A well thought out social media strategy is only half the battle for library marketers looking to reach audiences without spending budget. Once you decide who you will talk to, and what you will say, it’s time to figure out how to physically get those posts scheduled.

I’ve scoured the web for scheduling tools and tried them out to see which ones will work for libraries. Some tools are better for people who must share accounts with lots of contributors. Others work best for single person teams. Some work well for libraries posting on only a few social media platforms. Some are meant for larger systems with wide strategies.

My list does not include schedulers that only allow you to schedule posts on one platform, like Tweetdeck. That is inefficient for any library system. I also recommend some paid plans, but only the ones that offer the most features for the least amount of money.

Before we get to the list, I want to address a myth about scheduling social media posts. I’ve heard lots of marketing “experts” say that it’s wrong for brands to pre-schedule social media posts. Their argument is that a pre-loaded social media platform is inauthentic. I call bullshit. Your cardholders don’t care if you are posting something live or using a scheduler. If the post comes across as inauthentic, it’s because it’s not written well!

There are good, data-driven reasons for scheduling social media posts. If you’re watching the data and engagement of past posts, you can use your scheduler to give your audience what they want, when they want it. You don’t have to worry that you’ll forget or get distracted. Pre-scheduling also gives you time to create honest and meaningful text and graphics. It’s not lazy. It’s incredibly smart.

Now, there in one warning I must share about scheduling posts in advance. You may run into a situation where you’ve pre-scheduled a post and something happens that makes the post irrelevant. For instance, if you schedule a post to promote an event at a branch and then something happens that causes that branch to close unexpectedly. That’s just something to keep in mind as emergencies arise in your system. Your checklist of things to do in an emergency should include checking your pre-scheduled social media posts.

Here are the tools I think are best for social media post scheduling.

Hootsuite

The free plan lets you schedule on three platforms. You can pre-load 30 messages at a time. My favorite feature is the boost plan. If you have money for social media ads, you can boost posts through Hootsuite instead of going to each individual platform. That’s super convenient. There are also analytics and free social media courses.

Buffer

This site’s free plan also lets you post on three platforms. You can pre-load 10 messages per platform. It includes a link shortener, an image creator, and the ability to upload videos or GIFs. If you want more capability, their most basic “Pro” plan is $10 a month and lets you post on eight platforms and schedule up to 100 posts in advance. One note: you must pay the Pro rate for the analytics capability on Buffer. Analytics are not included in the free plan.

Zoho Social

Their standard plan is the most robust I found in my research. For a little more than $8 a month, two team members can post on eight different channels. The plan includes analytics, the ability to pause and resume posts, a link shortener, and other features. There is a free plan, which lets one person post on all the channels, but you can’t schedule posts ahead of time.

Friends + Me

This site’s free option gives you the ability to schedule on two platforms, with up to five posts on each platform. That’s not super helpful unless you have time every day to schedule posts or are not active on social media. However, the site’s bottom tier paid plan is $7.50 a month and gives you a ton of features– you can pre-load as many as 500 posts to five platforms. 10 people can also use the platform on this plan. I think that’s a good deal.

Crowdfire

Crowdfire’s free plan lets one person post on the big four social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook LinkedIn, and Instagram) with up to ten pre-loaded posts per platform. But I would actually recommend the first level paid plan, call Plus. For about $7.50 a month, you get access to Pinterest and 100 pre-loaded posts, plus a pretty robust analytics tracker, hashtag recommendations, and no ads on the mobile site.

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