Digital marketing automation can help you manage your social media and content marketing tasks and help you breathe easier, but be careful to not make the mistake I did recently. I sent an automated newsletter with my latest blog post with an announcement for a webinar that took place a month ago. Oops.
First of all, to all my blog subscribers please pardon my mistake. Secondly, I’ve written about what I’ve learned from this faux pas.
My newsletter is set to be sent every time a new post is published on my blog. However, I manually added an extra note before the last post was sent, and I forgot to change my email template back to its normal status. After I stopped cringing and moaning “How could I make such a mistake?” (answer: I’m human), I came up with a list of 12 areas where digital marketing automation can help save you time: as well as recommended apps and tools to help.
To Automate or Not?
But first let’s talk about whether digital marketing automation is a good idea at all. Obviously, in the case of my newsletter emailed with an outdated announcement, it is not good. But when you’re a small business owner, or a busy social media manager for several businesses or one big company with little assistance, automation can be helpful, and often necessary.
Automated tasks can help ease your social media and content marketing workload–the small ones, or ones that do not require a great deal of in-depth customization. For instance, using automated social media scheduling calendars from platforms such as Hootsuite or Buffer can be quite a timesaver.
This doesn’t mean I recommend auto-scheduling all your social media shares. For example, when I publish a new blog post, after the first round of auto-sharing, I’ll schedule unique shares on my social media pages with different comments, and insight highlights from the post. I’ll also schedule them at different times throughout the weeks and months ahead.
Another area where digital marketing automation may be iffy, is the use of auto-direct messages, on Twitter specifically. Most marketers feel auto DMs should never be sent, and some think certain types of DMs are Ok to use. This post by Janis La Couvee at SproutSocial talks about what she considers as spam DMs, and gives a good example of how to effectively use DMs to handle customer complaints.
But the best people to ask are the subjects of automatically sent messages. Alex Howard of Digiphile sent pre-formatted auto-direct messages to 481 people who followed him, and then he posted a question on Twitter on whether it was a good idea. It was done three years ago, but it’s still relevant.
Here’s a few of the responses:
@digiphile I liked it! But I normally don’t like auto DMs as they tend to be very similar…
— Chethan S (@gischethans) September 3, 2012
@digiphile it’s nice, but I don’t think it is necessary.
— Alykhan Jetha (AJ) (@ajetha) September 3, 2012
RT @digiphile: I sent 481 folks auto DMs thanking them for following me. / SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM! UNFOLLOW BLOCK
— LOrion (@LOrion) September 3, 2012
— Maggie Fox (@maggiefox) September 3, 2012
I’ve used auto DMs here and there, and so far I haven’t found much direct response nor traffic to my site from them. But I’m still experimenting with messages. If you decide to do it, monitor it carefully, and make sure it’s friendly and non-spammy as possible.
One other area where automation shouldn’t be used is with unique social media and content campaigns. A specific strategy should be in place when you’re conducting a unique campaign, whether it’s a giveaway of an e-book, a contest, or announcement of a new product or service. Of course, I contradict myself because I made this mistake regarding my announcement. But it won’t happen again!
What should I have done?
I should’ve left my regular weekly blog posts in that newsletter alone, and stuck with a separate announcement. Or I could have published the announcement as a blog post, and it would’ve gone out in a timely manner in the automated newsletter. The way I have my newsletter set up is it will only be sent out if a new post is published. However, as you may know, I messed with it and added extra content in the template, which became outdated a week later.
Enough about that. Let’s get to my list of ideas and tools to help automate your marketing and help you breathe a little easier.
Digital Marketing Automation Ideas and Apps
1. Auto-Share Your New Blog Posts
Once you publish your blog post you can either individually share it to each of your social media networks, or use an auto-schedule tool. If you use WordPress, you can eliminate both steps by using the free WordPress plugin Jetpack. It offers quite of bit of tools beyond social media sharing, but its Publicize feature is what you need to instantly share your blog post once you hit publish. You can connect Facebook (business pages and personal account), your LinkedIn profile, Twitter, Google Plus (personal and business pages), Tumblr and Path using Publicize. Every time you publish a new post, it’s automatically shared to all your social media accounts. Using this plugin saves me about 5 minutes, if I were to share the post individually to each of my social media pages.
2. Autoschedule Social Sharing Calendars
I’ve already mentioned this, but using social media auto-scheduling tools such as Buffer’s or Hootsuite’s, not only saves you time but also takes the heat off figuring out when is the best time to post.
Hootsuite’s algorithm is based on time zones and your activity as well as your followers’ activity to choose the best times to auto-schedule your posts. You just need to pick what days, and how many times a day you want to post. Buffer also offers “optimal timing,” wherein you choose how many times a day you want to post, and it will analyze your followers’ engagement and offer times to auto-schedule your posts. You can also manually set your own times in advance, and after that, all you do is add your social shares to the queue and forget about it.
Using Hootsuite’s auto-scheduler saves me almost 3 minutes per shared post, especially when I add images and hashtags. Keep in mind, you should look at your insights and analytics to see if you’re getting engagement at the suggested times.
3. Automatic Pinning
If you’re a Pinterest user, Tailwind is another great app that integrates with Hootsuite to auto-schedule your pins. You can use its Chrome extension, and with one click, you choose from a range of images from a Web page you’re visiting, schedule them to your boards of choice, and then click Schedule All. It took me 50 seconds to schedule 3 pins. That saved me at least a minute. Tailwind also has a feature that offers Pin suggestions from other sites.
4. Auto-Create Twitter Lists
Twitter lists are great for managing your connections, and topically organizing your interests. But manually creating Twitter lists can be a time sucker. An easy way to automatically create lists, which you can use to collect content ideas, or generate a list of leads, is to create a recipe with IFTTT. You can also track mentions of your company or brand with an instantly generated Twitter list.Twitter lists are great for managing connections. But manually creating lists can be a time sucker. #socialmedia Click To Tweet
It manually takes me 26 seconds to search for a term, and add an user to a list. I have 635 members in my Real Estate connections list: it would have taken me at least 4.5 hours to add people to the list. It takes less than 2 minutes to set up a recipe on IFTTT. A caveat, with this recipe you’ll get Twitter users added that may not fit the list, and, depending on how you want to use the list, you will have to sift through and delete Tweeps later.
5. Instagram to Pinterest
If you want pin your blog post or other images to your Pinterest boards without having to click on another app, set up an Instagram recipe with IFTTT. The recipe I use posts to my Pinterest Instagram board any time I publish an image on Instagram. Later, I’ll logon to my Pinterest account, and move the pins to appropriate boards. Search for Instagram/Pinterest recipes to find one that will work for you.
6. Facebook to Google Plus
I use my iOS apps a great deal to do my social media publishing and sharing. But the Hootsuite iOS app, which I sometimes prefer to use over the iOS Buffer app for various reasons, does not integrate with Google Plus. To get around this, I set up an IFTTT recipe to automatically add new Facebook posts as original posts, meaning it doesn’t click back to Facebook, but to the original link, to my Buffer feed.
I chose this method rather than using a recipe to publish directly to Google Plus so I could have time to edit the post if necessary. I have to stay on top of this one, to avoid posting twice on Google Plus if I use Buffer to schedule. Rather than a timesaver, it’s a workaround if you use Hootsuite, but it’s automated.
7. Brand Alerts and Mentions Auto-Delivered
I have email alerts sent everyday, and app alerts setup on my iPad and iPhone, which makes it super easy to keep track of what people are saying about my business, and my clients’ businesses.
An easy way to track brand or company mentions via email or a RSS feed is with Talkwalker Alerts. You can track alerts based on search terms, as well as your company domain. The alert can be sent to your inbox as often as you like, or just once daily. Or you can create a feed for a group of search terms. This saves loads of time from scanning your various accounts or other apps for alerts and mentions.
Another tool I’ve used for company mentions, is called just that, Mention. Connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and set up keyword searches, connect your domain, and you’re pretty much covered anytime someone mentions your keywords or brand name. You can check Mentions via its iOS or desktop app, or have alerts emailed to you daily. They have a free option, but their paid options, which includes analytics and other extras is kind of pricey. Note: the iOS app crashes on me whenever I try to connect Facebook. So connect Facebook through the desktop app.
8. Collect Social Posts in Google Sheets
Occasionally I like to create posts or downloadable PDFs from a collection of Tweets or other social media posts. Rather than go to my social media accounts to download and then upload past posts, I created a IFTTT recipe that collects all published posts with certain hashtags into a spreadsheet. I filter the posts via defined topics to use in my content, as well as to share again on other social media accounts.
9. Upload a Pre-Filled Calendar
This brings me to Hootsuite again. I can use the content-filled spreadsheet mentioned previously, already filled out with titles, tags and links, and I add dates and times, and upload it to Hootsuite via a CSV file. This will automatically schedule all the posts to my Hootsuite calendar. Huge timesaver.
10. Publicly Say Thank you
While it may be frowned upon to send DMs, publicly auto-thanking your individual followers on Twitter is generally more accepted. One, it creates value for the person you’re thanking by way of giving free publicity by mentioning their brand name or handle. Two, it’s considered to be more “out in the open” and therefore “honest.” Three, you’re creating a connection beyond the original one. I sometimes automate this task through IFTTT, but it can clutter your feed with a bunch of thank you’s, depending on how many people follow you daily. Up to you…. test it and see what happens.
[ctt tweet=”Publicly auto-thanking your individual followers on Twitter is generally more accepted. http://ctt.ec/iIJOP+ #digitalmarketing #smm” coverup=”iIJOP”]
11. Send a Daily/Weekly/Monthly Happy Message
Now this to me is a completely harmless way to send a message of goodwill to your fans and followers with less than a one-time 5-minute setup time. I send out a daily Twitter message wishing everyone a great day, and a monthly message to my Facebook page, thanking my followers for their support. I also send a #FollowFriday to my top influencers with Commun.it a Twitter management tool that you can use to send these automated messages, or you can also use IFTTT.
12. Yes, Auto-Newsletters are Good
Despite my snafu, automating emailed blog updates saves a great deal of time. I use Mailchimp, which works with various WordPress plugins like a dream. Mailchimp is an email campaign platform that is free up to a certain amount of subscribers.
You can embed Mailchimp subscribe forms on your site, or integrate it with a plugin like Gravity Forms, and new subscribers will be added to your Mailchimp lists. Create a RSS-driven newsletter with your blog feed, and choose the day and time you want it sent. Every time you publish a new blog post, the newsletter will be emailed on the day chosen. If you don’t publish, no email is sent. Just don’t modify the template with non-evergreen content! ????
Digital marketing automation can take a load off your shoulders, leaving you with more time to focus on unique campaigns that need more attention and detail. But be careful with which campaigns and tasks you automate, as you don’t want to distance your fans and followers, or worse, have them completely reject you.
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I do believe this is the longest post I’ve written for my blog, clocking in at 2,300 words! A milestone for me. Thank you if you stuck with it till the end.
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