Create a PlanScheduling your social media means you need to have a content plan. That means preparing your social media activity for the future, if you're on the ball. It means deliberately working out your key messages and avenues of communication.
CalendarThis means you have to THINK about what you are posting, which ultimately results in a higher level of quality in your content, more variety in your posts, and strategic rather than reactive thinking.
Some tips for planning your social content include:Make diversity a priority – Ensure your content is dynamic and mixed. If you want to share the same post or promotional message, do so in varying ways. If sharing an article, use different quotes in the post, ask your audience a question related to the content, or link it to a topical event.
Explore themes – Consider the use of "themes" on different days. For example, perhaps on Mondays you could share one of your own articles, on Tuesdays a purely promotional message, on Wednesdays a value-adding piece of external content, and so on. Test out different themes on different days, and check your analytics to see what works best.
Work out what your audience likes – Again, turn to your analytics to see the posts that gain the most interaction, and post more of them. You can also check out your website analytics to note the areas of your business that audiences are most interested in.
Run contests – This is always a great way to boost engagement and drum up conversation around your brand. Be sure to check the competition guidelines for whatever platform you want to host it on.
Create or source awesome content – You can't just promote non-stop on your social media. Most of your content should be value-adding. Either create your own or find great pieces of content that you think your followers would love to read.
Decide how often to post – It's worth having an idea in your mind of how often you want to post. Consistency is key in all areas of marketing, and social is no different. This may depend on your time capabilities, but this article can give you an approximate guide to the best frequency for each social platform.
Create an editorial calendar – Now you've got all your ideas, slot them into an editorial calendar. You can then refer to this directly when scheduling all your fantastic posts.
Know When Your Followers Are OnlineYou could have the most exciting piece of content in the universe, but if no one's online to see it, there is no point.
Scheduling helps you figure out when your followers are online and, consequently, the optimum times to post. While there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer to the best times to post for each platform, there's a generally agreed-upon guide that tends to be a good place to start.
While this is a useful point of reference, you should refer to your own social media reporting to determine the most popular times of day for your audience. Look at your analytics for all platforms (most scheduling platforms have a built-in analytics feature, but you can also check out your analytics directly through the Facebook business scheduler, Twitter, and Pinterest analytics pages), as well as your site traffic, and pinpoint the days and times with the highest traction: schedule your posts accordingly.
Time of DayThe Simply Measured Twitter Account Report can tell you the best time of day and week to post on your owned social accounts.
However, you can even cheat here with the use of some of the niftier scheduling platforms. Tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer will actually auto-schedule your posts using data from your followers and previous posts: basically, they'll tell you the peak times to send out content. Easy.
Always Be PresentLet's face it: You can't be "on" all the time. As in, weekends and holidays? Posting on your business social media account is probably going to be the furthest thing from your mind.
Hey, presto, scheduling means that you never have to be absent…even when you are physically.
Make sure your voice is always heard by scheduling posts throughout the weekend (recent studies reported that Twitter engagement for brands is 17% higher on a weekend, with Saturdays suggested to be the best day to post on Facebook), to cater to different time zones (is your audience international? Your analytics research on popular times and market research will help you with this), as well as throughout personal and public holidays.
Free Up Real-Time PostingBy scheduling the bulk of your content for social media, you give yourself time throughout the day to turn to your various accounts for real-time posting. We're talking interaction and engagement.
Interacting with your followers or accounts of people you think might be interested in your work is a great way to not only get people's attention but also add more personality to your profiles.
Best practice for real-time interaction includes:Replying to any comments across all platforms.
Set up Twitter lists for accounts of interest to your work – This could be industry related, influencers, or those who have shown an interest in your sector. Run through the list regularly and respond / RT / like anything appropriate.
Keep an eye on hashtags related to your field – Do you work with fashion bloggers? Check out the #fbloggers hashtag on Instagram and comment on any influential posts. Try to bring eyes back to your account. Live-Tweet when anything significant or topical occurs – Are you in the sports industry? Be sure to join in on any relevant conversations on sporting events.
Choose the Right PlatformSo, now that you've got the 411 on social scheduling, how do you know which platform is best for you?
Although Facebook will allow you to schedule directly, using a social marketing management tool to streamline all your accounts and activity in one place is the ultimate way to save time and make sure your social activity is as effective and professional as possible.
There are many social marketing tools to choose from, our favorites include:
Hootsuite: Probably the most well-known social media management tool, Hootsuite is simple to use and very efficient. You can schedule Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+, as well as using it to keep tabs on the activity for each platform (for example, what your followers are talking about). You can shorten trackable links directly through Hootsuite, as well as attaching photos and auto-scheduling posts. You can get started for free, but can upgrade later if you need more of their features.
Buffer: Buffer is very simple to use. Use it to schedule Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. Like Hootsuite, Buffer gives you the auto-schedule function and a selection of different link-shortening options (both trackable and not). Another big bonus of Buffer is you can add the browser extension or download the mobile app, making posting even easier. Buffer is free with limited features, so to get the full Monty you'll need to upgrade, with prices ranging from $10 – $399 a month.
A few other platforms for consideration are:
ScheduGram (for Instagram)
MavSocial (for Twitter and Facebook)
SocialOomph (for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, RSS Feeds, Plurk, App.net, and blogs)
SocialPilot (8 different social networks)