I’m a big fan of automation. When I met my now-wife, she was writing out checks each month for various bills – a time consuming process that could easily be accomplished with auto-bill pay. In no time, that’s just what she did. No more checks, and no more stamps. Routine tasks should be automated. What should not be put on auto-pilot is content creation and promotion, particularly with respect to social media.
The world of professional services PR has changed rapidly, even in the relatively short time I have called it my career. Intense cost-cutting has reshaped publications ranging from national to local on both the general consumer and professional trade sides. B2B companies – such as architecture, accounting and law firms – have gradually come to embrace content creation (robust, well-maintained blogs and byline articles) and content promotion (especially social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter) as a key part of their promotional and thought-leadership strategies. With this dynamic, the temptation to take time-saving shortcuts, such as automation, is great.
The issues with “set-it-and-forget-it” content promotion strategies are multiple:
- One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all offer different promotional tools and reach audiences in different ways and at different points in their day. Twitter’s character restriction has made it the birthplace of many social media posts, with companies dropping the same skinny content into LinkedIn and Facebook. Alternately, Facebook’s truly awful option of posting to Twitter simply redirects viewers to Facebook, forcing them to leave a platform where they are actively engaged. If asked, do you want to link your LinkedIn to Facebook or your Twitter to LinkedIn, just firmly answer, “No.”
- The Perils of Scheduled Promotions – One of the core functions of an engaged communications team is to offer companies constant assessments of both the media landscape and how current events – locally, nationally and internationally – can affect messaging. A company does not want to be posting a jovial tweet when a serious international tragedy hits. Timing matters (in real time).
- You Can’t Sell the Steak Without the Sizzle – Basic social media posts follow the old Dragnet saying, “Just the facts, ma’am” – post title and URL generally. This means that the opportunity to tag authors, publications mentioned (especially if promoting a media mention) and add hashtags are lost. READ: “Steak.” By engaging communications teams to craft bespoke, platform-specific promotions, the reader is far more likely to be engaged. READ: “Delicious, Kobe beef steak served with garlic mashed potatoes and a truffle demi-glaze.” Communicators are adept at pulling out and highlighting salient passages and creating eye-catching headlines.
- Unappetizing Leftovers – The “set-it-and-forget-it” options also mean that repeat promotions are all the same and all quite vanilla. Rather than highlighting an alternate part of the content in question, they basically churn out a generic invitation. If your automation strategy turned your beautiful grass-fed steak into a hardened piece of shoe leather, you are unlikely to entice any more diners with the next “promotion.”
- Automation = Disengagement – Personally and professionally, social media proficiency takes work. We are gradually transitioning from heavy professional services rejection of these platforms as too juvenile/opaque/avant garde to more (somewhat begrudging) acknowledgement of their importance. As such, many companies are at the point where they know they need to have a presence, but don’t quite know how to go about doing so. One option is to pursue the automation strategy. But, in addition to the aforementioned deficits associated with this path, it often hampers organizational social media understanding. Accounts are basically rooms that no one goes into and checks for engagement. Retweets, likes and interactions with clients and members of the community – all image- and brand-enhancing – go ignored.
Great content deserves great, creative and considered promotional campaigns. For professional services companies, where the key differentiators in the marketplace aren’t tangible, physical attributes, creating, packaging and promoting content to clients, potential clients and referral sources is impactful and thought-leadership is essential. Pay your cable bill automatically. Don’t automate your content.