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What Is Social Media Automation? [FAQs & Time-Saving Tools]

Social media automation is using software tools to reduce the amount of time spent on social media tasks that don’t require a human touch.

Christina Newberry April 13, 2022
Man in hat types on a laptop.

Creating, posting, and analyzing content across so many touchpoints can take an overwhelming amount of time. Unless, of course, you engage in some social media automation

We’re not talking about bots here. We’re talking about using social media automation tools that benefit marketers and audiences alike. That means reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks, decreasing response time, and giving you the time and data you need to create more engaging content.

Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to quickly and easily plan your own strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.

What is social media automation?

Social media automation is the process of reducing the manual labor required to manage social media accounts by using automation software.

Automating post scheduling, basic customer service, and producing analytics reports can free up hours of time for social media managers to work on higher-level tasks.

What are the benefits of social media automation?

The major benefits that social media automation can provide are:

  1. Reduction in the time required to create and schedule social media posts
  2. Reduced customer service response time
  3. Increased data collection for analytical reporting and decision-making
  4. Increased brand awareness and engagement

How much does social media automation cost?

The price for social media automation can run the gamut from free to 1,000’s of dollars per month. The cost all depends on your needs!

At Hootsuite, we have a range of plans that go from literally nothing, all the way up to $739 USD per month. 

You need to answer a few questions to determine your automation needs:

  • Do you need to schedule posts in advance?
  • Need help responding to and managing comments, chats, and interactions?
  • How in-depth are your reporting needs?
  • Is managing large campaigns across multiple networks an issue you’ll face?

Once you have those answers, the final pricing factor is considering which social media networks are you using.

Some automation tools are specific to certain networks, while others (usually the more expensive ones) support multiple platforms.

After going through all of that, let’s be clear: Not all social media tasks can or should be automated.

This may sound obvious, but you should avoid any automation tactic that makes your brand look lazy, spammy, or fake.

For instance, paid bots that like, follow and comment are painfully obvious to savvy social media users. However, some #goodbots can provide helpful information to followers.

The key is to use smart social media automation in ways that help, rather than hurt, your credibility and online relationships.

Let’s take a look at the kinds of automation that work and the kinds that should be left in the grimy corners of digital marketing.

How to use social media automation the right way

Here are some day-to-day tasks that are prime candidates for social media marketing automation.

We’ll show you some automated social media marketing software tools to help with all these tasks at the end of this post.

Scheduling and publishing

Logging in and out of different social accounts to publish multiple times per day can eat up a lot of time. Especially because the best time to post varies by platform.

This is a case where social media automation saves time and increases efficiency without reducing content quality. Dedicate a block of time to content creation. Then, use automated social media posting to schedule the appropriate post times on each network.

Data collection and reporting

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of marketers automate their marketing measurement and attribution. The remaining one-third are either:

  • missing out on key insights from marketing data, or…
  • …spending way too much time collecting and analyzing it manually.

Basic customer service

Automating customer interactions was one of the top use cases for marketing artificial intelligence tools in 2021. Yet, the Hootsuite Social Transformation Report found that only 13% of organizations increased their use of customer interaction automation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You don’t need a human team member to answer common questions like “What are your hours?” and “Do you have any coupons available?” Likewise, you can automate service requests related to package tracking, refund status, and other issues that are tied to your CRM.

La Vie En Rose Facebook chatbot

Source: La Vie En Rose on Facebook

Social commerce

Well-designed customer interaction AI can also:

  • walk potential customers through the buying process
  • provide personalized product recommendations
  • increase conversions through social channels.

Simons retailer Facebook chatbot

Source: Simons on Facebook

Social monitoring and listening

Social monitoring and listening allow you to understand the social conversation about your brand, your industry, and your competitors. They provide valuable market research and business intelligence you can use to guide your social media strategy.

Manually seeking out relevant content in which you’re not directly tagged can be time-consuming. So, it’s a good idea to put an automated social listening strategy in place.

Social ads management

To get the most from your social ads budget, you need to:

  • test ads
  • track results
  • allocate spending
  • determine placements

Automating these time-consuming tasks frees you up to dedicate more time to crafting great copy and other advertising assets.

The DONTs of social media automation

DON’T use spammy bots

The number one lesson here is to use bots for good, not evil. Embrace bots that help make customers’ lives better as well as your own.

AI chatbots that speed up customer service response times? Great. An inbox to manage DMs, comments, and tags from multiple networks in one place? Excellent.

But bots that automatically comment on or like social posts? Not such a good idea. They can cause lasting damage to your relationships with your audience. They can also land you in hot water with the social networks themselves.

DON’T post the same message to every network

Cross-posting the same content to multiple social media accounts might seem like the easiest option. But it’s certainly not the most effective.

Some tools (including social media platforms themselves) offer you the option to automatically cross-post to other platforms. Don’t be tempted.

Social platforms have different image display ratios and word count allowances. Audiences on those different platforms have different expectations, demographics, and word preferences. It’s highly unlikely one post will meet all those various requirements and expectations.

Instead, take the extra time to adjust your message for each platform’s audience. At the bare minimum, you’ll want to check and adjust:

  • User handles
  • Image specs (file type, size, cropping, etc.)
  • Text based on character count
  • Hashtags (number and usage)
  • Your vocabulary (i.e., retweet vs. regram vs. share)

Instead of cross-posting, use automated social media publishing at set times to use your time most efficiently.

DON’T “set it and forget it”

Bulk scheduling to automate your social media posts is a great way to use social media automation to increase efficiency. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your publishing schedule and make any adjustments required in real-time.

World-changing crises happen all the time on social media, and a poorly timed post can make your brand look out-of-touch or tactless.

So, batch-schedule your posts, but know what’s happening internally and out in the world. Be prepared to pause, reschedule, or cancel upcoming social posts and campaigns as events require.

DON’T babysit your ads

Ads cost money, and poorly optimized ads cost more money. The added pressure of a diminishing budget can make it tough to tear yourself away from your ads dashboards. But ads are so data-driven that automation is often the best strategy.

One of the easiest shortcuts is to use a tool (like, for instance, Hootsuite Boost) to automatically promote top-performing organic content. If you have a home-run post on your hands, throw some dollars at it to give it the best chance of snowballing. Hootsuite Boost automates that trigger so it happens whether you’re at your desk staring at it, or not.

Split-testing (or A/B testing) your social ads is another area where automation can really help you hit your KPIs.

10 social media automation tools to help you work smarter (not harder)

We’ve divided our favorite social media automation tools into categories to keep it simple. Choose the areas you want to focus on first and have a look at the tools that can help.

Publishing and scheduling

1. Hootsuite Publisher

This is our favorite social media scheduling tool for obvious reasons. It features a “Best Time to Publish” feature that suggests the best time to post for your audience. It allows you to post more, high-quality content in less time.

Best time to post on Instagram to boost engagement

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You can also customize the content of a single post for multiple platforms. This maximizes efficiency while avoiding the concerns about cross-posting mentioned above.

And, of course, Hootsuite allows you to bulk schedule up to 350 posts at a time. This automated social media posting allows you to focus more on content creation and less on pressing Post.

2. Facebook Business Suite

If you primarily use Facebook (ahem *Meta*) platforms, Facebook Business Suite provides some great tools to help you automate your social media posts, Stories, ads, and analytics.

Data collection and reporting

3. Hootsuite Analyze

When you have solid data about what works for your brand, social media marketing gets a bit less scary. It also becomes more effective and produces better ROI.

Most social platforms offer native analytics tools. But it can be a huge drain on your time to analyze each platform separately and compile manual reports.

Automated, customized social media reporting through Hootsuite Analyze allows you to measure your content performance as often as you like. You’ll get real-time updates and high-level overviews for quarterly or annual reviews.

Customer interactions for service and social commerce

4. Heyday

Heyday automated inquiries and order tracking

Source: Heyday

Heyday can automate routine queries and order tracking. An AI-powered sales automation assistant provides product recommendations and increases conversions through social channels.

Proprietary natural-language programming models allow the AI virtual assistant to answer more than 80% of customer queries. For more complex requests, there’s a seamless handoff to human agents.

Heyday allows customers to reach you through:

5. Sparkcentral

Sparkcentral uses an automated messaging distribution platform to manage customer interactions. This aligns your customer care across online chat, social channels, and messaging.

Virtual agents help resolve basic customer queries, and even step in to automate portions of conversations that involve agents.

Sparkcentral syncs with your CRM so you always have a complete view of your customers.

6. Hootsuite Inbox

Hootsuite Inbox allows you to manage conversations and mentions across all of your social platforms from one dashboard. You can also use the Saved Replies feature to automatically address common interactions.

Social monitoring and listening

7. Hootsuite Insights powered by Brandwatch

This tool helps automate social listening, with instant analysis of social conversations in real-time. It provides alerts of spikes in social conversation or sentiment. This automatically informs you of potential crises or viral hits before they happen.

Ads management

8. Hootsuite Social Advertising

Hootsuite Social Advertising allows you to test hundreds of Facebook and Instagram ads, then automatically reallocate your budget to the best-performing ones. It ensures you’re targeting the right audiences with the right metrics for maximum ROI.

You can automatically boost your budget, or even start a new campaign, based on pre-set triggers. This tool will even provide daily automatic ad performance recommendations.

Finally, Hootsuite Social Advertising syncs your CRM or email list to your Facebook ad account, so you always have up-to-date custom audiences.

Content creation

9. Lately

Lately is an AI copywriting tool. It studies your brand voice and your audience’s preferences to build a custom “writing model” for your brand (it accounts for your brand voice, sentence structure, and even keywords relevant to your online presence). 

When you feed any text, image, or video content into Lately, the AI converts it into social media copy, reflecting your unique writing style. For example, if you upload a webinar into Lately, the AI will automatically transcribe it — and then create dozens of social posts based on the video content. All you have to do is review and approve your posts.

Lately integrates with Hootsuite, so once your posts are ready, you can schedule them for automatic publication with just a few clicks. Easy!

10. Pictory

Need social video, but don’t have the time, skills, or equipment to produce it? You’ll love Pictory. Using this AI tool, you can turn text into quality videos with just a few clicks. 

How does it work? You copy and paste text into Pictory, and AI automatically creates custom video based on your input, pulling from a vast library of over 3 million royalty-free video and music clips. 

Pictory integrates with Hootsuite, so you can easily schedule your videos for publication without ever leaving their dashboard.

Save time on social media by using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can plan and schedule content, respond to comments and @mentions, run ads, and measure performance. Try it for free today.

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By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

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