My Favorite Social Media Schedule Hack
A Guest Post by H. L. Burke
Maintaining an active social media presence can be time consuming, overwhelming, and frustrating for authors. Sometimes it might seem like we have to spend so much time coming up with free content for our various channels that we can’t work on the for profit writing that we are trying to market by having social media.
For me it seemed like I was forever swinging between two extremes:
1. Doing everything in real time, as I thought about it, and either over posting (ie filling my feed with post after post in a short time span as I felt inspired and chatty or found a lot of things to take photos or) or under posting (coming up with one or two half-hearted posts a week or forgetting about it altogether).
2. Planning months in advance by sitting down for an hour on the weekend and scheduling post after post until they all started to run together … which would work until I’d burn out, but I’d find I’d get maybe a couple weeks ahead doing this and sometimes the content would suffer, starting to feel as mass produced as it admittedly was.
So after literally years of swinging between the two extremes, I’ve recently stumbled across a posting schedule that combines the stress relief of planning ahead and the lighter, more in-the-moment task of doing them as the mood hits me rather than forcing myself to just fit a schedule. After only about a week of implementing this process, I’m scheduled about a month and a half ahead with content I feel my followers will enjoy that also points back to my brand.
NOTE: This system works best for image driven systems like Facebook, Instagram, and to a lesser extend Twitter. It is not great for text heavy options like a blog or newsletter or for video content platforms like TikTok and Youtube (though you might be able to adapt it. I simply haven’t mastered those yet).
Step One: Learn how to find opportunities to “content prep.”
When dealing with photo content, one well-timed afternoon can often net a large amount of usable images.
My personal gimmick is taking pictures with Theodore The Dragon, a plastic dragon who goes on many adventures, but you can adjust this for your branding. Finding a content theme that has enough variation to be sustainable long term but also is consistent enough to recognize is a trick in and of itself, but it can be pictures of books, tea cups, animals, plants, historical items, etc.
Taking Theodore on a one hour hike could easily yield 20-30 picture images. Taking him to a book store, a craft fair, a museum, a zoo, or even my local library might be even more productive depending on how much of that outing I want to spend taking pictures. If you’re just getting started on this route, I would suggest trying to launch with a cache of thirty photos that fit your brand that way you can aim towards getting a month ahead, then add to that collection as the opportunity arises.
Honestly, having Theodore as my centerpiece makes the picture taking part of this process have to be more intentional than it might otherwise, as I have to remember to cart Theodore along on whatever outing I have planned and if I don’t have him handy when I see a picture to take, he’s just not there. I do sometimes include non-Theodore focused content, though, just to mix it up. If your theme is more flexible, you could easily just go to a bookstore and take pictures of the books or an antique store and take pictures of objects that might fit into your story (If you have an author logo or watermark to add to your photos, that can definitely tie things together even if there isn’t a consistent object in the images).
If you aren’t an “out and about” sort of person or want to be able to prep from inside but are running out of things to photograph around your house, digitally created content like memes can work. Just be careful about ownership (and also people generally don’t follow feeds that just post stuff they’ve seen before, so try to get some original content as well as just your best memes). You could also use free stock photos (again, be sure they aren’t stolen) then tweak them to have book quotes on them. You can share cover reveals for other writers from your genre (who will generally be appreciative of the boost). You can meme your cat.
Step Two: Prep your images.
I use Canva to crop the images to Instagram’s preferred dimensions as they are the only platform of the three that seems to be super picky about this. If you want to add in an extra step to maximize, you could make a separate image graphic for each platform to optimize the posts, but this feels a little unnecessary to me.
This step might also involve a small amount of photo fixing (filtering, cropping, adding in my author logo as a watermark), and I give the images file names that will potentially show up in searches or help me sort them during the next step.
You can do this step simultaneously to scheduling or prep a few ahead in batches and save them to a file in your computer. Whatever system works for you.
Step Three: Use schedulers.
At the time I am writing this, all of the social media I am focusing on for this post has scheduling options. Twitter recently added on its own “in site” scheduler (before you could still do it doing Tweetdeck), and Facebook and Instagram are tied together through Facebook’s “Publishing Tool.” When I’m ready to do some posting, I’ll pull up Tweetdeck (which I’m still using out of habit even though Twitter now allows scheduling) in one browser tab and the Publishing Tool in another then upload simultaneously, copy-pasting some of the text.
I normally will do Twitter first due to the shorter character limit (and the fact that that site doesn’t do as well with multiple hashtags, so I try to stop at two) then copy paste into publisher, where I will add in a few more hashtags.
If there is a link involved, I will sometimes make a separate post for Facebook and Instagram because Instagram is not link friendly.
Step Four: Set a goal to make 3 posts at a time, a few times a week.
My best suggestion would to do this for several days in a row until you have a comfortable margin in your schedule. The further ahead you get, the less of an issue taking breaks will be.
Unlike trying to do a full month in an afternoon, you’re far less likely to lose inspiration trying to come up with three posts, especially if you’ve already prepped appropriate images. In fact, I’ll often get started and find I do well more than three in a sitting just because everything is ready to go and I’ve gotten in a groove. I mainly suggest the three post because it feels manageable (and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes), but for every day you do it, you end up two days ahead. So day one, you’re two days ahead. Two days in a row, you’re four days ahead. Three days, six. Four days, you’ve passed a week. Just by maintaining this schedule you’ll soon have a healthy store of ready to go social media posts so that if you need or want to take a break, you can.
Once you’ve established this buffer, maintain as you feel you are able to. Maybe once you have a week’s worth, you want to go to posting one at a time … or only sitting down to do this twice a week.
You can fit it to your schedule and tolerance level.
Step Five: Leave room for spontaneity.
Some posts are just better in the moment. For instance, if you are out and about and see something related to a holiday or event that is going on RIGHT NOW, you might want to share it while it’s hot. Maybe you want something with some interactive immediacy. That’s great. In fact, I feel like it’s even better if you have your scheduled/planned posts seasoned with an occasional burst of timely inspiration.
Post ideas for the social media challenged:
I’m a big believer that what you’re posting should in some way tie back to what you’re writing. This comes down to branding. You need to know if you’re selling epic, funny, clever, cute, etc.
So what you’ll want to post depends totally on what you want to say about who you are and what you write.
That said, here are some image based content generation ideas that you might be able to jump off of:
- 1. Food and drink. (Always popular.)
- 2. Nature and gardening.
- 3. Animals (pets are good).
- 4. Video game screen grabs.
- 5. Historical (public domain) images related to the era your work is set in/inspired by.
- 6. Quotes from your work on an appealing background (but still legible).
- 7. Figurines, toys, collectibles that relate to your brand in some way.
- 8. Crafts and artwork (if you create, you can share).
- 9. Other authors’ books (helps them, helps you).
- 10. Books, books, books (ones you are reading. Ones you want to read. Ones that just look cool.)
So that’s my social media content hack.
Do you have any tricks for social media content creation?
What are your favorite things to share?