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Social media scheduling - when to draw the line

Like many other authors, I have to fit my writing around a full-time job. Being a self-published author, I also have to find time for the business side of making books and selling them.

It’s a very delicate balance – I’m keenly aware that my time is best spent being invested in creating words. More books = more sales. However, I also know that I need to build my author platform and nurture valuable relationships with my readers. This means harnessing the power of social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, etc. etc.

While I try to focus largely on Twitter and Facebook, and allow my other channels to tick away in the background, these two alone still take a lot of time. Twitter, in particular, requires frequent meaningful interactions, and I was finding that I was spending most of my evenings and mornings before work trying to get in as much Tweeting as possible. Which is why I purchased Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors by Ian Sutherland.

At first, it seemed like the answer to all my prayers. I’d encountered services like Hootstuite and Buffer before, but I had no idea there were third-party applications that could tell you who to follow in order to get maximum exposure, suggest the best hashtags to use, automatically retweet, tweet from RSS feeds… basically, make you look like you’re on Twitter 24/7 when in fact you set the wheels in motion weeks ago and then forgot about it.

So, I read the book. Signed up for the suggested services. Followed the steps. Set up my automation and felt rather pleased with myself.

Two days later… I have cancelled all of it.

Before I explain why, I’ll add a caveat here and say that, for some, I’m sure this works wonders. The author himself is proof that the techniques suggested can build you a massive following relatively quickly.

However, for me, it just didn’t feel right. And here’s why:

  • I write Young Adult fiction and children’s books, so I was paranoid that I’d end up inadvertently retweeting or posting something inappropriate. This meant I kept checking the update feeds and removing things – entirely counterproductive when you’re trying to save time.

  • Part of the point of Twitter is its immediacy – putting out thoughts when they occur and are relevant, responding to other people, etc. So, prescheduling ‘spontaneous’ tweets made me feel very uncomfortable. The author does make the point in the introduction that his book is not for Twitter ‘purists’ and, while I don’t consider myself one of those exactly, I certainly couldn’t get my head around the seeming lack of control over what I was posting.

  • I understand the logic of repetition – getting your tweets seen by different people at different times of the day, appearing useful, etc. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt like it would be horribly obvious that I was rehashing old content, despite using ‘spinning’ text to make it seem like the post was slightly different every time.

  • It took away the joy! Automating everything made me feel utterly removed from the community I was trying to forge relationships with. I genuinely hope to build bonds with readers and fellow writers and, while you can check in occasionally and respond to any retweets or comments, automating everything means you miss out on so many conversations and nuggets of information.

I set up my automation on Sunday. By Tuesday morning, I had turned it all off.

However, what I will say is that those two days taught me the benefit of limiting social media time so that it doesn’t monopolise everything or distract too much from my writing time. It also reminded me that I have a pretty decent archive of blog posts that I should be sharing with people, instead of letting them languish in cyberspace.

With this in mind, my new goal is to spend 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes on my lunch break, and 10 minutes in the evening tweeting relevant content, interacting, and updating. I’ll also use Buffer and Hootsuite, but only when I feel they’re appropriate! For example, if I know I want to let everyone know about a giveaway I’m doing in July, I can schedule that when I have a spare five minutes rather than having to do it ‘live’ on the day. If I find an interesting article, I can Buffer it and it’ll be shared later on.

This strategy might not get me thousands of followers overnight, but at least I’ll feel like the ones I gain are genuine.

What do you think about scheduling? Have you had more success than me? Tweet me @CaraThurlbourn and let me know!

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