So, you’re interested in using a social media scheduling tool, but you don’t know what one to go for? You’re not alone.
As a brand, being on social media is no longer a choice but should be considered an essential stem of your overall marketing strategy. Consumers are more socially conscious than ever before. They will often seek out a brand’s social profiles to learn more about their values and wider activities to aid their purchase decisions.
However, particularly for new or small brands, growing your social media profiles, or even just keeping them active and consistent, can be a time-consuming task. This is where social media scheduling tools come in.
Need help managing your social media pages? Get in touch today.
If you’ve started your search already, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of tools out there. And, they’re all similar to one another in many ways. So, how do you know what one is right for you?
Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best features and bug bares we’ve experienced, which you should look out for while making your choice.
Why should you use a social media scheduling tool?
Before we analyse the various tools, let’s start with some reasons you might want to start using a social media scheduling tool in the first place.
The importance of social
The vast usage of social media across the globe is no secret. According to a recent report, there are 45 million active social media users within the UK alone who, on average, spend 1 hour 42 minutes every day on social platforms. These platforms offer brands a different way to engage and form relationships with their target audiences.
Furthermore, now more than ever, brands should be focusing on their digital presence as businesses are still battling with ever-changing regulations and consumer behaviours as a result of COVID-19. A strong online presence has never been as important as it is now.
Save time and never miss a post again
Who wants, or has the time, to check into each social platform religiously every day to post their content? Moreover, maybe you’re feeling like, due to your lack of time, you’re actually missing a lot of your planned posts and struggling to publish on a regular basis?
Well, a social media schedular can save the day! Schedule your content in bulk so you don’t have to worry about it for a week, month, or whatever time frame feels right for you. You are generally free to schedule posts as far in advance as you like (granted your selected package allows this).
It’s good practice, however, to check in on your upcoming content to ensure it’s still relevant to current affairs; like how many social media managers had to alter their content as the pandemic hit. This may be changing content altogether or just amending some specific terminology. For instance, one of our client’s scheduled posts contained the caption, “Laughter is infectious,” as the pandemic hit. In this case, the word ‘infectious’ suddenly became disrespectful to the circumstances and could have reflected badly on the brand if this wasn’t spotted on time.
Plan your content calendar effectively
Scheduling tools can also help you better visualise your content. See posts laid out on a calendar so you can easily identify where there may be gaps that require filling.
What should I consider when choosing a social media scheduling tool?
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll uncover some of the key points that we consider essential from a social scheduling tool, which you may not have yet considered. We have also highlighted just a few tools to discuss but there are many more out there!
Picking a tool which fulfils the need of your marketing strategy
The first two questions you need to ask yourself before considering the different platforms are:
- What do I need the tool to do?
- How much am I willing to spend on a tool to do so?
Does the tool cover everything you need it to do?
Not all scheduling tools are compatible with all social media platforms. So, before going ahead with any tool, it’s important to make sure that the selected tool is able to schedule on every platform that you need to.
Some tools are very limited, sometimes only accommodating a single platform, whereas others offer a centralised tool to cover all your basis. Sprout Social is a great example here of a multi-platform scheduling tool. It is compatible with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and also is currently testing TikTok integration. Furthermore, it allows you to monitor Google My Business, Reddit, and TripAdvisor reviews.
How much are you willing to spend?
The first aspect many individuals and companies alike look towards is the price of tools. If you’re just starting out or have a very limited marketing budget, there’s no issue in opting for a free tool to help you get started.
Two examples of platforms that offer a free subscription are ContentCal and Later.com. They focus on the rule that ‘content is king‘, providing a tool with a primary function around creating good content.
ContentCal is the ultimate tool for creating content as a team. At ContentCal, we recognise that the majority of time managing social media is the creation of content. We make this simple by allowing teams to share ideas, articles, and snippets to the ‘Content Hub’ and then facilitating the collaboration, approval publishing, and analysis of that content. We also support content outside of social media, like blogs, emails, and press releases. Basically, we’re the ones you come to when you need better coordination of your content marketing strategy.Andy Lambert, director of growth at ContentCal
These free plans are a great way to help keep your content flowing and your social pages active. You’ll always have the option to upgrade at a later date if your needs change.
However, of course, they do come with restrictions. Free/cheap plans generally limit the number of profiles, users, and the number of posts that you may schedule at any one point. They may also restrict other tailored features that the platform usually offers to premium accounts, such as reporting or insights sections. So, make sure it’ll cover everything you need it to. If it doesn’t, it may be worth investing a bit more in a tool to see the real benefits from it.
If you’re unsure, most platforms will offer a free trial period so you can test it out and have any queries answered before investing.
Easily and effectively manage your social posts
The key benefit of scheduling tools is that they allow you to manage everything from one place; your content production, scheduling, management, and reporting.
To offer this, most platforms will present some sort of dashboard(s) to show your calendar, post previews, and analytics. These dashboards are generally very visual and look great on the surface! It’s only when you start working with the tool that you may start noticing that there are some key features that are missing, prohibiting you from effectively managing your socials. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Optimal posting times
Publishing your post at an optimal time means posting when your audience is most active. In doing so, more people will see your posts early on, increasing your chances of engagement soon after posting. Early engagement tells social media algorithms that people like your content. As a result, the platform will continue to show your post to more people, so your reach and engagement levels should increase.
Multiple articles exist on the generic ‘best times to post’ based on specific platforms, industries, or audiences. But, certain scheduling tools offer an AI integration that looks specifically at your current following to analyse the best time to post based on when your followers are most active. So this should put an end to reading up reports, or checking into the native socials’ analytics pages, or worse – just guessing!
Approval workflows can be imperative for any business, big or small, and a definite need for us here at MintTwist.
These workflows allocate different tasks or levels of approval for different people. For example, with larger companies there may be:
Someone creating and adding the creative (photo, carousel, or video) > One person to add the copy/caption> One person to add any hashtags and schedule into the correct day > A specialist to check over everything fitting together and proofread > Final approval from a senior member of the business
Whereas for smaller businesses the workflow may be as simple as:
One person creating and scheduling a post > One person proofreading the post
Workflows can be created to tailor you or your business’s specific needs and are easily amendable.
At MintTwist, these workflows vary from client to client. Some only require a 2-step process whereas others require a longer chain. For instance, in cases where our clients themselves like to have the final approval on each individual post to be published we would add an additional step to the workflow to allow them to do so.
Publishing Instagram stories
Due to an Instagram API restriction, all stories must currently be published via a mobile device. So how can you schedule these in?
A number of social media scheduling tools have got this covered, including Later.com as highlighted above. They will allow you to schedule your content from a desktop, then, when it comes time for you to publish your story, you will receive a notification via the platform’s mobile app. The content will be automatically pulled to your phone so you can quickly share the story with just a couple of clicks.
Community management made easy
We’ve already mentioned the hassle of logging into various profiles every day to post content but what about responding to all customer enquiries that come through?
Message collation streams
Many scheduling tools offer a message collation stream. These streams pull messages from your different profiles into one collated stream, making it much faster and simpler to respond to all. This can include direct messages, tags, mentions, post comments, ad comments, and retweets (these vary according to what the platforms offer and their API restrictions on each).
One important stream to mention here is the absence of Instagram direct messages. As it stands, Instagram messages aren’t available within these message collation centres. Though they may soon be…
A recent announcement by Facebook stated that:
We are currently updating the Messenger API to support Instagram messaging, giving businesses new tools to manage their customer communications on Instagram at scale.Marion Boiteux, product manager at Facebook Messenger
This Messanger API support for Instagram messaging will mean a lot for businesses, no matter their size. Some larger brands are already testing the integration and have been giving very positive feedback.
Instagram is a platform for community building, and we’ve long approached it as a way for us to connect with our customers in a place where they are already spending a lot of their time. With the newly launched Messenger API support for Instagram, we are now able to increase efficiency, drive even stronger user engagement, and easily maintain a two-way dialogue with our followers. This technology has helped us create a new pipeline for best-in-class service and allows for a direct line of communication that’s fast and easy for both customers and our internal team.Marketing team, Michael Kors
Hopefully, it won’t be long before this is rolled out to become available to us all both via Facebook Messenger and scheduling tools who already have a collated messaging system.
Tracking branded keywords and hashtags
The above point covers any instance in which a user has directly outreached to your profile, mentioned your handle, or shared your content. But what happens when users are talking about you but don’t include your handle?
Businesses that don’t monitor mentions without the @ risk missing over 30% of feedback.Aaron Lee, regional manager of Agorapulse
In these cases, there’s a huge missed opportunity to engage with users to help resolve any customer service issues, maintain online brand reputation, or build a relationship with the user.
To help with this, some platforms allow you to monitor not only your handle but also branded keywords. Track:
- Your social handles – @minttwist
- Your brand name – “MintTwist”
- Variations of your brand name which people may mistakenly write – “mint twist”
- Branded hashtags – #MintTwist
This means you can be involved in EVERY public conversation or mention of your brand.
If you’re actively trying to improve your content and grow your social profiles, reliable reporting systems may be of equal importance to the scheduling features for you. If this is true for you, there are again a couple of things you should be aware of.
Separating organic and paid post results
If you’re also using social ads within your digital marketing strategy you probably want to be able to differentiate your results to show what has been a result of your paid activity, in comparison to what has come from organic posting. Sadly, this is not something all platforms offer. And what’s more, it can be confusing to know what analytics you are seeing when first starting out. If you’re ever confused we’d recommend looking at posts breakdown functions. This way you can see what is being pulled in. Or, if you’re still confused, you can always consult the platform help centre to confirm what analytics you are seeing.
Separating newsfeed posts and stories
Similarly, within the reporting section, you’ll want to be able to separate your results for your newsfeed posts from your stories.
Just think, how many times do you reply to or engage with a story in comparison to passively liking posts down your Instagram feed?
Due to the nature of these different formats, we often engage more with feed posts. As a result, combining your results from feed posts and stories can be misleading. For example, one month you may find that your engagement rate (the number of engagements on your post as a percentage of the total reach) has drastically dropped, which would be a bad thing. But in fact, you may have just shared a lot more stories that month which helped you reach a lot more people, which would be a good thing.
So if you’re checking in and tracking your analytics, you’ll want to ensure that you’re able to separate these post types.
Beyond social sharing… social listening
Social listening is the process of listening to conversations within your wider industry, not just mentions of your brand. There are many reasons brands conduct social listening, with aims varying from building relationships, strengthening brand reputation, and discovering new opportunities.
If you’re someone who likes working from one place, you may decide to opt for a scheduling tool which also has social listening capabilities. But don’t be fooled. Using one platform instead of two does not always make it more cost-effective. You should conduct equal research on listening tools to again understand their capabilities and limitations before undertaking any commitments.
To sum up, there are a lot of different social media scheduling platforms out there that can look very similar on the surface. When deciding what one is best for you, it’s important to understand exactly what it is you need it to accomplish. Only then can you ensure that the platform covers all your basis before investing. Even if opting for a free subscription you may end up investing a lot of time learning about the platform, just to realise that it cannot do everything you need it to. So, do your research early on to save your time and money later down the line.