How to Automate Social Media Activity with HootSuite
HootSuite is a tool for social media management that we've talked about and referenced many times. I am a certified HootSuite Solution Pro, which means that I have been trained on not only how to use HootSuite, but how to help business owners understand how they can use HootSuite to manage and monitor their social media accounts. We are continuing our series on How to Make the Most of Your HootSuite Account by reviewing your options for automating your social media activity, including when and how you might want to.
Within HootSuite, you have a couple of ways in which you can automate some social media activity. First, you can schedule posts in advance, using the three available options we covered in our article on posting. Second, you can set up RSS feeds to be auto shared.
The RSS option within HootSuite is a powerful one. With it, you can grab the RSS feed from any website, be it your own or someone else's, and set up HootSuite to automatically check that feed n a regular basis and share one or more posts if there is new content. A Free HootSuite account permits 2 RSS feeds, while a Pro account allows an unlimited number.
To add or manage your RSS feeds, tap the gear icon in the left sidebar from within the web or app dashboard. Select RSS/Atom and you will see any feeds you've already set up. Tap the + button to add a new feed, and paste in the URL for the feed.
Each feed can only be connected to one network, so if you want to share to more than one network, you'll need to set up each one individually.
Once you select a network from the drop down box, you can select how often to check for new posts, and how many posts to share at a time, if there are any. Typically, you'll only want to share one post at a time, and check once a day, but depending on the source and your purpose, you may want to check more often or share more posts.
One option to consider is that HootSuite will allow you to prepend the text of the post with whatever text you wish. The suggested usage is something like "New Post" but you can be creative. For instance, you might include the Twitter handle of the site's author so they get a mention every time you share.
Finally, you can select which URL shortener to use. HootSuite offers four: ow.li, owl.ly, ht.li and ht.ly. LI and LY are country codes from Lichtenstein and Lybia. All four shorteners include complete metrics, and the HT shorteners also include social sharing options. We will dig into the differences of each in another article, but you're free to choose any one you want.
Once you've chosen your settings, click Save Feed and it will be added to your list.
When viewing your list of feeds, you can turn feeds on or off, and edit or delete feeds as needed.
Automation Uses & Cautions
So, first and foremost, let me be clear that I am not advocating that businesses put their social media on auto pilot. Simply using this RSS feature to automatically spam content to your social networks is not genuine and will do nothing to further your business goals.
Let me repeat that: spamming posts to social media will not further business goals.
However, there are certainly instances where automatically posting content can and should be considered.
Supplement Rich Content
The first instance where automation is great is when it's used as a supplement to the great content and posts you're already sharing. RSS feeds from trusted sources can be used to regularly share information with your followers that is helpful and interesting.
Be careful though. If all you do is share content from other sources, your followers won't need you! They can go straight to the source. Make sure that your sources are fantastic, and make an effort to add additional value through comments and your other shares.
Maintain Activity During Off Times
One of the keys to a successful social media presence is consistency. Businesses need to be consistently active on their social networks. But not every business owner has the time to post every day, and smaller businesses will really struggle during weekends, evenings, holidays and vacations. Scheduling posts and using an RSS feed for selective automated activity can help a business remain active, even when the business owner or social media manager is off.
Be careful though. Businesses who have scheduled or automated activity must be mindful of what they have scheduled, and be aware of any circumstances that may require a change in what's scheduled. A typical example is when a business has scheduled posts going out during a local or national crisis. It's possible that such posts may be considered inappropriate, so they'll need to be reviewed and perhaps postponed.
Sharing Old Content
Businesses that are actively creating content and participating in social media are going to develop two things:
- an archive of old articles
- a growing follower base that missed older posts
Therefore, I think it's a good idea for businesses to regularly share their older articles. They will put those articles in front of new eyes, as well as offer businesses a way to share and introduce them that might be different than before. You can tweet a different title, or write a different commentary.
Be careful though. You don't want to share too many old posts, and you don't want to share old posts that are not longer valid or helpful. Marketeers refer to content that continues to be interesting and educating as "evergreen" content. If you use the bulk scheduler within HootSuite, you can maintain a spreadsheet of your evergreen content. Be mindful of your audience, not only what they're interested in, but what volume of posting they can tolerate.
These are just a few of the ideas for how you can use the scheduling features and RSS Feeds within HootSuite. If you have other ideas or uses, or disagree with these points, please share them in the comments below.
Next time, we're going to cover how to use HootSuite to curate and share great content.
Automation Image courtesy of Taxi For Gable, Flickr.
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."