How to safely use automation tools for your social media channels without being reported as spam

Social media automation often gets a bad rap, mostly because brands abuse it in order to spam and inauthentically boost their followings. 

Social media automation rules
CEO and Co-Founder of GAIN wrote for Social Media Today.  He summed up the rules and does and don’t of social media automation with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn earlier this year.
When used correctly, social media automation can help marketers work more efficiently, and effectively, taking repetitive tasks off their plates so that they have more time to engage with their followers manually.
 51% of brands are currently using some form of marketing automation, and 40% of those not yet using automation are planning to invest in it in the next 12 months.
But as marketing automation grows, its misuse also remains rampant. In an effort to fight the rise of automated spam and the like, social networks are continually updating their policies, and as a result, many are now setting limits on third-party automation tools and narrowing down which activities can be automated.
It’s important that marketers stay on top of these changes, and adjust their social media automation strategies accordingly. Here’s a look at the most significant, recent changes made by social networks regarding automation, and what marketers need to know moving forward.


Twitter automation rules

According to Pew Research, 21% of all American adults use Twitter in some capacity. Given this, keeping Twitter safe and free from spam is a top priority, and the platform recently introduced new rules for spam and automation activities in order to crack down on bots, fake profiles, and other malicious activities.
The introduction of these new policies has received a lot of support, however it’s also caused some uncertainty for marketers.
The most recent changes include limitations or restrictions on:
  • Duplicate content
  • Recycling tweets
  • Simultaneous or bulk actions – such as liking, retweeting, or following

 What marketers should do

The new rules implement broader limitations and restrictions on what marketers can do using social media automation tools. Marketers should avoid posting identical or substantially similar content (posts, replies, or mentions) to one or multiple Twitter accounts at the same time.
As an alternative to posting identical content on multiple accounts, marketers can retweet content from one account using other accounts. Marketers should still avoid any bulk, aggressive, or high-volume automated retweeting. Additionally, they should avoid posting multiple tweets on one or multiple accounts about a trending hashtag or topic with the intent to manipulate or inflate the popularity of the topic.
Using automation tools for Twitter is still very much allowed, however marketers should limit their use for bulk actions, such as retweeting or liking, and perform these actions manually as much as possible. And rather than duplicating and posting the exact same tweets over and over again (i.e., “recycling”), marketers should always alter the copy, and any attached media, where possible, so that the content appears original and organic.
Instagram automation rules
According to Instagram’s own statistics, 80% of users now follow a business on the platform. Last year, Instagram changed its API to allow posting and scheduling to business pages from third-party tools in an effort to help businesses manage their pages more effectively.
Though this change was a major win for brands, Instagram has also set new limitations on third-party tools used to automate commenting and following/unfollowing actions. Anyone using third-party tools to like and comment to generate inauthentic follows automatically will receive a warning to change their passwords, and cut ties with these apps – or risk losing their accounts.


What marketers should do

Instagram has been actively removing fake accounts since at least 2014, however the platform is now utilizing machine learning tools to identify even more inauthentic activity and remove it. Marketers can continue using tools to automate post scheduling, but they should stick with performing all other actions manually.
Because of the crackdown on automated activities, many brands may also see their post engagement numbers dropping, however new features like Instagram Stories and Instagram Live provide additional opportunities to engage audiences.
Instagram Live is growing in popularity, with 100 million people now watching or sharing live content every single day, so marketers should consider adding it to their Instagram strategy in the new year.


Facebook automation rules

Facebook is constantly evolving its policies to fight the spread of misinformation on its platform. The Social Network said that fake accounts are often the root of misinformation, and that it removed more than 1.5 billion fake accounts between April and September 2018.
Last year, Facebook also announced that it would no longer allow third-party tools to post or schedule content directly to personal profile pages automatically. Users have to log onto Facebook to post or schedule content on a personal page.
Additional updates to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm to promote content from users’ friends and family, rather than brand pages, are also prompting marketers to rethink how they promote their brands on the network.

What marketers should do

The goal of Facebook’s new policy approach is to restrict trolls and fake accounts – especially those using personal pages. However, this can cause issues for anyone who has a large following on a personal page. For marketers who’ve focused on personal branding efforts, or for anyone who uses automation tools to supply content to personal pages, unfortunately, manually scheduling and publishing content to personal pages is the only option for the time being.
Business Pages have been experiencing declining levels of engagement for some time, and some marketers are even wondering whether Facebook marketing is still worthwhile anymore. Despite the recent changes, Facebook remains an essential component of any social media marketing strategy. The goal of the updated algorithm is to drive more authentic interactions.
Marketers who focus on creating high-quality, authoritative content – especially video content – will still be able to drive real, organic interactions, clicks, and shares.
Facebook’s also heavily promoting Facebook Groups, and now allows business Pages to join groups and interact as a business or brand. Marketers should consider creating their own groups for customers to join, or join relevant local or industry groups to engage with current customers, and get in front of new ones.


LinkedIn automation rules

Unlike the other social networks mentioned, LinkedIn doesn’t support as many third-party automation tools. Scheduling LinkedIn updates on personal and business pages via third-party applications is allowed. however the platform doesn’t permit any third-party “crawlers,” bots, browser plugins or extensions, or any other software that scrapes, modifies, or automates activities on the site.

What marketers should do

Despite these restrictions, there are many tools that marketers can use to automate key activities on LinkedIn – but those users do run the risk of having their accounts shut down or restricted by taking advantage of such options.
Marketers should be wary of any tool which promises to automatically view LinkedIn profiles, scrape emails from LinkedIn, or automatically message users. For marketers that use LinkedIn InMail for sales-related activities, focus on being authentic, and be careful not to send the exact same message to everyone.


The advantages of social media automation

Social networks are constantly changing, which is a never-ending challenge for digital marketers to keep up with. At the same time, marketers have to also find new ways to engage their audiences, and are increasingly expected to respond to queries at record speeds.
Performing all of these activities manually, and keeping up with conversations across multiple channels, is impossible without automation tools. But by staying on top of each network’s automation policies, marketers can be smart about their social media automation strategies, and avoid getting blocked or banned.
Source: Social Media Today, 20 January 2019
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