A Virtual Assistant’s Guide to Automating Social Media Content

As virtual assistants, the expectation is that we’re always online to serve our clients’ business needs. But that’s neither productive nor healthy.

And when our business model depends on it, there are few things we can do to disconnect that won’t affect the services we offer. Always be marketing, they say.

But how can we take a break when the world of online business never stops? The answer is: automating social media. Brea Horton is joining us today to share super insightful tips on how to batch-schedule social media content.

Take it away, Brea!

With the hot weather still in full swing, chances are there are still visions of sandy beaches, sunshine basking and ice-cold beverages dancing in your head, right? Or maybe you’re already devoting a lot of your time to the back-to-school routine.

As a virtual assistant, online business owner and all around busy bee, there’s just too much going on to be able to drop everything and mentally check-out for a few days.

Especially when you have to be present DAILY on social media.

And if you’re offering social media management services, you have to make sure your clients maintain their presence, too.

We all know how important it is to show up online and produce engaging and relative content, but does that mean we will never be able to vacation or take time off again?

Nope. Not the case. And that’s in part due to a nifty little thing called automation!

First and foremost, what does it mean to automate social media content?

Automating your social media content means that you are batching your social media posts and then scheduling them to be posted automatically at a future time of your choosing. You can batch and schedule out your content for nearly ANY platform, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.

You’ll create your content as you normally would, but you will create enough content to cover the whole time you’ll be on vacation. (Or watching Netflix, or going on a day trip, or getting your kids ready for a new school year.) Then you’ll use the tools we will cover in this guide to schedule each post to go out at the day and time you choose.

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Here’s how to automate your social media content in two easy steps:

Step 1: Create that content!

As mentioned above, the first key of automating your social media content is all about batching your work.

Depending on how far out you’ll be scheduling posts for, this could take you an hour, or it could take you three hours. You’ll want to have all your posts written out, all your images ready to go, and any links or quotes or photos ready to be published.

You can do this step within schedulers such as Hootsuite, PostPlanner, or any number of other scheduling platforms out there.

HootSuite has a free version and can schedule content for Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Facebook and even WordPress, so it’s a great tool that covers your needs across most platforms.

They are one of the handful of schedulers at the moment where you can schedule and directly publish to Instagram. Some other advantages I like about HootSuite is the ability to schedule content to multiple platforms at the same time, as well as being able to see all your scheduled content in a calendar format.

PostPlanner is another scheduler I like. It gives you the ability to easily recycle your evergreen content – so you can maintain your best content and posts to repost in the future.

Like with HootSuite, you can post content to multiple platforms at the same time and easily get a visual of your scheduled content with their Calendar view.

However, you are limited to Facebook, Twitter and and LinkedIn with PostPlanner- so that’s something to keep in mind.

Tip! I don’t recommend using schedulers to schedule Facebook content. Facebook’s algorithm may actually hurt your reach when your content is being posted by a third-party platform.

That’s why you should consider scheduling directly within Facebook’s publishing tool. You can find this option by going to your Facebook business page, click on “Publishing Tools”, then “Scheduled Posts” and clicking on the “+Create” button at the top (As seen in the images below).

Virtual Assistant Automate Social Media 1Facebook scheduling (Step 1)

Facebook scheduling (Step 2)

Facebook scheduling (Step 3)

Step 2: Scheduling out your content

Now that you have all your content prepared and ready to go, the next step is to actually schedule all of it to be published!

To schedule out your content, you want to follow your typical social media strategy. For example, maybe you post once a day on Facebook, four times a day on Twitter, once a day on Instagram and every other day on LinkedIn. You’ll follow the same tactic when you schedule your content out ahead of time.

As I mentioned before, the cool thing about HootSuite is that it’s one of the few scheduling platforms that can automatically post to Instagram now without you getting a push notification and having to open the app and post it when the time it’s scheduled comes up.

This means that now you can schedule all your Instagram content to post directly to your Instagram without having to do a thing after it’s scheduled!

Here’s a few of my favorite tips for automating and scheduling your content:

1. It’s okay to recycle!

It’s not just for Mother Earth, guys!

Recycling your best content is a great way to repurpose content and posts that have previously performed well for you in the past. Not only that, but it gets your best content in front of new eyes, because most of the platforms have algorithms that prevent people from seeing EVERYTHING that you post, so this is a great way to get new eyes on your previous content!

Many schedulers even have a “recycling” tool to make it even easier to reschedule your evergreen posts.

2. Don’t forget your hashtags!

Hashtags are crucial because they allow your content to be seen by people outside of your current followers.

By using hashtags, your content can be found by someone in a few different ways, including clicking on that same hashtag on a different post by someone else, and therefore coming across your post using that same hashtag.

Virtual Assistant Automating Social Media --Instagram allows people to follow hashtags, and therefore popular posts using that hashtag show up in their personal feeds.

If one of the hashtags you use in a post is the same that someone follows, they can potentially see your content on their feed without being one of your current followers.

Finally, if you use hashtags and your post is popular enough, you can land in the Top 9 or the Discovery Page for one or more of the hashtags that you used. This should be your top goal for each of your Instagram posts, as it’s the best way for new people to find your content and become a new followers of your account.

If you usually post your hashtags as the first comment for your Instagram posts, you’ll need to forgo that tactic when you schedule your posts (Most tools don’t give you the option to schedule the first comment on Instagram).

But if you worry about your Instagram post looking too cluttered with your caption AND your hashtags, here’s a little tip:

Add whitespace between your caption and your hashtags by using periods to give you that whitespace (3-4 lines in between is just fine). Then go ahead and put in the hashtags you want to use for that post, and you won’t have a caption that looks messy or cluttered!

3. Make batching and automation a habit.

This doesn’t just need to be something you do when you’re prepping for a summer vacation or for busy holidays!

I batch my content and schedule all my posts ahead of time for my own social media platforms as well as my for clients’ platforms. I’m usually working two weeks in advance, and sometimes even a month ahead of time.

This saves me a TON of time and I usually have a couple hours scheduled out each week to do this task. Just make sure you have a plan before you sit down and try to schedule out your posts.

Take the time you need to know what content you will be posting, what graphics/images you need to create and what types of content you’ll need to put together (Finding relevant articles to link to, looking up fun or interesting statistics and quotes, etc).

Trust me, it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t sit down with a plan already in mind.

Social media is your ally, not your enemy

The biggest takeaway from this post that I hope you get is the realization that you CAN step away from social media and your online presence WITHOUT your business suffering.

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You just have to take the right steps and plan it out ahead of time, and your audience won’t even realize that you’ve been sipping a pina colada on a sunny beach with no cell service for the past four days!

Not only does automation help you step back and take advantage of offline adventures you’ve been planning in your mind, but it can also provide you with the extra time in your days all year around.

It’s one of the MOST beneficial parts of my weekly routine and by taking a couple hours a week to schedule my content out ahead of time, I get more flexibility and freedom in my days to not have to worry about showing up online every single day!

Do you have any best-practice tips for automating social media?

Brea is an alum of both the 30 Days to VA Success and the Pinterest VA courses. She runs her own digital marketing agency and focuses on helping brands discover their highest potential through social media marketing. When she isn’t working or scrolling through Facebook, you can often find her snuggling with her two Saint Bernards and her kitten, while listening to whatever podcast or audiobook has caught her attention that week.

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