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Why and how you should automate your social media posts

For six months I handled a startup’s various social media channels. During this time, I posted all updates manually – not very practical, seeing as we were in a different time zone to that of our main client base.
Why didn’t I use a scheduling tool? Well I believed (and still do, somewhat) that automated content was robotic and risky. Plus―to be frank―I had dabbled with Hootsuite before, found it complicated, and was simply too lazy to learn more or try out other automatic schedulers.
Now fast forward to more than a year later, and I am using Buffer nearly every day for social media posts. So what changed? Well, sort of being forced into using it and the realization that I wouldn’t get anywhere as a social media manager without at least trying it out.
Today the Buffer app is bookmarked in my browser, as well as the (willingly) downloaded Buffer extension for Chrome. If you aren’t using a similar social media management system, let me tell you why you should:

  • Unless social media is your job, no one has the time or energy to spend all day waiting to post on the different networks. As a small business owner, you need to focus on your business growth.
  • If some or all of your clients/target audience live in other parts of the world, instead of staying awake, you can program your posts to publish during their peak hours and use that time to get some rest.
  • I always say that you should be consistent and regular with your posts. An automation tool will help you to do just that; if something happens and you’re not there to update your page, rest assured that it’ll be published at the right time and with the right frequency.
  • Some tools, like Buffer, have really useful analytics that show your reach and engagement over various periods of time. You need features like this if you want to get anywhere with your online marketing.
  • When you schedule posts, you can edit elements like links and the meta description of link posts. These are not a ‘must-have’, but they are a ‘nice-to-have’.
  • It helps you keep track of and post your older, ‘evergreen content’.

What options are out there? 

  1. Buffer: number one on my list mainly because I admittedly haven’t used many others, but also because it is easy and convenient, and has some awesome features.
  2. Hootsuite
  3. IFTTT
  4. TweetDeck
  5. LaterBro
  6. Timely
  7. Postcron
  8. Sprout Social
  9. Facebook: FB has its own handy post scheduler. 

What are the best practices? 
The problem with automatic posts is that people can get sloppy with their social media efforts – because they think that something else is doing most of the work for them. Here are a few things to make sure of if you’re going to use a scheduling tool:
– Don’t schedule everything! Occasional, spontaneous posts are great, especially if it’s breaking news or something like that. It also appears more human. Additionally, don’t be careless with your posts, e.g. don’t schedule a tweet for the 15th if the coupon code it links to expires on the 12th.
Be human when crafting your posts. I said earlier that automated content is robotic. It is, but you can make it more personal by injecting your personality into it. Don’t make each post sound the same – change the tone/style (not too much) to suit the type of update.
– Test, test! Monitor the results according to publishing times and frequency; don’t keep the same scheduling habits; if something doesn’t seem to be working… change it!
– Don’t let it replace YOU. You still needs to keep an eye on all your channels regularly, and respond to messages and discussions quickly. In short, don’t ignore engagement on your end!
– The quality of your content shouldn’t drop. Even if it means posting less frequently, ensure that only relevant and interesting updates get published. On that note, don’t forget to read/listen to/watch the content you share (whether blog posts, audio, or video).
– Each social network is different, so fashion your posts according to each one (don’t just “publish to all”). Remember that Twitter has a character limit; that text in Google+ posts can be formatted; and that the method of tagging people & businesses varies across the channels. Also, certain content that’s appropriate for Facebook may not be for LinkedIn; so post on one and not the other when necessary.     
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Now go create some posts to schedule! If you’re struggling to update your social networks, we can do smart, consistent and regular online updates for your business.

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