How many social media channels have you signed up with? Do you keep them up to date and relevant to your industry? Or have you found that you simply do not have the time to keep them active?

Maintaining social media channels can be incredibly time-consuming, if not downright exhausting, especially for a small business. From sourcing, creating and posting content to full channel management, social media requires time and effort. But what if there was a way to make it functional? Social media automation can do just that. Let’s break it down.

Social automation cuts time and saves stress

Social media automation tools enable businesses to promote and expand their online presence within a short period of time at little or no expense at all to the business.

By integrating social media automation tools, it enables you to keep channels relevant and active without significant extra cost to your business. They offer everything from content curation tools to optimised scheduling recommendations. This in turn ensures businesses can manage multiple channels easily and effectively.

Which social automation tool is best for your small business?

Finding the best social automation tool is like finding the right pair of shoes: they need to be a good fit for the occasion, ideally long-lasting and easy to break in. Below are some examples of social automation tools:

Buffer

A social media posting platform that lets you post across three channels for free. From LinkedIn and Twitter to Facebook, you can schedule up to ten posts at customised or recommended times, seven days a week. And for just £10 per month you can post up to 100 posts across ten channels.

It also has an applet that can be installed into your web browser giving you the facility to capture those little gems of an article and slot into your schedule queue with just one click of a button.

From post management to content scheduling, Buffer also enables customers to track posts and reschedule top posts quickly and effectively – a time-saver for any business.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is easily one of the most popular social automation tools on the market today, used by a range of businesses, from solopreneur startups to huge corporations.

For tiny businesses, it offers a free option that covers three social profiles and 30 scheduled posts. This is handy for solopreneurs or those wishing to trial it before buying.

Small businesses can take advantage of Hootsuite’s paid plans, particularly the Professional and Team options. These offer greater scope for social scheduling, as well as providing useful custom analytics reports and a limited ad spend to boost desired posts.

Hootsuite is very popular, and for good reason. But it’s always worth trying the free plan or trial option before committing.

BuzzSumo

Social media automation isn’t just about scheduling your posts in advance. It’s also about social listening, finding out what your customers are saying about you your brand and what they’re engaging with online.

BuzzSumo is a great tool to see what topics are currently trending across a plethora of channels and from only one click of the search bar.

Perfect for finding the popularity of the subject, Buzzsumo allows you to see how that subject has been posted, as well as identifying the key influencers that could help drive your product or service. It also gives you an idea of the type of content that performs best on that given topic.

A great post insight tool, but as ever, try the free option first before investing.

How to automate on each social platform

Understanding how each channel works for your business is important. From active videos to product promotion images, thought-leadership posts to event captures, each channel has its strengths and audience segments.

And as a small business, you might only be able to afford the free or cheaper social automation options available to you. As such, you might also be limited to how many social profiles you can automate.

To help you identify the social platforms that are worth using for your brand, you should always do your research. A good idea is to look at some of the top websites for sale online for inspiration. Start by scoping out stores in your industry niche that are performing well and checking out their social strategy. What platforms do they spend most of their ad budget on? What are the most popular social platforms used? This can help you weed out unnecessary social profiles, streamlining your social strategy.

To give you a general overview, here are some pointers on the nuance of each channel and how best to use them.

Facebook

Founded in 2003, Facebook has come some way from its Harvard College roots. With a daily active user base of 2.23 billion, Facebook generally provides a healthy cross-section into most consumer demographics.

In the UK, the best time of day to post on Facebook on a weekday is between 1 and 4pm. Clickthrough rates are said to be generally higher at this time of day, although the best time to post overall is between 12 and 1pm on the weekend.

Instagram

Since being taken over by Facebook in 2012, Instagram’s already significant popularity soared higher. The photo-sharing app is most popular with 18-29 year olds, although 30-49 year olds are a close second, with those aged 50-64 coming third.

Among those age groups, women are the most active users of the site. And naturally, the best kind of content to share to Instagram’s 191 million daily active users is high-quality and authentic photos. Flatlays are a particularly effective visual format that Instagram users love.

Twitter

Despite reporting a decrease in users earlier this year, Twitter is still a heavy hitter in the social media world (especially with a certain head of state). Its users are fairly even split in gender, although its predominant age group is those aged between 18 and 29.

Twitter recently increased its tweet character limit from 140 to 280, and on a platform commonly (but not exclusively) used to quickly reach out and connect with brands, the extra characters matter. The platform is great for customer service, and can provide valuable insight into your brand positioning through social listening.

The verdict

Social media channels do not need to be daunting or cause unnecessary stress to business owners. Instead of seeing them as a time-consuming task, try to picture them as a wide-reaching platform that provides limitless customer opportunities.

Create a list outlining your key objectives for the channel, what you need help with and what would take the most time to deliver. By having it on paper, the search is simplified, and the job becomes easier. Find the best fit for your business and you will feel like a social media automation tool expert!

Posted by:Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene works in eCommerce marketing, specialising in content. When she’s not keeping her list of clients happy, she’s sharing her branding tips with online readers. She’s a big advocate of storytelling, and loves helping brands find theirs.