Which Social Media Scheduler is Best for You? Comparing 8 ProgramsAnita Kirkbride
If you are doing any decent amount of social media marketing for your own business, or for others, you’ve probably already tried a scheduling system or two to help with the workload. Maybe you’ve felt it’s wrong to schedule content and you gave up? Or maybe you just didn’t find the right social media scheduler for your needs. Because I believe in responsible scheduling of content (please note, this is not content automation), I have tried many different scheduling systems. Some work with one platform, others with many. From my experience, all of the different scheduling programs have their benefits, it’s a matter of which scheduling process works best for you and your workflow.
This article is based on eight programs to which I have given a thoughtful, earnest try. They are all in a category I would say is reasonable for small businesses to purchase the upgraded services. Some of them I have used for years and some only for a few days. They all have their relative strengths and weaknesses and different scheduling processes. I have recommended each of them to different people with different needs. This list is FAR from exhaustive. Some of the programs I am not including, but are worth checking out are SproutSocial, TweetDeck for Twitter, Tailwind for Pinterest, PostPlanner for Facebook, Schedugr.am / Latergram.me for Instagram, and DoShare for G+.
Here are the main systems or processes social media schedulers seem to use.
(Disclaimer: I am a volunteer Hootsuite Ambassador)
There are two main ways you can schedule content within Hootsuite (Aff): manual and autoschedule. With manual scheduling you can pick the exact day and time you want your post to be published. If you choose the autoschedule options, Hootsuite will put your post in a queue to be published at the next, best publishing time, based on when your fans or followers are most likely to interact with it.
With manual scheduling you know exactly when your content is set to go and can plan other things around that. A great use of this is to schedule your lunch special for each day of the week at 11:30 am when customers are starting to think about lunch. However, you may not always pick the best time to post. If you are confident in your ability to figure out a good time to post this might be a good option for you.
You can set up your autoschedule to limit the number of posts per day and the hours in which it will post. For example, my Hootsuite will not publish any more than five autoschedules per day to any account, and will only post between 7am and 7pm. Each time you autoschedule a post, it lines up in the queue for the day, and if you hit a sixth post, that one falls to tomorrow’s queue. You don’t get to choose the autoschedule times, but you can always change a post’s time once scheduled. If you run multiple accounts through Hootsuite all accounts will have the same settings, i.e. all accounts are limited to the same hours and number of tweets per day (for autoscheduling). Using the Hootlet browser extension you can very quickly read articles and share to your networks, spreading things out, via the autoscheduler.
Hootsuite is free to hook up three social media accounts, or $9.95 per month for up to 50. Scheduling features work with Facebook profiles and Pages, Twitter, LinkedIn profiles and business pages, Instagram, WordPress, tumbler, Pinterest (with additional plugins), and many other networks.
Buffer also works on a queue system, similar to Hootsuite autoschedule, but with one major difference: you get to pick the specific dates and times your queue will post. For example, you can set up your Buffer to post to Facebook at 7:00, 9:00 1:30 and 6:45 on weekdays, and then pick a totally different schedule for Twitter and LinkedIn. Using the Buffer buttons you’ll find on many websites now, or the Buffer extension, you simply add items to your Buffer queue choosing which networks to post to and the item is added to the individual queues for each network chosen. So, you could put one article in your Buffer queue for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and have it go all at the same time, or, if you use Buffer more often for Twitter, the Twitter post might be queued up a few more times down the line. There is also an option to “post now” and rearrange your queued up posts.
If you don’t want to guess with your queue timing set up, Buffer integrates with Social Bro to determine the best times for your account to tweet.
You’ll get 10 items in each network’s queue on the free plan, but upgrade to awesome to get unlimited, plus access to Pinterest scheduling!
Meet Edgar is one of the newer scheduling platforms I’ve tried. It is based on a queue system as well, and similar to Buffer you pick the exact days and times you want content to publish. However, you can divide your content into categories and then build posting schedules for each network, based on those categories. For example, when I used Meet Edgar I had a category for workshops and one for affiliate marketing. You work on each network’s calendar separately, so looking at Facebook, I would post an affiliate marketing item Monday at 9am. Tuesday at 9am might be the workshop information. In each of those two categories there would be multiple items, so next Monday affiliate marketing item #2 would post and on Tuesday workshop item #2 would post. On Twitter I had a completely different schedule.
I think Meet Edgar is a great scheduling option for people who have a lot of repeat content that needs to be spread out, i.e. affiliate marketers, authors selling books, coaches selling courseware, bloggers promoting multiple blog posts. I personally found I didn’t have enough content to fill up the categories enough so that it didn’t feel repetitive. I only have a few affiliate links (and I’ve never made any money off them), one ebook, occasional workshops and the blog. It just wasn’t enough to make the monthly subscription of $49 worth it for me. However, should Hootsuite be thinking about buying Meet Edgar, I’d be down with that.
Social Oomph gets a bad reputation as one of the first and foremost programs to allow you to automatically direct message your Twitter followers, but it has some useful scheduling features that are a bit different again from the others. Social Oomph has a drip campaign feature that would be useful for someone who puts out, say, daily social media tips. You could set the drip campaign to publish daily and fill it up with your tips. When it reaches the end of the list, it simply starts over again at the top.
Evergreen Post Tweeter
Ok…this one is more automation than scheduling, but I find it very useful. EPT is a WordPress plugin that randomly sends out your old, evergreen content to Twitter and Facebook. Like Buffer you set up a schedule it will follow and give it parameters for which category or tags to post and voila. I have mine set to randomly post an evergreen blog post three times per week. I always get new views because there are always new people following me when it posts something. If you take the time to create something, you should recycle it! Don’t let a good, old post just sit there taking up space, find a way to get it out there to new people.
Facebook Native Scheduler
It wasn’t that long ago I was lamenting the fact that Facebook didn’t have a way to schedule posts, and when they did introduce that feature it was like the angels were singing. I often use the native Facebook scheduler because you get to see exactly what your post will look like when it pulls in the images from a website. The downside is, of course, you can only use this to share to Facebook, so it can create a bit more work if you’re using other networks. The native Facebook scheduler allows you to pick a specific date and time for your post to appear. There are not yet any algorithms to allow you to autoschedule your Facebook content through this feature.
There is a lot of talk about Facebook “downplaying” items scheduled from outside systems, but there is no evidence to support that. Some of these programs I’m talking about here are official Facebook partners, so I don’t think Facebook is going to make their programs NOT work properly. And if you read the most recent studies on this topic, even those authors admit it’s more likely the crappy content and lack of engagement from the Page owners that is affecting their numbers, not the fact that they posted from a third party app.
IFTTT / Zapier
If This Then That (IFTTT) and Zapier work on the same premise. If this happens on this network, then make this happen on this network. For example, “if I post on Instagram, post my image on Twitter as an image, not a link” (if you click the Twitter button within Instagram it will only show your Twitter followers a link to the photo). You can use these programs to cross post from Facebook Pages, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. I use them mostly for tracking hashtags and user generated content, not for automating any social media posting, but the options are there for automating tweets and more.
Hey Orca is a new program built to streamline the approval process for agencies managing client accounts. It has a basic date and time scheduling system for Facebook and Twitter posts, but the beauty of this one is in the ability for a client to see a mockup of how the post will appear on the chosen network and approve it or not. The only reason I’m not using Hey Orca is that my clients generally don’t want to have anything to do with their social media posting…they just want to hand me the content and trust me to post it…and I’m ok with that kind of social media management system.
Whichever scheduling system is right for you, please keep in mind that social media is about being SOCIAL! Don’t forget to engage with your audience spontaneously as well, answer questions, acknowledge comments and reviews, and just plain be present on the networks you’re using. Scheduling cannot replace the human touch.
Did I miss your favourite scheduling system? Give a shout out in the comments!