Anyone who has managed the social media accounts for a business – or multiple businesses – knows that growing a dedicated, loyal and social following takes time. LOTS of time.

Thankfully, there are plenty of social media tools available to speed the process – whether they be for listening, finding hashtags or growing audiences – but the humble social media scheduler is without a doubt the most widely used of the lot. We rely on them here at Wonderbean (because we have better things to do at the weekend), and yes they can save you tons of time, but only when they’re used correctly. If you’re finding that they’re not saving you any time, you need to read our tips below:

Do:

Find the scheduling tool that works best for you. There are hundreds of scheduling tools available all over the web, a quick Google search for ‘social media scheduling tool’ returns 2,700,000 results. So yeah, there are plenty to choose from. Each tool has its own unique characteristics, interface and functionality. We’re personally big fans of Buffer here at Wonderbean because it’s so easy to use, but it’s a matter of personal preference.

Do:

Choose the right plan for you. Most social scheduling tools offer a free plan and multiple paid plans. If you’re managing only one business, it’s unlikely that you’ll need anything more than a free plan. But if you’re needing to schedule lots of posts in advance – say, more than 10 – or you need more than one of the core social platforms attached (more than one Facebook Page, or more than one Twitter account), you’re probably going to need to upgrade to a paid version.

Do:

Test out times of the day. Tools like Buffer will suggest optimum times of the day to post for you, and at the start they’re usually spot on. But as you grow your social audience you might find that people are engaging with your posts at different times of day, so make sure you test new times manually and edit these on your scheduling tool if you find a new time of day performs better.

Do:

Dedicate a regular time to do all of your scheduling. If you can put a slot in your diary each week to dedicate to scheduling all of your posts for the rest of the week, you’ll find that social media becomes much of a hassle. That said, don’t underestimate the time you’ll need to invest into researching content to share. One hour per week isn’t going to cut the mustard if you really want to engage new people.

And what not to do:

Don’t:

Use automated messages in place of conversations. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked if I can set up an automated message to send to new followers, or to follow people using a hashtag, or send an automated brand tweet every hour / day. People simply tune-out to automated messages, so if you really want someone to see and react to your message, write it manually and make it personal.

Don’t:

Forget that there are times when it’s not appropriate. Yes, you may have a stream of honest tweets set up for your brand, but please, please, please keep an eye on the news. Don’t underestimate how easy it is for a friendly message to turn into a PR nightmare. To give you an example, a brand I was helping had scheduled a set of lovely messages about why you should be visiting France. Totally innocent. Then the Paris terrorist attacks happened and over the weekend, those scheduled happy messages still got sent out to French people. Not the best response to a sensitive situation.

(Which leads to another) Do:

Download the app of the tool you’re using (eg. the Buffer app for your phone / tablet), so you can delete or pause any scheduled messages if needed, whatever time it is and wherever you are.

Don’t:

Automatically pull your Twitter messages into Facebook (or vice versa). If people see lots of hashtags in Facebook, it’s obvious that it’s been pulled in a feed. Likewise, Facebook posts are usually too long for Twitter. Make your posts unique to the platform.

Don’t:

Cheat the system. Unless you want to be a spammer (in which case, I’m highly surprised you’re reading this blog), don’t cut corners. Yes, certain hashtags will get you lots of new followers. Yes, there are people and businesses out there which can get you lots of new followers for a cheap price. But they’re not real followers, and the low engagement rate for your messages will hurt you in the end.

Don’t:

Forget to respond to replies. Automation is brilliant, we agree. It works so well that it’s likely that people will reply to your messages and ask questions. Which means you’ll still have to login to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc and respond as there is, as yet, no substitute for real people. Sorry.