Social media can be a giant time suck. From thinking up, creating and posting your posts, to responding and engaging with your followers , it’s easy to get caught up for hours and distracted from your core business. (Not to mention being dragged down a rabbit hole if you accidentally start browsing).

One solution to this productivity challenge is scheduling your social media posts. There are a huge range of third party apps and software programmes that let you plan ahead and schedule your posts, offering a number of benefits to your business. But there are also challenges with pre-scheduling your posts. Let’s take a look at both sides.

THE BENEFITS OF SCHEDULING SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT

(1) You Save Time By Preventing Distractions

Scheduling social media helps you minimise distractions

By scheduling your posts across your social media platforms, you can save time and improve productivity. By limiting the number of times you’re logging into social media each day, you are less likely to be distracted by what’s in your news feed, and you can remain focused on other areas of your business.

(2) Your Social Media Activity Becomes More Strategic

Your social media becomes more strategic.

Scheduling ahead means you are planning ahead, allowing space for more strategic thinking with your posts. Rather than frantically trying to find something to most “in the moment”, you will be more considered in your content creation. You’re more likely to make sure the posts are aligned with your strategy.

(3) You Are More Consistent

Scheduling your social media helps you become more consistentConsistency is a happy by-product of scheduling your social media posts. Having planned ahead you will be less likely to skip a day or forget to post. By looking at your social media insights and analytics, you can also identify the best times to post to reach your target audience, and make sure there are posts scheduled for those times. When you’re posting in real time you may forget or be unable to post at those peak periods.

(4) You Save Energy by Creating in Batches

Save Energy by Creating in Batches

If you’re scheduling for the week ahead, you need to create all of those images in one go. “Batching” is proven to be a more efficient way of creating social media content, as you remain in the creative mindset and can produce content more efficiently.  When you create in batches you are also more likely to create a consistent look and feel to your images, which often has a positive impact on your social media performance.

(5) You Can Reach Different Time Zones

socialMediaTimeZones

If you have an international audience, your target customers might be waking up just as you’re drifting off. Scheduling your posts means you can reach different time zones without losing sleep.

THE RISKS OF SCHEDULING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS

(1) Your Social Media Can Look Robotic and Automated

When scheduling social media don't let it become robotic and one sided.This is a tricky one, because when you schedule your social media it is automated. Followers may be turned off by continuous posts just spewing at them without any human interaction. It risks removing the “human element” of your business’ social media activity.

(2) Your Posts Can Become Irrelevant in the Case of a World Event

If something major happens in the world, and social media becomes awash with people’s reactions, your posts will stand out as irrelevant and obviously scheduled.

This was very obvious during the recent Paris Attacks. As most people expressed their horror and started posting messages of sympathy and changing their profile photos, those businesses whose scheduled posts appeared in the feeds looked selfish and out of touch. In the worst case scenario, your posts may be seen as insensitive or offensive depending on the situation, and this could irreparably damage your brand.

(3) Your Reach May Be Impacted

The jury’s out on whether this is actually the case, but many people report lower reach on Facebook when they post using 3rd party apps.

(4) You Miss the Opportunity for Real-Time, Relevant Conversations

If you use social media scheduling as a “set and forget” proposition, you miss the opportunity to really engage with your audience in the moment, and build true relationships (which is one of the strengths of social media marketing).

HOW TO MAXIMISE THE POSITIVES AND MINIMISE THE RISKS

The best way to take advantage of scheduling is to use it in combination with real-time social media activity. I recommend scheduling no more than one week ahead, ensuring each day your audience is receiving valuable, relevant content and achieving all-important consistency. When opportunities arise throughout the week for timely, relevant posts, add those into the mix in real-time.

I also recommend that your engagement – replying and responding to comments, sharing other people’s content – be done in real time each day. It’s easy to set aside 5-10 minutes to engage with your audience at set times, and still maintain the productivity benefits of content scheduling.

When a major world event occurs, consider pausing your social media scheduling to avoid the risks mentioned above. When the discussion and reaction has died down and it is appropriate to do so, you can re-start your scheduled content.

TOOLS

There are a number of scheduling and social media management tools available. I’m currently using:

Hootsuite – I use Hootsuite to manage my Instagram activity and as a dashboard for monitoring and interacting with my Twitter lists (and my clients’ Twitter accounts). Hootsuite lets you set up different tabs and streams to organise your social media feeds, and lets you schedule posts ahead of time.

Buffer – Buffer has a range of plans from a free plan for one profile for each social account (eg one Twitter, one Facebook, one Google+ and one LinkedIn) which will store up to 10 posts for each profile at a time. It also posts to Pinterest (which Hootsuite does not do), however does not post to Instagram. I use Buffer to schedule my sharing of other people’s content and links to relevant articles. With Buffer, you can customise the posting schedule so you just queue up posts and they are sent live at the scheduled times.

MeetEdgar – I have recently started using it Edgar and can already see how it will add huge value to my social media activity. With Edgar, you can schedule as with other tools, but you can also set up a Library of articles (under different categories) which are shared on a rotating basis. So for each new blog post I create (or other types of content as well) I simply add it to the library and it will be shared on a regular basis.

Other tools include:

CoSchedule

TweetDeck