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.
Here are the main systems or processes social media schedulers seem to use.
There are two main ways you can schedule content within Hootsuite: 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).
Pricing: Hootsuite is free to hook up three social media accounts, or $29 per month for up to 20. Scheduling features work with Facebook Pages and Groups, Twitter, LinkedIn profiles and business pages, Instagram, WordPress, tumbler, Pinterest (with additional plugins), and many other networks.
Compare with: Agorapulse, Sprout Social
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 Audiense to determine the best times for your account to tweet.
Pricing: You’ll get 10 queued items and three networks on the free plan, but upgrade to Pro for $15 to get eight networks/profile and, 100 queued items.
I recently switched from Hootsuite/Revive Social/SocialJukeBox combo to Cloud Campaign. Cloud Campaign 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, I have a category for webinars and one for blog posts. I set up a content cue for each network and type of content. On Tuesdays it pulls a tip. On Wednesdays it posts the most recent blog post. Twitter queues are more frequent.
This is a great scheduling option for people who have a lot of evergreen content to be recycled and spaced appropriately, i.e. affiliate marketers, authors selling books, coaches selling courses, bloggers promoting multiple blog posts.
Pricing: $199 per month for all the features. This includes the ability to have clients approve their content, and to have team members input content that requires approval before posting. This one is really only feasible if you have a large number of accounts to manage with recurring content.
Compare with: Meet Edgar, Social Bee, Smarter Queue, Social Jukebox
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. (This can be accomplished in other programs as well.)
Pricing: Free for one personal profile. $15 a month for a single full featured business profile. $25 a month for 10 profiles.
Compare with: Social JukeBox
Revive Old Posts (WP plugin)
Ok…this one is more automation than scheduling, but I found it very useful for a time. Revive 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 set it to randomly post an evergreen blog post three times per week. I haven’t used this plugin for a couple of years because I switched to other, less automated programs that I found I was better able to control.
Pricing: Free, but upgrade to PRO for customization options, custom scheduling, and access to more networks. $149 per year to continue receiving support and updates.
Compare with: Co-Schedule wordpress plugin
Facebook Creator Studio
Facebook recently moved their native scheduling feature off the Business Page and into Creator Studio. If you’re not doing a lot of scheduling, or if Facebook and/or Instagram is your main network, this is a great option. Many people believe, although Facebook denies it, that using native scheduling improves the reach of your posts.
Using Creator you will be able 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 and Instagram 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…and I wouldn’t expect them any time soon.
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.
Pricing: FREE but Zapier has some paid upgrades.
Hey Orca is 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.
Pricing: $79 per month for one client calendar.
Some of the social media scheduling tools mentioned here also have a dashboard feature you can use to streamline other parts of your social media efforts (like listening for leads on Twitter), or great analytics reports. Some of these features are free, some are paid upgrades. If you’re looking for a good all-in-one tool, you’re probably going to like Agorapulse, Sprout Social or Hootsuite best, although Buffer has analytics now that may be very good (I’ve not experienced them).
Whichever social media 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!
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