Small businesses, large corporations and now churches are engaging the world through social media. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest country. Social media has forever changed how you broadcast your message. The question is no longer “if or why you should utilize social media” but “how most effectively and efficiently can you?”
Consider that from the combined 1 billion+ Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn users, a majority of your congregation, classroom, denomination or audience is jacked in. This is where social media schedulers come in.
These internet-based applications are rapidly evolving and multiplying for good reason. At their simplest, they offer a set-it-and-forget-it queue Twitter and/or Facebook updates. At their best, they bring a clarity to all the noise that is the internet. You might find them useful if you:
- Need to generate buzz about a product, message or movement across multiple accounts
- Want to keep a thumb on the pulse of what’s trending in your market or community
- Don’t have the time to sit in front of a computer or on a smart phone all day
- Already multitask across a spectrum of responsibilities, from coaching others to writing e-mails
- Want to streamline your contribution to the ‘conversation’ without spamming or overwhelming followers
Here are five apps that can help you do some or even of all the above. Please note: Most of these apps have free versions and paid versions. I am most familiar with the free versions and cover those here.
Timely – This app is exclusive to Twitter updates. It’s advantage is in its name: the app looks at your last 199 tweets and decides the most appropriate release times based on the responses you’ve gotten. The algorithm is dynamic and will adjust your queue based on subsequent tweets and responses. It feels like an artificial intelligence. Analytics are divided into ‘clicks’, ‘reach’ and ‘reactions’ (or responses).
It incorporates an automated proprietary URL shortener unless you choose to integrate your Bit.ly account. Be advised, if you do want deeper analytics on the URL clicks you will want to use the Bit.ly shortener as Timely doesn’t provide any on its own. If Twitter is your only or most used social media outlet, this is a great tool for scheduling your tweets. You can run several Twitter accounts through it.
Buffer – This next app steps it up by allowing you to add a Facebook profile. Your queue is called your “buffer” and it provides a bit more scheduling options than Timely. You can have up to 10 predetermined updates in your buffer, split between 1 Twitter account and 1 Facebook account. Bit.ly and J.mp are available URL shorteners.
Analytics are divided into clicks, retweets, mentions and favorites. You will have to pay if you want more than 1 Twitter and 1 Facebook profile. One extra I like is the Buffer ‘button’ that can be added to blog posts. This app is probably the most straightforward and easiest to use ‘out of the box’. Also, there is an available mobile app.
Social Oomph – Continuing on the scale of functionality, we have Social Oomph. In addition to scheduling your tweets, you can track keywords, host an extended Twitter profile and host your own personal status feed. For an additional fee you can auto-follow and auto-DM new followers (if that’s important to you). The free version will only cover your Twitter accounts, albeit as many as you want.
Social Oomph is incredibly comprehensive but you will have to pay for it. The free version is functional but doesn’t set itself apart from the above apps. For one reason or another, they haven’t updated their blog since May 17 which seems strange considering the nature of their work. My favorite scheduler will do for free most of what they offer but there’s one more app I want to cover before I get to it…
TweetDeck - This is the official Twitter scheduler. Apart from Twitter itself this is the most popular Twitter application. It also allows for Facebook updates as well. It has a native desktop application for Mac or PC. More so than the previous three, TweetDeck finally gives the user some serious control and flexibility. It starts with the use of columns to divide the feeds in different ways. One column might show your mentions, another a particular hashtag and another the results from a search query. You can divide followers into groups
You can cross-post tweets between accounts as well as upload pictures to your updates. The design aesthetics are clean and simple without feeling cluttered or too basic. Unfortunately, as a web app, it’s only available from within Safari or Chrome which I find disappointing as an avid Firefox user. If you are dedicated exclusively to Twitter or just want to engage Facebook ‘per status update’ then this is the best program to use.
HootSuite – My favorite social media scheduler is called “HootSuite” and it’s changed the way I interact with social media. The premise behind the app is to simply aggregate the ‘streams’ of social media that I have accounts with. The free version let’s you facilitate five streams, whether that’s five Twitter accounts, five Facebook profiles or a mix of LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress and MySpace among others. They have different flavors of URL shorteners, providing incredibly deep click-through statistics. HootSuite also has a desktop app available for Mac, PC or Linux.
They have Basic, Pro and Enterprise user levels but even as a Basic user I can schedule as many updates as I like and across whichever 5 streams I choose. There are more social media streams, in quantity and in type, available to Pro and Enterprise users. They even have a HootSuite University for learning the basics of both social media and the program itself. Some apps can feel like side projects for capital gain but the developers at HootSuite make this feel like a movement itself. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
So there you have it. Every app I’ve shared has a toolbar extension or add-on. This basically means if you find something worth sharing or a thought pops in your head, simply click the appropriate button from within your browser. What you do from here all depends on how creative you are.
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