If you’re an artist, writer, any other type of creator who’s producing content you want the world to see, you’ve thought about engaging with social media.
On the one hand, it’s free… but you make up for it in time and labor, rather than paying someone else to market your work for you. Because they might get it wrong, or you could pay for an account and never bother to learn its full functionality. If you really don’t care, you can start a free WP account and rig it to drop to Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook every time you post. That’s more advertisement than you were doing before, which was none.
But then analytics come into it. Out of the blue, Twitter asks you if you’re curious about how your tweets have been doing, so you check it out, and you’re surprised to realize that some fairly innocuous posts have been seeing a lot of traction. How do you get on top of that? Well, you ask around (or search online), and after a bunch of marketing garbage you hear about Tweetdeck and Tweepsmap, and you learn much, much more about your audience. For example, you learn that people read your links around 11 a.m., but they retweet and comment between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., your time… and that 47% of your followers are two timezones over and 11% are seven timezones away in either direction. What do you want to do about that?
Once you realize that people in further timezones probably don’t speak your language, you rally and focus on readers and viewers in your own nation. Great, that narrows that down. But are you actually going to hover around your computer and post around those times? That’s when you break into scheduled posts, and you begin to get the sense that maybe you need a social media schedule.
That can come later. But preprogramming your posting can happen now. There are a few platforms that allow you to store up posts of Twitter and Facebook to be released later; Tumblr already gives you that option.
Everyone seems to have heard of Hootsuite: for free, you can preload a metric crap-ton of content, including images. Originally Hootsuite would store your images in their directory, which meant two pieces of bad news: one, your Twitter account wouldn’t house your photos. It looked like you weren’t posting any media. Two, Hootsuite resized your images, so really large and glorious pictures were shrunken to an insulting size. They have since corrected each of these issues by giving you the option of storing your pictures on your Twitter account. You can do quite a lot with Hootsuite for free, though they’re struggling with posting to Instagram, just because IG really dislikes anyone building any software to interface with them.
Buffer did well to grab that name (preloading your posts to drop later is buffering them), and they have an effective, if inelegant workaround for posting to IG: you install their app on your phone, and when a post is scheduled to go through, you approve it on your phone, open up IG, paste any text you’d already written (it’s shunted to your clipboard), and then you can post. This requires you to be watching your phone at the time you want it to go up, but it’s still effective. Plus, they have a partner program, Pablo, that easily constructs text-on-image posts. IG’s still being obstinate in that you can’t embed hyperlinks in text or images, but nothing stops you from posting your URL there regardless.
However, Buffer cuts you off at ten posts, and as I found out, those posts aren’t guaranteed to go through. And then you discover the standards are different: you can set up ten tweets in advance, but only three or four Facebook or IG posts. And then they inform you your trial period has elapsed, something no one mentioned at any point ever. I think this was something they implemented later, as I’d been using their 30-day trial for about three months.
Edgar is the better curator: you preload your blog posts and content, and then Edgar distributes them over the calendar and then reposts them when it goes through your inventory. That way your social media accounts are never empty; however, it’s still your responsibility to interact with other accounts!
One good way to do that is to make a daily routine of tweeting every way possible: post, hashtags, RT, quote RT, polls, links, images. You have all day to do all those, twice each, and slowly you’ll begin to attract people. Not sure what hashtags to use? Set up some views in Tweetdeck to monitor activity on hashtags related to what you’re doing.
At the same time, both Buffer and Edgar want money, while you can do quite a lot with Hootsuite for entirely free. You just make up for it, like I said, in time and effort.
So go ahead and open up Google Sheets, start one column that counts the calendar down as far as you’d like to go into the future, and then start subsequent columns headed with your various social media platforms. Refer to the free analytics and figure out when you’d like to post what content: late mornings and early evenings are a good start. Now: write out your posts (script the Twitter posts in Twitter since character length matters) for each channel and now you can see what days have too much content and which ones need more. Dig out your old blog posts and advertise them every other day in the afternoon; link to your illustrations or short stories once every morning, why not? Round out a nice evenly distributed calendar, and then cut-n-paste it all into Hootsuite.
Or just load it up in Hootsuite and trust their anarchic automated release queue, like Tumblr’s queue. You load it up with posts like a coal hopper, and then set it to release one or more times a day, on certain days. The programs are not smart enough to drop these posts during your peak times, so you’re better off putting a little more effort into scheduling.
But at least it’s all free. If you’re too busy to put this work into it (seriously, it’s like an hour of solid writing), then you waive your right to complain that no one’s noticing you on social media.
[Image by Yoel ben Avraham]