Let’s face it: There is a right and a wrong way to pre-publish social media content.
As you scale your content marketing, one of your goals is to get your content into the hands of your audience. But it can be tough with limited resources.
Social media is a lot of work. That’s why brands use third-party apps to manage their social media content.
It runs in two directions: publishing out and conversations in. It’s 24/7. Using a third-party app allows you to schedule content to automatically publish at a specific time so that some of that load is shifted to when you are most able to handle it.
Yet the very idea of social media being social seems to belie the idea of using automation. After all, it’s supposed to be social.
But you can use tools to schedule and pre-publish your social media content in a way that is effective. And appropriately social.
3 Approaches To Pre-Publishing Your Social Media Content
For our discussion today, pre-publishing is any social media content that you didn’t publish the moment before it went live. A planned, human approach for scheduling your social media posts ahead of time is the best and only acceptable option.
Pre-publishing social media content is usually done with a third-party tool instead of on the network itself. But some social networks, like Facebook, do allow you to schedule your content ahead of time on their network without needing a third-party tool.
Pre-publishing can be done in two ways:
- Human planning. Based on a carefully planned and executed schedule, controlled and created by a human being, the only thing that is automated is the actual publishing of the content.
- Non-human algorithms for auto-publishing. Completely automatic with publishing schedule and dates determined by the tool being used. Very little, if any, planning is used to determine when, what, and why content is published.
Scheduling or pre-publishing content is not the same as auto-generating or auto-publishing content (which we will briefly touch on later).
When it comes to scheduling or pre-scheduling, you can use your own content or the content of others, to some degree of success. Auto-publishing is often associated with automatically generated content that is often a big no-no.
With all of this in mind, there are three approaches to pre-publishing social media content.
1. Pre-publish your own social media content.
You must share your content more than once if you want to get the results your content deserves. And, unless you’re going to wake up each day with a plan to systematically publish old blog posts throughout the day, you’ll very likely turn to pre-publishing your social media content.
Pre-publishing your own content to social media is perfectly fine, as long as you have a plan for scheduling that content. You can plan to share your content more than once across various social networks.
By using a planned pre-publishing technique for our social media content, you can increase both social shares and traffic to your content.
Pre-publishing your own social media content based on a solid plan is the best way to make sure you actually keep sharing your existing content.
If you rely on yourself to remember to publish content to social media, good luck. Solo bloggers, especially, know how hard it is to keep up with a robust social publishing plan without the help of tools that automate your overall plan.
Are “tweet old post” auto-publish solutions a good idea?
There are times when pre-publishing your own social media content doesn’t work. That’s when it’s done without a plan—auto-publishing with robots.
For example, there are WordPress plugins that automatically tweet out your old blog posts. I’ve used them myself.
It takes a while to figure out the best automated settings and, for my lucky Twitter fans, I got it wrong for about a week. They got an unfortunate heavy dose of random posts—an onslaught, if we’re being honest—before I realized it.
But I figured tweaking the settings ought to fix it. After all, I wanted to share my existing content, and auto-publishing seemed like the easiest method with the least amount of effort necessary.
The thing was, some of my old content wasn’t really worth sharing again. But an automated old-post tweet system doesn’t know if it’s auto-tweeting gold or a real stinker.
And a Twitter feed that also publishes to your Facebook feed means you’ll have a Facebook feed full of title-only posts that aren’t made for the Facebook network.
Automating a sharing schedule requires controls to be successful.
To share old posts, you need a pre-publishing system that has serious controls. You need controls to:
- Specify how often
- Determine which categories of content are shareable (“latest news” categories are completely irrelevant a week later)
- Plan date ranges
- Customize the content for individual social networks
Without those controls, you’re merely auto-publishing your own spam to your followers.
2. Pre-publish curated content.
Pre-publishing curated content is an ideal fit. But first, let me sell you on content curation.
I’m a big believer in content curation.
There is a ginormous, cyclopean, behemoth, mammoth, whale-sized amount of content pumped out every day. Helping your audience find the good stuff is part of your job.
Curating that good content means having a system and the tools to sift through and find that good stuff that’s out there. Then you can share that on your social media.
It’s not enough to churn out massive amounts of content related to your niche. The goal isn’t to publish 1,000 tweets a day and get unfollowed by people tired of seeing their news feeds full of mindless publishing.
When it comes to curated content, what you share has to be good, useful, and unique.
Your goal is always to give your audience the best. And that means you have to go through a lot of content, both good and bad, to find that best.
Sharing low-grade content turns off your audience entirely, even if you mix it with your great content.
Why bother with pre-publishing curated content on social media?
Curation works its artful wonders in three ways:
- Not a self-centered jerk. Sharing other’s content assures people you’re not just a personal PR machine, interested in yourself and your brand only.
- Expanding your own network. When you share content you find on your social networks, the creators of the content will notice and engage with you. Boom. Bigger network.
- You are helpful. Sharing other content sends a message that you’re not always on the hard-sell, that you actually want to help your followers save time and find good content. A reputation for being helpful is good. People refer other people to you.
Content curation and pre-publishing are a good fit because finding that great content can be extremely time-consuming. The idea that you have to repeat the process throughout the day to avoid publishing all at once is unpleasant.
With pre-publishing—whether you’ve built a collection of reliable feeds in your RSS reader that you read each morning, or are turning to an app like Swayy—finding content doesn’t have to suck up all the time in the day.
You can do it once and set the publishing to drip out over time. Pre-publishing tools help you stop multitasking and set aside a chunk of time to find and create content that you’ll publish.
Buffer is a popular app for content curation because it allows you to build a queue of found content that drips out over time. You can fill up your queue in the morning and you’re set for the day.
Any tool or system that saves time while helping you to share great content is a good fit for pre-publishing.
3. Auto-publish auto-generated content.
Some folks don’t like the idea of any form of pre-publishing, even if it has been created and planned by a human. Fair enough, though I disagree.
However, allowing automaton to completely find, curate, generate, and publish is a step too far. When you start mixing auto-generated publishing with auto-publishing, you’re bordering on being a Grade A spammer.
This seems harsh, but hear me out.
A social media feed is to feed, not poison. You should never add to the content noise.
As a content marketer, you’re trying to cut through the noise for your audience. Taking yourself out of the publishing equation entirely is the wrong approach.
What not to do with auto-publishing social media content
Let’s use Paper.li as an example of auto-generated and auto-published content.
Paper.li is one of many apps that finds, publishes, and promotes “engaging content” from across the web. You’ve likely seen them in your Twitter feed.
They say something like “The Content Marketer Daily is out!” followed by several Twitter usernames and a link. Paper.li aggregates content based on user settings.
There are some unhappy followers out there that don’t like seeing the tweets, don’t think they have value, or are upset when content is attributed incorrectly.
In my run-in with Paper.li, a health insurance brand included my content because I mentioned them in a tweet… but unfortunately, I mentioned them unfavorably. Oops. They just promoted negative content about themselves because of automation.
Paper.li (and other truly automated sans-human systems) do the best they can, but they cannot filter perfectly, understand context, or really know what is good content. As I said in my blog post about Paper.li:
Paper.li assumes that making it easy to aggregate is a good idea, but the ease of setting up a Paper.li account means people do it carelessly. They add to the content noise instead of lessen it. —@JulieNeidlingerClick To Tweet
Social media is about being social, i.e. interaction between humans. Completely using automated methods to find, curate, assemble, and publish is interaction between a human and a machine. It’s not social at all.
My question for anyone relying heavily on both auto-generated and auto-published social media content is: What is your goal with social media? To keep your feeds full, or to actually build an audience?
Do you use Paper.li? Has it been successful for you? What are your thoughts about similar automated systems?
5 Keys To A Successful Social Media Pre-Publishing Plan
We’ve all seen (and probably participated in) bad social media automation. Bad auto-generated and auto-published social media content follows the “spray and pray” method, in which you send out as much social content as possible, and pray something takes root.
This is a complete waste of your time, your money, and super abusive of your audience.
Smart social media pre-publishing always starts with you, the human, in the planning and creating. It only relies on automation when it comes down to scheduling publishing times.
Your social media publishing plan—and the tools you use—needs to be able to do a few things:
1. Publish in the moment.
This must be part of your plan, and the tools you use need to allow for it.
Breaking news, important updates, event, or theme changes, reactions to conversations—these are all reasons when you need to be able to use social media in the moment.
2. Share your content—and other’s content.
You must be able to easily share your own content as well as the curated content you’ve found.
3. Easily pull or reschedule scheduled content.
There are times when you want to be able to look at the content for the day and stop it from publishing.
National disasters or other events that might make your otherwise benign content inappropriate make it super important that you can easily cancel, postpone, or reword scheduled content.
Blogger Matt Heindl outlines what he considers the best approach to take for scheduled tweets when a disaster or tragedy strikes:
- Pause all outgoing posts on all platforms immediately.
- Pause the use of any auto-Tweet tools so no scheduled or auto-optimized Tweets are delivered until review.
- Pause all Twitter and Facebook paid media. This will help you avoid any sponsored stories or Tweets to appear next to news of the events or simply crowded consumers’ feeds during times of panic or mourning.
After you’ve done that, Heindl recommends that you:
- Pause all scheduled outgoing posts to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for a reasonable time. 12–24 hours at minimum.
- Reschedule anything that could be remotely controversial or emotionally specific to the issue at hand.
- Scan the next week’s social posts on all platforms for content containing any potential puns, associations with the event or other potential ways your marketing could be associated with capitalizing or making light of the events.
Your social media pre-publishing tool should let you easily see the messages going out on a specific day so you can halt, review, and reschedule if needed.
4. Customize messages for different networks.
Imagine that you send the same social message out to all networks, at the same time. How delightful for your audience that follows you on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to see the exact same update at the same moment. That really makes an audience feel special and loved. #sarcasm
It’s a good idea to not blast all your networks at the same time. But definitely do not do that with the same content.
A Facebook post shouldn’t follow Twitter’s 140 character limit. Pre-publishing your social media doesn’t get you off the hook of writing great copy intended specifically for each social network.
5. Minimal presence of auto-sharing old content.
On any given day, most of the social content you share should be based on decisions you made. Using a “tweet old post” type of auto-publishing should be a very small percentage (if any) of what your daily published feed ends up looking like.