This is key because in addition to tweeting and posting – which of course makes up a hefty part of our daily tasks – we are evaluating analytics, examining our client’s messaging, performing competitive analyses, emailing, acting as a customer service department, creating all kinds of long-form, written content…the list goes on. Most specialists, much less busy small business owners, are simply not able to post everything in real time. I once had a talented creative director — who was no stranger to demanding deadlines — say to me, “I don’t envy you. You have to publish something every day, every hour!” It’s true. In social media, being timely, topical, and active is a lot of pressure. It’s not unusual to see your “new tweets” notifications multiply to 214 after just one sip of coffee. Here’s how to approach scheduling what you can so you can be available to keep up with the live conversation.

Social Media Scheduling Do's and Don'ts

1. Do use scheduling tools like Tweet Deck and Hootsuite for evergreen content

Posting live is important for conversations that are happening in the here and now. For example, scheduling a comment about #MarchMadness is risky because game stats are constantly in flux. Your post about your team dominating when they’ve suddenly taken a turn for the worse could make your brand seem out of touch. However,  for evergreen content, content that will remain relevant and helpful to your audience regardless of when it is accessed, it’s a good idea to schedule posts.

Evergreen content can be links to external sources with information that supports your company’s mission or story, but even better is evergreen content that lives on your own website. Ideally, the latter will be a host of quality information that supports your company’s mission. It could be a page that describes a charity your company helps to support, your company’s FAQs, or even a fun how-to video.

Schedule links to this kind of evergreen content, especially if it’s been buried by new posts on your site. Assuming you’ve invested the time and resources to create high quality content, it’s best to give it legs on your social media networks.

To schedule content, we recommend using a third party social media management site like Hootsuite. Since Twitter is one of the fastest moving as far as information-driven platforms (Pinterest moves just as fast but doesn’t carry quite the same weight in terms of delivering timely information), it’s a good idea to schedule tweets throughout the day in order to remain consistently active. The frequency of a company’s tweets varies. Well-known influencers post about every 15 minutes, while many small businesses stick to posting once a day. Whatever your approach, make sure you’re consistent so your audience can anticipate your moves. Erratic social media behavior is not sexy in its unpredictability. Rather, it creates a disconnect with your audience since it becomes harder to anticipate when and where they might find you.

2. Do schedule multiple tweets with the same message

The publications I admire most do a masterful job of promoting their stories in numerous tweets that are all varied enough that each of them seems fresh and attention-grabbing. There are a few reasons to schedule multiple tweets linking to the same piece of content:

  • The piece to which you are linking is strong and useful to your readers.
  • Since Twitter’s newsfeed is like a shark that never stops moving, it’s important to make sure your message gets seen.
  • With the new Google/Twitter partnership currently in the works, tweets will be indexed, searchable and receive a substantial boost in traffic. According to Forbes, your business’s brands should begin to “have a meaningful call to action in your tweets or have a link to the brand site with more information.”

3. Don’t rely on scheduling for live events and tweet chats

At a recent social media conference called Connectionopolis, one of our main takeaways was more of a personal observation from one of the panelists. Tracy Saville of Queentia shared that although she does use tools like Hootsuite to schedule some of her company’s content, as well as her own, doing so sometimes makes her feel “weird.” Simply put, she said that preempting conversations in that way feels unnatural and is not exactly characteristic of the fast-moving, in-the-moment spirit of social media.

We agree that scheduling can sometimes take the authenticity out of a post, especially when you’re at a live event. While you can schedule something to promote your company’s attendance of the event that will probably make sense no matter what, there is a chance you will miss out on that certain element of authenticity. For example, if you were to schedule something for the morning of a conference you plan to attend, you may post something like:

“We’re here at #Connectionopolis. The show is about to start and we’re excited to learn social media hacks from the panelists!”

Not bad. It sticks to the facts and announces your presence. You could absolutely schedule that tweet for when you’ll likely be parking and unable to be in full-on, obnoxious smart phone mode. But once you arrive, it’s best to tweet with some specifics you could only obtain by being there, like who’s in attendance. A tweet like the example below calls out other attendees and aims to strike up a conversation. Of course, the @mentions would include actual Twitter handles! Post a photo of the crowd or some sort of human element to drive this point home.

“We’re here at #Connectionopolis, spotting all sorts of friends from our fellow #Sacramento agencies. Good to see @___ @___ @___!

So, to avoid that weird, inauthentic feeling of scheduling content, be as present as you can on social media, especially when it comes to event coverage. When covering an event, allow for gaps in any scheduled content you may have so you can post specific details and observations.

Tweet chats are their own beast, but what you need to know for scheduling’s sake is that the only time it makes sense to schedule is when you have a static, general statement imperative to the narrative of the chat. Below are a few types of statements I would recommend scheduling:

  • Intro tweets such as, “Just 10 minutes until we join in on the weekly #____chat fun!” Fellow tweet chat participants often retweet these types of tweets.
  • Tweets that inform/warn your followers that your participation in the chat will lead to a high volume of tweets. “Just a heads up – we’ll be taking part in the #___chat so please excuse our frequent tweeting for the next hour” or “High volume of tweets ahead! We’ll be chatting in the #____chat over the next hour. Join us!”
  • If you are the host of the tweet chat, it’s always a good idea to schedule your questions, as questions usually adhere to a rigid every-10-minutes schedule.
  •  If you are a regular in the tweet chat, schedule a tweet at the beginning, greeting everyone and mentioning your favorite regular participants in the chat. This will ensure you begin the chat with some engagement right away.
  • Likewise, schedule a sign-off tweet, thanking everyone for their insights and the host for their “hospitality.”

All of these types of scheduled tweets not only make you an active, gracious participant, they also free you up to do more of the actual live chatting! And the more you’re involved in the conversation, the more engagement you stand to earn.

4. Don’t use automation tools for shortcuts to more followers if you can help it

Automation is a tool that’s become prevalent on Twitter and Instagram. Bots exist to auto-follow accounts in an effort to make the people you are auto-following aware of the brand and hopefully encourage them to follow back. A Hootsuite employee recently published his firsthand account of trying Instagram automation in an effort to grow his following. While the bot’s auto-follow, auto-comment and auto-like features increased his Instagram following by over 30% in three days, the consequences were arguably irreversible. Now that he was following nearly 2,000 new Instagram followers, his newsfeed was effectively ruined! If this is the case, you can wave a solemn goodbye to the personal connection you have with your feed. What’s more, you won’t be able to engage with the customers and potential advocates who previously appeared in your feed because they’ll be buried in useless content. As an Instagram die-hard, the prospect of this happening is reason enough to avoid this approach. The same goes for Twitter – don’t sacrifice and sell your soul – err, newsfeed – to get followers.

So, how to increase your followership without these sneaky tricks? Bots that auto-like are harmless, as opposed to those that auto-follow or auto-comment (which can be awkward and expose you as a bot). Auto-liking will alert people of your existence and will not incur any sort of penalty to your feed or user experience as a whole. Although the like action is not as powerful as a follow and therefore may not be enough to inspire people to follow you as often, the potential damage is much lower.

Lastly, posting high-quality content organically, fortified with a balanced use of hashtags will produce a steady, if slower, stream of new followers on Instagram. The “secret” to more Twitter followers is targeting your demographic using Twitter Ads. As a reminder, Instagram is still in the early phases of advertising, reserving sponsored posts for an exclusive set of ad partners for now.

5. Do streamline cross-platform posting with tools like iFTT

One of the basic tenets of social media marketing that increases traffic and followers is cross promotion among platforms. For example, giving your Twitter followers a glimpse of the images you share on Pinterest is a great way to invite them into the vortex of visuals that is your amazing Pinterest page. Such an action is pretty involved. You would first have to save that Pinterest image to your computer or device, upload it to Twitter with catchy copy that encourages them to visit your link to Pinterest, which of course you would have to shorten, and finally tweet it. Not rocket science, but definitely a thought-intensive action. While customizing your cross promotional posts natively is often the best bet in reaching and and influencing your audience, apps like IFTTT assist you in posting to multiple platforms for those posts that you just don’t have time to manually repackage. The purpose of IFTTT is to generate if/then “recipes” that automatically do the cross posting for you. The existing recipes are countless, and you can create virtually any new recipe you’d like. Among my favorites are the recipes that tweet your Facebook links, track any Twitter search or hashtag, and even more obscure recipes that allow you to be more strategic, like the one that sends you an iOS notification if an Instagram photo is uploaded in your area.

Scheduling is a powerful tool that every social media manager/specialist/wrangler/spelunker should employ. If you have any questions, let us know on Twitter @postmm. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go schedule a tweet to promote this blog post.

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