Twitter and Facebook are like a rolling news service that never stops. They are sometimes likened to a river or waterfall, referring to the cascade of tweets/posts flowing down your screen. As a reader, it can sometimes feel like you are trying to drink from a fire hose, so few people try to read every tweet or post. As a result, anyone posting to achieve an outcome, needs to find ways to increase the likelihood of their tweet/post being read. This author has a clear intention to encourage more people (men and women) to better understand Freemasonry in the hope that others will wish to join.
As it is going to become tedious reading “tweet/post” every time let’s assume that the term “content” refers to either.
There are several challenges involved in getting the timing correct:
- Finding a way to deliver content at the best time
- Solving the problem that the best time to deliver content is probably not when you have time to create it
- When do your “readers” want to see your content and does this vary?
Thankfully these problems are universally felt in the social media world and solutions are at hand. This blog will focus on addressing the delivery of content to a pre-set schedule. A future blog will address the analysis of your readership to understand when they are online.
Scheduling Content Delivery
We have already seen in a previous post that Tweetdeck enables you to schedule tweets and Facebook allows you to schedule posts when you create the post. What happens if you want to post the same content to both platforms? Or if you are looking to post it at several times during the day?
There are two main tools in this space, Buffer and HootSuite This author has tried both and chosen Buffer as his preferred option at this time, however, the pace of change in this space is incredible. The whole area of social media is booming as companies scramble to use it as a channel to engage with their customers. Inevitably there are other companies racing to develop the killer application that makes dealing with this easy. To illustrate this point, I have previously recommended Adam Gray‘s Brilliant Social Media as a good read but this text published in 2013 does not even mention Buffer.
Buffer is purely about scheduling content delivery and analysing the effectiveness of the post. It has a well-designed clean interface which is easy on the eye and is not intimidating to the new user. The free plan allows you to connect one account for each platform so that you can see how it works and test the features. However, as a Facebook page needs a Facebook profile you can either have your profile or the page that is attached to it but not both at the same time. Likewise, if you need to manage multiple Twitter accounts you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.
At the time of writing, the Awesome Plan is $102 or approximately £68 for a year or less than three fancy coffees a month.
Having upgraded you will see something similar to the interface below
As you can see you can connect social media accounts from the following platforms:
- Personal Profile
- Personal Profile
If you click in the box at the top of the last screen “What do you want to share?” you will move to this part of the interface
You type content into the box and then select the outlets by clicking the icons for each platform. In the example above, the content would only go the @HungerfordLodge Twitter account, but clicking on the Hungerford Lodge Facebook account as well, would see the content go to both platforms simultaneously. It is therefore possible to push the same message through multiple accounts and channels at the same time.
Having written your content you can then schedule it by clicking the blue button at the bottom of the screen
There are several options:
- You can use Buffer to write all of your content and share it immediately using the Share Now option
- You can simply elect to Share Next taking the next slot in your scheduling or
- You can manually set a date and time.
Any web address links that you add are shortened using the Buffer link shortening service. This has two benefits:
- The link is shorter and therefore leaves more characters in Twitter for the content
- The use of the Buffer shortening service allows Buffer to track the number of people who clicked on that link thereby enabling its analytics capability.
You can use other link shortening services such as Bit.ly if you have an account with them but the Buffer service is included in all of the plans (including the free plan)
The Analytics part of the tool is where you find out how well your content was received. Shown below is a sample of content delivered recently showing how well different approaches work. If you post content that is only seen by your followers, its exposure is limited to the number of followers that your account has. However, if one of your followers values what you have written enough to Favourite it, their followers will potentially be notified of that, dependent on their notification settings. This is the equivalent to a Like in Facebook. If, however, they choose to Retweet or Share your post then it will be repeated to all of their followers, essentially amplifying your message. This will be reflected in the number listed as Potential. Clicks reflects the number of times people actually engaged with the content and clicked the link.
The post at the bottom received 2 Favourites but otherwise only reached the account’s followers. The tweets from 22nd December reached a wider audience due to the retweets and the tweet with the picture used an @Mention to someone who could use the information. They then responded (engaged) and this plus, the subject matter, caused a greater level of engagement with the audience. The tweet on 27th December was retweeted by accounts with a wide audience but did not achieve the same level of engagement.
This is the tricky bit. You could look at when you are most active on Social Media and assume that your audience follows the same patterns you do. If this route works for you, go to the Schedule tab and set those times up. However, Freemasonry is spread across the globe as will be your followers, so it does not necessarily follow that tweeting when you are online gives the best outcome.
Please Note: I have deliberately obscured the hours in my schedule to avoid people simply using the same timings in the hope that it will work for them.
A better approach would be to use one of the online tools such as Tweriod and Followerwonk to analyse your followers to understand when they are most active on social media and inject that schedule into Buffer. This will be the subject of a future post when I have had time to compare the two.
Both Buffer and Hootsuite offer extensions for the Chrome Browser which make it easy to share content you find on the Internet via your scheduling service to your preferred social media channels.
If you prefer to use Internet Explorer, and many of us do, it does not currently allow the use of extensions. There are rumours that revisions to the browser in Windows 10 will enable this but we will have to wait and see.
Both Buffer and HootSuite have mobile apps for iOS and Android. Neither currently supports Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform, however, this is not unusual due to the market coverage provided by the two main platforms.
- There is no mechanism for reading your content and so you will still need to use TweetDeck and Facebook to consume other people’s content. However, I have had conversations with the Buffer team via Twitter (they were very responsive) that suggests that this may be addressed in the future. UPDATE: Buffer have recently acquired Respondly which they plan to re-brand as Respond as it becomes part of the Buffer family. I have yet to try this as an alternative to (Better) TweetDeck.
- Posting links to PDF files to Facebook results in a very ugly post. Buffer looks at the content you are posting and attempts to create a summary box from it. This works very well for web pages with images or videos in them but not PDF files. I have raised this with Buffer and they recognise the issue. UPDATE: This issue has now been fixed.
Buffer have a system whereby users get an allocation of 10 votes to cast for a feature to be added, or a problem to be solved. If Buffer choose to address one of your choices then the votes you cast are returned for future use. You can also allocate up to 3 votes to an issue you think is particularly important. Needless to say, I have cast 3 votes for getting the PDF posting issue fixed.
Hootsuite addresses one of Buffer’s weaknesses by combining the ability to listen to your audience and compose and schedule posts in a single tool. This approach may suit other users better, particularly the more experienced social media practitioners. However, this author selected against Hootsuite for the following reasons:
- The width of a column for Social Media monitoring is fixed and this constrained the viewable information. With three Twitter feeds and three Facebook feeds this was limiting. I even tried reducing the font size and spanning the window across two 24 inch monitors.
- Emoji or emoticon (the smiley faces) support requires the installation of yet another Chrome extension. The HootSuite people responded very quickly to my questions on this and helped me a lot. However, the author preferred Better TweetDeck to handle listening.
- The interface is packed full of features and as a result can be a bit off putting when you are new to this space. Maybe in a year’s time I may feel constrained by my current tool choice and change my mind.
Social media is a conversation. Unlike advertising, broadcast media and even a web site it offers the opportunity to engage people in a real-time two-way interaction. It is therefore important to talk when they are listening and respond in a timely fashion to their comments. It is a very powerful mechanism for reaching out to a wider audience but with great power comes great responsibility and it is incumbent on those engaging in social media to address the needs of their community.
This post, combined with others in the series, seeks to show how we can use the tools to better address the needs of our audience not only Freemasons but those who have yet to start their Masonic careers. After all, Freemasonry is perhaps the world’s oldest social network.
The author recognises that this post may seem like a product endorsement. The author chose the tool of his own free will and accord and has paid for the account he is using. Furthermore, neither Buffer nor HootSuite have had any input into this blog post beyond the help they gave when the author approached them as a user and not a blogger.