Don't Automate What You Could Communicate

Welcome to my first post of 2019! Automation is not your friend.

Well, it is in some ways, but too many businesses put their business on autopilot before they've established a community.

This post isn't to say that automation is wrong, it can help you in a ton of ways.

Today's article is going to break down this image I shared on Instagram a few days ago further. I want to share this message far and wide. Leave a comment with your thoughts on automation and how it can help or hurt business owners.

Don't Automate What You Could Communicate | Is automation hurting your business? If you are a small business, you need to take the time to build your social media platform before you automate too much of it. Check out my article for more information on why automation is not your friend in 2019! #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #SmallBusiness #SmallBusinessMarketing

My Mixed Feelings On Automation

I've been dealing with automation as an online creator for a while now. It seems that it's becoming more popular, even when it should be dissipating.

I automate some aspects of my content creation process. I understand how great automating can be. It helps you feel like you can replicate yourself, but it can also be distasteful and get your brand into trouble.

I work with quite a few HR technology companies as a writer. I understand the purpose of automation and how it can help companies grow. I think that too many people depend on automation to do more than it can feasibly do.

If you are a small business, you have to stop automating as much as you are. This is your time to make genuine connections with your audience! You cannot phone this in if you want to grow a sustainable brand.

Don't Automate What You Could Communicate | Is automation hurting your business? If you are a small business, you need to take the time to build your social media platform before you automate too much of it. Check out my article for more information on why automation is not your friend in 2019! #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #SmallBusiness #SmallBusinessMarketing

Places Where Automation Helps

While I am not a fan of automation in many cases, I understand that there are many situations where you can and should automate. You'll see that most places I recommend are at the front end of the communications process, aka queueing your initial communication up and sharing it.

Understanding The Best Times To Post On Social Media

Our audience is most active and engaged at certain times. If we can crack that code, we can share messages that will get likes, comments, and even followers. Going through all the data to calculate our best times to post is a waste of time. Most social media schedulers can analyze when your followers are most active so you can connect with them at the right time. Use that information instead of trying to connect the dots yourself.

Even though social media schedulers can help you predict this, I would still share a few things outside of its selected times. By going around your scheduler, you give it more data to work with as it creates the perfect schedule for you. Your scheduler can only learn the ideal times to post if you post at a variety of times. Don't be afraid to experiment even if a few social posts flop.

Scheduling Out Blogs, Emails, And Social Media Content

You don't have to be in the room where it happened like Aaron Burr! You can schedule out blogs, emails, and social media content. In fact, I encourage you to do this as far in advance as you can.

Don't hover over every send button! Instead, let a computer do this for you.

If you are scheduling content far in advance, though, make sure you keep an eye on things as well as what's going on in the world. You don't want to send out anything that could be insensitive, and you also want to catch your scheduler if it fails to send out any content.

Sharing Initial Messages With Your Audience To Let Them Know You've Received Their Correspondence

If you get a lot of correspondence from potential clients, applicants, and other important people you may want to set up an autoresponder to let them know you will be contacting them soon.

You don't want to confuse your audience if they aren't sure their email got to you in one piece. It's always a great idea to share an autoresponder or initial message to keep essential people up to date, and you can automate that.

Automation can also help if you are out of office and won't be able to return emails right away, hello vacation autoresponders!

Don't Automate What You Could Communicate | Is automation hurting your business? If you are a small business, you need to take the time to build your social media platform before you automate too much of it. Check out my article for more information on why automation is not your friend in 2019! #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #SmallBusiness #SmallBusinessMarketing

Where Automation Doesn't Help

Now that I've talked about where automation helps, let's chat about a few places where automation doesn't make sense. Most things on the backend of the communication process shouldn't be automated. If you are trying to connect with your audience, you need to show up, especially if you are a small business.

Making Connections With New People

If you are trying to make a connection with someone new, you should never automate this process. I don't care how advanced your automation software seems. People can spot automation from a mile away.

Your emoji comments don't seem genuine.

Your "great post on ___!" comments don't seem genuine.

Your "nice feed" comments don't seem genuine.

I was following this one person on Instagram who seemed to be everywhere. Then, one day I was searching through an industry hashtag, and I saw this person post the same generic comment twice from the two accounts they manage. All of this was on one person's image. Yep, this person had just told their social media automation tool to follow a hashtag.

Want to know something insane, I shared my picture about automation on that hashtag, and this person commented with the same generic statement. I have since deleted this obviously generic comment.

Think about it, when you leave "nice feed!" what is that person supposed to say to engage with you? What's the next step in the conversation to a string of emojis? If you are trying to make a real connection, you need a human touch. You need to read their caption with your eyes and leave a genuine comment.

You make more connections leaving five genuine comments over 100 emoji comments. When you leave actual comments, you get back positive comments and connection. You cannot get that with a string of emojis.

Responding To Audience Questions

There is nothing like connecting with a small business who takes the time to communicate with you and answer any questions you might have about their brand.

You can have a frequently asked questions or an answers database on your site, but you should never lose the human touch. Make sure that your inbox and comments section is open to answer audience questions as soon as possible. This doesn't mean that you need to be addicted to social media, but you should try to answer community questions as soon as you can.

If you don't want to field questions all day, make your FAQ and help sections easy to find on your site. When you happen to get questions about your services or products, answer them as soon as possible.

Following/Unfollowing Your Potential Audience

As people are becoming more frustrated with the Instagram algorithm, people are becoming more frustrated with people who use the follow/unfollow method.

You are not creating a genuine connection with your audience.

You could be tarring your reputation.

A company I had a ton of respect for in college and even worked with on my lifestyle blog for giveaways recently used this method on me back in August 2018. It did not go over well. I was excited to reconnect, but they were looking to pad their follower count. I ended up promptly unfollowing and sending a disappointed message to their account.

Follow/Unfollow is not the way to grow your brand, peeps. Follow the people you want to follow, not the people that you want to follow you. You can interact with your ideal audience through genuine likes and comments over the follow/unfollow method!

You may get a few followers from using this shady technique, but will you also gain disgruntled potential customers and clients in the process? No increased follower count is worth the potential damage you could do to your reputation.

Don't Automate What You Could Communicate | Is automation hurting your business? If you are a small business, you need to take the time to build your social media platform before you automate too much of it. Check out my article for more information on why automation is not your friend in 2019! #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #SmallBusiness #SmallBusinessMarketing

Conclusion: Automate The Content, Not The Response

If you can take anything from today's article, let it be this: automate the content, not the response.

You can load your site and social media with tons of content that goes out over time (as long as you monitor what goes out to make sure it makes sense.)

If you want to answer questions or build a community, though, that requires a human connection. Take the time to grow your brand the right way, instead of automating your communication and alienating your potential audience.

10 Things To Share On Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories can be a great way to humanize your brand and connect with your audience, but what do you share there? Today I am going to give you ten things that you can share on your Instagram Stories right now to engage your audience and give yourself some Instagram Stories content.

10 Things To Share On Instagram Stories | Are you at a loss for what to post on Instagram? Check out this post all about Instagram Stories and what to share there. #Instagram #InstagramStory #InstagramAdvice

1. Before & Afters

Are you an editing master? Are your Lightroom presets everything? Do you love Color Story? Share a before and after for your latest Instagram post on your Instagram Stories. If you feel so inclined, tell your followers what you used to edit your picture and more about your editing process in general. I love seeing how people take a lackluster or ordinary image and turn it into a neat Instagram work of art. The camera you use and then the editing can make such a difference in pictures.

2. Picture Outtakes

Speaking of pictures, we all have those moments during our blog photo shoots. You know, the moment when we take a super awkward or blurry picture (but it's still somewhat cute, except for the obvious outtake part of it.) Share that with your audience on Instagram Stories! It's okay to laugh at yourself and have some blogger outtakes every blue moon. Not every picture we take can end up on our Instagram feed.

3. Hauls & Product Recommendations

When I get a lot of products in one day, I love to do a quick haul with all my products! Setting up my camera to film an entire haul is a lot of work, but it's so easy to prop up your iPhone to shoot a quick Instagram haul.

Conversely, you can also share some product recommendations of things you have laying around the house. Got a morning skincare routine you swear by? Gather all those products and showcase that to your audience on Instagram Stories. You can even share something as simple as your favorite mid-morning snack. It doesn't have to be complicated.

People are always looking for new things to try so your Instagram Story recommendations can be beneficial.

4. Day In The Life

People are nosy, y'all. They want to see what you are doing throughout the day, so take your phone with you and record all the various things you are doing throughout the day.

Be sure to check in with Instagram Stories every two hours or so. You don't want your day in the life to be your morning and night. Not forgetting that you are filming is one of the hardest parts of doing a day in the life Instagram Story. You want to make sure that you don't leave your peeps hanging!

5. Snippets Of Cool Events

Are you heading to a concert, convention, or even an art installation? Share pictures and videos from your time at the venue with your audience. People love to hear speakers, hear clips of songs, and get the experience of being at a place through your lens.

If you are going to events like that, be sure that you take the time to share some snippets of that event throughout your time there. Pay attention as much as possible, and don't focus too much on Instagram. If you do remember to take a few frames for Instagram Stories though, that's always fantastic! Alternatively, you can take some clips throughout the night and upload them when you get back home.

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6. Favorite Songs

I am a total music lover (I am listening to Pretty Lights right now while writing this article.) If you are a fan of different types of music, don't be afraid to share your recommendations with your audience via your Instagram Story. I particularly like doing this when I am sharing my blog posts, but with iPhone's new screen recording feature, you can quickly do this while sharing other things with your audience. You can also use Spotify's new integration with Instagram Stories to share songs and playlists with your audience.

Another way to do this is to share a screenshot of what you are listening to (just a picture, no music) but I find that listening to a snippet of the song seems like a much better music recommendation.

7. Account Recommendations

It's always great to share the love! If you have an Instagram account that you can't get over lately, share it with your audience. This can be a great way to forge a relationship with your favorite account while also providing content for your Instagram Story.

This can be done on Follow Friday, but honestly, you can do it any day of the week. Share why you love the account so much and why your audience needs to check them out.

8. Quick Tips

Whether you are in the fashion niche, the blogging about blogging niche, or any niche in between--you have some tips! You can even recycle your quick advice from a blog post you have done in the past. There is no rule that it has to be a new tip that you come up with.

Share a few frames where you share your quick tip and elaborate on it. Then you can download your Instagram Story and use it at a later date on your blog or other social media platforms!

9. What's On The Blog

Share your latest few posts with your audience on your Instagram Story. Your Instagram Story viewers may not know you have a blog or they may not have checked it out in a while. So, use your Instagram Stories to drive traffic to your blog, bonus points if you have the swipe up feature!

10. Inspirational Talk Or Quote

Last, but not least, motivate your readers with an inspiring talk or quote. Whether you are inspiring someone to get out of their comfort zone with their clothing choices or to make investments in their education, inspirational quotes can work for a variety of niches.

Share this as a quote graphic, or hop on your Instagram Stories and talk about your inspirational quote for a few frames. Getting on Instagram Stories yourself will increase the connection that you have with your audience, but either way you share your quote, you will make an impact on your audience.

Conclusion

There you have it: ten things you can share on your Instagram Stories. With these ten things in your back pocket, you should be able to share a variety of things on your Instagram Stories, so they are never dry or routine.

Extra Resources

Nine Tips For Making Stellar Instagram Stories by Jaimie Myers

30 Fresh Ideas For Instagram Stories by Me & Orla

10 Really Awesome Ways To Use Instagram Stories by Dash Hudson

What's your favorite thing to share on Instagram Stories?

Quick Tip Tuesday: The Three Effective Elements Of A Pinterest Post

Pinterest can be an excellent source of traffic for your small business website. Many small businesses have this preconceived notion that Pinterest is for mothers pinning recipes. Over my time using the platform, I know that Pinterest is for EVERYONE! Today I am going to share three effective elements of a Pinterest post so you can efficiently use the platform when you do post.

Quick Tip Tuesday: The 3 Effective Elements Of A Pinterest Post | Are you ready to take your Pinterest posts to the next level? Click through for today's post all about Pinterest and how you can use dimension, text, and keywords to take your Pinterest images to the next level. #Pinterest #PinterestMarketing

1. Your Pinterest Post Needs To Meet Certain Dimensions

First and foremost, your Pinterest post needs to meet specific dimensions. You are trying to attract people to your pin, and you cannot do that if your image is tiny compared to other photos.

Your Pinterest images need to be at least 735 px by 1102 px. You can accomplish this by using the Pinterest graphic template in Canva.

Now, you can go much further than 1102 px long. Your Pinterest post can be as long as you want BUT it will eventually get cut off by a read more button, so you need to be careful. Also, you don't want your post to be too long because your readers may get tired of looking at it. I would personally suggest no longer than 735 px by 1500 px.

Pinterest Post Idea: Make Sure Your Dimensions Match

Let's take a look at something I saw in my feed. In the corner, there is a small image boasting "7 Quick Ways To Improve Your Writing Today." There are so many images on the feed that I probably would never have noticed this post if I wasn't looking for small pictures during this sweep of my Pinterest feed.

You don't want squares or horizontal rectangle images as your Pinterest images. Instead, you want to make sure that you have a vertical rectangle for all of your Pinterest images, even if all you are doing is sharing a quote.

2. Your Pinterest Post Must Have Text On The Image

People on Pinterest love to pin images with no text, but they like to click pictures with text.

If you want your Pinterest post to bring you real traffic to your site versus just saves of your post, you need to use text on your images.

There are so many, pretty pictures on Pinterest. If your primary strategy includes posting beautiful pictures, you will gain saves and a following, but you won't win many clicks to your website (which may be your entire reason for joining Pinterest in the first place.)

Pinterest Post Idea: Put Text On Your Images

Let's take the image above; it promises "10 Ways To Make Your Cakes..." and honestly, I am not sure, because I didn't even click over to see what the post was about. Compare that to some of the other images on this page. The "3 Simple Tips To Get Your Blog Noticed" also has a title that gets cut off, but I know what the pin is about because they put that information on the pin.

Your blogs can still have prominent images (my pins do!), but you also need to add some text because that will make it easier for potential readers to know what they are getting into.

If you like sharing images of your products or whatever your site offers, make sure that you also have another pin style that has text on the images.

3. Your Pinterest Post Should Include Keywords

Pinterest is a search engine. People go to Pinterest to search for things, and they are served content on their Pinterest feeds based on what they have engaged with in the past and who they follow.

Your Pinterest post needs keywords in the description so that people can find your post.

You can do this simply by adding hashtags to your Pinterest account. In the past, hashtags on Pinterest didn't do much, but Pinterest has changed rapidly since then. Make sure you are adding some hashtagged keywords to each of your posts.

Here is an example of what that might look like:

Pinterest Post Idea: Use Keywords

For my post Use These 16 Content Ideas To Get High-Quality Traffic To Your Site In 2018 (And Beyond), I added the hashtags #ContentMarketing, #Blogging, and #BloggingIdeas. As you can see, these words are now highlighted blue. These words link to other content related to content marketing, blogging, and blogging ideas. Now, when people search for those hashtags, my post has the chance to show up. When people interact with these topics, Pinterest may serve my post to them because they have shown interest in these topics. A pretty sweet deal, right?

Conclusion

With these three tips, you can create an effective Pinterest post every time. When you invest time and energy in Pinterest, you can get a lot of return on investment. I hope that these tips helped you understand Pinterest a little better. Pinterest is the best search engine in my opinion because once you get the hang of it and keep up with it, it can continue to bring a healthy amount of traffic to your site.