Have you automated any aspects of your social media marketing? At first blush, it may seem counterintuitive to automate something intended to be social. However, automation of certain aspects of social media can actually free you and your team to spend more time meaningfully engaging on your social platforms.

The automation isn’t really about reduction of effort, here; it’s about more strategic use of time for better results. You’ve still got to create your content and define and refine tactics for getting the best mojo out of your social media. The automation simply allows you to be consistent, think ahead, and focus on the important stuff.

Post scheduling is the heart of social media automation. I recommend daily publishing (yes, even Saturdays and Sundays for retailers) to all social platforms—even the ones you don’t actively nurture. One way to easily accomplish this across-the-board presence is through use of a tool that lets you schedule content in advance on all your profiles. Sure, Twitter or Linkedin may not be the biggest and best social platforms for your business, but if it’s easy-breezy to schedule posts, why not include them?

There are many solutions that accommodate scheduling content for multiple social profiles from one dashboard, and for most of you reading this, these are a good way to go. Common options include Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social, and Falcon. As you consider the tool that’s right for your biz, keep a few things in mind:

Cost: While it’s possible to use the free versions of some of these platforms, you’ll get more if you ante up for a monthly or annual subscription. Many of these platforms limit the number of social profiles you can connect to their solutions based on the level of your subscription. If you’re a paying customer, you’ll likely be able to connect all your profiles plus gain access to stats and data on your social media activity, as well. Also, subscription tiers may allow you to add multiple team members to have access to the dashboard. Depending on the size and scope of your business, that may be a very helpful feature.

Mobile app: Some social media scheduling tools are better at accommodating mobile content uploads than others. While you and your team might envision using the scheduling tool during focused time on a desktop or laptop computer, it may be quite useful to have on-the-go capabilities, as well.

Other capabilities: While pre-publishing is the name of the game, it’s great to get additional features. Social automation tools are ever-evolving these days to offer advanced offerings such as social advertising integration and reporting. Here’s a tip for choosing your option: check out how recently the solution updated or added features. Only go with a service that is consistently upping its game—a must in the fast-paced realm of social media.

Be aware that profile-linking to any of these services is a moving target, and changes are rarely the result of anything that’s happened on the service providers’ side. Due to privacy and functionality dictated from the social platforms themselves (we’re looking at you, Facebook!), your chosen solution may gain or lose capabilities at any given time. That’s the nature of the beast, and we have to be flexible to take changes as they come (even when they don’t work in our favor).

While it’s quite handy to be able to manage many things from one dashboard, your biz may find advantages in solutions that focus on scheduling only for one or two specific social platforms. For example, I use Schedugram for scheduling to Instagram for many of my clients, even though we could use our Hootsuite accounts instead. I go this route because Schedugram was created specifically for Instagram, its functionality is more robust, and it helps us be more successful on this very popular social network.

Insider tip: Establish a predictable schedule for creating your social content. Make a monthly map of what you want to post (i.e. - new products on Mondays, special offers on Tuesdays; project photos on Wednesdays, etc.), and then create and queue up posts a week in advance. I suggest sticking with just the week’s worth of posts so you can be responsive as new topics arise. And remember you’re allowed to post in the moment as opportunities merit. Scheduled posts are primarily used to ensure you are in front of your customers every single day, without fail.

Do you use a CRM (i.e. Salesforce) for your business? Find out if your CRM also offers social media publishing as part of its offerings. Some CRMs have really good integration that allows you to view social media engagement by your customers who are loaded into the system. That level of connectivity can be incredible for creating highly targeted messaging and follow-up.

Many services automate aspects of market research such as social listening and influencer identification and engagement. For such tools, I say “buyer beware.” I find that automation tools designed to identify influential people on social media (with the purpose of informing us about who to focus attention on) often pale in comparison to human intelligence. Countless times, I’ve tried these tools only to find that they recommend nothing but HGTV personalities and other celebrities who aren’t actively specifying flooring let alone actually posting to their own social profiles.

Other areas that are closely tied to your social media marketing and musts for automation? Email lists—including lead capture and list maintenance, as well as landing pages. Because I strongly believe that your email list is one of your business’s most important assets, I advocate using your social posts to invite people to join your list whenever it’s reasonable to do so. Often when inviting people to join your email list, you will need to send them to a landing page to capture their information. And though email lists and lead capture are topics worthy of a separate article entirely, I wanted to mention them here because it’s essential that these be automated in order for your business to remain compliant and streamlined in its processes. Please don’t burn precious time managing these tasks manually!

Now that you’re schooled in social media automation, I’d love to talk details with you! Come on over to my new website, IreneWilliams.biz, to find out about online courses and education I’m offering to help you make the most of any and every social platform you’re using for your business. See you there!