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How to Auto-Schedule Tweets in Hootsuite From a CSV File

This post is part of a series called Working With CSV Data Files.
How To Clean Up Keyword Research Data in a CSV File

As service providers and online business owners, we are often expected to maintain the social media profiles of our clients, as well as use social media accounts to promote our own work.

You can offer social media management as a service to prospective clients, but potential clients will often want to see how you manage your own social media before deciding to work with you.

If you are managing social media for a client, the actual networks you use may vary (Pinterest, Facebook, Linkedn, Vine, Instagram...), depending on the audience you are appealing to, and the brand identity of your client. But one social media network all clients will undoubtedly have in common is Twitter.

Hootsuite has risen fast to become the defacto tool for anyone building and engaging with an audience on Twitter. While not the prettiest interface, it is often the most practical, providing you with easy-to-review streams that you can use to coordinate your Twitter messaging. At any given time, you can have a dashboard open showing what Twitter messages are being sent amongst your community of followers, who has mentioned you (or your client) in a tweet, and streams dedicated to key hashtag terms in your field.

Social media management can be a demanding and time-consuming business service to provide for your clients and needs to be strictly time managed.

Scheduling tweets in advance is a key strategy that you can use to maintain productivity in your daily work. If you are tweeting on behalf of a client, scheduling tweets also allows you to offer an accountability loop so that clients can sign off on your communication strategy in advance.

This tutorial helps you provide a tweet scheduling service to your clients and includes tips on best practices for managing social media. Learn how to schedule tweets using Hootsuite Pro’s bulk scheduling feature. This service is a big time saver.

Tutorial Assets

To complete this tutorial, you will need:

1. Planning Your Tweets

Step 1. Create a Spreadsheet

Upload our weekly scheduling template into Google Drive or create a new spreadsheet in Google Drive with the following column headings:

  • date
  • message
  • URL
  • goal

Step 2. Format Heading Row

Select the first row, where you have given column headings. Apply View > Freeze rows > Freeze 1 row.

Step 3. Format Date Column

Now select column 1 (Date), selecting rows 2 to about 100, or however many tweets you are planning to schedule.

Select the 123 button to set a format, and choose the format option 9/26/2008 15:59:00. This format is styles all dates, so they will be read as mm/dd/yyyy followed by a space, and then the time in twenty-four hour time, in the format hh:mm:ss.

2. Schedule and Maintain Your Tweets

While Hootsuite Pro allows you to schedule up to 350 tweets, it is recommended to start with around 80 or 100 tweets scheduled in advance until you are comfortable with this process and are sure that you are adding value to your Twitter community with your message shares.

In Hootsuite Pro, each tweet message must be unique so you cannot copy and paste messages to be sent out repeatedly at different times of the day.

When starting to schedule tweets in bulk, think about the sort of messages you want to send to your Twitter audience. There are some basic types to consider:

  • Content promotion: These are tweets that alert your followers to blog posts and other content that you think they will find useful. You can also use hashtags with these promotions to extend the potential reach of your tweets to people beyond your community of followers.

    Industry hashtags may be followed by people who have not yet heard of you, so using hashtags may bring a new audience to your Twitter account.

  • Offers and special deals: From time to time, you may want to provide discounts and special offers via Twitter, or alert your followers to regularly scheduled special deals. For example, some ecommerce websites always have a discount offer at the start or end of the week, so you can remind your audience to check out your site when these discounts are active.

    Try not to be too heavy-handed with using special offers via Twitter... unless you are tweeting for a discount coupon site, of course!

  • Conversation starters: You can also use Twitter to spark conversations with your audience. If you are scheduling tweets in advance aimed at encouraging comments and feedback, make sure you keep a record of these so that you can organize to be online at the times these are scheduled so that you can keep up the conversation if anyone responds.

    You might ask simple questions about your brand, their favorite product, what feature or service they would like to see you offer next, or when and why they last used your product.

  • Thought leadership: These type of tweets often share external links to key articles or interesting news in your industry field. Where possible, try and include the Twitter account name of the author or influencer that you are linking to when you write these sorts of tweets.

Step 1. Decide on the Mix of Tweets to Send

Consider what balance you want to give to these types of tweets: a good rule of thumb is 40/10/20/30, which is:

  • 40% content promotion
  • 10 % special deals (unless that is your core business, such as being a discount coupon site)
  • 20% conversation starters
  • 30% thought leadership links

Step 2. Draft Each Tweet

Now work your way down the spreadsheet, filling out each row as you go.

If your business is location-based, you will want to tweet mostly between about 8 am and 10 pm each day. Start with setting 5 or 6 tweet times across the day at various intervals. It may be worth keeping up the tweeting on weekends. People tend to click-through to links more often on the weekend when they have more free time.

If your business is online and your audience is global, you can schedule tweets around the clock.

To complete each row of the spreadsheet:

  • Indicate the date and time. All times should have minutes in intervals of five or ten and all seconds should be indicated as zero zero. For example: 09/14/2013 14:30:00. Hootsuite Pro ignores the seconds when it schedules the tweets, but it is best not to confuse the issue with random numbers here. Also, Hootsuite only allows one message to be sent every five minutes when scheduling in bulk.
  • Draft a message that resonates with the brand personality of the company you are tweeting for.
  • Add the URL, but note that it will be shortened by Hootsuite Pro when it is scheduled.
  • Add an explanation for your client about the purpose/goal of this communication. You may choose to write something like promote, deal, converse, or reputation, which indicates each the types of tweets discussed above. Alternatively, you may have more data-driven goals, such as: increase hits to blog post, sell five discount deals, get an industry influencer to retweet or follow you, etc.

You may also wish to add columns to your spreadsheet to record the Hootsuite URL shortened link, and a column to allow analytics to be tracked. In this way, you can use this spreadsheet as a reporting or analysis tool after tweets have been published.

Step 3. Duplicate Tweets and Rewrite

While you cannot repeat exactly the same message every time, you can repeat the URL and overall point of the tweet more than once. Twitter users have a higher tolerance for repeat messages than on, say, email.

After you have scheduled ten or so tweets, you can duplicate them and make minor rewrite changes so that each message is considered unique.

People may only check their Twitter account once or twice during a day so they may not have noticed you tweeting a blog link earlier in the day. So while it is acceptable to repeat the same idea more than once, it looks more professional if you can avoid duplicating the exact same tweet, as that does look a bit spammy.

After you have scheduled ten or so tweets, you can duplicate them and make minor rewrite changes so that each message is considered unique. For example, you could change the hashtag you use to promote a blog post. Or you could use a quote from the blog post as the message in one tweet, and the blog post title in another.

Step 4. Get Sign-off From Your Client

Once you have listed all the scheduled tweets to be sent out over a given time period (for example, a week), you can show this to your client and confirm authorization to tweet on their behalf.

Using a bulk scheduling service like this is a great way to create a standard workflow process for managing social media with your client’s approval.

Step 5. Prepare a CSV Version of Your Scheduling Spreadsheet

Click on the plus button in the bottom left hand corner to add Sheet2 to your spreadsheet. Now copy columns 1 to 3 of your spreadsheet and paste to worksheet 2.

Highlight the headings row and delete it by selecting Edit > Delete Row 1.

Select File > Download as > Comma Separated Values (csv, current sheet).

Step 6. Upload the CSV file to Hootsuite Pro

In Hootsuite Pro, select Publisher (the paper airplane icon) from the left hand menu.

Click on the button Schedule in bulk.

Select the file saved in step 5 above and, if you have multiple social media accounts in Hootsuite, select the relevant account. Leave data format as mm/dd/yyyy and click on the Submit button.

Hootsuite Pro will confirm the number of tweets that have scheduled and will display the results in the Publisher window.

Step 7. Monitor Daily

While the bulk scheduler is a great tool to help you save time, it is not a set-and-forget strategy. At least twice a day, check your Twitter feed for feedback and discussion based on your scheduled tweets.

If you have scheduled tweet messages that encourage feedback or response, make sure you are available to monitor reactions at those times.

Ideally, set aside time just before lunch and at the end of the day to monitor your tweets. This way, you will be less inclined to let your social media management work creep into times when you could be more productive.

Make sure you have at least a cursory scan of the major news headlines each day. More than one brand has had its reputation affected because ill-timed tweets appeared to be related to distressing news of the day.

If you have scheduled tweet messages that encourage feedback or response, make sure you are available to monitor reactions at those times. For other tweet discussions, try to respond as soon as possible. For example, if someone has retweeted one of your blog promo tweets, make sure you say thanks. If someone has asked a particular question, make sure to respond publicly and provide more details via DM if necessary. This helps build up your reputation as being a responsive and customer-focused business.

3. Analyze and Repeat

At least once a month, have a look at your website analytics to see how many referrals are coming from your social media.

You can also look over which tweet message types invoked more retweets or review the responses you received to your conversation starters. Try and replicate what works by writing in a similar tone, using the same hashtag, or posting at the same time of day. If you regularly analyze what is working from your tweet schedule and make one or two changes each month, you will quickly find that you are building a more effective engagement strategy over your Twitter presence.

Managing social media on behalf of a client is an often-expected part of the promotional side of preparing freelance content, but savvy microbusiness managers can also offer this as service in its’ own right. While a Hootsuite Pro subscription costs about $10 a month, you can add this as part of your service fee so that your client covers the associated costs with delivering the service.

Scheduling tweets is not a completely hands-off activity. You must still take responsibility for monitoring conversations via Twitter and for keeping up with what industry influencers are saying, but you can make better use of your time and be more productive throughout the day by managing your social media with the Hootsuite Pro scheduling tool.

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