How much do marketers and other content creators actually need to know about automation?

Estimated read time: 7 minutes



Automation can really make our lives easier as content marketers. Why not have a machines do all the mundane and repeatable tasks. Who really wants to do them anyway? Not me, for sure. Plus, machines are probably better at those tasks anyway.

Of course, automation also can present issues. When it’s not working and the audience notices, for example. Other times, it’s so helpful. For example, I schedule many conference meetings automagically and you can even schedule meetings with me on here. Until we hop on the phone, I haven’t done a thing.

Related: This email automation kept wishing my dead dog a happy birthday.

As I’m currently looking for my next role, one thing that has come up a few times is how much marketers or content creators actually need to know about automation.

I discuss that topic for about 15 minutes in my podcast here.

As is often the answer nowadays, the answer likely is: It depends.

Factors at play are team size, other skills on the team, difficulty of the tools and products to sell. Just to name a few.

The basics of common automation

Automation in content and marketing takes tasks that previously were done by people and now has machines do them.

This can allow teams to focus their time on other potentially and hopefully higher value tasks.

For example, sticking with the scheduling meetings via Calendly example. Let’s say I attend a show for 3 days and can take 12 meetings per day – so 36 meetings. If it takes 15 minutes to schedule each just scheduling them takes about 9 hours. Given that there’s often a back and forth that can distract from other tasks at hand, it might even take longer because it takes a moment to get in and out of tasks.

Of course, people may say that it’s more efficient or better to set the meetings up themselves. There are some true advantages to that of course. One I ran into was at a conference. I used the automatic scheduling and let people pick their spots.

That adds the meeting to their schedule and mine. If I would move it, they get the updated invite and also have the option to move it with the click of a button if the new time doesn’t work.

The fail has happened when I used this function at a huge expo and exhibitors booked meetings that worked for them. I didn’t realize I would be running from one huge hall to another basically after every meeting.



Of course, I could have fixed that by simply looking at the locations before going. And then I could have tried to batch them a bit by location. Or by leaving more walking time in between them.

All those solutions are possible via automation and it’s not really a problem of automation versus manual.

The mindset that I recommend is: Determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then find the automation tool that can get you there the closest. Keep in mind that automation is not perfect either.

The most common automation in marketing

There are certainly many use cases.

Social media

Social media is a common one. Scheduling posts through tools has been around for a while. I probably started that for sure by 2013. I remember that I was posting everything live in 2009 during the hey day of Eastern Iowa News, a news startup I founded.

Then later tools added automatic scheduling. It was still manual as I had to pick times. But at least, social posts were spread out.

Today, social media scheduling tools are more advanced and even offer auto scheduling based on what the tool’s machine learning has determined to be the next, best open time.

Email

Email marketers often use automation based on how people are reacting to emails. Of course, the spray and pray approach of email sending is also still a strategy companies use – unfortunately. Often this is the reason why consumers scream about too many emails. Bad cadence automation can be another reason for consumer displeasure.

From a content perspective, email automation gives us a great opportunity to reuse our content written and produced with business goals in mind even further.

Chatbots

Chatbots are becoming more and more common. Some are terrible and don’t understand.

“Sorry, I don’t understand that. Can you please rephrase.”

Of course, that’s why we need AI writers now who write the stuff chatbots potentially have to say.

Some bots aren’t terrible. For example, I conducted an interview with one for a VP of Marketing job I’ve applied for. The conversation was – let’s call it very human.

The process was very transparent about that the interviewer was a bot and that the script would be shared with the hiring manager.

Of course, in a true AI automation model, the machines will filter out less than ideal candidates from these interviews based on:

    Keywords used
    Context
    Grammar, spelling
    Maybe personality (the way we write can show a lot about who you are)

Websites

Automated experiences happen on many sites. Move toward the x to leave, a pop up comes up to get you to sign up for the newsletter.

Related: What’s better a pop up or an in-line ad?

Personalization is another example of automation. In the past we designed and created for the masses, but user experiences will become more and more personalized.

Today, personalization on websites often includes, different content and offers by:

  • geography
  • shown interest
  • leaving products in your cart

Read next: In this talk I discuss personalization using Sitecore

Tasks that reuse information

Any task that reuses information should in theory be automated. And if they aren’t yet, it’s just a matter of time.

For example, as I am applying for jobs, I often get versions of this:

With one click I can apply to 24 jobs at once. Now, some of those jobs listed aren’t super relevant but it’s a thing job seekers can use to speed up the process. Though, keep in mind that this can be close to spraying and praying. Why apply to jobs you aren’t the least qualified for or interested in?

Of course, recruiters have similar tools available with Linkedin InMail. Sometimes that leads to highly irrelevant jobs being shared, but automation – like humans – isn’t perfect.

The skill to learn

These are just some examples of elementary automation. Automation will certainly continue to evolve. The number tools out there to potentially learn is endless.

Certainly we should learn tools and I have done that too. But then learn the strategy and performance analysis.

  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What tools can help us with that?
  • What are the latest strategies to maximize anything we do
  • Constant review of performance and quality assurance

When it comes to redesigning or replatforming a website – which does take time – the launch is just the beginning.

Websites are really just a means to an end. So are automation tools.

For example, while I was looking for a job, I completely updated the homepage and several calls to action throughout the site. (Example: CTA on articles “Hire your next CMO here.”)

I also completely removed ads – including the latest Google Auto ads – to not overload readers with CTAs.

Those strategies and user experiences will certainly change in the near future again based on personal business goals.

I can create strategies, test them and update them while learning the automation and tools that I need today. The tools will likely change again anyways.

Another thing to remember is that the best mar-tech product designers keep making tools easier and easier to use. Knowing how to use them – the skill – will become easier to learn while the strategies to actually drive results will become more difficult because – the reality is-that user behavior is becoming more and more complex.