Good social media is engaging, timely, and visually appealing. The pace of change and expectations for good quality content are ever increasing. For example more and more channels offer live video streaming.
However, scheduling still has its place and done well can make your life a lot easier.
There are a wide range of tools you can try. Test a few and see what is going to work well for you, your organisation and the accounts you operate. If you are only managing Facebook Pages then use their in-built scheduling option. Tweetdeck is a very good option if you manage multiple Twitter accounts. Instagram users can try Later.
If you are managing accounts across different channels, Hootsuite or Buffer have free options with a range of paid-for upgrades depending on how many accounts you need to schedule to, and how many people need to be able to access the account.
It is possible to link your social media channels and update one channel and set rules for those posts to appear on other channels. But check how it looks to the user. Auto posting can save time but is always a compromise on how the content appears.
If you auto post to Twitter from Instagram or Facebook the image doesn’t appear with the text, and you either lose some of the text because of Twitter’s character limits or you have to post very short updates to Facebook or Instagram. Recipes set up in If This Then That work better but you still need to be careful about the length of your post. Auto posting from Instagram to Facebook does include the image, but beware of having too many hashtags in a Facebook post.
Once you’ve decided on the material for your scheduled posts, think about the best time of day and the best day of the week for your audience to read them. Try to be timely with your content for maximum impact. Scheduling is a good opportunity to test different versions of similar content and comparative effectiveness.
There were probably lots of posts scheduled to go out in the last 24 hours about Christmas markets. Perhaps friendly reminders to visit them and enjoy the build up to Christmas. In the light of what happened in Berlin, many of these may not have been appropriate or would have needed editing. It is really important to remember what is scheduled, when it is going out, and to make sure someone has access to your accounts at all times in case they need to delete, amend or reschedule posts.
You don’t want your social media accounts making the news for the wrong reasons. Nottingham Castle were just one organisation that tweeted at 00:01 on 31 December 2015 instead of 1 January 2016, generating press coverage.
— Nottingham Castle (@NottmCastle) December 31, 2015
Social media shouldn’t be a purely broadcast tool, engagement is really important too. When you’re scheduling think about what will happen if people reply. Is it clear when you will and won’t respond?
It’s good practice to have availability information linked to your accounts. People don’t always go looking for this information though and have high expectations of a quick response when they engage on social media. Some tools to help with this include auto-replies in Facebook Messenger and activating Twitter support to set the hours you are available to interact. Doncaster Council used this approach last year with mixed reactions:
Doncaster Council had a lot of replies and unfortunately the website wasn’t working properly so people got error messages when they were trying to check the details.
So do think about your audience. If you were in their place, what sort of response time would you want and expect? Are there alternative channels you can direct people to if they need urgent help? Are those channels reliable?
Scheduling is a good way to make sure regular content is posted on your accounts and there are lots of different tools to make your life easier. But for the best results think about what you schedule, when you schedule it for, have a plan to edit or delete if necessary, and make sure engagement is part of your strategy.