Social media is first and foremost social. That means you must be present to win. You need to be there with genuine interactions that reflect positively on your character, but you also need to guard your time. It is so easy to get sucked into the vacuum of time-wasting social media scrolling and neglect your most important task as an author, the actual writing. That’s why the next section about social media scheduling becomes so critical to being successful, especially as you expand your reach to multiple outlets.

Tool #1: Set boundaries on your time. First, I’ve heard several marketing people say that anything more than 30 minutes a day begins to be counter-productive when it comes to the return on your investment of time. You need to get in there, see what your friends are up to, comment on a few things, respond to comments on your posts, share something you liked…and then get out. Too much time turns you into the news feed hog. It’s a balance you’ll need to find for yourself, but discover how to interact enough to maintain current relationships and build a few more along the way.

So how on earth can anyone only spend 30 minutes a day on social media? The key is to block out a single larger chunk of time in advance to schedule multiple posts ahead using one of the tools I’ll describe next. Just like you pre-loaded your blog with a few weeks’ worth of posts, you can also schedule social media content so you aren’t scrambling to come up with a purposeful status update when you realize it’s been three weeks since you actually posted anything.

Once you have a steady trickle scheduled for the next week or two (and in the process have learned the ins and outs of the scheduling tool itself), then you can cut back to create a balance between scheduling for the days ahead and actually popping in to visit each social media platform. It only takes a few minutes to actually check the feed, retweet or share something, like or favorite a post, leave a comment or two, and then move on to the next social media account. Do that a couple times of day (with a timer to keep you from getting sucked in further), and you’ll be interacting with your readers in the moment while still preserving time to write.

I personally try to check into my active accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram) in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. I also set aside Monday mornings to work on marketing and use part of that time to make sure that plenty of content is scheduled ahead.

Note: I said active accounts. I have an account or profile with every social media platform still to be discussed later in this section and will share how I use each specifically as well as the possibilities for getting more involved there. However, while I personally interact daily on only a few, I use some of the following tools to automatically keep a small trickle of recent content in the other places as well. Like mentioned in the previous section, it’s best to focus your energy on a few places and just maintain a minimum presence on the rest, enough so the account doesn’t look abandoned but still points to your main interaction hubs.

Tool #2: If you blog at all, use the tools inside your website to feed that content to various platforms. If you have the JetPack plug-in with your WordPress website, you can activate the “Publicize” feature and connect your various social media accounts to your website. While this is helpful to create those small sharing buttons at the bottom of every post so your visitors can point their own friends to your site, you can also use those buttons to share older—but still relevant—content.

Where this feature really comes in handy is when you publish new blog posts. By checking a few boxes inside the Publish area in the upper left corner of the “add a new post” screen inside WordPress, you can create a custom message and automatically share your new blog post to various social media outlets. If you’ve scheduled that blog post for the future, it will automatically also get publicized in the future once the post goes live. Fix it and forget it is my favorite kind of tool!

Another benefit to having a blog is that you can set up a “feed” so that your three most recent posts automatically show up on your Amazon Author Central page and your Goodreads Author Profile page. (More about those places later.) This is another way to use a single blog post to keep a fresh presence in different places on the internet where readers might find you.

Tool #3: For beginners, I recommend starting with Hootsuite. In the free version, you can schedule posts to three different social media networks (including Twitter, Facebook profile and/or page, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn) from one dashboard and even add pictures to your posts. With the click of a tab, you move from one outlet to another without having to log in to each. Plus, within the page for a particular outlet—say Twitter for example—you can customize vertical streams to not only show scheduled tweets, your recent tweets, and the main feed of tweets you are following, you can also filter through the noise to find a specific group of friends or certain topics. This makes it say to curate the best content to retweet (or if you’re on Facebook, to share). There is an integrated link shortener to keep you under the 140 character limit for Twitter and a mobile app to allow access on the go. You can also pick two RSS feeds to follow, allowing you to easily share content from your favorite sources.

The Pro version allows you to add up to 10 networks, batch-schedule posts instead of one by one, get unlimited RSS feeds to share, get detailed analytic reports, and even access a new lead-generating social campaign feature. As of this writing, the Pro version has a 30-day free trial and then costs $10 a month if you pay a year in advance (or a higher month-by-month rate is also available). There are more expensive versions out there to manage multiple accounts with more team members such as if you have (or are) a virtual assistant.

Like any software, there are limits or irritations to consider. Your scheduled posts will appear in a date-ordered vertical list that you have to scroll down through while paying attention to the tiny writing to see when they are scheduled. If you want to change the date or time, you need to edit the post individually. You also can’t see what the post will actually look like until it posts and sometimes the pictures don’t show up the way you wanted. You have to continually come back to load content even with the Pro batch schedule feature, and the batch scheduler requires a very specific (time-consuming) format including the dates and times you want each piece to post.

When I started out using the free version, I created a separate Excel spreadsheet with lists of quotes, verses, book promotion snippets, and other content I wanted to share. Then, I copied and pasted those into Hootsuite in order to manually create a variety throughout the day(s). I also scanned the filtered feed for content to retweet and could even schedule those retweets into the future as well.

Honestly, I only used this scheduling tool for Twitter since I could never quite figure out how to get a Facebook Page post to look like I wanted it to through Hootsuite and would schedule posts for my Facebook Page inside Facebook. (When we talk specifically about Facebook, I’ll show you how.) I soon moved on to other tools, but still recommend Hootsuite as the place to start for those just learning their way around social media scheduling.

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