May and its bank holidays can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it. Great to have the extra days to spend with family and friends – not so great if you’re trying to build your social media presence. Using a social media automation tool could be the answer – you can keep up your posts and enjoy time off too. Here’s the lowdown…
What is social media automation?
If you haven’t already discovered Hootsuite, Buffer or one of the other social media automation tools available, you may not have had your eyes open to the possibilities they present. Essentially, social media automation tools allow you to post to your chosen social networks WHEN YOU’RE NOT THERE. So you can lock your smart phone in a drawer and head for the Bank Holiday weekend safe in the knowledge that your message is still getting out there.
But isn’t the point of social media the direct interaction and engagement with your customers?
Well, yes, but everyone is allowed time off. Social media automation is particularly helpful for small or medium sized businesses where time is at an absolute premium and there are never enough hours in the day.
Bank Holiday or not, automation allows you to spend time scheduling tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, even Instagrams to ensure that your key messages continue to be communicated while you get on with the day to day running of the business.
Does it really do everything for you?
Depending on the tool you choose, pretty much everything to do with posting is available through social media automation tools. Hootsuite (which is the tool we use here at Web Adept) allows us to post, to retweet, to follow and unfollow accounts. It also provides analytics in relation to those posts. You can also post ‘in real time’ from Hootsuite.
Of course, what these tools can’t do for you is real time interaction when you’re not there – it can’t respond on your behalf if you’re mentioned in someone’s posts, or retweeted on Twitter for example. But interactions are recorded so you can follow up on your return.
So how does it work?
There are a number of social media automation tools available. As mentioned above, we use Hootsuite, which allows you to add your social networks and their different ‘feeds’ into one interface, but others are available: Buffer for example is also popular as is Social Oomph. Facebook has its own scheduling tool for posts to your Facebook business page, and if Twitter is your social network of choice, try Tweetdeck.
It’s worth giving a few of these tools a go before deciding which suits you best – and bear in mind that it may be worth running a couple in tandem.
How much do they cost?
Most of these tools have a limited free use package. Hootsuite, for example, allows you to run a dashboard with 3 channels linked to it for free. To make the most of the services these tools offer, there’s usually a fee involved. Sprout Social costs around $59 per month. Hootsuite offers a ‘pro’ package for £6.99 a month (if you pay yearly) with more functionality and analytics and a ‘business’ package which has a number of additional features.
What do I need to do?
In most cases, it’s simply a question of signing up, linking your social networks – or those you want to manage, and then having a go. You’ll find that using the tools is the best way to get to know them. Hootsuite allows you to set the dates and times of your posts, or you can instruct it to ‘auto-schedule’ a pre-determined number of posts per day for you as you add them into the tool. You can also schedule re-tweets through Hootsuite.
Any top tips?
- If you’re scheduling posts in advance, particularly to cover a period when you are going to be away from your phone, plan out your social posts first so the messages you will be publishing make sense.
- Check for any important dates or events that will be taking place in the period when you are away so that you can post (or not) appropriately.
- If you’re going to be away from your phone for a period of time, it might be worth making this clear on your social profiles.
- Use the ‘pinning’ function to add a post letting people know that you’re not around to respond straight away to interactions, and when you’ll be back.
- Make it clear when you are back in the saddle. Respond to any comments or queries, welcome new followers – the usual things that make social media, well, social.
We hope you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend – if you haven’t already got the hang of social automation, we think you’ve got time to get to grips with one of the tools we’ve mentioned, and to plan out your social media so you can have a proper break. If you’ve got any queries, give us a call!