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Pre-scheduled Social Content: Why It's Not Always Good to 'Set It and Forget It'
By: Christine Geraci
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Social channels are like snowflakes: Each is unique. Yet, there you are, slapping up identical posts to each one as if people aren't going to notice. 
To be fair, we kind of understand. It saves time. Perhaps your business is just getting into social media, or the task of keeping the social channels fresh has been dumped high atop your already burgeoning heap of responsibilities, and you've discovered this awesome third-party app that lets you schedule out content months in advance. Something is better than nothing, after all. So, why not just "set it and forget it?" 
Because cross-posting identical content to your social channels is NOT a social media content strategy — it's a time management strategy. 
Yes, it's a rather clever time-saver, but it absolutely cannot be the only trick up your sleeve. Here are a few reasons why: 
Your audience subscribes to different social channels for different reasons. Perhaps some of them are on Twitter because they love the up-to-the-millisecond news updates, while others love Facebook because they can interact with their friends on the same pieces of content by liking, sharing, commenting, etc. If your audience subscribes to YOU or your business across multiple platforms, they will quickly catch on to your tactic of regurgitating the same exact content across different channels, and in turn, they will either a) get bored, b) get annoyed, c) think you're not authentic, d) unsubscribe or e) all of the above. Most often, they will go with choice E.
People need to know there's a PERSON there somewhere. Fully automated posts completely untouched by human hands are easy to spot. They trail off awkwardly, they don't have any dynamic elements such as pictures or videos attached to them, and they have a big old "POSTED AT A PRE-ARRANGED TIME VIA SOME CREEPY WEB CRAWLER" tag at the end. If your news feed is just a laundry list of these updates, it will be clear there's no one minding your social media store, and thus no one from your organization interested in participating in real conversation. Talk about a turn-off.
Facebook will bury you for doing it. Facebook's Edgerank algorithm makes posts from third-party apps go into a kind of automated purgatory where they get significantly less visibility, and thus little, if any, engagement, compared to content posted directly within Facebook. Even though Facebook supposedly adjusted the algorithm to be a little more lenient, any perceived improvement is erased by Facebook's "content collapse" feature, where posts of a similar type are grouped together. Multiple pieces of content posted from the same third party app on a given day will be grouped together in the newsfeed, effectively burying most of the content. What's more, Facebook gives users the option to hide all posts by a given third party app when such posts appear in their newsfeeds. 
So how do you fix all of this?
Pre-schedule in moderation. If you have a blog, or evergreen content on your website, then we think it's OK to pre-schedule links to oldie-but-goodie posts, helpful website content, and thought-provoking (non-breaking) news articles in a steady, well-spaced stream. Also, think before you use an RSS feed crawler that automatically pulls content from the feed of your choice (such as your blog feed). The posts look obviously automated, especially if you allow it to include text from the feed posts.
Don't let the third-party app do all the work. Take advantage of the ability to edit your posts before they are published. Apps like HootSuite let you edit titles and opening paragraphs, as well as choose accompanying photo thumbnails (pulled from whatever images are in the link you provide, of course). Get creative with the way you introduce content to your subscribers — you don't always have to go with just the article title. Also, pre-schedule posts for each social channel separately so that you can alter the introductions accordingly based on the platform.
Post organically within Facebook. This gives you the absolute best chance of engagement. On the one hand, we understand Facebook's reasoning on this: If the content isn't being posted by a person, then it shouldn't get as much attention as the person would. On the other hand, this isn't exactly a purely noble move on Facebook's part. The more people who post organically within Facebook, the more value the platform has, which means more ad revenue. Rather convenient, given Facebook's plan to go public. But whatever, it is a business with a right to find ways to be profitable, after all. Still, it stinks for small businesses who don't always have the best budget or staff to devote to social media monitoring, content creation and engagement. 
Make the case for why your business should devote more time and manpower to social. You know you need more time, so why not ask for it? Here's a great article from Jay Baer that can help you make your case for devoting more time to social media. 
Do you pre-schedule posts? If so, how often?

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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