Keeping your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles up-to-date with fresh content is one of the best ways to boost brand awareness and increase your chances of being seen on social media, and so a great way to keep your accounts topped up is to schedule content in advance. Doing so has a wide range of benefits, not least saving you time and ensuring you’ll always be pushing out new posts, even when you’re too busy or get distracted with other tasks.

However, scheduling content on social media can still be time-consuming – but there are ways to optimise your time and help you get more scheduled. But first, a word of warning. Although quantity is important on social media, you should never churn out posts for the sake of it. Consult with your social strategy and write posts with your audience in mind, or you could lose followers or even make your business’ social media channels appear robotic.

Schedule in bulk

When you’re sitting in your Dashboard and putting content together for your social media channels, how far ahead do you go? For most businesses, scheduling a week in advance should be enough, as it’s an easy-to-reach target and sets you ahead for the week. Plus, if any changes or breaking news occurs within your business, you’ll be able to put a halt to your content rather than worry about sacrificing a six-month-schedule that you worked so hard on.

However, if you’re too busy to sit down and schedule content at the start of every week, then consider scheduling further ahead. For important dates, events and celebrations, you could draft in content months in advance so that you don’t forget them, using a marketing event calendar for guidance. Getting as far ahead as possible can help you feed off of important events and trends on social media without having to worry about remembering them on the day itself.

Make visual content in advance

Visual content marketing, like using images, GIFs, infographics and videos, can help your business stand out and improve engagement rates. But the truth is that it takes so much longer to create these visual elements than it does to write 140-character tweets. So, we recommend creating your visual content in advance, and in bulk, to save you time when putting your weekly content together.

For example, you may create your Christmas graphics in the summer during a quiet spell, knowing that you’ll have them ready and waiting for when December ticks around.

Want to become more organised and find the time to create more visual content? Set aside an hour a week in your marketing plan to create graphics using Photoshop or a free online tool such as Canva, and you’ll quickly reap the rewards of your hard work. Remember that the more visual and interactive you can make your content, the more likely people are to follow you.

Post around ‘topic clusters’

Darting around from one topic to the next when creating social media content can take time and prevent you from being efficient, so work around topic clusters instead. If you run a bakery and want to share images from your shop, news articles from the local area, customer testimonials, quotes and graphics created on Photoshop and videos tutorials of your products, then do them in batches.

That way, you can stay focused and get all of your photographs uploaded, then move on to finding news articles that are appropriate to your business and niche, and so on.

Once you’ve finished each of your ‘topic clusters’ and are ready to go, then you can use a tool like Buffer to shuffle your content automatically so there’s a healthy mix of each type of content.

Download a browser extension

If you’re always finding new content when you surf the web and want to add it to your social media schedule without wasting time, then you should consider downloading a browser extension. For Google Chrome users, Hootlet from HootSuite, CoSchedule and Buffer are the most popular options, but there are others to consider depending on your needs and budget.

Reuse best-performing content

Even if you have the most active and engaged audience on social media, the chances are that they won’t see every post you publish. That’s why you should consider recycling and reusing social media content that has performed well to increase its chances of standing out.

You don’t need to invest in expensive software to see your top-performing posts. Just head to Twitter Analytics to see which tweets did best, and visit Facebook Insights on your business page to get an update on your best posts. Once you know the sort of content that your customers want to see, you can reshare it or repurpose it to be used again in the future.

One of the best social media tools for recycling and reusing old content is Meet Edgar, which gives you the chance to add unlimited updates which can be recycled and reused automatically. This is effectively a “set it and forget it” form of social media marketing, so complement this with fresh posts as and when you have the time to add them.

 Plug in blogs and RSS feeds

If your social media strategy includes lots of news articles and updates from your own blog or others’, then you may want to consider plugging in RSS feeds to save time and have content go out as soon as it’s published. If you blog on WordPress, install the WordPress-owned Jetpack plugin and have content be pushed out automatically using its sharing feature.

With WordPress' JetPack, you can automatically share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Path and Google+.

With WordPress’ JetPack, you can automatically share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Path and Google+.

If you don’t use WordPress or want to publish content from other blogs, then there are tools that you can use. Remember, though, that if you set up this form of automated social media scheduling, you won’t be able to see what content is going to be published until it’s already out there, so use it sparingly and only take content from approved and trusted bloggers and news sources.

  • This tool allows you to plug in multiple RSS feeds from sources around the internet, and new content will be automatically posted with images and other content. This is a great way to keep your feeds up to date, especially if you struggle to manually add content to your schedule. Plus, their EverQueue feature means that your best content will automatically be recycled and rescheduled to keep your account ticking over.
  • IFTTT: One of the most exciting tools for marketers nowadays is IFTTT, which stands for If This, Then That. You can plug in a blog or RSS feed, and tell the software to tweet, add a Facebook post, update your LinkedIn or Google+, or send you a message to let you know. This is one of the most customisable tools on the market for automating your social media content via RSS, so play around and see what works for you.
  • Buffer: If you’re on one of Buffer’s paid plans, you can add RSS feeds and other news sources to its ‘Content Inbox’ section, giving you immediate access to the latest blog posts to add to your Queue. The best part about this is that you can see all of the latest content and select which ones you want to publish, giving you more control and reducing the chances of a social media fail.

Share across multiple networks

Most brands will work on a separate content calendar for each of their social networks, as you’ll almost certainly have different audiences across the various platforms. Instagram and Snapchat are most likely to be used by millennials, for example, LinkedIn is big in the B2B community, and Facebook and Twitter are the ‘general’ platforms used by the widest audience.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create content that suits all of those audiences, or at least some of them at the same time. Most social media scheduling tools allow you to post content on multiple social networks at the same time, so consider cutting back on your efforts by creating one set of content rather than three or four.

This can, effectively, half the amount of time it would take for you to create your month’s content, giving you more time to work on producing better, more impactful social media content like graphics and videos that will further increase engagement.

Take advantage of posting schedules

Posting schedules on tools such as HootSuite and Buffer can save you time and help you get your content in the Queue as soon as possible. Perhaps one of the most time-consuming and frustrating things about scheduling lots of posts at once is setting the right times and dates, so using posting schedules instead often makes sense.

On HootSuite, you can activate its AutoSchedule feature, and then any posts you add will be published at a time it thinks is right.

Posting schedules can make it easier to get content ready for social media.

Posting schedules can make it easier to get content ready for social media.

On Buffer, you can create your own posting schedule, choosing how many times a day you want your content to be published, and at which exact times you want posts to go live. Of course, this does mean that you’ll always publish content at the same time every day (or week, if you play with your schedule and choose different times for each day), but this shouldn’t be a problem.

Cut down your content

If you’re finding it tough to keep up with your social media schedule, then evaluate whether you are posting too much content. Small businesses should get away with a post or two on each network every day, although some industries may require more. On sites like Twitter, it’s true that more content will help you reach more people and increase click-through rates, but on other platforms, posting too much content can actually harm your organic reach.

If you really do want to keep your social media channels topped up with fresh content on a regular basis and don’t have the time to do it, then consider outsourcing your social media to a company like Muffin Marketing. That way, you’ll be confident that your channels are always on and you can get to work on running other parts of your business.

Wrapping up

The truth is that social media scheduling tools can help save time, but you still have to invest the hours in crafting content that you think your audience will enjoy. Play around with different social media scheduling tools and see which one works best for your needs – you may find, for example, that Hootsuite is too fiddly and Buffer is easier for you to use.