How to Bulk Schedule Messages Using 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 how to use the Bulk Schedule tool within HootSuite, including setting up your own Excel spreadsheet, as well as using a great online generator.
What is HootSuite Bulk Scheduling?
Within HootSuite, we have covered how you can use the Compose tool to create a message that gets sent out to one or more selected social networks. And we also covered how you can choose a specific date and time for the post to be published, or use HootSuite's AutoSchedule to pick a time within the next 2 - 12 hours when it's more likely that your network's followers will be online. But what is this Bulk Schedule option that keeps coming up?
Bulk Schedule is when you set up multiple posts to be published, all at once. It's achieved by uploading a special spreadsheet, which we will dig into in a moment, and that tells HootSuite the time and content of every post you want to schedule.
There is a maximum of 350 total scheduled messages across all of your networks for your HootSuite account, and you can specify multiple social networks when uploading your spreadsheet. However, if you're going to bulk schedule messages it's probably best that you have different spreadsheets with different times for different social networks, so keep that overall limit of 350 scheduled messages in mind.
What can you Bulk Schedule with HootSuite?
With your trusty spreadsheet, you can set specific date and times and specify text and a link to share at that time. Links are automatically shortened using your default HootSuite link shortener. Your total post, including both text and the link, is limited in characters by whichever network you're posting to. Since it's likely that you will be posting to Twitter, that means a limit of 140 characters. When you upload the spreadsheet, all posts in the sheet are scheduled for the selected networks, so you can create one spreadsheet for Twitter and a different one for Facebook where you a greater character allowance.
Links are optional, so you can share plain text messages whenever you wish.
What can't you Bulk Schedule with HootSuite?
One drawback to Bulk Scheduling is that you cannot include images. Normally, if you have a HootSuite Pro account, you can Compose a post, drop an image onto the post, and have that image posted as an image to Twitter or Facebook, rather than just a link preview. The uploaded spreadsheet for bulk scheduling offers no such option.
You may not bulk schedule duplicate messages, though you can use the same spreadsheet later on to reschedule posts if it makes sense to do so.
How to set up HootSuite Bulk Scheduling
Bulk Scheduling obviously starts with the spreadsheet. Your HootSuite dashboard will provide you with a template, or you can use this one. You can also go to this website and create a spreadsheet online, which is worlds easier. That service, recommended by +Jason Bahamundi, can also schedule your posts within a timeframe parameter, and randomize them. If you want to edit your own spreadsheet, here's how:
The spreadsheet has three columns: Date, Message, Link. You do not need to label the columns. Each row is a new scheduled post, so if you want to schedule 15 posts your spreadsheet should have 15 rows of information. As mentioned earlier, the Message and Link column text needs to be limited in characters for whatever network you're posting to, but otherwise can say whatever you want.
The Date column data is what's tricky, as the date must be in a very specific format of mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm or dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm. You'll need to tell Excel that that data in column is Text and not to be changed or it will try to convert your dates into a different display that will fail your upload.
Post times must end in a 5 or 0, like 10:00 or 10:45. If you put an odd time into your spreadsheet HootSuite will round up and then post. You also need to set all times to be at least ten minutes into the future so make sure you're giving yourself enough time to schedule the activity.
Save your spreadsheet as a CSV (comma separated values) and then upload it. HootSuite will either accept it or tell you that there are errors to fix.
To upload, you can open a Compose box, click on the Schedule button and then click on the "bulk schedule posts" link. You can also go to the Publisher tab and click on the "Schedule in Bulk" button in the upper left.
This will open the Bulk Scheduling dialogue box where you can upload your CSV file, select the format you chose to use for your post dates, and select one or more social networks.
If there are any issues with your uploaded file, HootSuite will tell you what the problems are and on which lines. For instance, if your posting to Twitter and you have a status update that is too long, HootSuite will tell you that row #2 has too many characters for Twitter. At that point, no posts will be scheduled, just in case it's critical that the post(s) with an error be scheduled. You will need to correct or delete the status update(s) indicated, and then resubmit your CSV file.
This is, of course, the point where most users get frustrated, and where that website I referenced earlier can come in handy. You may run into a bunch of errors, particularly if you're uploading a lot of updates at once, and have trouble getting them all corrected. The first time you try the bulk scheduler, I recommend scheduling just a couple of posts so you can make sure that your spreadsheet format is correct, and you get the hang of the system.
And be patient. Take the time to craft valuable and meaningful updates, and take the time to assemble and correct your spreadsheet, and you may be richly rewarded with an incredible savings of time in the long run.
Now that you have the basic technique and tools to set up bulk scheduling, let's look at some of the viable ways businesses might use this HootSuite feature.
Uses for HootSuite Bulk Scheduling
If you don't have a Buffer account, you can use HootSuite bulk scheduling to craft and share messages and activity using your old content. Make sure, of course, that the article information is still valid and appropriate. I do prefer and use Buffer for this purpose.
Another easy use case for bulk scheduling is when you or your social media manager are going to be out of the office, say for a week's vacation, you can bulk schedule daily posts and updates to ensure that specific messages are being shared throughout the week. If you're going to do this, I would still encourage you or a representative to continue to monitor your social networks so that you can respond to comments and feedback in a timely manner.
Businesses who are active in content marketing, social media marketing and content curation often actually forget to simply mention themselves ands what they do. Is certainly OK to talk about yourself now and then on social networks and remind people who you are and what you do. Bulk Schedule is a great way to do this because you can decide in advance what you're going to say, how often you're going to say it, and then schedule it. This ensures regular communication but keeps it in line and in proportion to everything else that you're saying.
By the same token, if your business is regularly going to be closed or unavailable due to holidays, conferences or other circumstances, you can pre-schedule appropriate messages so your followers and customers know what to expect. You can create an Out of Office spreadsheet with all of the year's holidays and special dates by row, and a custom message for each.
Speaking of holidays, how about having some fun and wishing everyone a Happy Boxing Day or Happy Groundhog Day! You could set up reminders for yourself of course, or just have another spreadsheet that you load up and and update each January with the coming year's dates and messages.
Do you find yourself regularly sharing the same messages or reminders? Perhaps you're hosting or attending a weekly Twitter chat, or maybe at the end of every month it's helpful for you to remind your followers and customers to send in their information or files. Plug that into a Bulk Schedule so that you can be assured that it will go every time you need it to, leaving you free to concentrate on more important things.
As you can see, there are a LOT of uses for Bulk Scheduling social media posts. What you aren't seeing in this list are replacements for normal, day-to-day activity. Social media activity needs to be genuine and meaningful. But when we're simply communicating information, like our hours on Christmas Eve, it's almost better to schedule that well in advance and know that it's taken care of.
One final word on scheduling: always be mindful of what you have scheduled to post at any given time. You can open your HootSuite Dashboard and click on Publisher to see what's scheduled to go out. If something happens and it would suddenly be inappropriate to be sharing the messages you have scheduled, make sure you log in and reschedule or delete them.
These are the ways businesses can use HootSuite to schedule and maintain a consistent presence on social media that provides real value to your followers and potential customers. If you haven't yet signed up for a HootSuite account, you can get a free trial here, and you can contact me if you would like additional training and support.
Next time, we'll go over how to use HootSuite for Social Listening.
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton