It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. I was sat on the sofa half-watching the TV, half catching up on Twitter. The content marketing list I keep was the usual mix of people being people, reshared articles and nuggets of new insight. Then into view came an advert for a “Dominatrix” offering some quite specialist services.
My first reaction was the account had been hacked. Usually the owner posted barely memorable collections of tweets and articles through paper.li, promoting themselves as a “virtual assistant”. Only this wasn’t a hack, it was an automated post announcing the publication of another issue of their newsletter, complete with two ads for Mistresses and a gallery of compatriots. Either they’d started targeting a specialist market, or something had gone wrong.
Paper.li starts channeling “adult content”
Paper.li is one of the many tools available that automate aspects of Social Media. It can pick up content from Twitter lists, RSS feeds and other sources, working through them to assemble a professional looking webzine. At defined points in the day it’ll be published and Tweets will be sent out into the ether, alerting loyal followers a new collection of interesting content has arrived.
All of this is done without human intervention.
All of this is fake and open to exploitation.
Using automation tools to completely remove the human element is fraught with danger. Countless times I’ve watched the same 3 “social media specialists” share the same piece of content at the same time. I’ve seen people go missing for days after the link between their platform and account was broken. Then there’s the off-brand messaging that goes on when algorithms pick up and post the wrong content.
There is a place for automating social media
Automation does have its place. It can help find new content or maintain a schedule to ensure a smooth flow throughout the day. What it cannot – should not – do is determine if something has the correct nuance for your brand. It can’t determine the most appropriate captions or placement that speak to your audiences.
Use feeds to find good content to share, just remember you don’t have to share everything that comes your way. You should also use scheduling tools to make sure there’s a steady stream of engaging posts throughout the day. Just make sure a human has final say on whether something gets put into the queue, and the words that go with it.
Occasionally social media channels will suspend accounts from using automation. Don’t rely only on your chosen automation tool’s “share” features – log into the account and check things are working every day or two. Logging into the channel’s web or mobile app every few days also keeps your account healthy and reduces the chance of your account being suspended as a “bot”.
It’s your social media – not your machine’s
The owner of the paper.li account admitted in a brief Twitter exchange they’d set up automated feeds and didn’t check what was being published. That one of their services is managing social media should send a chill through their customer base.
Social media automation tools are there to help you, not replace you. Switching your tool of choice on, then leaving it to its own devices is almost guaranteed to bring a disaster down on your brand, one you might not even know is happening.