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Sensational and Free (or Cheap) Social Media Scheduling Tools

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.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

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Why Did People Go Crazy Over This Social Media Post?

Sometimes, luck shines on the hardworking marketer and all the stars align to hand you an unexpected victory.

This happened to my library recently.  One of our branches held a stuffed animal sleepover. I’m guessing someone in your library system has done this before–it’s a pretty popular program.  Kids drop off their stuffed animals at the library branch for an overnight stay and branch staff stage activities for the stuffed animals and take photos so the kid can see their little friends having fun at the library. This particular branch passed all the photos on to our Marketing Department and we put them up in a Flickr album for easy distribution. We posted a link to that album on our Facebook page.

And then the public went nuts. We had a ton of engagement, turning this into one of the most successful social media posts of the year so far, with more than 17,000 in organic reach, more than 1,000 post clicks and 431 likes and shares!

I asked out library’s social media specialist, Adam Baker, to help me dissect the post in hopes that we all can learn something from it.

Tell me about why you decided to go with the format you used–Flickr album link on Facebook? Did you put it on other social media sites?

I’ve found, in general, Flickr links work well for a large amount of photos. Uploading the photos and creating a Flickr album allows me to generate a link I can share across all social platforms. Plus, a Flickr link has built-in metadata that produces an attractive preview on the page. That automatic preview gives the user an experience native to the platform it’s shared on. Users can easily click directly into the Flickr slide show from the preview. It’s just a nice way to keep photos organized, and the fact it’s so user-friendly on the sharing side, makes it a double win.

What kind of response did you predict you would get?

This stuffed animal sleepover event is an annual event at one of our branches. I’ve shared the photos via social media for three years in a row now. They’ve always been relatively successful because it’s something different and interesting. But I never expected the response we got from the Facebook post this year.

Why do you think the post was so popular with our followers?

I come from a TV news background. I remember in journalism school our professors teaching us what makes something newsworthy. I use many of those factors when picking good social media content. One of the reasons something is newsworthy is if it is a novelty. The stuffed animal sleepover definitely falls into that category. It’s original, even a bit unusual. I think that’s the reason these photos always perform well. I think the reason it was such a hit for us this year was due to the fact we had an extra unusual photo featured as the album cover. The stuffed animals are sitting around in a circle. One Facebook fan commented it looked like they were conducting a séance. The user meant it in jest — but it goes to show you it made people do a double take. Anytime you have content that makes people stop mindlessly scrolling through all the noise online and actually click, you’ve got a winner.

How surprised were you at the response?

I was very surprised it did so well. It was our most successful post that month and one of our best posts ever. I am pleasantly surprised that a post we’ve done very similarly for three years paid off in a big way this time around.

Did the response lead you to think about changing the way you format or program future social media posts?

I think it reinforced what I already knew. You have to be a little outside the box to get noticed. It’s a good reminder to experiment and have fun. You never know when that one silly post is going to be a game changer.

The lesson here? You never know what kind of social media post is going to resonate with your audience!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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