I am – admittedly – not a planner.
My strongest skills revolve around creativity and communication.
I love the satisfaction of crossing something off a to-do list, but for me, it’s a long road between task creation and completion.
I’ve tried to get on the planning bus, but I always lean way too hard one way or another: I end up planning too much, or not enough.
When I plan too much, my ability to produce content becomes paralyzed beneath the weight of 100 outstanding tasks, and, when I plan too little, I wander between projects, aimless as I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
My entire business changed the day I discovered AUTOMATION.
If you’re worried about The Big A, I hear you.
You don’t want to sound robotic.
You don’t want to get caught in a spam filter, or end up ghost banned.
You WANT to grow your business organically.
The thing is, if you automate your business the right way, you won’t get marked as spam. Your business will continue to grow like a weed, and you won’t sound like a robot – unless that’s the voice you’re going for.
In this post, I’ll show you how to automate parts of your business that include:
Organization and Efficiency
But before we get to that, there are some things you should NEVER automate.
Following and Unfollowing
This is not a good look for anybody.
Not now, not ever.
If you want to get blocked on Instagram, follow and then unfollow me. It makes your business look shady and desperate at best, and unethical at worst.
Every single account you follow (on every social media network) should be handpicked by you because you ENJOY THE CONTENT. Not to score a followback, and not because your follow-bot thinks you’d like the account based on a hashtag.
If you’ve been on Twitter for longer than a minute, this has happened to you.
After following someone, you get hit with an INSTANT DM.
Usually it’s nothing more than a cheesy “welcome to Twitter, you are now #blessed for following me” message, alongside links for EVERYTHING THEY’VE EVER CREATED.
It’s very 2009. Stop doing it. Please. Now. Yesterday.
Same goes for the thanks for following me, @you template tweets, and this week’s top followers are…
Social media has now been around for 20 years, and, frankly, most people now know when they’re talking to a bot or automation.
This one has some grey area, but bare with me.
When you post a picture on Instagram, please don’t set it to automatically share to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Repurposing content across multiple platforms is always a good idea – but make it look native.
If you want to share the same picture across three social networks, you’re going to see better results opening up each app, and posting it “by hand.”
There’s no bigger bummer than going to follow someone on Twitter, only to find their feed is nothing more than Instagram post links and “I liked a video on YouTube”s.
The key to good automation is doing it right. If you have the right automation strategy (and tools), everything you post will look organic.
Use Canned Responses in Gmail
If you use Google Mail for Business or regular Gmail, you can create canned responses for two-click email answering. To enable canned responses, you need to turn it on in Google Labs:
Hot tip: If you find yourself replying to the same questions via email over and over, write a canned response for each.
If you regularly send out copy-and-paste emails (for example, asking to contribute to a Pinterest Group Board), you can set up a canned response to make future requests a snap.
Take Advantage of Gmail Filters
Hot tip: If you use Unroll.me to roll up your email subscriptions, I recommend switching to the alternative called “Gmail Unsubscriber.” Unroll.me sells your data to companies like Uber — a solid reminder that there’s always a price when a service is free.
In a post-Unroll.me world, I started using the filters already offered in Gmail a hell of a lot more than I previously was.
All of my subscribed newsletters go into one folder via a filter (filter for terms like “Powered by Mailchimp”), my affiliate notifications go into another, and so on.
The more high-volume messages I can filter into a folder, the cleaner my inbox is every morning.
I also have the “Personal level indicator” turned on in Settings:
Gmail will automatically add an arrow to the emails that are sent directly to you (not a mailing list), and a double arrow for messages that are sent ONLY to you.
This one isn’t for everybody, but if you have a gross amount of emails coming at you every day, you can employ an autoresponder.
Keep it simple, and set response time expectations:
Hi! Thanks for your message 🙂 . I’ll get back to you within the next two business days. In the meantime, you might wanna check out my FAQ page, or my top posts. Thanks!
Hot tip: Make sure your About/Start Here!/Questions page links are OBVIOUS and EASY TO FIND on your site layout. If you set someone up for a treasure hunt, they’re gonna defect and click on a help me button – aka your contact form.
Turn ConvertKit into an Assistant
Yes, ConvertKit is the Mother of all Sales Funnels and Mailing Lists – but it can be used to supplement your day-to-day processes, too. A couple examples:
BLOG PUBLISHING: Whenever you publish a new blog post, you can set up an automation to send the post to a new ConvertKit broadcast via RSS.
NEW CLIENT COMMUNICATION: If you offer a 1-on-1 service like design, you can set up an entire nurture sequence in ConvertKit: from booking their first 1-on-1 appointment, to receiving your Welcome pdf.
If you can move a piece of communication out of your email client and into ConvertKit, that’s one more piece of your day automated out.
AUTOMATE: SOCIAL MEDIA
Tailwind: I use Tailwind to queue content I haven’t pinned before.
When I browse Pinterest, I add the things I want to repin into the Tailwind queue instead of manually repinning right away. Tailwind can then pin for me at the best time of day (I know I’m not the only one trolling Pinterest at 3AM.)
I also use Tailwind to pin my content to group boards on a regular interval.
Hot tip: Build Tailwind group board lists with the group boards you pin to frequently. Using a combination of a group board list and interval scheduling is basically Pinterest Magic.
Make sure you always follow group guidelines – ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE AUTOMATING – some have an 80/20 rule, and others only allow 1 pin per day.
BoardBooster: I use BoardBooster to loop my entire Pinterest pin history.
I’m very particular with what I pin to my Pinterest account, and, because of that, there’s no way I can pin 50+ fresh pins per day.
Instead, I get BoardBooster to repin content from my boards.
BoardBooster automatically weighs the new looped pin against the old pin, and deletes the pin with less repins.
I don’t dink around with BoardBooster, ever – I just set it and forget it. No new pins or group board content filters through BoardBooster; using a mix of both Tailwind and BoardBooster keeps my account looking hand-pinned and fresh.
Automating your pins will also drive your repin/follow statistics up. After using Tailwind for one month (the duration of its free trial), my stats grew by 30%.
Twitter and Facebook
I use SmarterQueue to automate my Twitter and Facebook accounts.
SmarterQueue is different (better) than other services like Buffer and HootSuite, because you can create a library of content to pull from.
Once you’ve built up a library of posts and links, SmarterQueue will help you create a schedule that includes all of your library categories. From there, all you have to do is dip into Twitter and Facebook once a day (or a few times a week) to retweet or share time sensitive content.
A unique feature of SmarterQueue is that you can schedule both Evergreen and one time use content:
Yes, SmarterQueue is similar to MeetEdgar.
The reason I switched from MeetEdgar to SmarterQueue is because of price: SmarterQueue is cheaper. But I stuck around for more reasons than that.
SmarterQueue is constantly introducing new features (often based on user feedback), and has an amazing support team.
There’s also a free alternative: Recurpost.
I used Recurpost in-between MeetEdgar and (meeting) SmarterQueue. For a free service, it got the job done. My reason for leaving Recurpost was that the free tier topped out at 100 saved posts, and – while it’s an amazing free service – it was a bit too clunky to justify paying out of pocket for it.
Okay, I have two recommendations for Instagram.
Grum can be considered scandalous, depending on who you’re talking to.
The thing that makes Grum different than other Instagram scheduling tools (like Later), is that it automatically posts to your Instagram account: no copying or pasting required. The reason some people are scared to use Grum is because they think it will work against the Instagram TOS, and potentially leave them ghost banned.
Grum’s help section says:
Grum doesn’t implement the Instagram API (official or unofficial) at all while posting your image(s) or videos – we use the same process all Instagram users do when uploading images instead. Grum works on its own as the native Instagram app, so there is nothing connected with the prohibited auto posting.
I love that Grum makes it easy to set it and forget it.
Later is another great service, but I used to constantly miss the post reminders it would send to my phone.
Grum also has a bonus “First Comment” feature:
If Grum isn’t for you, Later is my second favorite Instagram tool.
Later helps you build an Instagram schedule, and then sends a reminder to your phone when it’s time to post a picture. From there, it’s up to you to copy and paste your pre-scheduled image and caption into the actual Instagram app.
Secondary Social Media Networks
I use a WordPress plugin called NextScripts to automatically submit my content to what I call “secondary social media networks” like StumbleUpon and Flipboard.
While it isn’t important (to me) to maintain a following on either of these platforms, regularly submitting my new content can give bumps in traffic and benefit my SEO ranking long-term.
Hot tip: I recommend using StumbleUpon once or twice a week. I find some GREAT content to share on Twitter and Facebook that way. A bonus is: the more you stumble other users content, the more your content seems to get stumbled in return.
AUTOMATE: CONTENT CREATION
Batch Post Creation
Okay, having this as an “automation tip” might be considered cheating, but hear me out.
When you batch write, edit, format, and schedule your posts, you’re doing all of the work up front, and reaping the rewards long term – just like automating!
I try and schedule out a month’s worth of posts (which is four for me), but the dream is to get to three months eventually.
Here’s how I batch create posts, with each step being completed for ALL posts before I start the next:
1. Create new Google Doc for each post I want to write.
2. At the top of each document, copy and paste the title, targeted SEO keyword, and opt-in description from my quarterly content plan.
3. Write a ROUGH rough first draft. I’m talking a bunch of lines that don’t form a story, and any facts, links, or notes that I’ve Googled.
4. After the mega rough drafts are completed, I go through and hammer out a first draft. The first draft of my posts have no personality: they’re just a bunch of sentences that form the foundation of an article.
5. The last step of writing is a third draft, where I retype the entire post from scratch. My goal in this step is to write each “fact” statement in my own voice.
6. Spellcheck, edit, spellcheck, save.
7. Create a WordPress post for each new post. At this point I’ll change any settings that I need to from the WordPress default, add my SEO keyword to my Yoast plugin, and add the correct category and tags.
8. Image creation. Most of my posts only have the top (pinnable) image, so I’m creating at least one image for each post. Sometimes I’ll add screencaps, stock photos, and infographics to longer posts. I try and have everything made BEFORE I’m formatting the post itself.
9. Now I’ll go back to WordPress, and copy and paste my post into chunks using the Divi Builder. As I work through the post, I’ll add links and images and whatever else I need to make it as dynamic as possible.
10. Save, preview, save, and schedule!
Yes, writing three versions of the same post may be considered overkill by some, but my voice is important to my brand, so I don’t mind sinking my time into it.
Each post probably takes an hour and a half to write, from beginning to end.
Create Image Templates
Ohhhh she do love a template! While you can’t (yet?) automate your branding, you can automate some steps of the image and graphic creation process. There are three types of templates I use:
Posts – My rule is, if I have to create it a second time, I’m saving it as a .psd template in Photoshop (you can do the same in Canva). My most used template is the one I created for my post headers – like the one at the very top of this page.
The more time I can save myself down the road, the better!
Social Media – I keep a template for every social media header I’ve made. This is two-fold: first, it makes it easy to throw a new picture behind my logo whenever I feel like I want a change, and, second, it keeps me from Googling “what size is a Facebook cover photo” every time I want to update it.
I also keep social media templates for things like quotes, and the daily prompts I use in my Wild Co. Crew Facebook Group. Again, if you have to make it for a second time, save it.
Divi – I love Divi. Divi changed my life, and that isn’t an exaggeration. There is NO EASIER WAY to create beautiful content in WordPress. The best thing about Divi is that you can save chunks of a layout to the Divi Library, and use them as a template at a later date.
Save Actions in Photoshop
If there’s something you do regularly in Photoshop, save some time and create an action for it.
An action is essentially an automation: as soon as you hit the “play” button, the action rolls through the steps you’ve set, and edits your image for you. This is especially helpful if you’re adding the same filter to a large number of images, or if you’re resizing a bunch of files in one go.
AUTOMATE: ORGANIZATION AND EFFICIENCY
Combine Asana and ___________ with Zapier
Zapier gets another shout out later, but – for right now – let’s talk about how it makes Asana more badass than it already is. When you combine Zapier and Asana, you can essentially turn anything into a workflow:
- Asana tasks can be fed into a secondary calendar
- Asana tasks can be copied into a Google spreadsheet
- Google Emails can be turned into Asana tasks
- Form responses can be turned into Asana tasks/follow-ups
- Starred Slack messages can be turned into Asana tasks
Seriously – the options are endless.
Employ WordPress Plugins
Hot tip: Some WordPress plugins can slow down the speed of your site, or put a strain on your host’s resources. Only install plugins that have good ratings, and are used by a large number of WordPress users:
Revive Old Post automatically tweets out links to your old, archived, and forgotten posts. You can customize what goes out with the post link, and the number of posts it revives per day.
Broken Link Checker is great for SEO. This plugin crawls the contents of your site once a day, and emails you (or notifies you via the dashboard) with any broken links it finds. From there, you can either repair, ignore, or trash the link.
Yoast is as close as it gets to automating SEO. The plugin itself optimizes your site titles and meta descriptions, and lends a hand when you’re writing a new post. Yoast also works hard on the backend – it crawls your content, and sends updated sitemaps to Google on the reg.
Updraft Plus has saved my ass a time or two. It makes a COMPLETE BACK UP of your WordPress site, and – my fav part – automatically uploads the backup to your Google Drive or Dropbox. This is an easy way to foolproof your files.
Akismet will make sure you never have to moderate a spam comment again. Enough said.
BONUS: AUTOMATION RECIPES
To answer your first question, it stands for “If This, Then That.”
And, there’s a ton of stuff that IFTTT can take off your tedious task plate:
Not Sure Where to Start?…
I got you, pal!
When you first start automating your blog or business, it’s gonna be daunting: that’s the reality.
If you know you want to automate, but you aren’t sure where to start, LET ME BE YOUR GUIDE!
I made a cool quiz you can take. While I may not know what fruit you are based on the clothes you’d buy at H&M – like Buzzfeed – I can help you decide which tool to implement first.
Automation is kind of like creating passive income: it’s a lot of work up front, but once you get over that time investment, it will MASSIVELY benefit you long term.
Automating the simple (and tedious) tasks leaves YOU room for growth and big ideas.
Okay, now place your hand upon Britney’s entire discography,
And swear to me one more time:
I WILL NEVER AUTOMATE VIA TWITTER BOT.
Forever and ever, amen.