How to Automate Social Media: Build a Content Cannon And Load It with Social Ammo [VIDEO]

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Andy Crestodina
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9 Minute Read

Everyone shares their content on social media (well, 94% of marketers do) but not everyone does it the same way. Here’s the difference:

Reward

Most marketers wake up in the morning, decide which of their content to share, share it …then move on with their day.

Few marketers use analytics and automation to share the highest quality, highest converting content in the most efficient way.

This post will show you how to automate social media posting to make social sharing more efficient and effective. In the next few minutes, you’ll learn:

  • Which of your articles you should share through automation
  • What time of day to schedule your automated posts
  • How to get those posts into repeating rotation with a one-time effort

We’re going to fill our social streams with a consistent flow of well-timed posts. This technique will be especially useful if you…

  • Have written a decent body of high-quality, evergreen work
  • Use social media marketing tools like Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Buffer

This will also be useful for anyone who wondered how to automate social postings …or wondered how some accounts post so much so easily.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Quick Disclaimer: This is about efficient content promotion. It isn’t about spamming twitter with links or outsourcing your job to a robot. You still have to listen to people and interact if you want to be a good social media marketer.


Step #1: Find the best things to share

Everything we choose here is going to go into automatic, heavy rotation on social media. So don’t just share anything. Share your best.

Here are four ways to pick the content that will be loaded into social automation.

Share the things that get reshared most (BuzzSumo)

Put your own site into BuzzSumo and see which posts have the most shares. Without a paid account, it will show you the top five.

Click on the social network you’re planning to automate to see the top performers for that network. I’m using Twitter and LinkedIn so I’ll sort for those sites.

buzzsumo

These are the posts that are most likely to get reshared.

Put them on the list.

Share the things that get clicked (Hootsuite)

Next we want to find the posts that are most likely to be clicked because things that get shared don’t always get clicked.

This is easy if you’ve been consistently using Hootsuite (or similar tool) to share content. These tools have link shorteners with click tracking so they can show you reports of which social posts got clicked the most.

Note: to get this report, you’ll need HootSuite Pro, the paid version (or at least, the 30-day free trial). Set a nice long date range to get the most data.

Hootsuite

These are the posts that are most likely to get clicked.

Put these on the list.

Share the things that convert the most

Now we need to find the posts that are most likely to inspire our visitors to act. This data is in your Analytics in the “Reverse Goal Path” report.

Set the report to show the newsletter subscribers goal (if you haven’t yet, set up your goals in Analytics) and set a filter to show just the blog posts. Now you can see how many subscribers each post attracted!

Note: for a more accurate number, calculate the actual conversion rate from visitor to subscriber. Do this by dividing the number of subscribers by the number of pageviews for each post. Pageviews can be found in the All Pages report.

analytics

These are the posts that are most likely to turn visitors into subscribers.

Put these on the list.

Share the things that you worked on the hardest

Some content takes a lot of time and/or money to produce. Original research, infographics and video are good examples. Putting this content into heavy rotation using automation will increase your return (visibility and traffic) on the investment (the time and cost put into production).

These are the posts that need the boost in ROI.

Put these on the list.


Step #2: Find the best times to share

Social streams move fast. Even the best content will get missed if the timing is wrong. So our next step is to find the times of day that get the best results.

Here are three ways to get the timing right:

The times that your audience is active

Hootsuite, Buffer or similar sharing tools have the data for you. These services feature auto-scheduling which analyzes your network and finds times when your followers are the most active. Everyone’s network is different!

So if you’ve been using one of these services, you can just go look at your own stream and see when they’ve scheduled social media posts. These are the best times of day to share your content.

Another approach is to enter your Twitter account into FollowerWonk. It will show you when your network is active.

To find this report, go to the Analyze tab and choose “Analyze their followers” and add your Twitter handle. They will generate a report for you with the information.

followerwonk_activity

The times that people tend to be on social

Here’s the one time of day that makes sense for a lot of North American marketers: 11AM Central Time.

  • Noon is lunchtime on the east coast, a good time for social media activity
  • 11am is late morning in the midwest, not a bad time for social
  • 9am is early in the work day on the west coast, another good time for social

best time for social

But be careful about this or any best practice. What if most of your followers are in the midwest? Or what about your international followers? Keep in mind, this is a very general recommendation.

ProTip: Before you jump in when the pool is crowded, consider just before or just after the hour. If people have a minute just before an appointment (10:58), they’re likely to check out their social streams. Or if someone else is late for a call (11:02) they might check the Twittersphere. Credit for this tip goes to Jay Baer, who calls these micro-opportunity windows.

The times that others aren’t sharing as much

This is called counter-competitive timing. Since fewer marketers post on nights and on weekends, these times when it’s easier to rise above the noise.


Step #3: Load the posts and the times into the automation tool

Now we know the best content to share and the best times to share it. It’s time to load it into the tool. Here’s how we did it using Meet Edgar.

First, connect your social media accounts.

These might be personal or business. These might be Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

ProTip: Connect Meet Edgar to a bit.ly account (in Settings) for URL shortening and click tracking. This will give you more data about click-through rates, so you can go back, find the winners and better optimize your posts!

Second, create a category.

Eventually, you may have lots of categories (things like recent posts, influencer content or posts for a specific network), but this first one is your high volume, high value stuff. Remember, we’re building a cannon loaded with evergreen ammo.

Third, create the posts.

Click on “Add New Content” in the top right. Then, select one or more social networks on the left, select your category at the top. Finally, enter your post into the box.

These posts are going to be shared many times, so make them good. We recommend using every trick in the book, including…

  • Headline best practices
    Posts will have higher click-through rates if they include a number, an adjective and a promise of a specific benefit.
  • Secondary headline
    You’ve got room! Add a second headline or benefit statement.
  • Special characters
    Like numbers, special characters add visual prominence. Arrows can be a powerful way to guide the eye toward something. An easy way to choose (and use) special characters is to grab them from CopyPasteCharacter.com.
  • Hashtags
    Another way to help your post get discovered.
  • Line breaks
    Most marketers don’t do this, making it another good way to help your post stand out.
  • Image
    This is the most important thing. This can add a lot of visual prominence within a social stream! That’s probably why posts with images are 35 percent more likely to be shared.

So put it all together and here’s what a post looks like when I create it in Meet Edgar.

post


circle-angie “A headline’s job is to capture attention with a relevant promise. Successful headlines show (1) What readers will get (‘promise’) and (2) Why they should read on (’emotional trigger.’) Use psychological trigger such as loss-aversion, curiosity, controversy, etc.” – Angie Schottmuller

Fourth (and finally), create the schedule that will share this category of post

You’re not specifying which exact posts will be shared at different times. You’re just telling the tool which times to randomly grab a post from that entire category and share it.

So load in a scheduled timeslot for each of the times you selected in step two. I recommend at least five posts per day for Twitter (including at least one in the evening and a few on the weekends) and at least one per day for LinkedIn.

More is actually better. Take some advice from Jeff Bullas.


circle_jeff_bullas “I experimented with frequency and discovered that sending a tweet every 15-30 minutes was effective. In fact research from Simply Measured discovered it increased engagement and traffic by more than 30% over tweeting every 30 minutes.” – Jeff Bullas, JeffBullas.com

Here’s what my schedule looks like.

social_automation_calendar

That’s it. You’ve loaded your cannon with the best ammunition and aimed it at the best times of day. It will now fire automatically until you turn it off.

The Upside …and a final warning.

Since I set up this process a few weeks ago, I save 15 – 20 minutes per day picking out content, writing posts, choosing images and scheduling shares. Now that my self-promotional, traffic-driving posts are all set up, I can focus on finding and sharing other interesting things.

If you’re willing to do this, you’ll find the return on investment very high.

  • Cost: 3+ hours of set up time plus $35 – $49 per month for software (Meet Edgar or SocialOomph)
  • Benefit: Increased traffic from social media (12% increase so far) and 5+ hours per month of time savings

Of course, social media is more than a dumping ground for links. It’s a place to have a conversation. If these automated social posts are the only thing in your stream, that’s not good.


circle_laura_roeder “A common misconception about automation is that it means you aren’t interacting live with your followers, but I’ve always found the opposite to be true — automating certain aspects of my social gives me the bandwidth to focus more on high impact live interactions.” – Laura Roeder, Founder of Meet Edgar

A good social stream is a balance of three things:

  • Creation: Self promotional tweets you can set up using this kind of automation
  • Curation: Advice and industry news created by friends and influencers.
  • Conversation: Hello! Thank you! Questions? Talking to people.

As we often say about social media, if you’re not making friends, you’re doing it wrong!

What about you? Do you love this approach? Hate it? Leave a comment and let us know.

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What are your thoughts?

Comments (15)
  • Nicely organized and explained Andy. Though it was the killer headline that got me to read it. Boom!

    • It’s a fun headline (and featured image) but I hope the post lived up to it! This is really a practical approach to a huge time savings. I’m a huge fan of this approach now..

  • Great post. I appreciate how each step of the process is clearly laid out.

    • Thanks, Rod. If you set this up, let me know how it goes!

  • Thank you for this article. It helps me a lot! Regards, Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Andy:
    This was really helpful…the most credible and actionable article I’ve read on the topic.
    Roger

    • Thanks as always, Roger! Was the featured image a bit intense? I think the explosions might be scaring people away. 🙂

  • Hi Andy,

    There are so many famous automate social media tools available in the market now a days, every year lots of new social media tools are launched to get our task easy. Here you have shared an amazing tools for such as a hootsuite, FollowerWonk, BuzzSumo. I think you also list down Bufferapps to Find the best times to share.

    Do you know any automate social media tools for hashtag?

  • I have no experience with automation of social activity, and this looks like a very good “how to” tool for me. What I am not clear with, is if you have automated a few good content in the list – so now the cannon will keep sending out the same content over and over again? you have to keep writing content, and keep searching which works best – no? are there tools that automate the content creation – takes a blog you write and turn it into a tweet? turn it into a Facebook share or a LinkedIn share? I find the hardest portion of all to be the content creation…

    • Yes, you should always create new content. But if you have 30 or so quality articles and you set up 30 or so timeslots for them to be shared, then you’re really only sharing each article once per week on average, which is very little.

      When you create new content, you can add it to the category. And from time to time, you can remove the lower quality articles from the category. That will keep things fresh.

      Hopefully, this approach will save you some time! It can be very time consuming to setup tweets week after week. And if they’re similar and sharing your best content, why not use a tool to keep those shares flowing? I hope this helps, Massivit!

  • Great information! Do you have any thoughts on how to zero in on HOW to post the popular content? We use Buffer, and we typically post the url multiple times with different comments/headlines. It would be nice if it could show for any given url which update was most popular. I also wish it were easier to schedule the same update multiple times. May have to look into Edgar in the New Year.

  • Great post – Really enjoyed these tips. It’s always great to see how other social media professionals are optimizing their time with a variety of different tools. I love BuzzSumo and while I haven’t used Hootsuite in quite some time, it might be worth giving it another shot.

    • Totally agree Ross. Great post … and genuinely helpful tips.

      BTW … on a totally selfish note, any of those features we chatted about get added to Crate.

  • Brilliant! From where to go to find posts, to analytics, to not automating the interpersonal elements of social … loved it. The video summary and all the nuts and bolts afterward was a great structure.

    Been a devotee of Buffer forever .. but I’m gonna check out Meet Edgar.

  • What are your thoughts on Facebook posting frequency Andy? We hear a lot about reducing frequency on FB if you don’t have a huge number of followers… the more you post, the less engaged your audience may be. What’s the ideal number of times to post to FB per day? Per week?

 
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