Automation springs to mind one of two things. For some, it’s a helpful tool to make our lives run more smoothly and efficiently so we can focus on the things that matter most to us. For others, it’s a harbinger of doom — stealing jobs and leading us down a road to mass unemployment with only the wealthiest among us surviving long enough to bend the knee to our new robot overlords. Frankly — I’ll take either, but for the rest of us in the marketing ‘biz’, marketing automation in its current form looks more like the former than the latter.
Automating some of your marketing efforts can be a great way to keep your business lean and save you time. Despite the benefits many marketers avoid embracing automation because it seems intimidating, they lack knowledge on the subject, or because of the initial time investment. But don’t worry — the expert marketers at GenM are here to walk you through the basics of marketing automation with our two-part guide.
This week, we will focus on the notorious time-suck that is social media and introduce you to various tricks and tools you can use for scheduling and auto-posting your content, keeping track of mentions, ad retargeting, and setting up your first chatbot!
If you’re like me, you have a love/hate relationship with keeping up on social media. As much as I appreciate the power it has for a brand in terms of reach and fostering personal connections with its followers, it’s also a grind. If you want to do it right, social media takes constant attention, strategic planning, and meticulous scheduling that a lot of us simply don’t have time for. That’s why automating your social media content as much as possible can be your saving grace when it comes to keeping your followers happy.
Although you will still have to plan your posts ahead of time via a content schedule (which you absolutely should have been doing in the first place 😉), taking one large chunk of time to create and schedule your posts ahead of time can be the perfect way to ensure you’re never neglecting your social channels — even when things get hectic.
Start out by planning all your future content ahead of time. I recommend scheduling about a month at a time — you want your content to still be fresh and relevant in a space that is constantly evolving. Set the time aside to write copy, find links, create graphics, etc. Once you have a few weeks to a month worth of content ready to go, you can move on to finding the perfect tool to fit your needs.
The amount of social media scheduling tools on the internet is near endless so it’s important to do some research and find one that fits your needs. I’ve found Buffer to be the most reliable and feature-rich but limits the number of posts you can schedule and accounts you can manage with the free account. Hootsuite is another popular alternative that many have found success with. If you have a team of people managing your social accounts then a tool tailored to teams could be right for you — try Zoho or Social Pilot. If you’re all about aesthetics and want to visualize your Instagram grid ahead of time, a tool like Planoly might be what you’re after.
If you’re posting the same content to a lot of different channels, you can use a tool like IFTTT (if this then that) or Zapier, which will allow different apps to interact with each other in a logical sequence. For example, if you post a lot of content on Medium, you can create a rule that every time a new Medium post is published on your account, it is automatically shared to your social accounts.
Tip: Just because you have content scheduled doesn’t mean you can neglect your social accounts entirely. Social media is about forming a connection and you should still be checking it occasionally to interact with followers, ensure your scheduling tools posted correctly, and to moderate your pages.
If you’ve been reading our publication for a while, you probably heard us say it a thousand times already — always be tracking. There’s no way you can make informed decisions for the future if you don’t understand the data. But digging through search results looking for mentions of your brand is time-consuming, so get someone else to do it. You can use automated tools to send you an alert whenever your brand, competitors brand, or any other keyword you want to track is mentioned online. This can be a great way for gathering social proof, keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing online, or finding UGC.
Google Alerts is the most common tool for this and should meet the needs of most businesses. There are some niche tools out there that may be worth looking into depending on your specific needs. For example, a restaurant or local store might use Reputology, a tool more tailored for tracking reviews. If your brand has a high volume of mentions, a tool like Brand24 which allows you to filter for things like sentiment might be more for you. Or go with a personal favorite of GenM — Mention.
If you have a Facebook Pixel tracking activity on your site, you can automatically serve users ads based on actions they have taken. For example, users who have added items to their cart and then failed to finalize the purchase can be automatically served a retargeted ad that displays the products they failed to purchase.
Setting up retargeting ads to automatically serve to users on their social accounts can be a great way to give them that extra nudge they need to convert.
Setting up retargeted ads could be a whole blog post in and of itself but if you want to get started, our guide on setting up and priming a fresh Facebook Pixel is the perfect place to start.
Social media is a great way for your followers to get in touch and receive a personalized response straight from your brand. It allows your customers to feel like they made a connection with your brand, their needs are being addressed, and that they are viewed as a person and not just another sale.
That being said, the time it takes to respond to each of these messages can quickly add up. Thankfully, we can now automate responses to social media messages in the form of a chatbot.
Essentially, a chatbot is an AI program that is able to have a conversation with a human. They can do things like ask and respond to questions, make statements, and share links, all in a language that seems natural to the human user on the other end.
Chatbots are not yet a complete replacement for answering messages yourself or having a virtual assistant taking care of it for you, but they can be an excellent way to gather information from leads, answer frequently asked questions, or disseminate content.
Before you get started setting up your chatbot you should ask yourself a few questions first.
Is a chatbot right for you? Are you receiving a high enough volume of messages that you are finding it hard to keep up? I argue that if you have the bandwidth to respond to messages personally, this is always the best way to go. It removes any potential for error and allows you to personalize the customer experience fully.
What do you want to use the chatbot for? Are you using the bot to answer frequently asked questions? If so, you need to first identify what those questions are and what the best answer would be. Are you using the chatbot to gain information about leads? What information do you need?
What platforms are you using? Is your chatbot going on Facebook, Twitter, your website? Depending on where you are using the chatbot, the tool that you use will be different. Knowing what platform you want to automate is a critical question you have to answer before getting started.
What tool will you use? The number of tools you can use to set up your chatbot is nearly endless. To determine what tool works best for you, you will first have to determine what you will be using it for. Facebook has a built-in chatbot option but it can require some coding knowledge to make it as feature rich as some of the alternatives out there. If you’re mainly looking to disseminate content, ManyChat’s double opt-in and content scheduling features might be perfect for you. If you’re looking to qualify leads and answer questions, Chatfuel might be your new best friend. Setting up a chatbot takes time so be sure to do your research to find the platform that not only works for you but also fits your budget.
Doing social media right takes time, careful planning, and constant attention — but it doesn’t have to. Thankfully there are a number of tools at our disposal that allow us to automate some of the more time-consuming aspects of social media. Scheduling posts, answering messages, retargeting ads, and tracking mentions can all be delegated to a bot.
That being said, having a plan for how you will use these tools can make or break them in terms of effectiveness. Before you start trying to automate your entire social media presence, ask yourself why you want to automate in the first place, what problems you are trying to solve through automation, and have a plan to make sure you are using automation tools effectively.