How to Fuse Marketing Automation with Social Media

by Pam Neely last updated on

There’s never been a better time to be a marketer. We can track almost every click a prospect makes. That means we know pretty much everything our clients or customers do online. We can then add insight to that knowledge by seeing what they say and like through social media, search and ecommerce.

Roll all that information together and you get what’s called “big data”. With big data, there’s the promise of making one to one marketing real. There’s even the possibility of automating that one to one marketing.

If you’ve never heard of one to one marketing, it came from the book “The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time“. “The One to One Future” was published all the way back in 1993 by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. That’s five years before Google was even founded.

In their book, Peppers and Rogers described a new way to know what customers want. They also outlined the idea of creating customized marketing messages for each customer. It was a new idea at the time, and became a bit like the holy grail of direct marketing.

Fast forward twenty-two years. Here we are, talking about one to one marketing again. Terms like “dynamic content”, “personas” and “marketing automation” are all children of Peppers and Roger’s old book. Except now their ideas are no longer theory.

Their ideas aren’t reserved for huge, Fortune 500 companies, either. With a little planning and a bit of digital finesse, it’s possible for small companies to implement basic one to one marketing. Marketing automation and social media are the perfect tools to do it with.

What exactly is marketing automation?

According to Wikipedia, this is the definition of marketing automation:

Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.

In simpler terms, marketing automation is software. It’s software that lets you automate different marketing tasks. Those marketing tasks aren’t limited to one platform or type of marketing. Marketing automation can be used for everything from lead generation (getting customers) to retention marketing (keeping customers).

Some companies can invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into their marketing automation platforms. They use complex software that can take weeks to set up and months to learn how to use. Some other companies just use email.

Yup, humble old email. It ends up being the workhorse of most marketing automation engines. That’s because email is one of the best tools to automate and customize marketing messages. Referring to marketing automation as only email is a bit of a simplification, but it provides a good starting framework. Many companies do use one other tool for their marketing automation. It’s social media.

Different levels of marketing automation

In a simplified definition, fusing marketing automation with social media is just fusing email marketing (specifically autoresponders) with social media. If you’re automating even some of your social media work with tools like Buffer or Hootsuite, you’re already using marketing automation with social media.

There’s one critical aspect too that separates basic, entry-level marketing automation from more sophisticated marketing automation. That’s customer personas. If you’re using personas, you’re not just sending the same messages to every customer or prospect. You’ll have broken out your customers or prospects into a few different groups. You’ll be sending customized emails and social media updates to each of those groups. The people in group 1 won’t be seeing the same emails and social media updates as the people in group 2.

It’s that segmentation that really marks the difference between just coordinating email marketing and social media, and having a true marketing automation machine.


The fine art of automating social media

There are issues around automating social media updates. It’s traditionally considered a no-no in social media, but pretty much every social media marketer everywhere does it. Just look to the popularity of social media software and management tools.

Without some automation, even a full-time social media manager could barely keep up with the posting schedule of even a small company. The manager would have to be up at 7am to send out that first tweet of the day, and still be up at 11pm to send out the last tweet. Keep that up day after day, and…, well, it’s just not realistic.

Smart social media managers schedule regular updates with the automation tools available. They spend the rest of their time doing other essential social media tasks. Those might include

  • Replying to feedback from their followers
  • Managing the customer service side of social media
  • Checking reports to see which posts have done best
  • Coordinating with the rest of their company to come up with great content for new updates and posts

Getting email and social media in sync

Hopefully, the social media manager is sitting right next to the email marketing staff. Or even better, they are the email marketing staff. That makes it easier to coordinate their social media work with their email marketing and vice versa.

They will probably employ tactics like this:

1) Actively build their email subscriber list with their social media work. They’ve done things like this to get those new subscribers:

  • They’ve added an email sign-up tab to their Facebook page
  • They announce upcoming email updates – with calls to action to join their list – on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and anywhere else they’re active.
  • Their “about us” pages or user profiles include a link to join their email list.

2) They include social media content in their email updates. 

Customer feedback, popular posts, sweepstakes results – whatever’s been going on for the company’s social media accounts is okay to include in email updates. Don’t forget to add calls to action to follow you on social media, too.

3) They email-gate content on social media, or announce new content that requires an email signup. 

Whitepapers, webinars, ebooks, and more should all be announced on social media – and more than once. Consider taking small chunks of content from each email-gated asset. Use those chunks of content for your social media updates. Even a small serving of great information might be enough to tempt someone to sign up for more.

4) Their email newsletters include social sharing icons, and super-easy ways to follow the company on social media.

For more information about how effective social sharing icons in emails are for engagement, see our infographic, Social Sharing Boosts Email CTR By 158%.

5) When people first sign up for the email newsletters, the confirmation page urges them to also follow the company on social media.

If possible, the company also includes a prompt to follow them on social media on the final confirmation page when someone unsubscribes, too.

Syncing autoresponders with social media

So that’s how you’d fuse email marketing with social media. If you add the automation dimension – autoresponders – to all that, here’s what you might get:

1) A welcome series of autoresponder messages that introduces people to your best content, both on your site and on your main social media platforms. 

You could embed some automation rules into those email messages so that if someone clicked a specific link in those welcome messages (say, a link that talked about a specific problem) then you could use GetResponse’s automation features to pass anyone who clicked that link to a new campaign. That campaign could be another autoresponder or just a segmented list.

For more information on how to do this, see one of our earlier posts on marketing automation.

2) If someone downloaded a piece of gated content on a specific topic, you could add them to a special segment of your list. Or you could add them to a separate list so they got information related to that whitepaper. You could then send customized email updates to this interest-based list. 

For example, if you were an employment agency and someone downloaded a whitepaper about how to hire employees, you could add them to the “employers” list. Then you would only send them emails that included information and social media updates of interest to employers.

Even more customization and automation

That would get you to basic marketing automation. As mentioned before, to really make marketing automation sing, you need to have the automation, the targeted messaging, AND the different groups of customers or clients. Then each of those different groups has to be moved along the sales cycle.

Here’s an example: Even if you’ve got a list of employers, you wouldn’t want to send the same message to employers who just signed up for your list as you would to employers who had been on your list for months.

The solution? Just send the new subscribers a welcome email series. Set up triggers so once they download a whitepaper or do anything else you define, they get moved to a different list.

While it’s good to have these different phases of customer interest, don’t get too carried away with them. Some segmentation is good, but try to define your sales funnel in only 3-5 steps. Otherwise, your automation machine will get too complex.


Sending one to one social media updates 

There’s one last step to setting up this automated, segmented marketing machine. That’s to send social media updates to different groups. Then you want to send the right social media updates to people in those groups as they move through the sales funnel.

This is a level of sophistication that most marketers skip. They won’t send individual updates to people. Instead, they’ll include a mix of updates in their social media streams. Different updates in those feeds will be of interest to different groups. For instance, every other update might be of interest to employers. And maybe every tenth update would be targeted to employers who just started following them.

This is not ideal, but it works. The way to take it to the next level would be to reach out to new followers on an individual basis. If you’ve got a large following, that could be hard. But if you’ve got a smaller following (maybe 100 new followers a week), it might be possible for a small team of sales staff to at least reach out with a customized welcome message. Then as soon as one of those new prospects clicks a link in that welcome message, your marketing automation system could add them to a specific list, designed to serve up whatever information their behavior suggests they are interested in.

Nobody said marketing automation was easy

Does that all seem like a lot of work? It is. But step back for a moment. Once this is all set up, you can move forward to optimizing it, testing it, making it better. Without the automation, you’d be forced to keep treading water, too busy to do anything but try to keep up with the constant messaging creation. Marketing automation systems are a lot of work, but the promise is there. And there are plenty of tools to help you make it easier.

How well is your marketing automation system working? Do you send customized messages to your social media followers? Tell us about what’s worked – and what hasn’t – in the comments.

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