Last night during the weekly #SmArtisan Network - a business network group for artists and artisans to meet and discuss the unique challenges of running a handmade or seasonal business- the conversation was dominated by questions of marketing and promotion. One of the easiest ways to streamline your social media marketing is with an automation platform.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing Automation is basically scheduling your content in advance, automatically pulling content from other content creators into your marketing platforms or a combination of the two.
Scheduling content you create: The benefit of scheduling is that you can create a lot of content and schedule it to be posted throughout the days, weeks or months so you can keep your hands dirty creating your products and not worry about keeping up your social media presence. You can (and should) augment your scheduled posts with posts about your progress, especially photos.
A few great services exist to schedule your content:
- Buffer: Full disclosure, this is what I use and I have the paid Awesome Plan, which is the middle level. The Free version lets you connect 3 accounts and have 10 items scheduled at any one time for each account connected. Eg. If you have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn Account, you can only have 10 scheduled posts for each account at any one time.
2. Hootsuite: This is more than just a scheduling tool. With Hootsuite's free version you can still schedule content but there are also powerful analytics tools however, they require an upgrade to create the reports. Much like buffer, you can only connect 3 accounts with the free version.
3. CoSchedule: This service is much more calendar oriented than Hootsuite or Buffer. Although Buffer and Hootsuite have a calendar view option, this is where CoSchedule starts. This approach lets them offer a wider scheduling ability including your whole marketing campaigns rather than just social media. You can schedule your 'entire marketing calendar' all in once pleasingly visual place. Some of the services they connect with include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Buffer, Bitly, Tumblr, Wordpress, Google Chrome, Evernote, Google Docs, Google Analytics, and Headline Analyzer (their free tool). The downside to this service is that all the levels of service are paid with the least expensive starting at $15/month when you purchase the annual subscription. They do have a 14 day free trial which is worth checking out given their beautiful design and awesome integrations.
4. HubSpot: This is WAY more than just a marketing automation platform. HubSpot will track everything from social listening (when/where your brand is mentioned) to conversion rate and even track your revenue...and the price reflects that. Their free trial is 30 days and their most basic service starts at $200/month.
5. If This Then That - This service basically connects accounts with simple one-directional commands called Recipes. For example, I use a Recipe that will take anything I post to Instagram and post the picture (not a link) to Twitter. There are tons of different Recipes and this service can seriously boost productivity by cutting down on cross channel promotion. Schedule capabilities: use recipes that will automatically tweet a daily message, send out a "happy new year" message at midnight Jan 1 every year. This tool has uses way beyond just marketing but this is a business blog, so happy exploring! Start out with the Recipes for Marketers, Recipes for Small Business Owners, and Recipes to Streamline Your Social Media. The layers can get complex so if you start to layer them (Eg. when you star an item in Inoreader, it buffers your post to your twitter profile, and new tweets are also posted to your facebook profile, etc) it might be helpful to make an app connection map!
6. Zapier - This service uses slightly different terminology and is not as asthetically pleasing. However, with Zapier, you can forget about hand drawing yourself an app map because Zapier allows multi-step app linking. So you can connect Slack to Google Mail to Google Calendar all in one chain of 'Zaps' instead of having 2 separate 'recipes'.
There are TONS of other marketing automation software out there but most of them are expensive and really built for larger enterprises or service industry professions. Check out G2 Crowd for more analysis of these products.