A social media scheduling tool is software that connects to your social media channels and schedules content that you’ve programmed in advance. After setting up a content calendar, it’s one of the first things many businesses set up when launching a new social media channel, but people often find themselves stumped because there are so. many. tools. out. there.
Often, clients ask me which tool I recommend, and the simple reality is that each social media scheduling tool is a little bit different, with different features depending on your business needs.
Today, I’m going to share the things to consider when selecting a social media scheduling tool, based on your business needs.
On a budget
Hootsuite was one of the first social media scheduling tools around, so it’s a classic this reason. It’s got a free version for up to three social media accounts, so small businesses wanting to get started have something to get rolling. It’s a great tool because it connects with all the main social networks, and it’s straightforward to use.
One of the big cons of Hootsuite is it’s design: quite simply, it looks ugly (sorry). Now, for some people, that isn’t a major issue, but I find that when I’m working with clients who are brand new to social media, there’s actually a big mental leap they need to make to understand how the content scheduled in Hootsuite will look on social media. A post in a column on Hootsuite does not look or feel anything like a post laid out on Instagram or Facebook. It’s not a massive problem, but if people on your team are new to social media, there might be some education involved in showing how it looks scheduled, compared to how it looks published.
2021 Update: Hootsuite’s free plan has downgraded to just 5 posts at a time, which is fine for small businesses, but I personally find a little impractical in most real-world cases. My next recommendation on this front would be Buffer. There are plenty out there, but it’s one that I’ve used and am happy with!
Some social media scheduling tools recycle your content, which is great if you don’t have a lot of time to manage your social media content.
If you’ve got evergreen content that can go out any time of year (for example, a few years worth of blog posts!) you can load all of your content into a social media scheduling tool, and it will send out those posts on its own. You set some rules, for example, “send a blog post out on a Tuesday” and it will look at the social media posts you’ve categorised at “blog posts”, select one and send it out on a Tuesday.
I personally find this tool is great in combination with fresh content. While evergreen content is great, it’s rare that a business will only be sending out old content. There’s no reason you can’t send out fresh content, or scheduled fresh content each week, and used the recycled content as one component of your approach. Either way, it saves you time.
Popular social media scheduling tools that recycle content are Buffer and Recurpost.
Internal post feedback
Unless you’re a sole trader, it’s likely that social media content will need some kind of internal approval. It might be from team members, a boss, or a client.
If you’re working on a social media account and you’ve got a clear strategy, clear brand guidelines and a clear tone of voice, after the first few weeks of working together, you are less likely to be major revisions to the content.
Nonetheless, having a way for people to provide specific feedback on exact posts makes a world of difference. Being able to highlight a specific post and write feedback for changes makes it much, much easier than trying to translate an email with confusing instructions like “on the fifth Thursday post, remove the comma.”
It saves time and avoids any miscommunication because everyone can see just what needs to be amended.
A social media scheduling tool that I love for this is Planable.io, which schedules your content in the layout that no only replicates what the social channel will look like, but there is a ‘chat’ on each post for internal feedback on each post.
The other major benefit of Planable is that it is really easy for clients who might be less familiar with social media to understand what the planned content is in the queue, which text is with which image and to quickly approve content.
It takes a village
And then there are the Rolls Royces of the social media scheduling world. If you’ve got a business where a lot of people need to have a say in content, you might need a tool that allows for team collaboration.
For example, you might have a social media content creator to write the content, you might then assign that content to be reviewed internally by a manager, but then have that content also reviewed by a technical specialist or a sales team – or both! Being able to assign specific content to individuals in your company means you can get fast and efficient approvals from a wide variety of people, turned around really quickly.
Falcon.io is one such tool which allows for this level of complexity in assigning content to multiple people for approval.
The final thing I haven’t touched on yet is community engagement: all of these tools are great just for scheduling content. If you want the same tool to also help you manage your incoming queries from social media, then you will be looking at another level of complexity again.
All-in-one tools have a big range: either they are free and have limited scope or it’s is high end. It’s really tough to find a middle ground. Hootsuite does have a free option which does scheduling and community management for three social networks only, and it a good start to get the feel for what it can do. It’s paid plans also allow for teamwork and collaboration, so has a lot of really strong features for collaboration if you want to go down the paid route.
Sprinklr, Spredfast, and Falcon.io are popular enterprise-level tools which allow for scheduling and community engagement, with the added layer of being able to coordinate between teams internally.
While most modern social media scheduling tools connect all the major social platforms, it’s important to consider what you actually need it for. If you just want to schedule Instagram and scheduling Instagram Stories is what’s most important, then ensure the tool you’re looking into has that feature – Later.com and Planable.io allow for scheduling of Stories.
Pinterest is a social platform that is often not considered as part of the common suite in terms of scheduling, so specific tools are often designed for that platform, like Tailwind.
And finally, ensure you know how many people actually need access. Most social media platforms charged based on the number of logins you create, so knowing how many logins you will create will determine the cost. You might know that yourself and your boss need a login, but when you’re considering what tool you need, consider if every member of the sales team needs one too – or if the sales team can share a login. Make a list of all the people who might need access to approve content. If you’re a big organisation, this can include legal, corporate comms, sales and people with a technical specialty in your industry if they also need to review and approve content.
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As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider when you’re choosing a social media scheduling tool. The needs of your business really impact which tool you might choose.
It’s important to consider:
- Do you have a budget?
- Are you recycling content?
- Do you require content approvals?
- Do you require content approvals from a number of people?
- Do you also want to do community management fro within the same tool?
As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when selecting a social media scheduling tool. But knowing your business needs is the first step to helping you choose a tool that does just what you need.
Want to work with Rachel?Rachel Beaney is a writer and social media content specialist, helping businesses connect with their audiences.
She’s worked with local, national and global companies, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping businesses tell their stories with creative and data-driven solutions.
She is based in Sydney, Australia.
Want to work together? Rachel would love to hear from you. Get in touch today.