Social media is a tool that has immediacy at its very foundation. Its direct nature and lack of restrictions makes it valuable to businesses who are looking for cheaper and faster ways to communicate with their audience. Regular communication with your fans and followers is vital if you want to grow your audience and develop a good reputation online and reaching a potential global audience makes this more desirable.
However, this has presented its own set of problems. For one, you can't be around your computer or have access there will be occasions where you'll be out of the office, or away for the entire day and have content you want to share.
Also, while we have now have access to a global audience, unless you're a major company that has offices in different parts of the world, it's unlikely that you'll be able to reach all of your audience at prominent times. When you're under pressure to maintain a consistent social media presence, this can be testing when you've many other things to be concentrating on.
Therefore, one of the best solutions you can have is to schedule content in advanced. This way, you can cover yourself for times you're not on your accounts, giving you more time to concentrate on other jobs. However, while scheduling is a useful feature, you shouldn't rely on it exclusively. You will need real-time posts to deal with mentions, comments or for posting content that is time sensitive so a mixture of the two is preferable.
[caption id="attachment_68647" align="aligncenter" width="765"] Clock symbol via Infinity Kim
of The Noun Project[/caption]
What type of content you schedule is important as there are certain posts that are better to post immediately instead of later. When you're preparing content, the first thing you should consider is the shelf life of a post. Will it still be relevant in a few hours time? Is it something that users will want to come back to? To use an example, a news story about Instagram's new profiles would be relevant for a few hours, but will quickly become old news. However, a feature post or guide relating to it would last much longer.
Once you've that settled, who your audience is the next thing you should consider. Sending it at a time where they will all see it is so you will need to consider where they're based and factor that in. If you have two difference audiences, one local and the other in a different part of the world, it's best to post one straight away and schedule the second for later on. What times work the best can be found out through trial and error so schedule posts, use a URL shortener - so you can find out how many times a link has been clicked - and experiment.
The third thing is coming up with an advanced schedule of your posts. This is to say when exactly these posts are going to be published so when you have the times sorted out, make a schedule where you decide exactly what times you post something online and stick to it. You can either write the schedule down or create a spreadsheet or Google Calendar (with reminders) telling you when to post. Not only is consistency important, but you want to make sure your audience is given the best possible opportunity to see your posts.
The fourth and final thing to do is to create a space online where you can source content from. This is something that your entire company can get involved in. Create a new Google doc file (word or spreadsheet) and ask that everyone posts any interesting content they find on it. It's better to index it under certain headings (social media, marketing, technology, etc.) and to place the date it was published as well in case time is a factor.
This way, you've sourced a number of interesting articles and content without having to do much work although don't rely too much on others to do your work.
Social Media Tools
With that said, there are a number of different tools that will help you out with scheduling content. Finding which one works best for you depends on your needs and what type of social media channels you use, but there are a number of great tools out there to choose from.
Anyone who is a regular user of Facebook pages would probably know that the site has its own scheduler for you to take advantage of. Not only can you update your posts on desktop, but you can do it through the Facebook pages app too. Anytime you're writing a post (make sure it's in the voice of the page and not your own personal account), you will notice a clock icon at the bottom. Clicking on it will let you schedule the date and time your post will go online.
The old reliable for when you're handling multiple streams and accounts, everyone pretty much knows what Tweetdeck has to offer, one of those features is scheduling tweets. If you haven't been put off by the numerous changes Twitter has made to it over the last few months, then you'll find it useful.
A great alternative if Tweetdeck has put you off. Hootsuite offers the same features as Tweetdeck, but what it has to separate it from other products is its AutoSchedule feature. It will choose the best times for your tweet or post to be published.
If you're having problems organising content to post or you become inconsistent with posting, Hubspot's solution might be what you're looking for. It created its own handy social media scheduler which can be used for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. The scheduler in question is a Excel spreadsheet, but it's a great way of gathering your thoughts and arranging all your content into one easy space. You have to use it in conjunction with another publishing tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, but it's great if you want that extra level of organisation.
The original auto scheduler and one that has gained a lot of fans since it was first released, Buffer lets you queue up posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and App.net and automatically posts them for you throughout the day. The service will space out your posts and post them during times your followers will see it. It's available for major browsers and smartphones meaning it's can be used no matter where you are.
Another scheduler that has garnered a lot of praise, Sprout Social's primary purpose is a social media monitoring tool, but it also allows its users to schedule posts and messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. As well as being able to queue up posts and cross-post content, it also allows you to integrate RSS feeds for sharing, allowing you to queue up content easily.
If your social media responsibilities are broken down between three or more people, then Sprout Social is a tool definitely worth looking into.
Another good auto scheduler tool for Twitter, Tweriod analyses your tweets and your followers' tweets to determine the best times for you to tweet. The service is free if you have less than 1,000 followers, however. After that, the cost ranges from $4 a month for accounts with 1,001 - 4,999 followers to $15 a month for accounts with over 50,000 followers.