If you’re serious about making an impact for your startup on social media, you need to put in the hours.

Every post requires your attention, and your attention is valuable. Fortunately there are lots of tools and strategies for streamlining your social media execution. But if you aren’t careful, these automation tools can make you look like an amateur, or worse, inauthentic (read: robot).

Here are a few ways to integrate automation into your social media efforts without sacrificing the human element.

Tool #1: IFTTT Recipes (“if this, then that”)

IFTTT is a fantastic tool that executes a variety of useful commands that go beyond just posting. You can browse through their list of prepared “recipes” and use as many as you want, for free!

IFTTT

How you automate:

Do: Automate admin and back-end tasks

I use it for tasks like saving Instagram photos to my Google Drive that contain a particular hashtag, and automatically tweeting posts that come from our company’s WordPress blogs. Take a look at their recipes and find which ones fit your needs.

If Instagram, Then Dropbox

Don’t: Automate responses or replace real engagement

Never use IFTTT to actually engage with your community. Ever. Don’t automate retweets, favorites, replies or worse…Direct Messages. Why? It defeats the purpose of being social, and it sounds fake. Who wants to talk to a clearly automated response? It’s like talking to a digital wall. Not the tone you want to give to someone like a prospective client or a fan of your product.

 

Tool #2: 3rd Party Post Schedulers

If you work in social media, then you’re probably also familiar with Hootsuite and Buffer. They’re both fantastic tools that allow you to schedule your posts in advance so you’re not stuck live posting all your content. While this is a huge time saver, it’s crucial to know when to use the scheduler and when to do it manually.

Do: Schedule your posts in advance

Planning out your posts for the day or the week ensures that your audience will get a steady diet of high quality content. It’s a huge time-saver for someone in our business. But make sure to leave some slots open for live-posting hot-off-the-press PR. Also, some social media channels will boost your visibility if you post via their platform directly (e.g. Google+ and Facebook).

Don’t: Post blindly – test everything until you’re sure how it appears

If you’re unsure how things may appear on a particular channel, give it a go on a test account or be ready to delete immediately if it doesn’t render as you had hoped. For example, posting photos without links on LinkedIn via Buffer can sometimes create problems like in the picture below. The workaround? Share pictures manually.

Buffer Messed Up

Instead of displaying the file name here, it posted where this data is stored on Buffer’s side…

Extra Tip:

Still using Google+ and tagging someone on a scheduled post on Buffer? Use their Google+ ID Number. Even though it’ll look a bit odd in the scheduler, when it posts it’ll work it’s magic once published. Not sure? Test it out for yourself.

Scheduling G+ Posts

Finding a page ID G+

Tool #3: Social & Web Listeners

While it’s always good to routinely check notifications and scan through keyword searches throughout the day, it’s easy for important connections to fall through the cracks. Use a social listening tool like Mention to keep track of how and where your key terms are being used across your channels.

Do: Sign up for end-of-day alerts

Check regularly and sign-up for end-of day alerts (or hourly depending on the nature of your business) to make sure you catch all of your most relevant notifications. I recommend filtering by channel – it tends to make my workflow easier.

If your listening platform gives you the option to mark which results are irrelevant, you should definitely do it. Why? Giving this kind of feedback helps the system distinguish between the ‘noise’ and what’s actually important. Machine learning is great, but relevancy is something that varies from brand to brand. It’s your job to teach the machine what’s important and what’s not.

Don’t: Be a Slave to Every Mention

While it’s usually good practice to read and respond to people who write about or mention your brand, sometimes you really do have to focus on the 20% of your efforts that’ll bring you 80% of the results. While it can feel validating to see a 100+ posts, tweets and articles about your brand every morning, it’s often too cumbersome to go through and respond to each one. Often after an article you’ve been featured in starts trending, you may notice a lot of obscure news sites rehashing it on their own sites – i.e. noise. Focus on relevant sources and ignore the rest.   

Extra Tip:

Include spelling variations of your brand name and select only the languages / locations relevant for your brand. This will help minimize the extraneous notifications while increasing the likelihood of catching each relevant mention.

Mention terms

installCore Mention

Tool #4: Content Curators

Finding good content is the bread and butter of social media, but it can also be a huge time-suck. Curators allow you to aggregate RSS feeds and provide you sample tweet/post copy. Pick RSS feeds from your favorite blogs (your own blog included!) and add them to your feedly or Buffer feeds to speed up your workflow.

Do: Add your unique spin

Buffer and feedly feeds provide you the headline and link to the original piece of content. If you want to build genuine engagement with your audience, you’ll need to sound human and tailor the post/tweet copy to match your brand’s voice. Take a particularly relevant snippet of the article and use it to inspire your copy. Or, address the implications of the findings of the article to your startup.

Don’t: Judge a post by its copy

When you’re culling through hundreds of headlines in your feed it’s easy to misinterpret a post or take it out of context. Sure it may sound like a killer headline, but does it really link to what the headline addresses? Does the post start off good and end with something that actually goes against your brand? Is the post actually sponsored by your competitor? Do a thorough check before you post curated material.

Extra Tip:

If you’re just posting the existing tweet as it appears in your feed, or just reposting the original headline, you can guarantee so is half your network. I’m certainly guilty of this one, we all are. Do your best to not sound like a robot. Your network will thank you for it. Short on time? Add relevant hashtags, @ the author, or just paraphrase.

 

What are your tips for automating your startup’s social media marketing?