For every small business, the struggle to balance time and money can often feel never-ending. When should you invest in a tool to replace something you do manually? Are there ways to automate what you do to free up time?

It’s useful to break this problem down into two categories.

  • What can be automated
  • What technology can be used to remove time-consuming processes

Automation

Automation in social marketing has exploded recently with the technology available to automate nearly every process. The issue we’re faced with as business owners and marketers is what process should actually be automated and which ones shouldn’t.

Here are 4 things you need to avoid automating:

1. Community management and customer service

This is the process of engaging with your audience. It could be reaching out proactively on a post you’ve found on Instagram, or replying to a question on your own Facebook post.

Automating this process is fraught with danger but there are tools out there that can do it.

2. Content creation

Creating good content means you need to research and be an expert in the field. There are tools that can take an idea, topic or even a blog post and produce new content for you to publish.

While technology is getting better, the results are usually horrible and will only end up making you look foolish.

You want people to think you’re an expert but these will only end up making you look like an amateur. There are tools that can help with content creation but don’t fall into the trap of automating the entire process. We’ll highlight some of the good ones below.

3. Content curation and posting

There are content curation tools not only find relevant content, they can then automatically post to your networks.

While content curation is a great way to help build your community and keep them engaged, automatically posting it without oversight is a disaster waiting to happen.

You want to know what’s going out on your channels so always review before you publish!

4. Follow/Unfollow

This is a practice used to game the system and never works positively.

In short, these tools will use keywords in your industry to find people and follow them. They’ll be alerted of a new follower and may follow back out of courtesy. Once they follow back, the software will then unfollow them. You’ve got a new follower and your timeline isn’t filled with content you have no interest in.

And that’s the big problem. This tactic destroys engagement and won’t bring any ROI. Without some meaningful interaction, a follower is rarely likely to purchase your products so all you’ve ended up doing is padding your follower count. If you run a business, you want meaningful engagement and long-term relationships.

We’ve covered what to avoid automating, now it’s time to look at what you can! These are our top 4 automation tips:

1. Facebook Messenger

No not all of it! There’s a feature within Facebook that posts an automated message after someone first gets in touch.

We mentioned above that community management shouldn’t be automated but this is one setting you can turn on if you do it right. This is a good way to set customer expectations around response times so they won’t get frustrated if they don’t hear from you straight away.

You could let them know that you will respond within a set period of time or that you’ll respond during your office hours. It’s not a full replacement for your customer service, but it’s a great way to set expectations.

2.Social media listening

Tools like Mention allow you to set up alerts when certain keywords are mentioned on different social platforms.

This way you can track mentions of your brand, competitors, industry etc. so you can monitor what’s being said online. Doing this manually takes hours of work but utilising a listening tool makes it easy.

3. Hootsuite Smart Boosting for Facebook

I’m surprised that this tool isn’t mentioned more often. Hootsuite allows you to define the kinds of posts you want to promote and put money behind, and then automatically boosts any new Page content that fits the criteria.

For example, you can set up a rule that all posts that get more than 10 likes and 3 comments, Hootsuite will allocate $10 to boost it to your target audience.

4. The King of automation: Zapier

Zapier is a great tool that connects thousands of apps you use every day to automate your workflow. Called Zaps, this allows you to trigger an action when certain criteria are met.

This doesn’t just cover social marketing but can automate just about anything you can think of. A great example might be adding anyone who mentions your business to a spreadsheet, saving not only the Tweet’s URL, body, date and time, but also the author’s name, handle, follower count, location etc.

This way, you can reach out to influencers and know where your customer base is. The great part is Zapier makes this completely automatic!

Technology

Automation is one way to streamline your marketing and get back some precious time to invest in other areas of your business. The next step is to find tools that can speed up your marketing by removing time-consuming processes. Here are our top tools:

1. A one-stop inbox

Tools like Hootsuite and Agora Pulse allow you to connect all your social channels and reply to any comments across all of them in one place. This stops you having to switch between social platforms just to engage.

2. Content ideas

My smartphone app, Jean was built to save businesses time when trying to decide what content to post.

Using a powerful artificial intelligence engine, Jean learns what’s most important to your business and scours thousands of online sources and makes recommendations for great social posts to keep your audience engaged.

3. Video creation

Video consumption has exploded in the last few years so it’s not surprising that businesses are trying to get in on the action.

Unfortunately, video production can be time-consuming so most put it in the to-hard-basket. Lumen5 is a fantastic resource that turns a blog post into a video. All you need to do is enter an article link into Lumen5. Then, using Natural Language Processing algorithms, it will automatically create a video using the text from the blog.

The platform is smart enough to use keywords throughout the article to match those with relevant photos and videos so the video matches the text. You can add your logo and a call to action and completely customise it with your brand colours.

There you have it! With these tools, you can automate your marketing workflow and replace some of the time-consuming elements to get you back doing what you do best. After all, time is our most precious commodity.