Contributed by Brian M. Fraley
To automate or not to automate? That is the question many AEC firms face when it comes to social media. Like everything else in life, there are pros and cons.
My assessment is that the cons outweigh the pros for most AEC firms. This blog; however, will attempt to objectively lay out both sides and allow you to draw your own conclusion.
What is Social Media Automation?
Social media automation may sound intimidating if your AEC firm hasn’t even mastered social media itself, but have no fear. It’s simply the use of a software or app to pre-load, schedule, and post social media content. You can also monitor relevant topics, review performance metrics, and more.
Bundle Posts and Save Time
One of the greatest benefits of automation is the ability to log in and front load multiple posts for the coming day, week, etc. Instead of logging in repeatedly and struggling to come up with content, you can sit down in a more intentional way, chunk your work, and get back to designing.
Less Interruptions, More Flow Work
Staying active on social media is disruptive to your schedule. When you’re immersed in a project, the last thing you want is to break your concentration by logging in to LinkedIn, unless your brain needs a rest, that is. For those that subscribe to the belief that interruptions stymie productivity, automation is a godsend.
Stay Social When You’re Off the Grid
Consistency is key on social media. Letting your social accounts go dormant for days or weeks can cause followers to drop off. Social media automation can allow you to post when you’re traveling or consumed by a time-sensitive project for an extended period of time.
Use Multiple Platforms
Automation software and apps are usually designed as a control center for all of your social media activity. You can connect multiple accounts and see things like retweets, mentions, new followers, and inbox messages on a single dashboard. This obviously saves time because you don’t have to log into multiple accounts.
Broadcasting Instead of Connecting
Automation gives users the potential to broadcast instead of interacting. Too many AEC companies already take the “social” out of social media. Interaction is the key to success on social media unless you happen to be a company with a brand so large and powerful that followers seek you out.
If you decide to front load a week’s worth of posts without checking in, some of your followers will soon discern that no one is behind the curtain and will move on. If you’re using automation strictly to broadcast on social media, don’t waste your time. You’re simply adding to the noise and won’t unlock the connections, leads, and new business that social media can produce when used properly.
Ghost Town Profiles
Automation gives you the ability to let your social presences turn into ghost towns. Savvy users can tell when your account is set on autopilot and it’s a turnoff. Isn’t the idea of social media to connect?
The real damage is done when someone mentions your company and gets no response. There are only three possibilities when that happens: the account is automated, 2.) you’re too important to respond, or 3.) you don’t know how to respond.
When Things Hit the Fan
Social media is the place most people turn when disaster strikes to either learn what’s happening or sound off. What happens if your crew strikes a gas line and causes an explosion? What if a bridge you designed collapses onto a busy roadway?
From a public relations standpoint, you want to have your hands on the controls of your company’s social media accounts to monitor the public sentiment and respond accordingly. If your relying too heavily on automation and haven’t logged in for an extended period, you may return to find a grease fire burning.
The Unseen Typo Trap
There seems to be a greater likelihood of typos and other mistakes when you’re front loading multiple tweets into automation software. When you enter a single post, you get a second chance to see how it looks in the feed. With automation, you don’t see the result until you check in later. The occasional mistake is inevitable, but repeated flaws look unprofessional and will hamper your results.
Losing the Impact of Breaking News
Sharing breaking news on issues that matter to your followers is an opportunity for AEC firms. You’re not in the publishing business, but you can build an engaged following by sharing timely and relevant news.
Some examples include infrastructure funding, environmental and safety regulations, and news about major projects. If you rely too heavily on automation, the news will be stale by the next time you log in.
Substance Over Frequency
Major corporations like Bank of America that deal primarily with consumers may post as often as once an hour. Automation helps you to achieve economies of scale when posting that frequently.
AEC firms have no need for that kind of frequency. You’re better served by logging in a couple times a day on the right social platforms and having meaningful interactions.
The bottom line is that automation works best for those times when you can’t log in, but don’t use it as a way to avoid being engaged on social media. Focus on posting interesting and relevant content on a regular basis and interacting with followers to develop a winning presence on social media.
(Editor's Note: Brian M. Fraley is the owner of Fraley Construction Marketing, a marketing communications consultancy with a unique 100% focus and deep understanding of the construction industry. He has served this niche market for more than 25 years. Brian is active on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and regularly contributes to the Construction Marketing InSITE Newsletter, Construction Marketing Straight Talker Blog, and various trade publications.)
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