#CmgrChat – 1/25 – To Automate or Not Automate Your Community

We had 820 tweets in this week’s chat by quite a few talented community managers.  The discussion of automation is always heated because it’s basically efficiency vs. quality to most people.  Does one have to be sacrificed for the other?   From what this chat discussed, neither have to be at the sake of the other.  It’s a divided debate nonetheless, and what’s the right answer?  The reality is, there isn’t one right answer.

The only thing that matters in true community management is that you are there, as the owner of the brand on any social network, to respond and engage with any response that comes into you.  You can automate content as long as you vary up the ways in which you’re putting out information, but if you’re going to schedule for the day, make sure you’re near a device that enables you to answer as soon as possible.

But don’t let me go on and on… let the community speak for itself

Q1. Do you ever schedule posts on social media platforms or internal platforms? (Just yes/no/sometimes – is fine)

There was quite a bit of discussion around this particular topic, but it was very divided with those who answered specifically with yes, no, or sometimes:

  • Yes: 15
  • No: 5
  • Sometimes: 10

Q2) What are best practices if you do schedule? What’s acceptable to schedule? How far out do you schedule?

eliseoras I like to schedule Tweets just a few hours in advance, but only when I’m there to answer responses

eliseoras  I think organic conversation can’t happen if you’re not there to answer users, schedule, but be avail

Turbo_Tats I definitely schedule posts for new content from our blog- I’ve found it noticeably increases both page views and my sanity

SueOnTheWeb My cmty audience is worldwide, so I use Twitterfeed to pull links from discussions onto to cmty Twitter account during off hrs

Historian Never more than 3 to 5 a day and never more than a 3 or 4 days out; things change to fast to plan far out.

evanhamilton Best practices for scheduling: never schedule conversations, find best time for yr audience, check schedule before adding new one

plautmaayan  Again, only on Tumblr, but I’ll schedule some non-time sensitive things (pretty pics) for up to 3 days in the future.

AskTim I schedule event announcements & blog posts that I want to tweet multiple times. Will schedule up to a week in advance.

KellyLux It’ ok to schedule if you have alerts set up. If I know I’m going to be in a lot of meetings I schedule. Also on weekends

eliseoras I also automate Tweets/FB posts for the next day, next week, specific events, promotions. Sometimes up to 6 mo in advance

DavidYarus I tend to schedule in the morning several tweets for that day. I don’t schedule days in advance.

debng You can’t schedule community and you won’t build a community on a bunch of scheduled updates. Then you’re just broadcasting.

KellyLux Timeframe can be from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. Just make sure whatever it is still makes sense, is happening.

jennita I only schedule content tweets, never schedule conversational tweets. #cmgrchat – Only schedule no more than a day out

mbhahn  auto tweeting is like playing music, dont tweet the same tweet the same time each day, switch it up #cmgrchat and space it out

JPedde I don’t schedule posts unless I know I can be there to engage with the responses.

jennita: When Steve Jobs passed, all of twitter was talking about it. It was OBVIOUS who scheduled tweets

Q3) Name a few pros and cons of scheduling content (Please label Q3:PRO or Q3:CON):

jennita PRO Scheduling let’s you SLEEP, pee and eat

QuirkyBean PRO – Easy to forget if you’re busy

eliseoras Pro: Able to keep constant stream on content, when you might be in meeting, forget something important, etc

debng Pro – Gives you a breal Con: If not around to engage, you’re just spamming people

KellyLux PRO: Allows you to be away from your desk/computer doing other things. You’re NEVER allowed to be away from your phone lol

eliseoras Con: Forget you Tweeted, and forget to answer your followers replies until way too late.

OREAinfo CON: You may be irrelevant, or have bad timing

eliseoras Con: Can seem contrived, not organic, robotic, frigid, unfriendly, etc

Historian Con You might miss feedback and engagement possibilities.

jewelfry Con: Seemed good at the time but no longer relevant

candidcomments CON: high engagement when there’s no one actively watching the conversation.

eliseoras Wait, can we talk about Auto DMs, when we talk about automating, scheduling. I LOATHE them

Q4. Is it possible to automate responsibly and keep the quality of your community engagement high?

JohannaScott I don’t believe in automation. It’s social = personal

Historian Moderation is the key. And you should be engaging when ever you can.

sarahpriceless What about total volume of automated content? How much is too much (regardless of balance with engagement)?

mikeschaffer Automation kills credibility. Especially with full-time community managers on staff.

SusanBCole Yes, you just have to be selective and ready to change plans midstream! We all know flexibility is key to this role!

SueOnTheWeb Yes especially where emails are concerned-Trick is to make them as personal as possible & be at other end for a human response

rhogroupee: As long as your ratio is 95% live person to 5% scheduled/automated, you’re probably good. And reply when using the 5%

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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.


  1. […] popped up from #Cmgrchat – on community manager burnout (kinda the source of my problems) and automation ie scheduling issues; with 800 odd tweets per chat unless you take part, a different experience […]