Marketing is very time consuming, and automation efforts are required to cut down on many of the more tedious and repetitive tasks. Whether you need to develop content for a blog, distribute your content across social media channels, or track the effectiveness of your content marketing campaign, automation is vital to saving time, money, and resources. A comprehensive marketing approach integrates content marketing and social media marketing with other marketing areas and tools, such as email marketing, analytics, CRM, and so forth. A successful automation plan and content marketing strategy will integrate all other aspects of your entire marketing approach.
About Content Marketing and Automation
Content marketing’s history has been traced back for more than a century, to magazines, books, and other print publications that marketers used to acquire customers. Now, though, digital publication through websites, YouTube, and other new media has become instantaneous and free. Content marketing is now common, and is within reach of corporations and small businesses alike.
With the addition of an entirely new digital marketing function, though, comes the addition of a new set of time-consuming responsibilities. There are new goals, new metrics, and new data to consider, which can devour as many resources as you put into them. The key to minimizing resource consumption while improving ROI and connecting with more customers is automation.
Content marketing automation refers to software and platforms that are designed to reduce the amount of time and resources you spend performing repetitive or interruptive tasks, and are essential to an integrated marketing approach. For example, if you need to schedule blog posts or social media posts at certain times during the day based on when your customer demographics are most responsive, then you would use an automation tool to post on your behalf.
Designing Your Automation Program
An editorial calendar, which is the time line of your content marketing program, defines the deadlines for the publication of your marketing content. It should include all potential channels and media outlets. Once you know your editorial calendar, which should be defined and redefined by a number of external factors, such as your content strategy goals, overall marketing goals, and analytics, you can design your automation strategy and choose the right tools to meet your editorial needs.
Selecting the Right Tools
Small businesses or freelancers will often use different marketing tools than mid-sized businesses or corporations. Here, we will look at some tools that small or mid-sized businesses use, and then move on to larger, more comprehensive platforms that incorporate many more functions, such as CRM, email marketing, analytics, social media management, and more.
Freelancers and small businesses have smaller content marketing programs, so they can make do with smaller toolboxes. A local company that handles walk-ins and only has a couple social media accounts and a blog does not need to spend a hundred dollars a month on an automation platform. However, free tools can save time, and help organize a marketing work flow that might otherwise become a headache.
Small Businesses and Up
The most basic content marketing programs do not need comprehensive platforms or toolboxes. However, as anyone involved in content marketing knows, pre-scheduling blog posts, Tweets, or Facebook posts can save a lot of time and energy. That is why popular blogging platforms such as WordPress and Blogger offer the ability to automate your posting schedule. This way you can take a pre-planned pile of content and schedule it out months in advance. Plug-ins for these platforms also offer the ability to cross-post links to your content to other channels. A link to your blog post can appear on Twitter and Facebook automatically, with the help of plug-ins such as WordPress’s Jetpack. A simple search for plug-ins that automate posting or distribute links to social channels can take a lot of time off of your plate.
One tool that is useful for cross-posting curated content or links to your content across social channels is Bufferapp. It allows you to stack posts for a few social media channels, including Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. Paid accounts can buffer unlimited posts for up to twelve accounts, which is very useful for automating the distribution of both created and curated content.
The first really comprehensive automation tool we will mention here is the most vital weapon in your arsenal. It integrates your social media campaign and your content marketing campaign, which are really just part of one integrated marketing approach. Hootsuite is technically a social media management package, but it provides more centralized content distribution and automation tools under one hood than most other free platforms out there. It combines all major, minor, and even obscure media channels into one dashboard.
Hootsuite has apps and plug-ins that incorporate email marketing tools such as Mail Chimp, blog platforms such as Blogger and WordPress, and the most common media channels such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and so on. This program is available in both free and premium versions, with varying features and levels of functionality for different subscriptions. Some of the most notable automation functions include the ability to create posting schedules for any number of accounts, upload posts and schedules via spreadsheets, track analytics for all accounts, track third-party statistics for your individual content distribution platforms, and much, much more. It is the go-to social media automation package for companies across the spectrum, from the individual to the international conglomerate.
Mid-Sized and Up
Climbing the ladder towards mid-sized to large businesses, we have tools that provide more and more integration with CRM and ecommerce, and offer many perks such as on-site analytics, A/B testing, contact management, calendar management tools, ERP integration, and so forth. Tools such as Nurture and Infusionsoft require monthly subscriptions that range from two to four digits. But these software packages promote themselves as complete automation packages.
The more complex your content marketing program becomes, and the more metrics you must track and customers you must engage, it will certainly become more necessary to research and experiment with packages such as these. Some of these high-end automation tools offer free entry packages, such as Sales Autopilot, which tends to lean towards email marketing, CRM, and related functions, or Leadsius, which has excellent analytics and tracking capabilities. Prospecteer’s Sales-Content Marketing Automation platform focuses on content marketing automation, management, and analytics, and is designed to integrate sales and marketing functions.
When researching automation packages, focus on your content distribution channels and your general marketing needs, since some of the cheaper packages tend to specialize in certain areas.
Final Tips to Keep in Mind
Always use fresh, valuable content. And, while this may be obvious, do not use keyword-centric content. Content marketing is about acquiring and engaging a customer base. And while SEO tactics can be useful to draw customers in, mediocre content can often do more harm than good. Loyal customers are acquired and maintained through a meaningful content marketing program, so use automation to share valuable content, but do not leave it completely on autopilot.
Most importantly, remember that marketing is integrated. Content marketing will not reach your audience without social media, email, or other media distribution sites. The more you integrate your tools into a single platform, the more time you save. All of the major automation tools integrate the major media channels with content marketing, and most of them can be tried out for free.