Automation Isn’t Smart Enough to Replace a Social Media Team

If you’ve ever worked in social media or digital marketing for a brand, chances are you’ve had your fair share of moments when panic sunk in as you’ve realized something that should not be live on your channels was published.

As someone who has worked in the space for 14 years, I can tell you those moments are some of the worst, especially when the messaging is something that negatively affects your consumers and can lead to breaking their trust in your brand.

That’s exactly what happened recently when KFC sent out a promotional alert on its app telling their customers in Germany to treat themselves to commemorate Kristallnacht—the 1938 Nazi-led pogrom widely considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust.

KFC sent out a message soon after, apologizing and stating that the unapproved message was sent in error through a semi-automated push notification on its app linked to calendars that include national observances. By that point, however, it had already received backlash on social media.

The bottom line is someone should have reviewed the calendars to make sure the content being distributed was appropriate and relevant to intended audiences. If someone had done their due diligence, they would have flagged it as inappropriate.

But this incident raises a couple other points that all brands with a digital footprint should consider when building their strategy, such as the drawbacks of scheduling social and digital posts, and what happens when there is a lack of human quality control over editorial calendars.

Unfortunately, we continue to see many companies that still don’t consider social media as important as other marketing jobs or one that requires more than a one-person team. Many brands are becoming more reliant on automated tools to do a lot of the critical editorial development, therefore lacking strategic planning around their calendars.

While there are benefits and needs for companies to schedule some posts, there are also pitfalls, especially with automated pushes, so it’s crucial for brands to assess the systems and processes they have in place.

Breaking brand trust

Sometimes when you are scheduling several days’ or weeks’ worth of activity at once for various pages, things can get mixed up. A post may end up on the wrong channel, with the wrong messaging or scheduled for the wrong day or time, and you won’t know until the post goes live and, you guessed it, your customers flag it to you first online.

But if that message is offensive, it will not only make your brand seem inept and insensitive—it will make your brand come off as impersonal, and customers will notice right away, especially when prescheduled posts are irrelevant to the intended audience or to current or breaking news.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen brands go live with posts about product launches or premieres in the middle of tragic breaking news, all because posts had been scheduled and teams had forgotten to pause them.

That is why it’s especially important for brands to have a team who knows what content is being distributed and where, and ensuring it is appropriate. You can’t rely on machines or tools to do that for you.

Coming off as out of touch

When something like the Kristallnacht message goes out because of an automated process, and you don’t have a team checking editorial calendars for multiple pages and markets, brands risk coming off as out of touch, negatively affecting their brand equity.

Another issue that contributes to appearing out of touch is when scheduled key posts or messages go live at a time when no one from the team will be available to notice activity from their audience and not being able to respond in real time.

There are benefits to companies that choose to schedule promotional posts, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that automating the function comes with a lot of risks that might outweigh those benefits.

Reaching audiences

When done with the necessary checks and processes in place to review editorial content and strategies before publication, scheduling posts can be beneficial to companies looking to reach customers in different markets and time zones at peak times to maximize media consumption and awareness. This still requires a level of human nuance—what is relevant to one audience is not necessarily relevant to another.

Saving time

Creating and pushing out promotional posts can be time-consuming, especially those with lean social and digital teams. Scheduling posts ahead can open up critical time for teams to work on other aspects of their jobs that help drive impact and growth for the company. That said, having human quality control and making sure that someone is actually reviewing content and messaging is crucial.

There is a lot of work and time that go into managing social and digital spaces for companies. Those who think scheduling and automated tools will help to better manage efficiencies should also consider the potential pitfalls when assessing their best approach to building out their digital strategy.

Whichever direction brands decide to take, they need to have a process in place to make sure their editorial content strategy is always relevant and resonates with their intended audience.

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