Automation: the note (apparently) out of place in Social Media Marketing

Many advanced companies have resources dedicated to monitoring and active use of social media; their work is facilitated by software tools for social listening, able to aggregate, filter and sort conversations based on predefined criteria, so as to facilitate the task of responding (manually) to the most significant posts.

Automazione: la nota (apparentemente) stonata nel Social Media Marketing
photo credit: Peter Kurdulija Till Dead Batteries Us Do Part via photopin (license)

These platforms are essential to be able to know the opinions that people (as well as customers) express about the brand, in a context of complex and multiple interactions – potentially thousands, within the various social media.

A suggestion: before putting aside the idea of automating our presence on social media, let’s try to consider how email marketing techniques have evolved

The support of the tools that facilitate the reading of social networks and allow to summarize the sentiment that characterizes its audience, is certainly a good starting point; however, marketers should do more to stimulate public engagement and foster business growth through social media too.

In this context automation, although it is considered a sort of “out of tune” in that it risks distorting the relationships between people and businesses, can help – especially if we consider the consumption of time and resources that it is necessary to manage in a traditional way the dialogue between the company and those who use social media as a channel of interaction with the brand.

Automation and personalized one-to-one marketing

To generate a higher level of involvement, social media marketers should respond to specific actions through the (more or less large-scale) proposal of ad hoc content. Such actions (from the public) can be considered as a kind of activator: in practice it is necessary to identify activities such as the post of comments on a certain person or company, the use of particular hashtags, or the fact that it is published on social media mean something about certain topics or topics; once these events occur, you need to have specific material to propose to the people who triggered the mechanism.
The digital content that we can send automatically in response to a series of situations that can be highlighted in an equally automatic way, can be movies or text documents, but also discount codes, promotions, points to be earned to get gifts or even tickets for events sports or music ready to buy.

Although the possible advantages of this approach are undoubtedly many, it is precisely the use of automation which is for many a critical element: to respond automatically, in real time and on a large scale to a series of possible events through the ‘sending specific content for each type of user and activity, it is necessary a solution of Social Media Marketing Automation (better if integrated with or already included in a platform for marketing automation). In practice we need software capable of “listening” and intercepting certain situations or actions, and automatically responding to people who have performed them.

A further brake (perhaps the most difficult to remove) to the adoption of automation in the context of interactions through social media, is linked to the fact that those who deal with the image of the company on social networks, often engages to create and grow relationships thanks to their presence within a given virtual community made up of people.

The point is not that we need to replace the human presence with a more or less intelligent mechanism, but simply send as much as possible personalized and contextual stimuli where it makes sense – thanks to the fact that this same mechanism is able to automatically identify the situation in where this proposal may meet an interest or be relevant and relevant.

The parallel with email marketing

To understand what it refers to, the evolution of email marketing techniques is an excellent example – given that this channel was undoubtedly the one that paved the way for personalized one-to-one marketing. On the other hand, today no marketer invests his time in manually sending individual emails; on the contrary, thanks to the information we have available on the audience, we all use automation to communicate effectively and contextualised with our interlocutors.

Safeway (a US retail food company) creates tailor-made emails for its customers based on their preferences and buying habits; this program has proved to be extremely effective, to the point of exceeding the average of its market sector in terms of open messages, read and actively used (clicks made) by the recipients – something that has also contributed to the loyalty of consumers and increase in turnover.

Automation and social media

At this point, someone might argue that automation can be fine for email campaigns, but that social media management software is not yet mature enough – yet we need to distinguish between social interaction through a chat bot (an automatism that uses artificial intelligence tools) and the simple reaction to an event.

In fact, if we consider the mechanisms that allow you to react automatically to the occurrence of a certain condition, the tools for automation of marketing on social media have evolved at least as much as those for email marketing, since they can segment users based on numerous parameters and send them the most suitable contents in real time; in particular, all this is possible thanks to the definition and implementation of a complex system of rules that provide for the assignment of scores according to the activities of the contacts and the relative frequency – regardless of the local language and their geographical distribution.

Indeed, it is possible to integrate email marketing and social media marketing to share content between the two channels and make the communication more consistent and able to engage the audience, as well as to increase conversions.

Among the companies that have successfully adopted social media marketing is Marriott (a well-known hotel chain), which uses this channel for promotional activities – for example by offering points in the framework of special loyalty programs to those who, among its customers, mention the brand.

Be more strategic

As for the perplexities related to automation and the consequent lack of that particular human touch that it inevitably determines, it is worth making some further consideration regarding the evolution of email marketing.

The automation (not just of the email that, let’s remember, was born around the concept of sales funnel, of buyer’s journey and of lead nurturing) has allowed marketers to become more and more strategic in the organization thanks to their contribution to the business growth. In fact, email automation, based on a research by Data & Marketing Association, is used by 82% of B2B and B2C companies; moreover, according to the same source, more than half of the respondents said that investments in the e-mail channel will continue to grow.

In other words, nobody denies the advantages deriving from the automation of email campaigns and nobody has the slightest intention of eliminating this channel from the so-called “marketing mix”.
Similarly, social media automation has the ability to make the contribution of those who deal with marketing communication on social networking platforms increasingly strategic for companies: automation, in fact, not only helps to respond in real time and on a large scale scale to the online activities of the followers of companies, but also allows collecting valuable information on consumers, which improves the processes and strategies of marketing communication and encourages greater involvement and stronger loyalty from potential and actual customers.

Traditional and automated communication

Exactly as for e-mails, also for the automation of interactions through social media, it is not a question of extending the terms of the problem through an “all or nothing” approach: marketers, of course, always have the possibility to communicate in a personal and immediate with the public when this is appropriate, and those who deal specifically with social media marketing, can very well intervene in the virtual community and moderate discussions, express opinions or interact directly with people. The difference between the totally manual approach and the (also) automated approach lies in the ability to invest more time and resources on strategic activities, reserving individual interpersonal communications to instances where this type of relationship makes sense in terms of corporate strategy.

Currently, only 5% of social media marketer work is automated; however, the automation of this channel, which is increasingly strategic, has both the ability to increase the involvement of the public on a large scale, and to offer to those involved in marketing precious indications to optimize and refine their efforts.

More and more companies are introducing automation as an evolution of social media marketing, discovering that this approach offers important advantages in the ability to build relationships with customers and is able to produce a positive impact on the business.

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