Welcome back. Last time I mentioned that I’d be sharing some of the tools and tricks I use to keep the busy promotion schedule running for me.
I have several, and will be focusing on them one at a time. Today, I’ll be showing you Hootsuite, and how I use it. It is the second most important tool I have in my promotional tool box, behind the scheduler here on WordPress.
There is a close competitor – Buffer – but I haven’t nosed around in that one, so cannot say which is better. (I’ve seen arguments for both sides, so if you’re uncertain try them both and see which one fits for you.)
The major pros for me are:
- It’s free – there is a paid version upgrade, but I haven’t needed to move to that level yet.
- It connects several platforms at once – the free version only lets you connect 3 accounts, but if you’re just starting out, that’s more than enough.
- Warning – I have had a few issues with lag when I had Facebook and Twitter accounts connected.
- You can collaborate with other writers, bloggers, or your street team to set up promotions.
- Versatility – it not only connects to multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, WordPress, Instagram, and YouTube through the dashboard, and you can include Tumblr through a special plugin) it also allows you to upload images, gifs and videos as well. All from one dashboard, which can be really handy.
Now, on to the fun parts. Since it’s free, go ahead and set up an account. You can log in through Twitter or Facebook, or you can set up an account through your email, with a separate password (I prefer this, as it adds a layer of separation in case one of the accounts gets hacked.)
Make sure you have your tweets ready to go, since the way I teach is a lot of copy/paste. I like to use a Word document with a table. Since I reuse the same 7 tweets for the entire week, it’s pretty easy to set up for me. And, since almost everyone seems to require images now days, have your graphics ready as well. This will greatly decrease the time it takes to set up your schedule. Have the both the file with your tweets and the file with your graphics open. (It’s possible to do this on one monitor, for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have multiple. It’s much easier to do this with two monitors, though! I wish I could.)
Once you get logged in, this is probably the page you’ll see. Go into your dashboard – the blue button in the center, or the black on up on the menu ribbon.
If you’re just setting up your account – take some time and set up at least a couple of feeds. This is one of my feed tabs, though not the most critical for scheduling purposes – this is the one I glance at to see how things are going before diving in.
Once you’ve got a few feeds (or worked through the tutorials) click on the little arrow over on the left hand menu – that will take you to your scheduler page.
Hootsuite calls it your “Publisher”.
There’s not much here, but things are about to start filling up fast. If you’ll look just inside the dark ribbon on the left, you’ll see several options. The default is the “schedule”, but what you want to go into is the “past scheduled” which is one option down.
This is where you’re going to do most of your work. The screen shot here is for the current week – through September 3rd, in this case. Normally, this would be filled in with a lot more green boxes, but I was dealing with lag, so it only showed one day of tweets that had gone out. (Remember I did mention I’ve had this issue. If you experience the same, refresh your page – more than likely it will load properly on the second attempt.)
If you’ll look along the top, towards the right, you’ll see some options for “Day”, “Week”, “Month”, and (I think) “Year”. Click on the week option, and make sure your dates right above the calendar are for the week you are setting up.
A Word of Caution: Hootsuite will make you schedule 5+ minutes into the future. And, for sanity’s sake, you will want to try and be done setting up your schedule before Sunday at midnight. Before that time, if you need to edit a tweet, or shift a time slot you can do so from the schedule without having the calendar default to a blank that fills in as the tweets go out. If for any reason you wind up passing by the midnight hour, you can still fix your tweets, but it’s not as easy. I’ll be showing you how – since I have a habit of not wrapping up my scheduling until after the first tweets go out at 2 AM.
(Sorry about the image size – needed them to sit side by side.)
Here is a screen shot of how to actually schedule a tweet – you’ll see some dark blue boxes, a light blue box, and the orange box in this shot. The dark blue boxes are the tweets that I’ve already scheduled. The light blue box is the tweet I’m setting up – that great big box that takes up most of the top half of the screen. The orange box is a auto-scheduled tweet. You can use the auto schedule, but since I’m already covering every day and most of the active times, I don’t do so very often.
The image file I keep behind my browser so I can drag and drop files – like what you see in the grey are of the tweet I’m constructing.
Hootsuite does not warn you if you are creating a duplicate tweet, but it will not POST a duplicate tweet either. It’s not quite fool proof, but it’s close. There’s two ways to ensure you do not get identical tweets, so all of your tweets go out on time.
- Even if you’re not using a graphic, you are probably using a link. Run the link through the link shortener, and you have a “new” tweet. Very handy, to say the least! Also, if you use the Hootsuite shortener, you can get information on your most popular links.
- Use a graphic. Every time the graphic is sent out, a new graphic url is generated, so you will have a unique tweet.
- If none of the above work (yes, I know this is more than 2 – sue me.) Move a punctuation, add a space, abbreviate a word differently, change a hashtag, or just completely rewrite the entire tweet. I prefer options 1 and 2 myself.
This is the hardest part for me to describe. When I put together my schedule, each tweet only gets 3 or 4 exposures per day. However, those exposures are on a rolling schedule – which is why it looks like I’ve got a blue and white candy cane stripe pattern – that’s what it’s supposed to look like.
I start on Sunday at 2 AM, the next tweet I schedule is Monday at 3 AM, then Tuesday at 4 AM, and let it roll another hour until Saturday. I start back at Sunday and hour later than Saturday’s tweet and lather, rinse, repeat until Saturday at 10 PM. Then I pick up the second tweet and do the same thing, but off set that one to start Sunday at 3 AM. If you’re looking at a calendar, you’ll notice that means the second tweet starts the day off on Saturday.
I try to make sure that every tweet has at least one day in “prime time” through out the week – usually over the lunch hours (from 10 AM until about 1 PM). The rolling schedule does 2 things:
- It lets me use the same 7 tweets all week without over exposing any single tweet
- It helps ensure that the tweets have a fair shot at hitting the prime time hours
Part of the reason I run such an insanely busy schedule is because I’m actually running two schedules. The content schedule – pulled from the site blog, and the promotion schedule – a mix of my own work, other authors, and events I’ve listed on my special events page. The content schedule falls on the hour, and for most beginners would be more than enough to get your toes in the water. When I first started setting up a schedule, I saw some wonderful results immediately.
A Word of Caution: If you decide to use a promotion schedule – keep an eye on your analytics! I use my Smashwords page, since that shows me the daily views. You can tell when you’re over doing it when your page views peak and then suddenly drop off and continue to stay low. When that happens – change up the promotions! Nat Russo from Erindor Press makes some good points about abusing the pre-scheduled tweets – especially when they are promotion tweets. Typically, for me, when I see that I’ve accidentally wandered into over promoting, I’ll completely pull my own work out of the schedule, but continue to promote others. I’ll continue for a couple of weeks, then reintroduce my own work again, but I do keep an eye on the analytics – if they don’t start climbing during that week, I’ll pull my stuff back again and either make up some new graphics, or figure out some other way of reintroducing the tweets, so it’s not a constant scream of “Buy my books, stupid!”
Going back to the image – you can see how most of the page is a nice, solid dark blue. However, there are some spots where it looks like a tweet is missing. If you notice this, then it’s time to go into edit/fix mode. If you are still before the Sunday midnight hour, you can grab a tweet that’s doubling up in the wrong time slot, and drag/drop it where it’s supposed to be. You can do this for ONE tweet if you’re past that magic hour. (Yes, I know – irritating. But, for the price, I’ll happily accept the minor limitation)
Here’s the work around.
- Go back to the “Scheduled” page – the one that was empty earlier. You’ll see everything you’ve scheduled in the calendar listed here.
- Scroll down, and keep your eye on the times. For my schedule, there should be something going out every 15 minutes.
- When you see a duplicate time – hover your mouse over the tweet that needs to be edited.
- Click on the little pencil – that will open the tweet for you to edit it.
- Once the tweet is open, you’ll see two highlighted icons. You want to look for the one that looks like a calendar. If you hover over that one, it will pop up an info balloon that says “Scheduling”.
- Click on that one, and it’ll open the scheduling window.
- You’ll see the option to change the date (on the calendar), the time (down to 5 minute intervals), and if the tweet will go out in the morning or evening (AM/PM box).
- In the example I’m showing here – I just need to reset the tweet so that it’s not going out at the same time as another. According to the schedule, it is set 15 minutes early, so I clicked on the time, and reset the minutes to “45”
- Click “Save Changes” and your done.
If you need to make adjustments to the text, or graphic, you can do so in the same window. You will have to delete and reload your graphic if you’re changing it however.
Once you are done checking your time line of scheduled tweets, you’ll want to make a quick visual scan of your tweets. Go back to your streaming feeds, and either set up, or find your “scheduled” stream. Scroll through this to make one last check for any glaring errors or inconsistencies. If you catch one, you can also edit at this point – use the little pencil icon, make your edits, and click “Save Changes”.
After the last skim, you’re done scheduling for the week. Congratulations, now you’ve got time to focus on writing, blogging, or living, and won’t have to worry about sitting at your computer all day, every day, to send out your tweets.
Word of Caution: When using a scheduler, plan on spending at least a few minutes every day out on Twitter to manually like, retweet, or interact with your followers. Twitter allows 3rd party schedulers, but do not allow third party bots. If you’re going to be absent for longer than three or four days consecutively, then you’ll want to either make those extremely light days (one or two tweets MAX) or leave the days after the third day entirely open, so you do not run afoul the rules.