Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Get your timing straight in social media, 6 ways

I can tell that you have time on your hands or a break in the action, finally...or that your boss just asked why you haven't posted lately...or that you're reading your RSS feed...or that neither of your two bosses actually touches Twitter and you are posting for them both...or that you use auto-posts to share to many sites at once...or you are working through a backlog of items that should have been posted in a more timely way...or that you issue all your news releases on Tuesday mornings...or that you only dive into social media once a week. Not only can I tell, I can tell those things down to the minute, most of the time, or the part of a minute, if you're fast.

I'm drowning in a pool of insights, here, but they aren't the insights you were hoping I'd get about your organization from its social media presence. That's because you haven't taken the time to learn the art of timing your posts to social media sites. And if that sounds basic, why am I seeing these mistakes so frequently in my feeds? Often, the underlying reason is that no one behind your feed has researched timing--that is, the times of day and days of the week that yield the best levels of engagement for your business, brand or organization. Other times, post scheduling starts feeling like a chore, a chore that eventually gets pushed off the to-do list. If so, it's time for a change. Here are the tools and tactics you need to get your timing straight in social media:
  1. Make sure you have a calendar for content, and share it: Spontaneous and in-the-moment posts are great, but for most company posts, you want a plan, one that's shared with the rest of your internal team. When I see both your founders tweeting simultaneous content or all your news releases jammed together in my Facebook feed, I can tell you misplaced the calendar.
  2. Use timing apps smartly:  Apps like Buffer--sometimes used in concert with other apps--can help you spread out your tweets and Facebook posts. Here, Buffer's co-founder offers tips for how best to use the app to make your posts less of a flood and more of a manageable stream. It's not your only option, either. Facebook page posts can be scheduled right on FB in 15-minute intervals up to 6 months ahead. Tweetdeck, owned by Twitter, allows you to link and post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more; and IFTTT (If this, then that) lets you create your own "recipes" for automating posts.
  3. Don't overdo it:  As a speaker coach who advocates getting used to the Twitter backchannel in the room, and as a social media consultant, even I was taken aback by the self-congratulations in this post about a reporter who was said to have "won" the backchannel because she figured out how to faux-live-tweet her own remarks, using scheduled posts. So authentic and transparent (not). This screams "I'm not comfortable with the audience deciding what to post, so I'm going to control the sponteneity." Not a good look. 
  4. Stop ignoring the weekend:  Saturdays and Sundays are often the days with highest engagement on sites like Twitter and Facebook. For example: "Publishers also enjoy a 29% higher engagement on Saturdays, when consumers are presumably catching up on the news of the week. Yet only 7% of tweets from publishers actually occur on Saturdays."  Start experimenting with weekend posts and compare the data to your weekday efforts, then schedule a better presence on the weekend if it's warranted. 
  5. Check settings on third-party apps to review your auto-shares: From Facebook apps with social sharing to Klout, YouTube and many more, your use of other sites might be flooding your Facebook or Twitter feeds with notifications that add to your post totals. (Even Congress has considered legislating extra permissions to stop this unintentional flood.) Make sure you check the settings for any third-party app to turn off these auto-shares and save your stream for content that counts. Don't forget to do this when you're sharing posts in your RSS feed, a dead giveaway that you're in read-and-review mode.
  6. Double-check your assumptions about scheduled posts:  At no point should you "set it and forget it" when it comes to scheduling posts. Check out these best practices for scheduled posts and take a look at this case study that demonstrates why you should unhook your auto-posts during a crisis or emergency. PR Newser rounds up some recent automated social media faux pas, from the Romney campaign's auto-published victory website--the modern version of "Dewey Defeats Truman"--to the National Rifle Association's automatic "good morning, shooters" tweet, which appeared right after the Aurora, Colorado, massacre. Pass these cautionary tales around the office.
By the way, yes, I wrote and scheduled this post ahead of time....and took the time to check it in the ensuing weeks to make sure it was still on point, updated and accurate.

Don't schedule this for too far in the future: November 30 is the last day to register for my lunch-and-learn for communicators on making the case for a training program for your experts, coming up December 7 in Washington, DC. Are you in?

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