In the world of digital marketing tools, “automation” is a tricky word. To social media experts who advocate authenticity, it may have negative connotations, conjuring up visions of over-programmed newsfeeds lacking personal interaction. To direct marketers managing complicated multi-channel campaigns, “automation” may have positive connotations, implying tools that simplify daily tasks, such as sending emails or producing lead reports.
As a result, it’s not surprising that my blog post last month – Need Social Media ROI? Try Marketing Automation — triggered a discussion about what “automation” meant for marketers using social media, and the role automation should play in digital communications management marketing programs.
During my discussion with Neal Schaffer on this issue, he summarized it this way:
“You can automate processes, not engagement.”
Well said, Neal! At a high level, “automation” simply refers to the use of software to streamline, manage and scale marketing tasks that were previously done manually.
Relationships cannot be automated
Software can’t take the place of real human beings supporting the dialogue between their brand and their audience. As a case in point, some corporate social media accounts may feature an assortment of pre-scheduled posts in order to meet the information needs of their global, 24/7 audience. But the team of real human beings who manage those social channels make their brand come alive by monitoring the social space and holding spontaneous conversations with customers or prospects, responding to concerns and publishing quick updates based on trending topics.
Marketing automation (MA) software cannot replace a living, breathing brand advocate. It simply streamlines some of the processes used by a digital marketer or social community manager.
Processes should be automated
Digital marketers have tough jobs. As this hilarious Hubspot video points out, corporate digital marketing programs have become a deluge of disconnected tactics, including email marketing, social media monitoring and engagement, search engine optimization (SEO) and content publishing. Each of these tactics bring with them a series of processes for execution and measurement.
As a result of this complexity, marketers may get to the point where they can’t see the forest for the trees. In other words, program management requires so much work, marcom staff have little time to improve the relevance of their content or engage with social networks in a more entertaining way. So what is the overwhelmed marketer to do?
Automate — streamline, centralize and synchronize,
in order to customize, personalize and scale.
Yes, that’s a win-win. Marketers can become more efficient while also becoming more social. While marketing automation tools aren’t perfect, they set your marketing department on the path of working smarter, not harder. And the recipients of your marketing efforts will experience your brand as more interactive and approachable.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so here are examples of how marketing automation vendors are automating processes so that marketers improve their social relevance, while also scaling their programs.
Benefit #1: Scale digital marketing programs while keeping them relevant
Hubspot integrates a wide range of feedback mechanisms in one platform, including keyword analysis, social media analytics and email reports. This makes it easier for marketers to grasp the effectiveness of their marketing program as a whole, and grow the complexity of their programs without losing insight into what their audience needs the most.
Benefit #2: Streamline the processes connecting reputation and lead management
LoopFuse has focused on integrating social media monitoring into email and lead management. They offer real-time social monitoring for Twitter, Facebook and other channels, including the blogosphere. This allows marketers to more easily adapt email campaigns to social sentiment or trending keywords.
Benefit #3: Unify email and social media messages
Silverpop performs well in this area, with their Publish-to-Social and Share-to-Social process improvements. Marketers use Publish-to-Social to schedule a campaign’s email send and social media updates at the same time, from within the same platform. In contrast, email recipients use Share-to-Social features to easily repost emails they received in their own social networks. These features enhance viral marketing potential.
Benefit #4: Leverage social media resources to enrich contact information
Net-Results uses partnerships with social media platforms to help companies learn more about their prospects. Their solution automates the process of cross-referencing website visitors with LinkedIn’s professional directory. It also integrates with Twitter, which allows Sales and Marketing to easily follow leads and interact with them before making contact by phone.
The process improvements these marketing automation vendors provide are all very creative, and very distinct from each other. All seek to help marketers grow their programs, while contributing more meaningfully to social networks and leveraging data from social media more effectively.
Next month, we will continue to look at the wide variety marketing automation vendors and their capabilities, particularly as it pertains to social media marketing program integration. It’s a dynamic space, so our tour will not be boring!
What results do you have to share as to how your company has benefited from utilizing these types of marketing automation software with your social media marketing programs?