The Dangers of Automated Posts

Consistently creating and curating intriguing content is a full-time job. Thankfully, there are online tools on the market that simplify this with the help of social media automation, the process of writing posts for social media networks and scheduling them for a future time. While these tools are a lifesaver for community managers, they also have the potential to create a public relations nightmare.


There’s no way around social media automation. In order to generate a consistent flow of content across multiple networks, it’s necessary to schedule content ahead of time. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict the future. If your scheduled posts hit the Internet during the height of a national or global news story, your content could come off as insensitive or self-serving. Brands being publicly humiliated by automated-post gaffes have become a weekly occurrence.


Those outside of the marketing, media and PR industries are generally unaware that brands schedule posts weeks and even months in advance. But even those who are in the know about the strategy behind automated posts are quick to criticize when an automated post goes awry. Known as “scheduling and forgetting,” simply scheduling hundreds of social media posts and releasing those posts without supervision is a dangerous tactic. Automated posts must be monitored across their lifespan.


NRA Screen Shot

The NRA sent this automated post only hours after the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre massacre (

As a general rule, your community manager should check your automated post schedule several times a day. Any post that could be construed as insensitive or cause the public to believe that you’re trying to benefit from another’s misfortune should be deleted. A talented community manager has their thumb on the pulse of the news. They should have no trouble recognizing news stories that could collide with your automated posts.



The Undesired Consequences of Automated Direct Messages

Another type of automated post that can be equally damaging is the automated direct message (DM). They’re an incredibly annoying tactic by marketers to auto-respond to new followers without giving a second thought to the recipient of the message. The message, usually an invitation to “check out” a new product or service, is composed ahead of time and instantly blasted out the moment a new follower clicks the “Follow” icon.


What automated direct messages are most useful for is causing new followers to become former followers. Everyone hates automated DMs. Please stop sending them. In fact, these messages are so heinous, the popular social media dashboard Hootsuite refuses to add the capability to their dashboard. Automated DMs are more than annoying, they make brands come off as robotic and unengaged, two things you don’t want to be known for on social media.


Bank of America Tweet

Bank of America sent these DMs during Occupy Wall Street (Media Bistro)

Automated DMs are also dangerous when used as customer service. Robo-replies to unique questions and concerns make brands look out of touch, unavailable, and even insensitive.


Automated Posts Done Right

They’re not all bad. Automated posts are a great way to keep audiences engaged, no matter the time of the day. If your community manager is like the rest of us, he or she likes to get a few hours of sleep at night, making automated posts a necessity. Schedule posts several weeks in advance, but anything more than that is asking for trouble.


Integrate auto-scheduling with real-time interactions. Have a batch of automated posts going out? Keep an eye on them. If there’s a breaking or viral news story your brand can engage with, stop your automated posts and create new content to coincide with the news.


Create automated posts that coincide with holidays and special events. Sporting events, in particular, are a great way to engage audiences and participate in conversations. Again, be careful. If you schedule a tweet to go out during the World Series, please make sure the game hasn’t been postponed because of rain.


The most important thing to remember about automated posts is that you must monitor them, and always have someone available to hit “delete.”


How do you feel about automated posts? Share your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.