I first heard about social media scheduling many years ago when a friend (not a business owner), who was a self-confessed social media addict, was looking for a way to save time by posting the same content across all his platforms in one go. And that was the last I’d heard about it until I started my own business last year. I remember, at the time, feeling slightly baffled and overwhelmed by the array of scheduling tools and wondering which one to choose. Everyone I asked said something different, so it wasn’t an easy decision.
So, if you’re starting to feel like your socials are taking over your life and you need ideas on planning and overwhelm-prevention, read on.
To schedule? Or not to schedule?
Short answer, YES! If you’re a small business and you want to get yourself seen on social media, then you are going to need to post several times a week consistently to keep feeding that pesky algorithm. Scheduling is the only way to achieve that consistency without it taking over your life. AND…
It saves you time.
Yes, that old chestnut. Imagine if you were stopping to post on Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram…I don’t think you’d be very productive. Just like my social-media-addict-friend noticed, having one place to post rather than four or five, saves so much valuable time. Plus, you can timeblock a few hours to do all your posts in one go, leaving you free to get on with your billable tasks.
It enables you to post consistently at peak times.
If you’ve ever checked out your platform insights – if not, you really should- you’ll know that there are peak times to post, when the majority of your audience is online. Using a tool to do it for you makes total sense in terms of time and consistency. Having the ability to post at peak times can also help to improve your reach and your engagement.
It enables you to plan and enhance your strategy.
Once you’ve defined your strategy and set out your ideal client, your content pillars, researched your hashtags, awareness days and content, it’s time to get scheduling. Content plans can be easily transferred into a scheduling tool, with most providing a helpful visual calendar and some providing a preview of your Instagram grid.
You can easily repurpose content.
Repurposing your content (i.e. editing and reusing it) is a great way to save time and reinforce your messaging. Some schedulers enable you to categorise your posts and recycle them for use at a later point in time, or even to have evergreen content that plugs in to regular slots.
You get easy access to all your socials in one place.
Some scheduling tools allow you not only to post, but also to view your social stream and comment on it all in one place. Having everything in one place is another great time-saving hack that helps to maintain consistency.
So, which scheduling tools should you use?
As with anything, my advice is to choose whichever works for you, by trying them out. All have a free trial, some have a free tier in their pricing plan, but as you would expect with some limitations. These are the ones that I have tried.
The Free Ones
First up is Facebook Business Suite, which launched in September 2020 to help businesses to seamlessly access all things Facebook and Instagram in one place. It’s still being rolled out so you may not have come across is yet. If not you can download the app to your phone. It’s also possible to schedule your posts from here, which can be quite handy to do via the app when out and about. Take a picture, upload to Business Suite and schedule for later – but don’t forget to amend it before it’s published.
Creator Studio, the precursor to the Business Suite is a completely free tool that can be accessed using your Facebook or Instagram login. The beauty of it is that there are no limits other than the character and hashtag limits and video lengths that already exist on the platforms. On the Instagram side, you also have access to a hashtag suggester, which can be a really helpful and another great time saver. The downside is that it can be glitchy and there is no way to plan your Instagram grid, schedule stories or seamlessly post on both Facebook and Instagram at the same time.
Twitter has its own inbuilt scheduler on the platform. Underneath your tweet, you’ll find a series of icons. The last is a calendar with a clock and this is the one to hit if you want to schedule your Tweet for later. There is no calendar for visual planning, but you could schedule several tweets to go out through the day or week in one go.
The free tiers with paid upgrades
Hootsuite and Buffer are the tools I hear people talk about the most. Both offer a limited free tier and vary in their pricing after that. With Hootsuite, you can connect 3 social media accounts and schedule 30 posts a month. Buffer, on the other hand only lets you schedule 10 posts a month on the free version.
Later and Planoly are both very popular tools for scheduling Instagram as both allow you to plan and review your grid. Both allow you to also hook up your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. On the free version, both are limited to 30 posts per profile, no videos, no multiple photos, no stories, no hashtag suggestions or mentions. To stay on the free version, you may want to interchange with CreatorStudio, where all of the aforementioned is possible, although you still won’t be able to schedule Stories from there.
The paid-for ones (with a free trial)
Agorapulse, Smarterqueue and PostFity all offer a free trial, but then move on to a tiered payment plan. All are super-easy to use, allow you to plan a post across platforms and then edit individually to suit. Both Agorapulse and Postfity allow posting directly to Instagram, but there is an extra step required with SmarterQueue (and many schedulers that don’t yet have a direct agreement with Instagram), whereby the final stage has to be actioned from your phone. All three have some super cool features when paid for, with PostFity being the cheapest and Agorapulse, by far, the most expensive.
There are lots more that I haven’t tried yet such as ContentCal, SocialPilot, Sendible, MeetEdgar, the list goes on. However, if you’re just getting started, or you’re ready for the next step in your social media journey, any of the free versions should be adequate for you. And if you’ve taken the time to build out a strategy and a plan first, the scheduling should be the easy part.