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.
At first I thought 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 was an automated post announcing the publication of another issue of their newsletter. The two ads for Mistresses and a gallery of compatriots were part of the content. Either the owner had 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 scheduled points in the day it’ll be published and Tweets sent out into the ether. Loyal followers are alerted a new issue has arrived. The owner looks like they’re on top of the issues in their market.
All of this is done without human intervention.
All of this is fake and open to exploitation.
Using automation tools to totally 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 broke. 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 has 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 using automation. Logging into your account every few days to make the odd post keeps it healthy and reduces the chances of being suspended as a bot. It also gives early warning on anything that breaks.
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 will probably bring a disaster down on your brand. One you might not even know is happening.