Crosstown Digital Communications

Best Practices for Scheduling Social Media Posts

Recently, I’ve been playing around with various options for scheduling social media postings. After poking at Buffer and Timely, I caught up with many of my peers in falling in love with IFTTT (If This Then That).

IFTTT a smart-smart-smart service that allows you to cook up deceptively simple looking cross-posting “recipes.” For example, if I tweet a link via XYZ account, that trigger the same link being posted to my LinkedIn profile. My top accomplishments are a couple of recipes that allow me to use Google Calendar for scheduling content and, depending on which field of the event listing contains certain elements of the content (specifically, the text tease and the link), post to a Twitter account and a Facebook page accordingly. Magic! Content scheduled for each platform, with text appropriate to the medium.

While scheduling posts may make the real-time, always-on nature of social media seem like a piece of cake, it’s nothing more than an aid. Social media still needs you in order to succeed. If we use scheduling options smartly, though, we can both ease the burden on ourselves and make our hands-on presence more meaningful.

Here are what I’ve come to embrace as best practices around scheduling posts.

Be mindful of changing contexts

When you schedule posts, don’t adopt a set-it-and-forget-it point of view. Rather, set it and mind it. A fun, flip tweet scheduled for six hours from now will seem hopelessly ill-placed and ill-timed if, in the intervening time period, something dramatic happens on campus or out in the world.

This is one concern I have about services such as Buffer and Time.ly, which pick times for when to publish content. That outsourcing can mentally remove you, as the account manager, from the awareness of what’s going up where and when. Also, you know your audience, and you are the best person to gauge which audiences will be likely to pick up on certain types of content and when.

Don’t abdicate your real-time responsibilities

As I said above, post scheduling is an aid. It does not replace the essential role of your presence and engagement; it should complement those functions.

With that in mind, you should be prepared for real-time reaction and response to anything that you post. The danger of scheduling, say, a tweet that asks, “What is your favorite thing about summers on campus?” is that, if you’re not around to monitor and field replies, you might miss out on the opportunity to retweet, Storify or reply to responses while the conversation is still active. Or what if someone replies sarcastically, “My *favorite* thing is how the library closes at $#%@ing 5PM when some of us have summer classes!!1! What gives??”

Scheduling social media postings does not relieve us of our real-time responsibilities, so we should plan accordingly.

To each (platform) its own

Twitter has a 140-character limit. Tumblr is a short-form blog. Facebook is, well, Facebook. Each of these platforms is unique — not only in terms of format, but in terms of both audience and considerations for appropriate voice and tone. This means that we can’t write one block of text and blast it out to five different platforms. Keep the specifics of the service and your audience at top of mind at all times.

In addition to text, each platform has its own fields to consider beyond text – links, pictures, embeds, hashtags, mentions, etc. Will your auto-post to Facebook show up with the thumbnail that may help it stand out in the news feed crowd? Will posting with a bit.ly link obscure the link’s metadata in the resulting post? It’s worth testing such things before fully committing to a post scheduling regimen.

Your turn

These are just a few ideas that rise to top of mind for me. What are some other things to keep in mind when scheduling your social media postings?

Photo by alancleaver / Flickr Creative Commons

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