How automation in social media marketing can make you smarter instead of dumber

It’s tempting to try to put your business’s social networking on auto-pilot, but that’s not a way to get great results. Used effectively though, smart automation can be an important part of the game and help real-live humans up their impact in competitive markets.

I’ve used, built and seen examples good and bad of automated social media for years.

Here’s my perspective: The best automation saves time but it doesn’t replace hard work done by hand. Instead, it provides a foundation for you to shift your energy from drudgery and filtering through people and content, over to more high-skill and high-impact work, like responding, replying, resharing and creating great content and strategic connections. Let the machines do what they’re best at, so you as a smart professional can do what you’re best at: thinking and communicating.

Here are some examples of good and bad automation in social media, in my experienced opinion.

Good automation:

  • Discovering new people to know, engage with and market to*
  • Learning about the people you meet*
  • Finding content to learn from or talk about*
  • Filtering signal from noise*
  • Finding the right people hidden in your existing community*
  • Sending regular emails to people who have opted-in to them (we use Hubspot at Little Bird)
  • Alerting you when key target people say or do something online that you could respond to in order to build a relationship (I’ve used a lot of things for this over the years – these days I rely on Twitter mobile app push notifications for high-priority sources)

(* Little Bird can help with these items.)


  • Automatically following people (On Twitter this is a Terms of Service violation)
  • Auto DMing people
  • Auto-posting references to people publicly (I saw a company offer this last night, yuck! When people take just a moment to look, they notice, and you look awful)
  • Asking people to automatically publish content you push through to them, with no editorial input on their part
  • Automatically-cross posting the same content across multiple social networks

You’ll notice that my list of Dos is longer than my list of Don’ts – but the dont’s are big, big don’ts. I do think there are a lot of powerful positive possibilities here, though. I think the possibilitlies are so powerful, for automating discovery and filtering in particular, that I left a great career to build a new one and a company based on these ideas.

That’s my take on it. Used correctly, automating the discovery and filtering part of social media can help you climb to the top of your industry. Used incorrectly, automation makes your brand look awful and turns social media into a net brand negative.

What do you think?

  • Lolly

    Hi Marshall!
    One quick copy editing find:
    “You’ll notice that my list of Dos is longer than my list of Don’ts – but the don’s are big, big don’ts.”
    If you take a look, you’ll see you’re missing the “t” in your second to last “don’ts.”

  • You are awesome, thank you!

  • Lolly

    No prob Marshall!