How to automate social media shares with Hootsuite

Step by step guides show how to use automation tools to post to social networks

Hootsuite is a popular choice for automating social media activities and it offers a free account that is useful for people wanting to try the service and for anyone on a budget. Let’s see how it works.

What does Hootsuite do?

Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) is a web-based service that enables you to automate the posting of updates to a wide range of popular social media services. These include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • WordPress
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

Instead of visiting each of these services one after the other in a web browser or mobile phone app in order to post an update, you can log in to the Hootsuite website and post to all your accounts in one place.

Instead of creating separate posts for each of the social media services, which is a lot of time and effort, Hootsuite enables you create one post and share it across multiple social accounts in one go.

You just create a post, select which services you want to share it on, and then one click posts to them all. Not only can you post immediately with it, you can schedule posts to appear automatically at a specific time and date. Hootsuite can even choose the best time to post.

This service is a great time saver that cuts down on the amount of work involved in sharing posts to these popular social media services.

Some automation services are just for posting updates, but Hootsuite goes further and lets you view your social accounts feeds. For example, you can see your Twitter or LinkedIn feed, messages received, or even the search results for keywords you want to monitor.

How much does Hootsuite cost?

There is a free account that allows three social media accounts to be connected. Up to 10 items can be scheduled and there is basic analytics.

These limitations are designed to push you towards paid accounts of course, but if you are just starting out with your blog or website and don’t want to commit to a monthly payment yet, start out with the free plan.

Four paid plans are available and these enable you to add more social accounts and schedule more posts. The Professional plan, which allows 10 social accounts, is good value at $7.99 a month.

 

1 Sign up to Hootsuite

Hootsuite offers free and paid accounts and you can start off with a free one and upgrade as and when you need more features.

Go to the Hootsuite website (hootsuite.com), click Free on the Plans menu, Click Get Started-Free and sign up. All it asks for is your name, your email address and a password for your Hootsuite account.

Get a free account at the Hootsuite website

 

2 Add a social media account

You are immediately prompted to add a social media account. You don’t need to do this right now and you can proceed to the dashboard, but there isn’t much you can do or see until you have added at least one social account.

Add a social media account at the Hootsuite website

Click the Twitter button and you are asked to authorise Hootsuite to access your Twitter account. This does not give it full control, it just allows it to read your Twitter feed and post to it.

Authorise Hootsuite to access your social media account

Next you will be asked if you want to publish content, monitor your networks, or explore on your own. Click I want to explore on my own, which takes you to the Hootsuite dashboard.

Publish content or monitor your network at Hootsuite

Social media accounts can be added at any time. Click your account image at the top of the sidebar on the left and then click + Add Social Network.

Add social networks to Hootsuite

A list of social networks is displayed and you can select one and connect to it.

Add a social network to Hootsuite

 

3 Create an update with Hootsuite

Now that Hootsuite is set up and you have connected to one or more social media accounts (3 with the free plan), you can post an update to them.

Click Publisher in the sidebar

Create a post to share in Hootsuite

Let the mouse over over the box in the top left corner and a panel opens with social media accounts on the left and a box on the right in which to post an update.

Create a post to share in Hootsuite

  1. Select one or more social accounts you want to post to. Pin social accounts that you always want to post to and they are automatically selected.
  2. Each social network has a maximum size for a post and the number of characters remaining is shown here. Twitter only allows 140 characters, so if it is one of the services you want to post to, make sure the word count is below the limit.
  3. Long URLs look ugly and take up a lot of space, which is very limited with Twitter posts anyway. Type or paste a URL into this box and shorten it.
  4. Click the Save button to save a draft. You probably won’t need this, but it is there if you do.
  5. Attach media by clicking the paperclip icon. An example would be an image and one can be uploaded from the computer.
  6. Schedule a post to go live later – see the next section for
  7. Type in the post as you normally would. Keep an eye on the characters remaining at the bottom. Watch out for Twitter and its 140 character limit!
  8. Schedule it to be posted later by clicking the the AutoSchedule button. If this button says Send Now, see the next section.

4 Schedule posts for later

Scheduling is one of the most useful features of Hootsuite and you can schedule posts to occur on any day and at any time in the future.

It enables you to spend an hour or two creating Tweets and posts, and to schedule them to go out at regular intervals throughout the week.

Some people spend Sunday or Monday creating posts for the week ahead. There is then no need to worry about it and they just happen.

At the bottom of the Compose window is a row of icons. Click the Schedule icon to expand the section below.

Schedule a post in Hootsuite

The Schedule button is a bit confusing because it can be Off (black icon) and the only option is to click the Send Now button.

When the Schedule button is blue, AutoSchedule can be on or off. If AutoSchedule is Off you can select a date and time for the post to go live. The Send Now button then becomes Schedule.

If the Schedule button is On (blue) and AutoSchedule is also On, the schedule is automatic. The first time you do this, click the gear icon next to the AutoSchedule On/Off switch to access the settings.

AutoSchedule saves you having to set the date and time for every post and it saves time and effort. You create a post, click AutoSchedule and leave it to Hootsuite to work out when to post it.

Set a posting schedule in Hootsuite

Choose which days you want to post. Here every day is selected.

Choose how many messages a day to schedule and also the time of the day, which can be a range like 2PM to 4PM as shown here.

5 See scheduled posts

The idea with Hootsuite is that you schedule all your posts in one go and they are queued (you might find you can only queue 10 on the free plan).

If you want to see what posts are in the queue and when they will go live, click Publisher in the sidebar and then select Scheduled.

Scheduled posts in Hootsuite

In the top right corner are Day, Week and Month calendar views. List View is the best and you can see a list of posts, the content, the date and the time they go live.

More features

There is more to Hootsuite, such as Streams, which basically show a social media feed, like your Twitter feed, keyword searches and so on. They are very useful, but they are also a different topic. Here we are just looking at scheduling social media posts.

Action points

  • Sign up for a free plan at Hootsuite
  • Connect with one or more social media accounts
  • Post an update to one of more social accounts
  • Configure AutoSchedule to automatically post updates
  • View your scheduled posts

 

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