While You Were Away: The Perks and Risks of Automated Posting

by Emily Wenstrom
published in Community

A few months ago, I went on a big vacation. I knew I would not be online much during this time, and since I was out of the country, my smartphone, which I usually rely on to keep up with social media, was not going to be an option.

To keep my short story website wordhaus’ platform running while I was gone, I scheduled automated posts for each day of my trip for both Facebook and Twitter.

It was a bit of an experiment for me, as I’ve never left my social media on auto alone for so long. When I came back from vacation and took a look at the analytics, the results really surprised me.

First Off, What’s Automated Posting?

Automated posting is a social media feature that allows you to write and save a message, then save it to post later at a designated time.

Facebook Pages offer this feature right in the post options—just click on the little clock icon under the post box. To set an automated post for Twitter, you need a third-party application like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. (These applications have a myriad of other features, too, and are well worth the free download, but more on this another time.)

Before I left for my trip, I took about an hour and timed out two messages a day for Twitter and one a day for Facebook. This is really a bare minimum for a consistent presence on these platforms, but I was also working with a very limited time frame, so this was a decent compromise, all things considered.

The posts were a mix of teasers linking to our most recent story releases and links to other quality online content about writing and reading. 

So How’d It Work?

When I got back from my vacation and pulled up the analytics for my automated posts, I was surprised by the results. There were two big things I noticed about my automated post stats.

First, my automated posts got a higher engagement rate by a few percentage points compared to the average—not a huge difference, but enough to know it was no coincidence. A higher engagement rate means more people interacted with these posts by liking, sharing, commenting, retweeting, and responding to my posts. And that means my posts were hitting a sweet spot in terms of timing and messaging for my following. Score!

One of the perks of automated posts is that it forces you to make deliberate choices, which probably had a lot to do with this boost in engagement. Because I’m so busy, I get lazy about keeping up with my social platforms sometimes and default to retweeting quality content whenever I remember to do it, which means my posts are going out just willy-nilly. No good!

But automated posts means I take the time to think about when the optimal times of day are—for example, there tends to be higher traffic on social networks between 4 and 5 p.m. on Fridays as people start getting eager for the weekend to start. It also meant more intentional, catered messaging. A little focus and thought can go a long way.

The other thing I noticed from my analytics was that despite the higher engagement, my average site traffic was down a little. So despite great responses to my posts, readers were not clicking through and reading the featured stories.

Part of this was simply that I made fewer posts than normal—there’s a definite advantage to live posting, in that it takes less than a minute and can be done from from any device. So I end up posting more frequently this way. And more posts means more exposure, which means more click-throughs.

The Bottom Line

My little experiment with automated posting has made me reconsider how I approach social media outreach. Going into the new year, I’m going to experiment with more regular automated posts, and try out some new messaging styles, while also keeping up my normal sporadic live posting.

This hybrid approach is a general best practice for social media platforming—something I know well from my work in marketing and public relations. But when it comes to my own efforts, I’m often squeezing it in around all the other demands, and time and energy limitations lead to taking short cuts. But seeing the difference it can make to be more deliberate, I’m going to make changes next year.

Do you use automated posts for your social media? Give it a try! Using automated posts to supplement your regular social media outreach can be a great way to get a little more oomph from your platform with a small and reasonable effort.

ew_007_lowrezBy day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhausauthor social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.

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