Cheap social media automation for small business
These 5 cheap cloud-based apps will help you automate your small business social media accounts without breaking the bank.
These are the tools that I have personally trialled and used in my own business. The tools you use will depend on your target market, but I hope these prove useful to you.
Firstly, let me say; I’m not a marketing expert (or worse, a social media ninja!). I’m a small business owner specialising in Business Process Improvement. Automation and streamlining are close to my heart.
Share content on social media automatically - Buffer
Having decided which social media platforms to target, then social media starts with sharing. If you haven’t yet figured out which platforms are right for your business then look at this excellent run down on thenextweb.com.
Once you have targeted certain social media platforms, then we share updates, articles, tips, quotes or whatever. The marketing world calls this “content”. This is where your social media marketing automation should start.
Buffer schedules your content throughout the day. It can be posting to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus or Instagram account at any time of the day or night. This feature alone means you can streamline your social media processes by sharing “in bulk”. Buffer starts with a free version. But the “Awesome” plan (for $10 or about £8) allows you to connect 10 accounts, and schedule up to 100 posts in advance. Plenty for a small business.
The best feature of Buffer, in my opinion, is the RSS integration. You can link up to 15 RSS feeds to your Buffer account and these will fill a Content Inbox with relevant articles for you to share. We have linked Buffer to BBC Business, Entreprenuer.com, BusinessAdvice.co.uk, Harvard Business Review to allow us to quickly share articles from these sources.
Buffer also comes with a free Chrome Extension to easily add interesting content to your Buffer queues from anywhere on the internet.
Alternative: Hootsuite is a very popular choice for social media sharing, with 10 million plus users. Hootsuite starts at £8 per month, and it queues up your posts and spreads them throughout the day just like Buffer. It also features RSS integrations and a Chrome Extension. I found the user interface on Buffer easier to use.
Automatically find relevant social media users to follow - CrowdFire
The single best way to gain followers on Twitter is to follow other people. Twitter will notify each person you follow, and will even email them your Bio, with a follow button underneath it. This makes it very easy to reach large numbers of people quickly. Just make sure you have completed your bio!
Just remember why you want more followers… to gain more customers, right? Be very specific when targeting Twitter users, as you won’t gain anything from having a large following of people who would never buy your product.
To quote Ted Rubin:
Make your social connections count or they won’t be worth counting.
CrowdFire links to your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest accounts. You can then list similar accounts or hashtags and find users who are relevant to your business. CrowdFire will then list 30 to 50 of them each day for you to follow. Not exactly automatic following, but the closest you can get to it without being in breach of Twitter’s rules. Twitter takes a dim view of spam and “aggressive following”!
CrowdFire has a limited free version, but it doesn’t allow you to hide previously followed users, so you may end up following the same person twice – not a good first impression! The cheapest paid plan is their “Pluto” plan, which costs just under $10, or about £8. They have other plans too which allow you to add more accounts. These range from $20 (£16) to $200 (£159) per month.
Alternative: Tweepi does a similar job, but only for your Twitter account. When listing Twitter users, Tweepi also includes their location, allowing you to target local users. Tweepi also lets you add users to Twitter lists, another good way to reach out to potential customers. Tweepi comes in two flavours: Silver and Platinum. These cost $13 (£10) per month or $25 (£20). To user Twitter lists, you’d need a Silver subscription. To include a history of previous followers/unfollowers, you’d need a Platinum subscription.
And finally before we move on, a FREE TIP from Donna Moritz founder of SociallySorted.com.au: Include an extra link to your website, blog or content within your bio. Remember, this will be emailed to everyone you follow.
Optimise your social media sharing schedule - Audiense
Knowing when to share content can be just as important as what to share. Twitter is especially fast moving. Back in 2012 Peter Bray performed some in-depth analysis that concluded that the half-life of a tweet is 18 minutes. According to wersm the average lifespan of a tweet is only 24 minutes. If none of your audience are online during that short window, then your message will get lost among the millions of other competing messages. So, it is important to share your content when the most people are listening.
The Free version of Audiense includes a “Best time to Tweet” feature. Link Audiense to your twitter account and it will produce some lovely graphs which highlight the times when most of your followers are online.
Audiense can then automatically update your Buffer posting schedule to ensure you post at the optimum times. I admit it, I personally like to keep control of my posting schedule, so don’t do this automatically. I occasionally manually update my Buffer schedule using the data from Audiense.
Paid versions of Audiense start at $31 or £25 per month. The “Professional” version includes Twitter list management, DM campaigns, people finders, force unfollow and tons of analytics.
Include hashtags in your social media marketing - RiteTag
Hashtags help connect your tweets to a particular topic that others may be interested in. Tweets with hashtags get 2x more engagement.
Finding the right hashtag is not always easy. For example, #entrepreneur gets 16.86 million exposures per hour on Twitter (source: ritetag.com), whereas #entrepreneurs - only one character different - gets a 16th of that exposure (source: ritetag.com).
RitePush from RiteKit can automatically add suitable hashtags to posts in your Buffer queue. To use RitePush you need a RiteForge plan – so this will cost you $44 or £35 per month. Of course, you can just visit RiteTag.com for free to do some hashtag analysis – but we are looking for ways to automate this, right?!
Alternative: dlvr.it also offer auto hashtagging with their content curation tool. It doesn’t appear to be linked to actual tag reach statistics though. Still, they have a free plan, and even their “Pro” plan is only $10 or £8 per month.
Automatically add a Call to Action to every social media post - Sniply.
It is important that your social shares don’t consistent entirely of self-promotional material. Who would want to follow a constant stream of adverts? Actionable or intriguing content is the best way to keep people interested. As a small business, you will not have an endless store of relevant content to share, so sharing other people’s content is the best way to do this. Wouldn’t it be great to include a link back to your website, or some other “call to action” on every article you share?
Sniply does just that. Sniply overlays a call to action on your shared content. Link to a useful article on BBC Business, but add a discreet link to your own content in the corner of the screen. Excellent! A couple of good things about Sniply; Firstly, it starts with a limited free plan that includes up to 1,000 clicks per month. Secondly, it integrates with Buffer’s RSS feeds to provide custom links straight in to your Buffer feed. Literally, no manual intervention required.
Alternative: Rite.ly from RiteKit starts at $15 (£12) per month for up to 5,000 clicks, and can be automated using RitePush (mentioned above).
Also worthy of a mention: The awesomely named Tiddly link was developed by the nice people at London-based The Website Group, and starts at £25 per month. The Tiddly link home page includes a very good explanation of how these Call to Action tools work.
Total cost of automating your social media marketing
And there you have it, the Who, What, When, Why and How of social media automation.
And all for only £51 per month. If you budget won’t even stretch this far, drop RitePush and you have most of this for only £16 a month!
Finally, we have to acknowledge that you won't be able to automate every aspect of your social media campaigns. That is the point. Social media is meant to be social, so it does need human interaction. Hopefully though, with these tools you'll be able to spend less time on the mundane and more time on the social part!
Right, over to you. Have you had a good or bad experience with social media automation, or do you have any tips to share? Do tell us about them in the comments section below.
This article represents my own experiences and opinions – and isn’t professional advice. If you would like help streamlining or automating your operations, please contact me for a consultation.
Prices and exchange rates correct as at 17th April 2017.
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About the author
Middlestone Business Analysis helps small businesses achieve more with their existing resources. We help reorganise operations, automate tasks and install customised processes and systems to keep small businesses organised and to speed up administrative work. To learn more, visit our services page.
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