For many entrepreneurs and small businesses, it seems the dream is having a money machine that earns while you sleep. In order to do this, you need automation systems that take care of lead nurturing and administration for you.
This is great because that’s the kind of work that can really make you want to scratch your eyes out. It’s boring, and I’m all for streamlining processes.
There is an ugly side to automation, though, and it rears its head during big events like last night’s American election.
It splits business owners between those who are engaged and conscious about what’s going on in the world, and those who are either apathetic or who fail to plan well.
Last night, as the election results rolled in I received three emails — three! — from a well-known online entrepreneur who was ending his launch (known as a “cart close” day). Maybe his team thought people would be attached to their devices yesterday and would jump at the opportunity to buy his product, maybe he doesn’t think something as big as a dividing election would impact his business, or maybe I was on a “from Canada” segment of his list and therefore he thought I wouldn’t be paying attention to the election anyways. I don’t know, but it really left a sour taste in my mouth, and I unsubscribed (and sent him a little piece of my mind). The problem, I think, was that his email sequence was automated based on the day I signed up for his list and that happened to be a really badly-timed coincidence.
It’s a reminder that you should always have a pulse on what your business is communicating, and your marketing and editorial calendars should be well thought out. There is no way this person didn’t know an election was happening on November 8th. Plan accordingly.
Online entrepreneurs seem to be the worst for this, though I saw a couple of other larger businesses make mistakes last night too. Social media company Buffer’s automated tweet chat went out as election results were coming in. They quickly caught the mistake and apologized, but it hurts to think a company known for its thoughtful content marketing wouldn’t have rescheduled something like this, to begin with. These things are often planned weeks or months in advance!
So sorry for the really poor timing of that chat. We’re canceling things for tonight. Thanks for all the feedback on this, and sorry again!
— Buffer (@buffer) November 9, 2016
At least they apologized. Many don’t.
You may think there’s no problem with doing business as usual while events like this happen. People still want their stuff, and not everyone is engaged in politics or whatever else may be happening at the time. Your audience might live in a part of the world that you think isn’t affected by what happens at the global scale. Those are all assumptions.
Ignoring what happens in the wider world can have implications for your business. It can damage your reputation. I’m sure I’m not the only one who unsubscribed from that entrepreneur’s list last night.
Because there are people who are engaged in what’s going on out there, and they’re watching when you mess up due to your lack of planning or tact. Not only that, but we learn that things we felt were personal and live have been automated. No one’s really there ready to respond. In today’s world of social media, where things are instant and real-time, people expect you to be present. It can damage the trust you’ve built with your audience. Are you really who you say you are?
It’s impossible to plan for every event that goes on in the world, but you should always be prepared to jump in, cancel emails and social media posts, and pause your automated system. You should have a policy in place for this (learn more about crisis communication). I remember when, during last year’s attacks in Paris, businesses were getting hammered on social media for their apparent lack of consideration.
This whole election event has reminded me how important it is to care about what’s going on for other people in the world. It’s so easy to stay in your bubble and be oblivious to what else is going on out there. What you say and do publicly, or in people’s email inboxes, can affect them personally. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can damage your reputation (though apparently, you can still win elections). Events like this remind us all to be a little more thoughtful about how we use media.