Why (and how) to schedule your social media posts
Do you struggle to get all your social media tasks done every day? When you invest time and effort into getting your small business known, into creating content, marketing and selling products, managing orders and providing customer support, you quickly run out of time. This usually puts engaging with your audience on social media on the back burner.
Luckily, social media automation tools like Buffer, Hootsuite and TweetDeck are a life-saver when it comes to scheduling content for social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, YouTube and more. But here’s the thing: while these tools are great at scheduling updates and juggling time to grow a business, relying on them too much can put you in the risk of ruining your reputation on social media.
In this post we’ll walk you through the benefits of scheduling your social posts and some things to avoid if you want to achieve social media success.
Why schedule your social posts?
When you consider the short lifecycle of social updates and how quickly information moves across Facebook, Twitter and other networks, social media content feels in-the-moment and real-time. However, that doesn’t mean that scheduling content ahead of time won’t leave any room for real-time updates. When automation is done right, it will give you the flexibility you need to share content while away and also provide you with the opportunity to slip in real-time engagement.
The Sprout Social blog explains this nicely: “For every quick-witted, real-time tweet, there are hundreds more tweets that take hours of planning and a lot of creative power to make, especially when a single tweet can help drive an entire strategy.”
There are plenty of benefits to creating social media content and planning it ahead of time. The Marketo blog mentions the five most important ones:
- It helps to maintain a consistent cadence. Consistency on social media also means that your audience will learn when to expect fresh content from you.
- It allows you to map time-sensitive content ahead of time. Whether you’re launching a product or a sale, holding a webinar or releasing an ebook, you can easily plan your social content ahead of time.
- You can take your social marketing out of a silo. When you plan social content you can allow other members of your team to get involved, rather than a narrow silo of one or two people.
- It serves as a system of record. You’ll be able to look back at your past updates and review optimal frequency and the type of content that works best for your audience and for each network. Analysing this information allows you to determine what type of content your audience found more engaging as well as the best time to post content to ensure optimal engagement.
- It enforces the “411 Rule”. This refers to a ratio of sharing on social media – four educational and entertaining posts for every one “soft promotion” and every one “hard promotion”.
What to watch out for when scheduling social media posts
There are a few things to be aware of when it comes to scheduling and automating your online presence.
When it comes to social media there’s one key thing to remember: it’s a human experience. So not everything that can be automated, should be automated.
Customer interaction is definitely one thing you should never automate. While you might be tempted to automate simple responses like “thanks”, anything more than that can be dangerous and can lead to some bad experiences.
To illustrate this point, take a look at this example from American Air that decided to automate its response to its followers:
So think twice before automating social posts, responses or direct messages. While this can take the culmination of hours of social media work that happens throughout the day and condense it into just 30 minutes of work, not everything can or should be automated.
So what can you automate? Anything that isn’t time-sensitive such as:
- Viral photos
- Inspirational quotes
- Links to articles or content from other sites
- Funny memes
- Your blog posts
When you schedule social posts ahead of time, you can work more efficiently and make your time spent on social media as productive and profitable as possible. However, don’t just set it and forget it. Automate what you can and what makes sense for you while still remaining engaged.
Treating scheduled messages as “one size fits all”
Remember that each network has a unique style so aim for distinct messages for each of the social networks you’re sharing content on. Plugging in the same message and spreading it across all your social media accounts can look robotic and insincere.
So avoid scheduling the exact same message on all social networks. Instead, cater your messages for each platform. With Twitter’s 140 character limit, your message on this network should be clear and concise. Facebook has a 63,206 character limit which means you get more space to add more information and get your message across. LinkedIn has a 700 character limit and the audience is made up of professionals so make sure to adjust your tone to fit this specific audience.
Not staying abreast of current events
When you’re scheduling content in advance, it’s very important to keep an eye on the news and be aware of what’s going on in the world at the time – tragedies, holidays or other meaningful events.
Ignore these events and you might end up turning a simple tweet into a social media disaster. That’s what happened to the NRA’s American Rifleman account when an employee posted a tweet on the day of the Aurora shooting saying “Good morning, shooters, Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”
The employee who posted the tweet was apparently unaware of the tragedy. The tweet was removed three hours later and a few hours later the NRA_Rifleman account, which previously had around 16,000 followers, was deleted from Twitter.
Apparently the tweet was published via HootSuite, a tool that lets users schedule tweets in advance. The lesson? Don’t set it and forget it. Keep an eye on your scheduled tweets and on the news from the industries you’re part of.
Not being around to engage
A major problem that can result from scheduling social posts is receiving comments on a post and not being around to respond. Social media is about being social, which means that if you want to be successful you need to be active, to be there to listen and to respond.
So you should never automate activities like:
- Replies to comments posted on your page
- Answers to questions posted on your page
- Replies to messages posted on your page
- Your comments on other pages
- Direct or private messages
That doesn’t mean that you need to be available 24/7. Consider the type of content you’re scheduling to determine whether you absolutely need to be available to moderate the discussion. For example, if you schedule a quote or an image that is most likely to generate likes and shares and very few comments then that’s ok. However, if you schedule a blog post or content on a trending topic that is likely to generate comments or questions, make sure you’re around so you can respond quickly.
When it comes to scheduling social posts, there are a couple of key rules to remember:
- Don’t schedule everything
- Be ready to engage when your scheduled posts go live
- Stay on top of current events and trending topics
Hopefully you see the benefits of scheduling social posts and also take away some useful tips from this post.
Are you scheduling your social media content in advance? What tips and tricks do you have for scheduling and engaging? We’d love to know how you tackle this issue and what you’ve found that works for you.