Automation – Letting the robots take over

Do you ever find yourself having to complete repetitive tasks? When running a website and trying to get your message out to the world, it’s quite an easy trap to fall into. The key to freeing yourself and gaining more time is to automate tasks. Here are a few ideas of what you can do.

Email lists

If you have built an email list, you’re probably already familiar with some kinds of automation. The list platform will at the very least allow you to type up an email and send it to multiple people without having to manage their email addresses at all. If someone subscribes, they are automatically added to the list – if they unsubscribe they are automatically removed with no input from yourself. You may not have previously considered this to be automation, but there is really no other way to describe it.
You can also send out a series of emails on a schedule, perhaps the day after signing up to the list and then every two days after for two weeks. These emails could be part of a course, or a marketing strategy. The point is, you write them once, you just set them up with a schedule, and they are automatically sent to new subscribers. Imagine getting just 5 subscribers a day without using a system like this – you’ll be tied in to send 5 individual emails every other day for two weeks, imposing a time burden and workload on yourself that is unnecessary. The platform will be able to personalize each and every message with the name of the subscriber, something that would take you time to do.
Automated messages are sometimes a paid-for add-on feature, but it can be well worth the cost to add this to your package.

IFTTT

One of the most popular websites for enabling automation is IFTTT.com, or “If This Then That”. It allows you to connect several different services, for example Gmail, Evernote, Dropbox and Todoist, and perform actions based on occurrences in each service.
Each applet (previously known as a ”recipe”) allows a simple action, and applets can be chained together to fully automate a system.
A simple example would be to save any attachment received in your Gmail inbox to a folder on your Dropbox account, saving you the effort of clicking and choosing where to save it – especially useful if you are out and about on a mobile device.
Social networks can be added as services too. If you post a picture on Instagram, by default you can share it to Facebook and to Twitter. However, the Twitter sharing is uninspiring – the text from your post appears, and a link to the picture, but not the actual picture itself. IFTTT applets allow you to post from Instagram to Twitter with the picture as an attachment, not a link.
You can also create applets to change the profile picture on one social media network when it is changed on another, so your Facebook and Twitter profile photos can always be in sync.
Of course, you could chain these applets with conditions – maybe if you send an email to yourself with an attachment called myprofile.jpg, it could automatically be saved and set as both your Twitter and Facebook profile photo.
You can also make copies of your tweets in a time-ordered list in a Google sheet, interact with Google Home and Alexa, and many other things. If you have smart home devices like thermostats and lighting, you can even make those react to situations within other services.
Expecting an important email from a client? Why not make your lights flash to let you know it has arrived! You can get emails to let you know if it will rain tomorrow, automatically share YouTube videos to Facebook pages, backup Facebook photos you are tagged in, or just play Darth Vader’s theme for fun when you talk to your Alexa device…

Tasker

The Android app Tasker can be used to automate actions from your mobile device. If you enter or leave a certain location, it can send a text message, for example – ideal for letting someone know you are on the way home without having to touch your phone.
Tasker has access to most settings and options within your device making it extremely powerful. If combined with a service like IFTTT, there’s a fair chance you’ll never have to press a button again!

Automation through email filters

The tasklist app Todoist supports adding tasks by email, making it ripe for use by IFTTT applets. However, you can also set up filters within your email software (including Gmail and Outlook) to forward particular messages to your Todoist email address.
For example, when the battery on your FitBit gets low, you’ll receive an email telling you to charge it. If you filter that email to be forwarded to Todoist and archived, you’ll have a nice and tidy inbox, coupled with a new task on your task list reminding you to charge your device.
Email filters can also automatically file messages into folders, send canned responses, forward messages to other addresses (or as SMS messages depending on your set-up), and many other things too.

Putting it together to make your life easier

Using automation, you can write an article and post it to your site, and be done with it. The automation will take care of posting it on social media, emailing it out to your subscriber base, checking off the “write an article” task on your task list, making a record of it in your timesheet on Google Docs, and reporting any responses to it by saving it in another sheet and flashing the lights in your house. While the last one is a little frivolous, you’ll see you’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of automation.

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