Social media is not for the lazy. It can take energy, concentration, and the devotion of time to read Facebook updates from friends, engage in conversations, and read and reply to those you follow on Twitter. If you have a blog or use other platforms like YouTube or Tumblr, your time investment can add up to hours per day. Some like to think of this investment as “procrastination.” But what if using social media is a component of your job — and you just don’t have enough hours of the day to accomplish all of this social marketing? What if there were apps that could do all of your social media for you?

There are. In fact, there are dozens of tools available for social media users that can help automate the social media process. Many people utilize services like SocialOomph to automatically send direct messages to new followers. Many social media experts advise against this tactic, but several businesses use this feature well. Instead of asking your new followers to read your blog or friend you on Facebook, you can leverage the automated process to offer a discount by asking a customer to show you the auto DM on their smart phone the next time they shop at your store. For many, though, using automated DMs actually just makes you look like a spammy bot and will cause your new followers to turn around and immediately unfollow you, instead.

Why Automating Social Media Makes You Look Like a JerkAnother way to automate your social media accounts, including Facebook, is by using a program like Twitterfeed to automatically source blog posts and update your social media accounts when new articles are posted from these blogs. I actually utilize this feature to automatically share my blog posts on my Twitter account. We have a structured editorial process at LockerGnome, so I may not be at my computer when our editors publish my blog posts, but I’d like to share these posts with my Twitter followers as soon as possible. However, I am finding that these tweets get less traction than tweets I share that are organic and “tease” the post, as Chris Pirillo likes to say, rather than automatically shoots out the blog post title and link. In fact, I get about twice as many clicks on links that include a descriptive thought related to the article (with a link) than the title of the article itself (with a link).

Why Automating Social Media Makes You Look Like a JerkAnother method of automation is scheduling social media posts. Most third- party apps feature the ability to schedule Twitter posts, and some feature the ability to schedule Facebook and Google+ updates. With these apps, users create the posts and add media and links. Finally, they can choose future times to send out their social media updates. You may have heard about some celebrities getting “caught” for using this method, such as when Paris Hilton tweeted she was “in bed watching Family Guy,” when she was actually getting arrested. This incident with Paris can unfortunately happen to anyone — especially since we’re less likely to have an assistant with access to our Twitter account to cancel any pending social media updates. If you are not managing social media for a business and only have a small following of friends and family, your friends may be especially confused when your Twitter account updates while you are at a family barbecue or otherwise nowhere near your smart phone or computer. Since you are probably not a celebrity, acting like one by automating your social media like this will only make you look like a jerk.

If you manage social media, the one app that could potentially make you look like the biggest jerk is one that actually does your job for you. One of these apps is Buffer, which allows you to input several tweets you’d like to publish in the next 24 hours, and then it automatically schedules them based on when it believes your tweet will reach the most of your followers. Before it schedules your tweets, Buffers shows you which times are the best for you to tweet, so I took a look at what Buffer could do for my Twitter account. I was advised that 6 am, 8 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, and 8:15 pm were the best times to reach my Twitter followers. Buffer reported nearly identical times for Chris Pirillo as well. Obviously, we both tweet more than just five times per day; in fact, Chris tweets a few times per hour from the minute he wakes up (about 7 am) until the minute he goes to bed (about midnight). I’m much the same way, though I tend to wake up a little later. Would using a tool like Buffer make a difference?

Buffer automate TwitterProbably not, as using Buffer solves a problem that anyone who needs to use the app should be solving by knowing the demographic of those they are trying to reach. Buffer advises to tweet several times within a 14-hour range, which effectively covers the timezones where our fans and followers live. at 6 am, our East Coast and European followers are at work or awake in some capacity, and as we move through the day, we reach our entire North American following, and by 8 pm those who are waking up on the other side of the International Date Line are checking Twitter and Facebook. If you’re on Twitter, especially as a brand or business, it is critical to know who follows you to ensure you’re reaching the right market — and to make sure that your message is appropriate for your followers. Knowing that less than 17% of my followers actually live in Seattle, for example, means I should tweet less about Seattle and more about topics that impact my followers on at least a national (if not global) level. If you don’t know when to tweet, it is because you likely don’t have the answer to these questions — and using an automated tool like Buffer will not solve that problem for you.

As I mentioned earlier, automating your social media campaign can be beneficial when executed with good intentions and not because the app allows an easy (or lazy) way out of doing your job or building your personal brand. Otherwise, our followers will see right through these tactics and they will instead negatively impact not only your social media campaign, but your reputation. Before using the next bleeding-edge third-party app for Twitter or Facebook, consider asking yourself whether the automation will really help you achieve your goals.

Do you automate your social media accounts? If so, let us know which tools or apps are your favorite in the comments.