As you've been building your social media presence, I'm sure you learned one thing in a hurry: social media takes time. Not only does it take time and effort to establish your presence and build a following, it takes time to maintain that presence and interact with that following. More time than it takes to run your business in some cases! Especially if you follow the schedules posted by most of the experts (ie., post to Facebook 2-3 times daily, post to Twitter 22-30 times daily, post to Google + 4-5 times daily, post to Instagram 2-3 times daily, post to Pinterest 26-30 times daily). Let me ask you something, if you're posting to social media 56-71 times per day — when do you actually get to do any writing? The amount of energy devoted to social media for authors is staggering, but most everyone can agree it's necessary. Thankfully, there are some ways you can automate social media — or least part of it — to help save yourself time, energy, and sanity.
A quick note about affiliate links. I love trying out new things: services, software, and various programs designed to make my life easier. And I’m more than happy to pass on my experience to you. Your trust means everything to me. I would never recommend anything I didn’t use and love myself. All of the services here I use near-daily, and love them so much that where available, I have signed up to participate in their affiliate program. Most of these services are free or offer a free plan; because I am an affiliate, should you choose to follow any of the links on this page and sign up to use any of the paid services, they will pay me a small commission. It won’t cost you anything extra, but it will help me tremendously.
Why automate social media?
Let's make one thing very clear, we don't want to automate all your social media accounts. If you're looking for a strict “set it and forget it” method of automating your social media, this is not the page for you. And if you're thinking I'm going to teach you how to send out those automated Direct Messages? Forget it — no one likes those.
People get on social media to do one thing: to talk to you. No one like to call up a business and talk to a machine, right? Think of social media the same way — they didn't sign on just so they could talk to your automating software. They signed up so they could talk to you. So the things we are going to cover here are how to take care of the non-conversational posts — things like posting links, creating backups of your blog, and cross-promotions — so you spend less time on grunt work and have more time to talk with your readers.
If This Then That (IFTTT)
This is one of my favorites, and it is indispensable. And the best part about IFTTT is that it's free. You can either search for applets other members have already created, or create your own. It works by connecting your IFTTT account to your various other accounts (believe me, there are a ton including Facebook Pages, WordPress, Evernote, GMail…the list just goes on and on). Some of my favorite applets that I use all the time are:
- If I post to Instagram using the hashtag #WritersLife, share as a new post to my Facebook Fan Page (after all, I don't want to share all of the same posts to Facebook and Instagram, right?)
- If I post to Instagram using the hashtag #AuthorLife, share as new post to Twitter (for the same reason — so they aren't all the exact same)
- If I post a new post to this blog, upload a backup copy of the post and graphics to a notebook on Evernote
- If I pin a post to a certain board on Pinterest, upload it to a board on Evernote as inspiration for a new blog post
- If a new pin is uploaded to a certain folder on Evernote, email Scrivener to create a new folder with blog post inspiration in my blog project
Another awesome website for doing small things. Zapier is free for up to 100 zaps per month, so I don't recommend it for anything that you know is going to happen a lot unless you want to upgrade to a paid account. I once tried to use Zapier to give a little welcome tweet to my new followers on Twitter — nothing fancy just a “Hi @you, thanks for following! Can't wait to connect!” But I was constantly running out of zaps after 2 weeks, and didn't see a rise in my overall stats (although I did see a rise in my engagement). Some of my favorite Zaps include:
- Create Trello Cards from new starred GMail mails (so when people email me with a question or requesting a quote for work, it automatically creates a new task for me in my project management tool once I star the mail)
- If I post a new post to this blog, pin a link to a certain board on my Pinterest account
Of all the available post-schedulers out there, CinchShare is the one I use the most. First of all, the available support and training is excellent, and their blog is filled with tons of helpful information. With one CinchShare account, I can schedule unlimited posts to:
- My timeline, any Facebook Page I own (I have 6, including my main one), any Facebook group I admin (hint, there are a lot), and any Facebook event I am hosting
- And I can share any post to Pinterest
I use it constantly. And even better, they are working on getting Instagram integrated as well. And with features like save, batch post, and text clips — CinchShare has just proven to be an absolute necessity. Especially during NaNoWriMo season!! With CinchShare, you can upload and post pictures, share entire albums, and share links from anywhere (including YouTube). And, even better, if you use the code CSFREE, their 7 day trial will be extended by 30 days — giving you a whopping 37-day free trial with every feature.
Hootsuite offers a range of plans, so you can start with the free plan and upgrade as your grow. What I like about Hootsuite's free plan is that even though there are some limitations (you can only add up to three social profiles and you can only post up to a certain number per month), it's perfect for learning best practices for automating social media, and I can use it to schedule posts to the channels that don't require a lot of interaction with my readers:
- My Google+ Brand Page
- My LinkedIn
Buffer is another service I use to sort of fill in the gaps. Of all the schedulers I've tried, Buffer is the best when it comes to being able to upload a video and schedule for posting. The video remains the highest quality. Once again, their free account is a little limited in comparison to their paid accounts, but it serves my needs perfectly.
Pinterest is an amazing channel in that it is more like a search engine than a channel — better yet, a search engine that gets indexed by other search engines! But, it works best when you can keep your boards fresh, updated, and clean. BoardBooster's looping capability is genius for this exact reason. Choose a board and set it to loop, and BoardBooster will repin the oldest pin of yours to that board, bringing it back up to the top. And, you can also set it to delete duplicate pins, keeping your board nice and clean. Prices start at $5 — totally worth the increase in visibility I've enjoyed since employing this amazing tool.
I can't recommend Tailwind enough. If you are using Pinterest to promote your business, scheduling your pins through Tailwind is a must. Not only that, but thanks to Tailwind Tribes, you can join up with like-minded pinners and share each other's content without having to go hunting for things to pin (in fact, if you're looking for a tribe to join for free, you can join mine!) Tailwind's free trial lasts until you schedule 100 pins using their scheduler — everything else is a free feature including board analytics, tribes, pin analytics, and profile analysis. In fact, even if you never use the scheduler or upgrade your account, Tailwind has so many other features, you will wonder how you did Pinterest without it. Oh! And I almost forgot, they also schedule to Instagram, as well.
As you can see, there are several services available to help make your social media marketing easier and less time-consuming. And this is just the tip of the iceberg — there are still plenty of other services that I am still trying out or experimenting with to see if they have a positive impact on my blog, my stats, and the overall reader experience for my audience. Do you need to use all of these services? No, of course not. I use them all because together they cover all my needs. They each do something different and provide a service that I have found to be indispensable. You may have other needs. I do recommend at least signing up for the free trials or free account plans for each of these services and trying them out to see if they will work for you. Any that don't work, simply cancel your plan and stick with the ones that do work.
Do you have a favorite social media tool that's not on this list? Let me know in the comments (names only, please, no links) and I will be sure to add it to my list to test. If I like them, I will add it to my list!