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.
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.
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!
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.
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.