ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
I want to automate our social-media activities, but I'm nervous about setting it and forgetting it. What should I consider with regard to prescheduled posts and tweets?
A large majority of the people who manage social media have other job responsibilities that are constantly pulling them in different directions. So if you can lighten the social-media load, even if it just means transforming daily deadlines into less stressful weekly tasks, you can often decrease your workload and increase the effectiveness, predictability, and frequency of your posts. Here are four tips to help you navigate social-media automation.
1. Plan ahead and augment.
Consistency is key to maintaining a quality social presence. However, given their harried schedules, many marketers find themselves scrambling to whip up a post at the end of a hectic day – a scenario that often leads to less-than-effective content, not to mention less-than-ideal delivery times.
So prepare and schedule at least a week's worth of content in one fell swoop. There are certainly times when you'll want to augment your planned posts with live content, such as when you are attending events and wishing to add "on the scene" pictures and videos. But to ensure you post quality content on a regular basis, write and schedule it in advance. Select content that most likely won't change within a short period, such as facts about your products or services, promotions about an upcoming event, industry news, line-extension info, etc. And mix in content that already exists, e.g., company white papers, blogs, presentation slides, etc., to keep you from starting from scratch.
2. Assess and obtain automation tools.
With so many tools out there, it's hard to know which is best. If you don't have a current go-to tool, test some free ones (such as Buffer, Hootsuite, and SocialOomph) before committing cash to the automation process.
Once you've played around with the free options, you can better determine what is important to you in a tool. For example, what platforms do you need it to integrate with? How many people need to access it? Will you need it to monitor other accounts? Must you receive alerts? How far in advance can you schedule? What metrics are available? Once you know what's critical to your program, you can select the right free tool or consider some of the paid options, such as Sprout Social, MeetEdgar, Oktopost, and Agora Pulse.
3. Create and test your ideal schedule.
Social-media platforms continue to evolve their algorithms, so knowing when to post requires no small amount of vigilance. But regardless of each platform's nuances, always keep your audience, industry happenings, and important holidays in mind. For example, when is your target market most likely to be online? Are there important industry events or national holidays to avoid or target?
Performing A/B testing will help you see what works best. That is, post content at a specific time (A) and post identical content at a different time and/or date (B). You can also test everything from the use of photos to hashtags. Then see what response or clickthrough rate you get with each group and adjust accordingly.
4. Keep an eye on the conversation.
With careful planning, you can schedule a week's worth or more of social-media content. But in my opinion, you should never set it and forget it. Rather, regularly monitor your content not only to ensure it's actually being posted but also to respond to any feedback you receive.
If people are taking the time to interact with or share your posts, don't leave them in the lurch – engage them. Thank them for their shares, respond to their queries, offer more info, and keep any hot conversations going. Also, stay on top of current and industry events, keeping in mind how they could affect content you have already created and slated.
— Emma Bica, senior marketing communications specialist, PeopleNet, Minneapolis