While most of us use social media interactively by creating and posting things in real time, there are tools available that allow for pre-scheduling of posts to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more. Should you use social media scheduling and automation as part of your photography ventures?
My take is that when used smartly, it can be a valuable asset in your online photography marketing toolkit. If used poorly, it can cause more problems than it solves. Let’s dive deeper.
Social Media Scheduling
With a tool like Buffer, you can pre-schedule posts for social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn. In some cases, the exact functionality depends whether you want to post to a personal or business account, but the concepts are the same.
Your choices around whether or not to schedule will mean that your social media presence on these networks will land into one of three categories:
- You don’t use scheduling, and post everything interactively and in real-time from your computer or a mobile device. Everyone starts here, and many remain here.
- You schedule everything, and the account becomes an automated feed of updates, but doesn’t feature the interactivity or two-way replies that you’d have if you were doing everything manually as with the first option.
- A hybrid, where some of your social media actions are “live” and manual with you at a keyboard, but you augment that usage with some scheduled updates as well.
I would suggest that for a photographer looking to spread their work, find new clients, stay connected to existing clients, or become known in the industry that an entirely-scheduled social media account with have minimal, if any, effectiveness1. Let’s look at the other two options, and you can decide if scheduling software is right for you.
Pros and Cons of Entirely Non-Scheduled Social Media
If you don’t use scheduling, your account will have the benefit of having you fully present… no updates will be posted without your interaction, and odds are strong that you’ll be around if you get a reply right after posting.
The primary downside of not using scheduling is one that you’ve probably already seen: sometimes it’s not practical to be interacting with social media each day at various times. Perhaps you’re making pictures, or editing images, or traveling, or working on another area of your business.
Augmenting Your “Live” Social Media with Scheduled Posts
If you’d like to use a hybrid approach for your social media accounts (I think this is a fine approach; it’s what I do) how can you work this scheduling or automation into your world in a way that’s authentic and helps you you reach more people?
Consider the social networks at play. With most social networks, we’ve moved away from a pure chronological feed, yet they algorithms do still favor fresh content. So while you might be able to send a Tweet or make a Facebook post right after you have breakfast and are working at your computer, if you’re busy for the rest of the day you might not have the opportunity to post something in the afternoon (when an entirely different crowd might be browsing social media). This is where scheduling can help. Let’s look at a specific example:
Perhaps you’re a portrait photographer and you just wrote a new blog post about how great it can be when there’s a nice color harmony across the outfits in a family photo. Maybe you’ve shown examples of this with your work, or you’ve produced a PDF tips sheet that clients and potential clients can grab from your website. After you put the work into that article, of course you want to let folks know about it so they can head to site and learn more.
- First, you’ll post a about it in the morning. You will likely share the link on Facebook, and maybe you’ll send a Tweet, pin it to Pinterest, or share it on LinkedIn.
- Then, you can schedule some updates for times you won’t be around. You could use Buffer or a similar tool to schedule another tweet for the afternoon. Or if you shared it with your Facebook Business page in the morning, and it’s an article for which you want a wider reach, maybe you schedule an update to your personal profile for later in the day.
- Don’t limit yourself to a single day, either. What if someone was busy and didn’t look at Twitter at all on that day, or they’ve been tied up and away from Facebook? Consider scheduling followup updates for a few days later where you might catch some new folks.
One other use for scheduling is for those of you who perhaps don’t follow a traditional sleep or work schedule. Maybe you have a day job and you’re working on your photography business late at night. Without scheduling, the only time you’d be posting to social media could be after many of your fans or clients are sleeping! With scheduling, you can prepare your messages at your convenience, and then schedule them to be posted at a time when more folks are active.
Should You Cross-Post the Same Content Across Networks?
With social media scheduling and automation software, as a photographer you can also consider whether you want cross-post the same information across multiple social networks. After all, if you’re going through the work to prepare your social media, why would you want to reach a wider audience with just a couple more button clicks?
I’m okay with cross-posting (after all, you’re probably connected to some different folks on different social networks) as long as you consider whether the particular message or piece of content is appropriate for those networks and won’t look out of place. Where are some gotchas that make it look like you’re phoning it and not paying attention?
- Twitter has a limited character count (280 characters). If you cross-post something to Twitter that’s longer than the limit, it’s going to get cut off, perhaps in an awkward point in the message.
- Going in the other direction, if you’ve carefully crafted a terse message to fit within the Twitter limits, it could look awkward when sent to Facebook or LinkedIn where you could’ve used more words to better articulate your thoughts.
- If you’re cross-posting photos (we are photographers after all), consider if they’re in an orientation or dimensions that are a good fit for the platform. Images on Pinterest look best if they’re tall and skinny. Facebook prefers landscape-orientation images. Twitter is flexible, but might apply some cropping. Sadly this isn’t a case where one size fits all.
With these caveats in mind, some cross-posting can work effectively for some content.
Breaking News: Beware
One caveat of using pre-scheduled social media automation is that you should be cognizant of breaking news and world events. On real-time platforms such as Twitter, when there’s a major negative news event (think school shooting, a bombing, major plane crash, or similar tragedy) the network becomes a hotbed of conversation and folks learn about what’s happening and share their concern or grief publicly.
If, in the midst of such a tragedy, your account starts posting messages which don’t have the current context (especially if the message is of the sales pitch variety) you’re going to look clueless and insensitive. If something happens, make sure you log into your scheduling software and flip the switch to temporarily suspend your automated posting.
In addition to making you look ignorant by posting at such a time, odds are that if everyone’s mental thoughts and concerns are elsewhere, they really couldn’t care less about your photography resource or offer at that moment.
Getting Started with Social Media Scheduling
If you simply want to augment your existing manual presence with a few scheduled posts, there’s nothing wrong with experimentation. You can get started using Buffer for free and load up a few updates and see how it goes. If you care about having a stronger presence on a few social networks, smart scheduling can be a key to making the most of your limited time.
- Astute readers might note that the @Photowebo Twitter account is fully automated in a way that I just said was a bad practice. But keep in mind: Photowebo is a not a photographer looking to build a photography services brand. Instead, that account is merely a feed of helpful articles and links. My personal Twitter account (@ahockley), and where I build photography interactions, is a mixture of “live” and scheduled posts as I recommend in this article. ↩