You’ve probably heard the term "automation" get thrown around a conference table or two before.
Maybe it was in your company’s last marketing meeting? Perhaps by the new guy with the beard, who interjects with even more buzzwords like “simplified external communication systems” and “maximized audience engagement” whenever he can get a word in?
We hear you, beard dude; we all want to simplify and maximize! And automating our marketing processes is a way to do that. But let’s define automation first.
Our good friends at Mailchimp define marketing automation as:
a “process that enables technology to take over repetitive marketing tasks from people, freeing people to focus on strategy."
By automating tasks or content that take up too much of your time, or that you have to do for every customer or constituent, you can deliver your messages more consistently and effectively. Automation can even free you up for things like vacation (or when you just seriously need a break).
Good marketers and content creators can’t discuss social media without mentioning an automation tool, because it's a timesaver and because tools are neat. But great marketers and content creators use automation selectively and effectively.
Here’s why automation tools are fab:
Time: Contrary to popular belief, content creation and social media management is. not. easy. If you’ve ever felt the head-scratching frustration of wondering what to post next on LinkedIn, or the anxiety of looking at a declining open rate on your emails because you’re writing fewer and fewer emails, you know what we mean. Pre-scheduling content alleviates that stress and can increase productivity, which gives you more time to run other aspects of your business.
Curation: If you set up your automation tools well, you can also curate what messages are going to which segment of your audience ahead of time, which means your messages are more personalized, appropriate, and appreciated. With some simple tools and some time spent on set-up, you don’t even have to think about it; yalue is just going right to the people who want it most.
🚨 But watch out, young marketing padawan! 🚨
Too much automation can be bad. Here’s why:
You might lose the “social” in social media: Pre-loading content so you can walk away from your social media channels and do other things sounds AWESOME, right? But it is virtually impossible to sound like a real human if you just put your brand on cruise control. Remember, publishing content is only half of the work. Replying to comments and liking and commenting on the posts of other individuals and brands is just as crucial!
You might have bad timing: While scheduling ahead of time is a great way to avoid the stress of creation and ideation in the first place, don’t rely completely on your scheduling channels to produce all of your posts. Leave some room in your posting schedule for fresh and creative content. And, if there’s breaking news that your entire community is talking about, stop your pre-scheduled content for a while. You don’t want to be the one talking about your latest sale when something really serious is going on in the world.
Finding the right automation tools for your business that complement your working style and your communication style can have big benefits. Your content becomes more concise, clear and consistent, and your audience appreciates you more for your thoughtfulness and timing.
Think automating your company blog or email newsletter is right for you? We'll get into the how-tos of automation in our next few Slices, but for now, start with a few tools like these:
Buffer: With a compatible interface, basic design & affordable plans, Buffer is one of our faves, especially if you’re just starting out with scheduling tools. With plans starting at $15/month (or a free plan to try out), Buffer is also compatible with most web browsers to quickly schedule and post content across the major social platforms, with customizable add-ons like analytics and built-in replies to followers and commenters.
AdRoll: If you're into advertising, this is a great tool to try. AdRoll lets you re-target your customers across devices and platforms, based on very specific segmentation and customer data. If you're looking to run lots of ads to lots of people and not have to manage every single detail of every single ad, this could be worth a go.
Mailchimp: We're using it right now! It's a great tool for sending emails, but Mailchimp's automated features are really where it's at. You can easily create drip campaigns, which send automated emails to your lists at predetermined times and in a predetermined order, and you can target your email subscribers with automatically triggered emails based on their behavior, demographics, engagement, and more.