. #HRtech Click To Tweet

What You Should and Shouldn’t Automate

Every brand should be doing the following six social marketing activities on a regular basis. For each of these six activities lets see what should and should not be automated.

1. Follow People

Stop! (Don’t Automate)

Never pay for a service that allows you to buy followers on Twitter (or Facebook). Trust me, you’ll regret it. I could write an entire blog post on the negative consequences of doing this. One consequence is that you’ll end of blindly following a bunch of accounts that have nothing to do with your brand or marketing goals, or worse, you end up following bots. Don’t get hung up on the size of your social networks. It’s quality that matters. On Twitter, follow strategically. This includes accounts that are active and:

  • Engaging with topics relevant to your industry/brand
  • Interacting with your competitors but not you
  • Using hashtags for industry conferences
  • Trending in your industry
  • Industry influencers

Note: I recommend unfollowing the accounts you follow that have been inactive for 3+ months. If you have not done this in a few years expect to unfollow about 50% of the accounts you follow.  

Go (Automate)

Use software to automate the administrative task of identifying potential accounts to follow. Then skim the account’s bio and a few recent tweets. If they look legit and on target, follow (and start engaging with) them. For most B2B brands, a goal of following 10-20 new accounts per day should be sufficient.

In the HR, recruiting, HR technology, employee benefits and talent management  space, HRmarketer’s recently launched Get it Done! feature will serve up a list of accounts each day from the above segments and save you a ton of time. It also automates the administrative work behind the other 5 social marketing activities discussed in this post.

Get it Done! With HRmarketer

Get it Done! Social(SM) is an innovative new technology platform from HRmarketer that helps B2B social marketing teams be real, authentic and personal – and more productive!
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2. Share Content

Stop! (Don’t Automate)

Have you ever clicked on a link in a tweet only to be taken to a spammy advertisement, a page not found, an “article” that is one paragraph or content that is horribly written, has nothing to do with the tweet’s hashtag or totally irrelevant?

Me too.

You can thank social automation software for that enjoyable experience, and you can blame the lazy social marketer who is using the automation software for wasting your time.

Do not blindly share content that you have not approved or selected.

Go (Automate)

Use software to automate the identification of content that may be a good candidate to share. What’s a good candidate? Content that’s:

  • High quality
  • Relates to your key topics, thought leadership and branding goals
  • Popular and/or trending in your industry
  • Doesn’t mention your competitors (if this is important to you)
  • Being engaged with by people important to you (your targeted influencers)

Use software to automate the writing of the message that shares the content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This will include a message, an image, a short URL (so you can measure engagement) and relevant hashtags. Then edit the message and add your personal touch before publishing.

Use software to automate the publishing of the share. This is perhaps the best use of social automation — scheduling your shares! Even while you are stuck in meetings all day, your brand has some quality activity on social.

Time out.

Do you see a theme here? 

Automate the administrative stuff and manually do the strategic stuff.

3. Reshare Content

Stop! (Don’t Automate)

Come clean. We all do it. We see a tweet from someone on our timeline or using a hashtag we monitor and we give them some love with a retweet.  But we don’t actually read the content they shared.  I know this happens because I often see a bunch of retweets for content I have shared, but which has received only a few clicks on the short URL.  I’m not recommending you stop doing this, but do it sparingly and if you do retweet, add some personalization. Like:

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 6.00.31 PM

Or, favorite or like the share to show the person you care.

Go (Automate)

Automate your own content reshares by relying on software to identify your most popular content shares from previous months — the ones that got the most click-thrus and retweets. Then, reshare this content with a different message and/or hashtag(s). Too many brands ‘share and dash’ on social and miss a huge opportunity to recycle popular content.

4. Engage With Conferences

Stop! (Don’t Automate)

Don’t automate shares of hashtags, like auto-tweeting any tweet that uses a certain hashtag. Bad.

Go (Automate)

Most industries have a conference or tradeshow taking place each month — some, like HR, every week! Engaging with these events on social is a great opportunities for your brand to get visibility (and expand your social network and industry knowledge). You don’t even have to be there! Use software to notify you when these events take place (so you can get involved in the social conversation) and to serve up popular and recent social activity about the events. Then you can edit, add your personal touch and publish. You guessed it — in the HR marketplace, HRmarketer’s Get it Done! does this for you.

Don’t forget: to get the most value, add your own personal touch when engaging with events.

5. Thank Followers and Retweeters

Stop! (Don’t Automate)

We covered this at the start of this article. Don’t automate your thank you notes and other recognition!  You’ll end up thanking bots, cluttering your timeline and looking silly.  And don’t thank multiple people in the same Tweet.

Go (Automate)

Social automation software is perfect for identifying the people you might want to recognize. But only you should write and publish the thank you. After all, not every follower or retweeter deserves a thank you.  Like this recent follower of mine:


And if they do deserve a thank you, then you owe it to them to be authentic. This means not using the same thank you over and over again or thanking 10 people in the same tweet. And remember, try to avoid publishing all the thanks at once. That clutters your timeline.

6. Comment

Stop! (Don’t Automate)

I don’t think anyone except bots automates comment posting, so there is nothing to stop doing here. But this is a good time to recommend you stop not commenting! Commenting on popular content is one of the most powerful — and underutilized — marketing visibility tactics. If you are new to commenting, I recommend setting a goal of one comment per week. More experienced brands I’ve worked with comment six or more times a week (using multiple people). What should you comment on?

  • Popular content (blogs and articles)
  • Content published within the last day or two
  • Content on topics related to your branding goals
  • Content written by influencers you are wanting to build visibility with

Make sure your comment isn’t promotional. Add some thought leadership, perhaps a different opinion. Maybe ask the author a question or disagree with the author (respectfully). Don’t just say “great post” or some throwaway comment. When you disagree or ask a question, your comment is more likely to be noticed and responded to than if you simply say “great post” or some throwaway comment.

Go (Automate)

Use software to reduce the administrative time required to find commenting opportunities and manage your comments. Software — like Get it Done! — can be set up to notify you when any of your targeted influencers publishes new content, or when content on topics that you’ve pre-selected is trending upward. Whatever method you choose, make sure to have a system in place to track where you’ve commented so you can monitor how your comments are doing and run reports showing your commenting history.


As you might have guessed, I loathe the use of social automation on anything that is strategic. It’s like a drug for brands; you know it’s bad for you, but it’s too tempting to get that short-term high. But in the long run, you either have to kick the habit … or die.

People opt for automation because the short-term success seems so good, but the success is illusory, and it backfires in the end, and what you lose (authenticity and genuine engagement) is almost irretrievable.

It all comes back to the same mantra, which is this: despite what everybody wants, success on social requires rolling your sleeves up and doing some work. It’s hard, it takes time, and you’re not going to be good at it — and it’s not going to work for you — unless you do it right. And that means investing time, talent, and tools, just like you would with any other brand-building initiative.

And most importantly:

[tweetable via=”hrmarketer”]Only automate the administrative tasks of social marketing. Leave the strategic stuff to people!    #HRmarketer #GetitDone[/tweetable]


P.S. If you market a Recruiting, HR Technology, Talent Management, Learning & Development, Employee Wellness or anything else HR related please check out HRmarketer Insight – especially the new Get it Done! tool – to see how it will improve your brand visibility on social and save you a ton of time.  Request demo here.

You may also preview Get it Done! here:

About the Author:

Mark is the founder and ceo of HRmarketer.

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