To schedule or not to schedule?

Digital, Social Media

Cannings Purple 28 Feb 2017
4 mins

It is the social media question everyone is asking and our Consultant Emma Britton has the answer.

Social media is about immediacy, the here and now, keeping your finger on the pulse.

You like what your friend ate for breakfast this morning, your business responds to customers in seconds, and your intelligence team stays up to the minute with trending topics … yes?

But since humans need to sleep, and your people have other things to do than hang out on Facebook, how do you maintain that instant engagement over time?

The answer lies in social media content scheduling, but finding the right balance between immediacy and three-weeks from now takes work.

What is content scheduling?

Content scheduling is a way of setting a timer on your tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates and other social outreach, so that you can have a constant stream of quality, compelling content posted when your audience is most likely to want to see it.

It’s a growing trend, particularly as businesses move from a one-tweet-a-week, one-blog-a-month approach to delivering higher volume, better promoted content.

Look at the social streams your competitors use and you will already see the evidence: among the hard-hitting, trending topics on your feeds and you will see posts that are a bit more, let’s say, timeless.
Thanks to a proliferation of tools that make content scheduling easier, it is also possible to get better data on your readers, times of engagement, their interests and hobbies, and metrics that will shed light on to the impact your content is having.

Tools include HootsuiteSproutSocialEverypostaudienseCoScheduleBufferSocialOomph and TweetDeck, just to name a few, all offering variations of ways to save time.

But content scheduling is not the only approach you should take. 
The great risk for businesses who stumble on to content scheduling is to see this as the easiest path to the market — why write a blog a month when you can write 12 over Christmas and drip feed them through the year?

Why pay someone to check your Facebook feed hourly if you know there’s a ‘happy Friday!’ post that will pop up week in, week out?

That’s where an understanding of the pros and cons of each approach matters:

Pros of scheduling social media posts Cons of scheduling social media posts
You can save time – batching posts is quicker than posting individually across each channel. You are too regimented – posting in real time has a sense of currency that cannot be easily scheduled.
You set your routine – it ensures regular content, which your audience will learn to expect. Your posts can be tired –  your audience may grow tired if the same or similar content is rehashed over and over.
You can stay active – weekends, holidays or busy periods, you can be prepared by scheduling your social content over that period. You can look like a bot – posts can look robotic if they are too generic.
You can expedite content sign-off – team members can check each post in the platform and approve or make edits without delaying publication You can look dated – Social media is fundamentally about the here and now, reacting, commenting and sharing news must be done in real time.
You can improve your timing – most platforms provide analytics that predict the best time of day for your post to be published. The practice is risky – be careful about what you are planning to post. Circumstances can change and you should change your posts accordingly.

So how can you avoid the pitfalls and still use the efficiency of social scheduling to your advantage?

The answer is to mix active and passive social posting — and that means finding the right balance for your business.

1. Set but don’t forget

Scheduling social media posts through a social media management tool is a great way to ensure your profiles are staying active — but don’t wipe your hands of your account once you’ve scheduled six months’ worth of posts.

We recommend only posting into the immediate future (about two weeks to a month) with fail-safe and timeless posts. This avoids filling your social media pages with content that is too generic, while also taking away the pressure to create content genius every day.

A great way to do this is to re-purpose tried and tested, previous content in a new punchy way. Look back at 2016 and see which of your posts were the most popular and use these as inspiration for your next batch of scheduled posts.

2. Add a little bit of this and little bit of that

A mixture of live tweeting/posting and scheduling is the best recipe for a successful social media campaign.

Show your followers that you have your finger on the pulse by commenting on, sharing and retweeting news that is relevant them and make sure your overall message is on point.

This demonstrates that you are active and engaged on social media. If you schedule content, keep an eye on your social media mentions to make sure you respond quickly to any questions, comments or new followers.

Remember that ‘social care’ is one of the big trends now online — your customers want to know that if they contact you on Twitter or Facebook with a problem you will be back in touch in a matter of minutes. Don’t close that monitoring window just because your posts are lined up ready to go.

3. Be careful when predicating the future

The big downfall of scheduling social media posts lies in fortune telling, and this is something that has caught out many companies in the past.

When you are scheduling posts think about who and what the posts are about and whether the message could land you in trouble if circumstances change. This catches out businesses all the time. You don’t want to be posting about a ‘fire sale’ when a bushfire has ravaged your community. If a crisis does develop, cancel your scheduled posts immediately until you can reassess whether the message is still appropriate

4. Remember accuracy is everything

Triple check your posts before you publish, and don’t forget to check the publication time and date. Failure to do so could land you in trouble, just like Nottingham Castle who posted “Happy New Year” at 12.01am on December 31st instead of January 1st.

5. Monitor, monitor, monitor 

Many of the social media management tools now offer reporting and analytics functions, as do Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Use these regularly to see how your content is faring out there in the big wide social media world. These insights can assist you with your social media strategy in the future.

And remember monitoring is only part of the puzzle – action is what matters. If you find people respond well to one post, but not to others, don’t persist with the boring material. Continue to adjust your content to what your audience desires.

Are your social feeds running a bit dry? Do you need inspiration for new content? We can help. Why not take a look at some of the training products we offer, such as our Social Media Masterclass or contact us directly so we can help you be sensationally social.