We feel it is great that companies in Northwest Indiana and really all over the United States are looking to streamline and save money. The question comes to where do you automate and have truly in-personal communication and where do you have that personal touch we all enjoy? Technology has a place to help cut costs. No longer do you need to pay $500-$1,000+ for social media digital marketing management. Technology can help keep costs low and increase your brands reach. Let the computer do the heavy lifting that used to take hours to gather information so that you can focus on what matters; the customer. Let's look at where technology can (and should) be used, where it can (and shouldn't be), and where you need to still use that 100% personal touch.
Can and should be used
Automation allows you to free up more time for that personal touch. Not everything should be automated through and even though we would love to automate everything as it would lower our costs even more that just can't always be the case. Even though marketing automation isn't new it is being learned more by social media experts as they are learning that people are tired of being ripped off by high costs or realize by automating the mundane tasks they can provide more personalized service that only a human can, and should, do.
Determining the best times to post
You can go into your Google Analytics, Facebook analytics, Twitter analytics, LinkedIn analytics, and more and look at each platform, look at the past week, past month, and even 1, 2, or 3-years ago. You can look at the upcoming holidays, special events happening in the area that can positively (or negatively) affect your reach and ultimately your engagement. This can take minutes, to hours, and even to days if you have a lot of information to analyze. This is one area computer software is a great feature for you. It can look at all of this information and determine what the best times are and take minutes or even a few seconds to complete.
Chatbots answering common questions
We love when we get involved with chatbots. If you are a restaurant, store, or business you can answer questions automatically without involving questions. Areas, where this is beneficial, is "what are your hours", "what are your specials", "do you have any sales going on right now", "can you add me to your mailing list", etc. The answers will always be the same and you can even factor in reservations, upcoming events, holidays, and more into the chatbots logic.
We will say don't automate ALL your posts. There are many benefits to scheduling. I know for us on some channels we have our posts already scheduled out to the end of the year and adjust based on important matters that are happening. These important matters can be unforeseen disasters, news that days, weeks, or months ago that were not on anyone's radar, etc. By automating much of the actions we can also track within the software the best times, post reach, and overall engagement to a higher level of accuracy than a human could do. The most common things we will schedule are evergreen content that is not date sensitive or happens always on the same month/day/year.
Updating the search engines
Here we do both a lot of manual items but also automate a lot. We schedule upcoming holidays, business close events, etc. that are out of the norm and schedule them to days, weeks, and even months ahead of the scheduled event. At the time of this writing, we have half of our customers holiday hours for the Christmas holiday already scheduled. Many were scheduled by Valentine's Day as our clients already knew their schedules. You could do this manually on "the day" of the schedule but why not let a computer do it, and then verify it manually to ensure it is posted as quickly as possible?
Reviews and Reputation Management
We cover this below where you shouldn't automate. This is one area that falls into both areas. You want to "watch" for reviews and brand mentions. No one can watch the entire Internet but this is where a computer can be watching for all of this and notify you so that you can respond to the review or brand mention.
Your competition is on the Internet and on social. With the right tools, you can not only look at what they are doing on social media but also their website including paid ads on Bing, Google, and LinkedIn. This allows you to quickly adapt (being agile) and meet changing market conditions in the most efficient manner.
When you start to advertise we always look and automation of the paid ads. The reason for this is we can look at the analytics and determine the right audience, compare different paid campaigns against each other, and eliminate the "human" factor where most marketing companies say something is a success as they don't want to admit failure. Failure is a part of everything and by using a computer you can see where mistakes happened (even with the software automation) and improve it for the next marketing campaign..
Contests & Promotions
Contests and promotions are great for getting your word out to the masses. Doing these on social media used to be the one place you wanted to do it. The problem with social media is they've changed the rules where it often breaks there terms and conditions. Contests though are designed to promote your business and generate revenue (long-term). To handle this correctly you do want to automate this so that it's unbiased but also so you can lead people down your sales funnel. When we do contests we actually will promote it on social media but not encourage people to like, share, etc. Rather we drive traffic to our clients websites where there is no competiton and they can have the rules their way rather than being forced by Facebook (insert social media platform here). A business should have complete control over it's destiny and you have complete control over what you control on your website.
Can and shouldn't be used
Many items can be automated. Many though should be focus on the human factor than the computer factor.
We can actually automate many Direct Messages (or DM's) but we have found that this takes away from that personal feel. We would rather have a person wait for 5 or 10-minutes and talk to a real human than to get instant gratification.
Reviews and Reputation Management
You can automate a bot to reply to every review whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. You don't want to do that. You want to thank someone, take the item offline, and be responsive to every review. Plus, it's good to know all the good (and bad) that someone is writing.
Same message, every platform
This is the biggest issue most people do. They will create one social media message and share it on every platform. Some will even set their Facebook posts to automatically post to Twitter to save time. The audiences on each platform are unique and different. The message needs to be equally unique and different.
100% personal touch
Social media is about being social. Yes, you are behind a screen and people think they can handle it if they own a social media account but there is a lot more to just posting, and waiting, for a person to reply. You need to be able to reply, in real-time, to those that are asking questions, commenting, and replying to others.
Latest news & events
You cannot schedule posts of real-time events or the latest breaking news and events. You need to do this 100% by humans for humans. Automating this will not only make you look completely fake but totally impersonal creating a horrible user experience.
Search engine updates
Automating the hours and items you know are going to happen you still need that personal touch. We spend an hour or more for each client doing manual updates as it allows us to check what the search engines see while also making certain all information we want is listed correctly and appropriately.
Ways to make marketing automation less "Robotic"
With all the benefits of automation often the posts created will feel non-human. To fix this make certain that:
- Don't repeat your posts over-and-over again
- Don't post the same message on every platform
- Don't automate personal messages, likes, or replies
- Add personal comments, hashtags, or emojis tailored to the reply keeping into account the correct behavior of what the brand is trying to achieve
I believe that when it comes to marketing automation you need to automate the grunt work that doesn't take away from that personal touch. If you do that you will be able to focus on your customer, keep costs down, have more accurate information, and reach the largest possible audience without spending tons of hours doing what the computer can do in a matter of minutes.
Benefits of automation
- Saves time (and money) giving you more time for engaging with your audience
- You can post at the "right times" that are right for your current and changing audience
- You are able to be more proactive rather than reactive
- You have more time for that "social" engagement
- Saves time
- More consistency
- Lower costs
- Best for evergreen content
- Certain areas you can be more prompt and provide a better customer experience
Can help you better understand what your competitors are doing
Downfalls of automation
- You can lose that "human touch" people love
- Your messages can come across cold, not genuine, and impersonal
- Lose the personal 1-on-1 touch
- Real events (especially tragedies/disasters) can make your prepared posts look insensitive and become a PR nightmare
- You can lose focus on what social is and trust too much in the computer
- Too much automation people will see you as fake and not care about them