As a marketing manager or a small business owner, you're responsible for planning your brand's social media content. But how far in advance should you schedule your social media posts?
It's one of the questions that we get asked here at Sendible HQ. And we completely understand why!
So, how far, is too far, when it comes to scheduling social media posts?
In this article, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of scheduling and help you decide how far ahead to plan your content.
The pros and cons of scheduling
There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to scheduling your social media content. But if you do it right, you can make it work for your brand.
The benefits of scheduling
Let's start with the plus side.
1) It’s a time-saver
The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves you time. If you set aside a couple of hours, you can schedule a week’s worth of posts in advance. The alternative would mean you had to create those posts in real-time. You'd have to set up notifications to remind you to log in and post at the allocated time. And an interrupted workflow is definitely not the most productive way to work.
2) It's time-zone friendly
Scheduling allows you to post content even when you're offline. For example, if you're based in the USA, and you're managing clients in the UK, then you'll need to schedule their social media posts in advance, otherwise, you'll be working through the night.
3) It allows for consistency
Scheduling your social media posts is an excellent way to maintain a consistent stream of content across multiple networks. When you post consistently, your followers get to know more about your brand and what to expect from you.
4) You can gather baseline metrics
When you schedule content at regular times, it helps you evaluate your performance. For example, if you publish a post at 11 am each weekday you can compare which day and type of post have the most engagement.
The disadvantages of scheduling
Let's not forget the downside.
1) You're unavailable to respond immediately
When your scheduled posts are published, you'll probably be doing something else, and won't be active on the respective social network. (That's the time-saving benefit we mentioned above.) The downside is that you're not available to respond immediately to any initial feedback. And in the worst case scenario, if your post has triggered negative feedback, then you won't be there to handle the situation.
2) You can appear too robotic
While it's good to post consistently, your brand could start to come across as 'stale' if that's all you do. So, it's good to freshen up your content with some spontaneous posts interspersed with the scheduled content. Keep your audience on their toes.
3) Your content might become out-dated
Current events and trending news stories move fast and could make your scheduled content look misplaced or ill-timed. Scheduling should not be a 'set it and forget it' activity. You need to keep tabs on what's happening around you and make sure your scheduled content is still fit to publish if circumstances change.
Scheduling social media posts in advance
Now you know the pros and cons of scheduling, let's consider how far ahead you should schedule your social media posts.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- How far ahead is too far when scheduling content? Are we talking days, weeks, or months?
- Should you schedule all your content in the same way?
- Does your niche or industry affect scheduling?
To help answer these questions we reached out to a few social media managers and business owners to see how they schedule social media posts for their clients and business.
Melanie Tamble - Co-Founder & CEO at Adenion GmbH
Adenion offers apps and tools for businesses and agencies of any size to support their online content marketing and PR tasks.
Mandy Edwards - Social Media Consultant & Strategist
Mandy helps businesses define their social media strategy so that their branding and messaging remains consistent across the web.
Andréa Jones - Social Media Strategist for Businesses & Podcasts
Andréa and her team work with busy entrepreneurs to develop and implement social media and content marketing solutions that free up more of their time.
Diana Berryman - Social Media Specialist
Diana manages the social media and brand communications for clients in various industries including Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, Travel and Tourism, and Real Estate.
How far in advance do you schedule your social media posts?
Scheduling your posts is an excellent way to maintain a consistent stream of content across multiple social media platforms. Plus, it allows you to post even when you're offline, outside of office hours, and also during weekends, holidays, and vacations.
Nevertheless, be careful not to schedule your content too far in advance. Keep your scheduling plan within a monthly timeframe and always leave space for news and current events. When you schedule too far ahead, it's easy to lose track of what you've planned, plus current events can make your content look out-dated or misplaced.
Also, when you schedule your posts across multiple social accounts and when you repeat your post on a regular basis, always vary the images and captions, so they don’t start looking robotic.
We schedule as much content in advance as we can. Typically it's a month's worth of content, but leaving room for spontaneous posts if there's an event or something we really want to share.
Great question! I usually like to stay a week ahead with my clients. I also find that working a month ahead isn’t too far in advance, depending on the industry.
In my experience it completely depends on the types of posts you're sharing, so it's a "how long is a piece of string" type question. I prefer to schedule just a few days in advance, so I schedule twice per week.
Tip: If you're a budding agency owner, we'd recommend you check out our guide on starting a social media marketing agency.
Do you schedule some types of content further in advance than other posts?
If you have evergreen content, that remains current and relevant, regardless of current events, you can schedule this content a couple of months ahead. But always check from time to time whether your content remains relevant or if it needs an update before you reshare it.
For evergreen posts, you can schedule as far ahead as your scheduling tool will let you. For time-sensitive posts, only schedule them for when they are relevant.
Does the industry or niche affect how far ahead you can schedule posts?
We haven't seen a difference based on industry/niche. With some clients, we have to leave more space for those spontaneous posts, but the timeframe really doesn't change.
Some industries could probably get farther ahead if their products or content don’t change. Most of us, though, want to be a bit more flexible when it comes to promoting products or offerings.
News moves fast in the blockchain industry, plus a lot of our marketing is for ICOs/token sales/crowdfunding, so it's all time-sensitive. You could easily schedule once a week and bump all the time-sensitive content to the front of the queue, or where appropriate, set them to go out on certain days.
But for other industries, such as travel where you're sharing a mix of your content articles, other people's articles, beautiful photos, etc. you can schedule weeks in advance.
Any more scheduling advice?
Don't shoot and forget. Always keep track of your scheduled posts. Look out for social media tools with calendar features to help you keep an overview of your scheduled posts and let you adjust and re-schedule your posts as needed.
For time management purposes, businesses need to schedule their social media content as much as they can so they don't get bogged down by it.
I would suggest if you're scheduling a long way in advance, that you still check the posts regularly to make sure they are still relevant and going out at the time they are supposed to. Scheduling and forgetting them is not a good plan as anything could change.
Based on the feedback from our social media experts, scheduling your social media posts one month in advance works best in most situations, although you may need shorter periods for clients in a fast-paced industry like Blockchain and cryptocurrency.
It's important to remember that your social media scheduling should always be done with your end purpose or goal in mind. In other words, what do you want to achieve as each post is published?
- Are you trying to stimulate a conversation?
- Are you educating your audience with some helpful tips?
- Are you informing people of new product features?
It's equally important to aim for posting consistency rather than frequency. Create your plan and stick to it. So, for example, if you decide you'll post twice a day on Facebook, you know you need to create or curate content to fill that schedule.
The best social media publishing frequency is: when it's worthwhile. - Jay Baer, Convince and Convert
Social media scheduling, when done right, is a great time-saver. But it's not a replacement for human interaction. You still need to be present on each social network to engage with followers and ensure your brand's content remains fresh.
How far ahead you schedule your brand's social media posts will depend on a few factors, including the industry and the type of content you're publishing. However far ahead you decide to schedule your social media posts, remember you need to be able to:
- Ensure your content is relevant
- Track your performance and adjust your campaign if results fail to meet expectations
- Pivot quickly if circumstances change
Over to you: How far ahead are you scheduling social media posts? What timeframe works best for you?