best practices scheduling content

While many companies would like to be able to engage with fans on social media 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the reality is that for most brands, that just isn’t possible. Even if you have a dedicated social media manager, he or she is going to need downtime – and things can get even more complicated if you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner trying to juggle social media on top of running your business.

In these situations, planning ahead and scheduling some of your content can help even out the workload. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about when and how to schedule social media posts – so today we’re going to examine some of these myths and give a few tips on best practices for scheduled posts.

Tip #1: There Are No Hard And Fast Rules For Post Frequency

It’s common to hear self-styled social media gurus recommend very specific times and numbers of posts per day – and usually this advice is given with the best of intentions. These recommendations are based on their own data, and presented as an example of what works in their personal experience.

The problem is that the approach that might work for one person is very rarely an ideal fit for another – and even in the same industry, if every brand took the same approach, followers would quickly grow fatigued by the flood of predictable, repetitive social media content in their feeds.

The truth is, how often you should post will vary dramatically depending on the nature of your product or service, your audience, and your personal communication style. Instead of sticking to a rigid set of rules based on others’ data, test a few different approaches yourself to learn what works for your brand. You may be surprised!

If your social media management platform provides optimization charts, similar to the below, you can also use these as a guideline to help you determine when you are getting the most engagement on the content you are posting, and use that to help determine a posting schedule that's right for your business.

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Tip #2: Maintain A Balance Between Scheduled Content And Real-Time Engagement

Scheduling is great for social media managers: it can really help you manage your time and streamline your workflow. However, it’s not always so great for customers and fans. If you don’t take the time to interact with your community, people will know all your content is scheduled, making your feeds feel impersonal and distant. Even worse, you may miss valuable customer feedback and opportunities to respond to customer service inquires.

There are so many ways you can take advantage of social media to generate real time engagement. Here are just a few ideas you may want to try:

  • Participating in a Twitter chat related to your industry.
  • Jumping in to respond to comments on your Facebook page or group.
  • Looking for trending hashtags to respond to on Twitter and Instagram.
  • Retweeting or sharing comments from your customers.
  • Responding to current events or topics of conversation.

The perfect ratio of scheduled to real time content to post is going to depend on a number of factors: how much time you have to spend immersed in social media each day, how active your community is, how many followers you have, and so much more. Again, the best way to approach the question is to run your own tests and see what works.

Tip #3: Keep An Eye On Current Events And Adjust Accordingly

This tip follows directly on the heels of the last one. If you’re monitoring what’s currently trending on social media, you should be one of the first people to know when there’s a breaking news story. Often, when there’s a tragedy or major event, brands will fail to adjust their scheduled content accordingly.

This is a huge mistake. Failing to acknowledge a tragedy – or worse yet, acting as if it never happened – can make your brand look insensitive to customers, especially if your brand has ties to the tragedy. Sometimes scheduled content might even seem to be making light of current events, another big no-no. For example, in response to the Boston Marathon bombing, Nike sent out this tweet, which was very well received by the public:

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But it’s not just world events you need to be mindful of. If you have a separate social media and PR team, you need to ensure there is a direct line of communication between the two. That way, your social media manager can respond to questions about company news and announcements, and help defuse any potential crisis that might be brewing on social media.

Not only will this help make your brand look more sensitive to customer concerns, but it will be good for your social media manager’s general stress levels as well.

Tip #4: Tailor Your Content To Your Community

Finally, keep in mind that it’s not enough to simply post links or respond to comments. To really make the most of your social media presence, you should be creating content you know your fans will enjoy. It might be a challenge at first to figure out what to post: would your followers respond better to short videos, quick status updates, or cat memes?

But, as with any approach to digital marketing, trial and error is the best way to figure out what appeals to your unique audience. Over time, you’ll develop a sense for what content will drive consistent engagement – and which updates are likely to bomb. Whatever you do, stay true to your brand’s voice and values, and you’re likely to find an audience you can genuinely connect to.

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Recap

Scheduling posts is by no means a “quick fix” for social media marketing, and it won’t be able to replace real engagement with your audience. But with these best practices in mind, you should be able to find the balance that works best with your audience – and helps you maximize the time you spend monitoring your feeds and responding to customers.