Automation Tips for Virtual Workers

When you’re a virtual assistant, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the daily tasks that go into supporting various clients. As your client base expands, so does that daily to-do list.Automation tools are a great way to set up systems that will complete those tasks for you. Automation will streamline work processes and free up your time to take on more clients.

If you’re tired of the email grind, updating spreadsheets and making sense of social media metrics, then automation is for you. The time spent in the initial set up of automating these tasks is small in comparison to the time saved in the future.

Here are three automation tools that will banish those boring tasks from your workday forever.

1. Gmail – canned responses

This process is one of the great time savers for email management. If you find yourself tapping out the same email to a different customer several times a day, it’s time to set up an email template, otherwise known as the “canned response.”

It’s an easy, two-step process. Enable the template option in Gmail, and then customize the template with your preferred text. You can even save more time and check out this free template library to use as a guide for canned response text.

Here’s the rundown on how to set up canned responses.

To enable message templates in Gmail:

Click the Settings gear icon in your Gmail’s toolbar.

  1. Click on Settings.
  2. Click on Labs.
  3. In the Search for a lab box, enter the text canned responses.
  4. Click on Enable.
  5. Click on Save Changes.

Now that this function is enabled, you’ll want to create a canned response.

To format a canned response in Gmail:

Click the Compose in your Gmail.

  1. In the New Message box, select the bottom right-hand corner arrow.
  2. Follow the path for Canned responses – new canned response.
  3. A pop-up box will prompt you to name your canned response. Choose a name for the response and click ok.
  4. Enter text in the subject line and the text field.
  5. Again, select the bottom right-hand corner arrow.
  6. Under Canned responses you’ll see the options to Insert, Save, Delete your canned response. Click Save.
  7. To test your snazzy new canned response, open a new email and go to Canned responses – Insert. Your text will automatically populate the subject and text fields.

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The best way to get the hang of canned responses is to play with this feature and test templates with your friends. Do it a few times to get comfortable and watch how this feature cuts your email time in half.

2. Zapier – spreadsheet integration

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Apps are neat and fun until you have too much data in too many of them. You’ve got contest participants on Twitter, subscribers in Gravity Forms, attendees in EventBrite and that sinking feeling when you realize all of that data somehow has to get into a spreadsheet.

The engineers over at Zapier know that struggle and have devised a tool for you to transfer all that data in a snap. Or “zap,” if you want to use the term coined by Zapier.

Zapier has become a popular automation tool for the sheer number of apps it supports, but also for the ease of use. 

How does it work? To move data from one app to another, create a trigger and an action. These two rules cause the “zap” to occur.

The Zapier dashboard already has a workflow system in place, so you can match two apps together and watch the integration happen.

When you become a master zapper, the possibilities become endless. Zapier also has a great knowledge base with crafty ways to integrate this app.

At Canadian Virtual Gurus, we’ve been using Zapier to integrate applications with our internal communication tool, Slack.  Zapier is set to push new client information into Slack, saving time for our team members who can skim the information without ever needing to go into another app.  It rocks.

3. Hootsuite – social media metrics

There is a staggering number of resources on the web for measuring social media metrics. It’s easy to lose your mind trying to decipher bar graphs and pie charts (Google Analytics, I’m looking at you), or even what data to evaluate.

The trick is to know what to measure, and the best tools to use. A good place to start is with some basic targets.  Metrics guru Avinash Kaushik has a great outline of three key aspects of social media metrics to follow.

  • Conversation Rate This is a number of replies or comments per post. It’s also a good way to understand your audience’s preferences and tastes.
  • Amplification Rate This is how often and how far your content gets shared. Retweets are a good example of this – or a share of a Facebook post.
  • Applause Rate This is the number of “likes” or “favorite” clicks on a post. The double tap on Instagram is applause, also.

Now that we know what to collect, the Hootsuite dashboard is organized to target and extract these metrics. To begin evaluating data, simply connect your social media platforms to the Hootsuite application. Instead of running reports from each social media platform, all the data can be analyzed through Hootsuite.

The ability to customize reports using things like Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and Twitter Profile Stats also allows the user to filter out excessive or unrelated data. This is why Hootsuite is so user-friendly – not only are the reports easy to generate, there’s a library of handy templates are available with one click.

As with all new tools and applications, it takes time to learn how to use them. The key is to find tools that save time in the long run. The more comfortable you become with automation, the easier it becomes to implement in day to day processes, and that means more free time. Technology – sometimes, you slay us. In a good way.

What tools do you use to automate processes in the virtual workplace? What tips have you found to cut those work tasks down to size? Feel free to share your automation tips with us; we love to hear from virtual workers!

Cynda Pike is a content creator for Virtual Gurus. Her likes are literature, neo-classical art, screenwriting and cats.

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