Have you ever used a social media management tool that promised to deliver magnanimous results “on autopilot”? Who doesn’t want to try the latest social media management tool? What these tools don’t tell you is that things can go terribly wrong. And when they do, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do. Those of us managing social media accounts struggle to get it all done and keep our social media accounts growing consistently. If we only used native social channels and manually tried to grow our channels, we would spend more than a few hours per day on those tasks alone.
There’s a time and a place for automation. But before you sign up for that social media automation tool, you need to understand exactly what each tool does to your account and how those actions will affect your account.
What could possibly go wrong on Twitter?
- Your account may end up liking a porn tweet.
- You may begin following sketchy characters on Twitter.
- You may RT content that is classified as not safe for work.
- You may end up using an auto follow tool that leaves you with hundreds (or thousands) of irrelevant followers that you’ll need to “clean up.”
- You may unfollow your close friends without realizing it.
- Your Twitter account may be reported/blocked after one too many auto-tweets.
What could go wrong on LinkedIn?
- Your LinkedIn account may get shut down because of viewing too many accounts.
- Your LinkedIn account may get shut down because you sent out too many connection requests.
- You may get messages from your social media channel about “suspicious logins” when apps try to access your account.
- You may wrongly think it’s okay to post the same thing in every LinkedIn group.
And, these mishaps are only a sampling of what could go wrong when you try that hot new social media growth hacking tool.
Follow these steps before signing up for that next great social media tool:
1. Check review sites and actually read the reviews to find out what could happen.
Use a site, like G2Crowd, to research the social media tool you would like to know more about. You can also Google search for “X Tool reviews” or “X Tool vs. Y Tool” to read about more customers’ experiences with that tool. I have found these to be incredibly helpful when determining whether a tool actually does what it says and whether there are any social media side effects to be aware of.
2. Read through the FAQ section before using a new tool.
The FAQ section will tell you a lot about a tool and will often give you clues to what may go wrong with the tool and how to guard against any potential downsides. Many automation tools do have downsides, and the best tools disclose them in their FAQ sections. Beware if the social media tool you are exploring has a sparse FAQ section.
3. Reach out to the customer support team with any questions.
I have found that reaching out to a representative in customer support, as opposed to sales, is the best way to get your questions answered. If you have a concern about something the tool does, reach out directly to their customer support team. Most of the time, you will get a response within 24 hours.
4. Ask a savvy social media manager before using that tool.
If you are still unsure whether to use that social media tool, ask a savvy social media manager whom you trust. If you don’t yet have one, it’s time to strike up a relationship with one on LinkedIn or Twitter. Another option is to post a discussion in an active social media group on LinkedIn asking about other group members’ experiences with that tool or for alternatives.
5. Find out if there’s a no-risk trial or a 30-day money back guarantee.
Nearly all social media tools have one of these policies in place. If they don’t specify one of these policies on their website, I would be wary about signing up for that tool, unless it comes highly recommended by multiple credible sources.
6. Discuss the use of the tool with your clients or managers.
Before you sign up, present the tool to your team or clients to ensure they feel comfortable using the tool with your social media accounts. Be prepared to share all the information you gathered from steps 1-3 with them. Explain what should happen and any potential risks. Full disclosure is a best practice. (And, I’ve learned the hard way!) Explain that you’d like to do a “trial run” with the tool, usually between 14 – 30 days, depending on the tool.
7. After you get approval, sign up for the tool and set your criteria.
Most social media automation tools will walk you step-by-step through this process and provide suggestions for setting your criteria. It’s also smart to look up tutorials on YouTube or via a quick web search to get a third party’s perspective on using the tool.
8. Monitor the tool closely for the first several days.
Be sure you understand exactly how the tool is helping (or hurting) your social media accounts by checking your tool’s dashboard and also the related social channels. This will allow you to make a determination about the value of that tool. If the tool is worth keeping and is generating ROI with minimum side effects, continue using the tool. Be sure to check all your automation tools weekly to monitor performance. You will then notice if the tool ever “misbehaves,” at which time, you should reach out to customer support and/or cancel your subscription.
My final words of advice would be to use caution whenever trying a new social media automation tool. Consider what could go wrong—not only what you hope will go right—before signing up. Do all your research from a skeptic’s point of view. And, if something does go wrong? Take full responsibility for the mistake and make it right as soon as possible.