Social media platforms work hard to keep their users on their own sites and apps – even going to the extent of buying management platforms made by third parties and reducing their usability (e.g. Twitter buying Tweetdeck and then later removing it from mobile app stores). This allows them far more control over what their users see and, of course, allows them to display advertising to those users and generate revenue from their platforms.
While the platforms themselves can be perfectly sufficient for the everyday user, a better solution is required for professionals that maintain multiple channels, often on behalf of multiple brands or individual locations (such as those of a franchise with social media managed through one central office).
Luckily, a plethora of third party companies have come to the rescue, with a large range of social media management tools. These tools typically offer the following benefits:
- Management of multiple profiles from one account
- Monitoring of public posts for use of brand terms and other keywords
- Statistics and reporting
Of course, the tools on offer vary in plan options (from ‘basic’ to ‘enterprise’) and function. I’ve been trialling some of these tools recently and it’s occurred to me that there isn’t one true ‘be all and end all’ of platforms, so it’s a case of deciding what is important to you and your business and what can you do without.
Some tools have developed pretty awesome features, so I’m putting together a list of some of the better ones and where you can find them.
Part 1 of this list is all about post scheduling.
Next-Level Feature 1: Advanced Post Scheduling
Post scheduling is one of the more basic functions of most tools, and some of the social media platforms will allow you to schedule a post themselves – such as Facebook. Manually scheduling your posts across multiple platforms from one account is one thing, but good tools have taken this to the next level by providing ‘queue’ and ‘optimised sending time’ functions.
A queue function allows you to write a series of posts all at once and add them to a queue. Then, based on your settings and the number of posts, the posts will be automatically published over the next few days. As you browse the web during the week, you can make a note of posts that you would like to publish and then carry on with your regular duties.
At a scheduled time, you can jump into your social media management tool, spend an hour or so creating each of your posts and send them all off to your queue. This gives you much better management of your frequency of posts and helps you to stick to a regular content plan, rather than posting three things at once and then going quiet for days at a time.
Who offers this function?
The ability to create a queue of pre-scheduled posts is offered by most social media management tools as part of their core (starter plan) functionality.
Buffer allows you to schedule your posts based on certain time and day ranges – e.g. at 10am and 2pm every Monday to Friday. Setting different times for different days – e.g. at 10am and 2pm on Monday and 4pm and 8pm on Friday – is a function of their paid-for plan (their ‘Awesome’ plan – currently US$102 per year). Note that these are specific times, not time ranges, so without the extra schedules your posts could start to look a bit robotic – always being posted at the same times each day.
Hootsuite and Sprout Social also provide the pre-scheduled queue, but add to this with optimised scheduling (see more on that below). Twitter provide a scheduled and queued service for Tweets through their own free Tweetdeck app (for desktop and Chrome, not mobiles) but I’m having issues with this at the moment – I’ve scheduled a couple of Tweets but the ability to add the ‘Scheduled’ column to my dashboard is greyed out in Chrome and empty in the desktop version, so I have no way of managing them. Hopefully this is just a ‘me’ thing.
Optimised Sending Times/Auto Scheduling
Tools that offer an ‘optimised sending time‘ function are those that have taken scheduled posts to the next level. Rather than randomly posting your content, the tool will decide the optimum time to post for maximum exposure and engagement from your audience. Different tools take this to different levels, depending on how they calculate the optimum time. For a good tool, this means looking at the specific audience of your social profiles, when they are most active and how well your posts have performed in the past.
Who offers this function?
Tools like HootSuite and SproutSocial both offer this service, with HootSuite providing the service for all plan options (including their free plan), saying:
“It’s really quite simple – instead of our users manually selecting what time they want to schedule or post their social media messages using our Scheduling feature, they can opt to use our new AutoSchedule technology to optimize and automate the scheduling process.”
– HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes. Source: HootSuite blog.
…and SproutSocial offering the service only with their premium and enterprise level plans:
ViralPost is our send time optimization technology built to increase your post engagement by automatically delivering your content at the precise moment it will have the greatest impact with your audience.
– SproutSocial training guide on ViralPost
Other services, like Buffer, provide an automatic scheduling system without the optimisation. They’ll just post your updates at more random times based on your settings. For personal use or small businesses, HootSuite does provide the AutoSchedule service for free, although SproutSocial do claim that their service is based on “a data-driven, more scientific solution than existing tools” and go on to explain how the optimum time is calculated (bold is mine… US spelling is theirs!):
1) Focus on Influential Followers: When looking at when your followers post, we don’t treat all followers and posts equally. The followers who are likely to have more influence (determined from a magic mix of factors) are given more importance.
2) Prioritize Followers Authentic Engagement with You: We discriminate between posts that contain engagement and those that don’t. The times that people are engaging with content are important, times when people are tweeting a pic of their dog while on a walk are less important.
3) Constantly Re-analyzing for the Most Current Send Times: Our suggested optimal send times aren’t a one-off report or something you have to generate and use manually. We are constantly reanalyzing user data and generating new optimal send times for your posts. If your follower population changes, no need to worry about figuring out when they are most engaged — we’re proactively on top of it.
And finally here’s a quick shout out to MailChimp – not a Social Media management tool, this one’s for email marketing – in honour of their awesome ‘Send Time Optimisation‘ for email campaigns. Similar to the above but in relation to the best time to send your email campaigns based on the open and click rates of your previous campaigns.
In the next posts for this series, I’ll have a look at more next-level functions of Social Media Management Tools; such as push notifications, reporting, profile management, and more. For a heads-up when these posts are published, subscribe to my blog! There’s a link around, somewhere! Or RSS feed and stuff. Nice.