In 2019 it is estimated there will be 2.77 billion social media users worldwide. Social media marketing is recognised as a highly effective means to build brand awareness, demonstrate expertise and build engagement with existing and potential customers.
The immediacy of social media requires social media channels to be nurtured with engaging content carefully created for them. Unfortunately, this takes time. With day-to-day operational business needs often taking priority over social media management, post regularity can easily decline. This is where scheduling can make a real difference.
Why schedule posts?
Creating regular posts and updates across your social media accounts will help to grow brand awareness and engagement. By scheduling your social media posts in advance you can schedule a week’s (or even a month’s) worth of posts in one go without having to remember to press ‘send’ each time. It allows you to post at times that are relevant to your brand and followers which you might be unlikely to do so manually (e.g. 6am on a Monday morning or 9pm on Saturday night). It also helps cover holiday periods meaning even if only one person is responsible for social media within your business your posts will populate whilst they are away.
So how do I do it?
Facebook is the only major social media channel which offers the ability to schedule posts through the app or website itself. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and SnapChat do not offer this functionality.
The simplest way to schedule posts for your social media channels is to sign up and use one of the third party sites that link, schedule and post to your accounts on your behalf. Some of the sites are free, some paid for and some have certain limitations. There are a vast array of social media scheduling sites and apps, here is an overview of some of the most popular.
An easy to use, free site and app. You can link a maximum of three social media channels and schedule up to 30 posts at a time on their free service. If you like the system you can upgrade to a paid account to link more social channels and benefit from unlimited scheduling.
Hootsuite is one of the few free third party scheduling sites which will post directly to Instagram, however, its connection to both Instagram and Facebook can be unstable and disconnections from these social media accounts can occur quite frequently.
Another free to use site to which you can link up to three social media accounts on their free account. The interface is clean and simple to use and account disconnections are reported less frequently than Hootsuite. Buffer can also connect and post directly to Instagram.
If you need to link more accounts you can upgrade to a paid account however, the paid for service is more expensive than Hootsuite.
Probably the most popular of all the paid for sites, plans start from around £80 per month. Sprout Social offers a unique element with its CRM (Customer Relationship Management) feature so you can build a clear picture of your followers. Users often praise its reporting features and depth of analysis. Sprout Social is mostly used by large agencies with multiple social media clients.
Loomly does not offer a free plan (they do offer a free 15 day trial) and plans start at around £120 for the year. Loomly offers some great features for drafting posts by topic, planning posts on a calendar and inviting other team members to review and approve posts. A big draw back for the platform is that it does not seamlessly integrate with Instagram. Loomly does integrate with Buffer so you can combine the benefits of both platforms.
Sounds great, any pitfalls?
So often, businesses, individuals and agencies forget the important social element in social media marketing. Scheduling your social media posts is a fantastic way of ensuring consistency and regularity but it certainly should not take the place of checking comments, reviews and replying to messages. If followers, visitors and customers are engaging with you on your social channels this is absolutely fantastic but it requires management. It is essential to regularly check your social media channels.