Schedule Bulk Messages With Hootsuite

by Molly Greene, @mollygreene

hootsuite

Over the years, I’ve used several different WordPress plugins to auto-tweet my blog’s past posts, eventually discarding each because the developer stopped updating the software. The most recent was Evergreen Post Retweeter, which I disabled the minute a Good Samaritan tweeted me that my entire repertoire of old posts had been sent into my twitter stream all at once.

THAT probably irritated a lot of followers.

Its demise was timely, actually. The drawback about a plugin is that you can only tweet blog posts. I’d wanted to do more for a while. I need something – this time – that would let me (effortlessly?) post a few well-placed messages about my books and reviews and such, while focusing on published blog posts that remain most relevant, popular, and helpful. And, while it is possible to fine-tune website plugins, it seemed easier to collect the URLs in one place, then put them on auto-pilot.

Enter Hootsuite

I’ve been using Hootsuite free for years, so I immediately considered upgrading to paid. Hootsuite allows for bulk scheduling (meaning you can upload a prepared spreadsheet with dates, times, messages, and urls) on multiple social networks, but only with a paid subscription. They also offer a free 30-day trial for the paid version, even when you’ve been using the platform free for years.

The challenges

While it sounds great, I found that building a spreadsheet containing 4-times-a-day tweets was a BEAR. The entire process only took two hours of attempts and troubleshooting (arggghhhhh) before I eventually achieved success. Read the rest of this post so you won’t be me!!

The first challenge is that, (per Hootsuite), it’s best not to use Excel for the task. They say if you aren’t a pro-Excel user, the software can cause formatting issues that may fail your upload. Hootsuite suggests building spreadsheets in Google Sheets or a plain text editor like TextEdit or NotePad – (arggghhhhh again!). I tried Notepad first and Hootsuite wouldn’t accept my test uploads, so I moved on to Google Sheets.

Notes: In your spreadsheet, you are allowed to duplicate links, but you cannot use the exact same message more than once in the entire list. If you do, you’ll get an error message. This means you need to tweak verbiage slightly, including blog post titles. Also, be sure to save/download your file as a CSV.

How to build a spreadsheet in Google Sheets

Column ONE: The Date + “hh:mm” + The Time
Example 1: 11/15/2016 hh:mm 13:45
Example 2: 11/15/2016 hh:mm 09:45
NOTE: Must use 24-hour clock! Include ONE space each between the date, hh:mm, and the time, and keep your date format consistent.

Column TWO: The Message
Example: Join My Reader’s Club!
NOTE: If you’re building a “tweet” spreadsheet, adhere to the character limit.

Column THREE: The Link
Example: http://www.molly-greene.com/readers-club
NOTE: Hootsuite will auto-shorten URLs using Ow.ly.

Upload the spreadsheet

Now that your spreadsheet is populated, upload it! Here’s how:

  • Select “Publisher” from the launch menu.
  • Under “Content Sources,” click “Bulk Message Upload.”
  • Click “Choose File,” select your .csv file, then click “Open.”
  • Select the date format used in the .csv file.
  • Select the social network(s) to publish the messages, and then click “Submit.”

Need more help? Check out Hootsuite’s tutorial here.

Important takeaways!

Hootsuite has an account max of 350 total scheduled messages allowed across all your networks. Per Hootsuite, “if you’re bulk scheduling messages it’s probably best to have different spreadsheets with different times for different social networks, so keep that overall limit of 350 scheduled messages in mind.”

You cannot include images (although Twitter will often include the featured image from a blog or book link), cannot bulk schedule duplicate messages (see above), and I’m still grappling with where/how to add #hashtags in my tweets. Also, remember to keep your date format consistent and USE the twenty-four hour clock!

The good news

Once your spreadsheets are prepared for a month at a time (or so), all you’ll need to do is change the dates, add or delete certain time-sensitive messages and links, and re-upload the edited sheet. For $10 -$15 a month (monthly vs. annual payment), Hootsuite will take care of the rest. I plan to try out my free month and see what I think. Meanwhile, I’m checking out Feed140 – I’ll blog about that soon!

Readers, how about you? Do you use a plug-in or platform – or a VA – to automate your social media marketing? Please leave a comment and share!

If you haven’t already, check out my Amazon Author Page, friend me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe and you won’t miss a post. By the way, all original content by Molly Greene and guests is copyright protected. Mwah! Thank you so much.

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28 Responses to Schedule Bulk Messages With Hootsuite

  1. Barb November 14, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    I use Hootsuite and Feed140 for different activities – but would feel handicapped without both 🙂 I feel your pain about Hootsuite – my initial few months were full of swear words…

    • Molly Greene November 14, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

      Ha! So true re: the cursing. Although, as you told me at the time, Barb, the hardest work is now done. I’ll probably swear more once I take on Feed140. 🙂

      • Barb November 14, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

        True dat…

  2. Belinda Pollard November 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    Social media is a voracious little monster, isn’t it. I’ll be very interested to hear how your experiment goes, Molly. I really need to get back on top of my social media presence. At the moment, it’s terribly scattered.

  3. Lorilyn Roberts November 14, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    I use https://www.smqueue.com/

    Don’t care that much for Hootsuite.

    • Molly Greene November 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

      Oh goody, something new to learn! 🙂 Just kidding, we’ll check it out, thanks so much Lorilyn!

  4. Anne Hagan November 15, 2016 at 2:49 am #

    Personally, I don’t see the real value in scheduling Twitter posts as a fiction author only. My followers are primarily other authors with some readers in the mix of the 2400 or so. Scheduling tweets about my books and past blog posts about my books would be a waste of time. The tweet stream is chock full of those from every author under the sun and most of the tweets get ignored unless there’s an image or a great hashtag like #FreebieFriday. You blog about writing and the author’s journey so I can see where this would have value to you. Writers are interested in that and will read the tweets and click the links.

    The flip side of this is that I do schedule posts to my Facebook fan page 4-6 times per day, one at a time, using the Facebook interface. There’s got to be a better way. Has anyone found it yet?

    • Molly Greene November 15, 2016 at 9:59 am #

      Hi Anne! Yes, I mainly auto-tweet past blog posts with the occassional book sale link, not enough to be obnoxious, so I’m still a fan of prescheduling. Hootsuite won’t allow an image to be posted w/ a preschedlued FB message so it’s pretty useless in that category, but Barb Drozdovich told me about Feed140, I think we can automate FB posts there? I wish I could be more helpful … we can also check out Lorilyn’s suggestion, see above. MWAH to you!

    • Lorilyn Roberts November 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

      I have over 50,000 Twitter followers on two accounts, although I use the two accounts differently. One account I use to promote John 3:16 authors, and the other is my personal twitter account.

      While I fully agree with you twitter does not directly sell books, I think it’s another way to connect with readers, and for me personally, I tweet about A LOT of things, not just my books — politics, history, religion, family, dogs, cats, and lots of youtube videos that are informative.

      While I do promote my books on twitter, and I heavily use jpegs, rarely tweeting without a photo, I also heavily promote my blog posts. I use hashtags to extend my reach, and encourage authors in the network to retweet for each other. I know that without the influence of twitter, I would not get the hits to my blog posts that I get, and my books would not get as much exposure. But I share a lot of information, not just my books.

      You either love twitter or hate it, and I happen to love it, in contrast to Facebook, where I’m stuck paying for advertising to get any meaningful exposure. I recently paid about $10 to get one Facebook post seen by about 350 people, yet on twitter I get about 12,000 views on both accounts in a 24-hour period. Of course, these are different tweets, but still, you get what I’m saying.

      I think authors who don’t have the big pockets to pay for advertising are denying themselves a great way to reach a lot of people, and that’s through twitter.

      As long as you don’t make a nuisance of yourself, you really can use it to promote your blogposts and books, and I am one who does buy books from Amazon after seeing a compelling tweet.

      • Anne Hagan November 16, 2016 at 3:30 am #

        Much food for thought and I do appreciate the input. Can you tell us, how much do you interact on Twitter? Do you chat back and forth with others or mention people who retweet you or do you primarily post and move on?

        I ‘engage’ a lot on Facebook but from my personal account rather than my fan page. You’re right, you have to pay to play there and it’s expensive to do that well. These days I tend to think in terms of time sucks that pull me away from writing. Facebook is definitely that, even if you’re paying and moving on. Creating those ‘ads’ and monitoring them takes time too. Posting to Twitter is as simple as it is to post to Facebook but if you’re spending hours a day engaging with your followers there, is the return vs time lost writing worth it?

      • Molly Greene November 16, 2016 at 9:07 am #

        Thanks Anne and Lorilyn! I completely agree about tweeting the occasional book link, it’s a matter of discretion – after all, that IS the business we’re in. I have 37,000 twitter followers and I reply to every “personal” @mention in my notification feed, but depend on drip tweets now to keep links consistent for my blog and (occasional) book tweet. I also chat a bit and RT from my twitter lists while I’m live. FB is another story – and Anne, it’s a time suck for me, as well. I also use my personal page, hate begging for likes, so can not/do not talk much about my books there. This is where posting blog links comes in handy, though, bringing people to my blog will, hopefully, get their eyes on my books, as well. Great convo ladies, thanks so much!

        • Lorilyn Roberts November 16, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

          I don’t reply to most. But if I see something that catches my eye, I will. Like from the election , I did a lot of bantering back and forth.

          You can use Tweetdeck to quickly see what your mentions are. I also do closed captioning for television, and I don’t caption the commercials, so I have a lot of commercial wait time when I can’t really do anything so I tend to do any twitter stuff then, like picking up follows or seeing what’s in my twitter feed or what’s trending. So really, for me Twitter takes up no writing time. Just time that wold have been wasted time anyway. It’s what I call making use of time when I can’t do much else.

          I also will go through the feed and see what people are posting. I’ve found many people that way who I’ve become friends with because I’m selective in who I follow and block a lot of followers. I also get a lot of retweets as I am a pretty big retweeter myself. My books require a lot of research and when I read articles I like, I always retweet. I try to provide relevant, interesting information to people who follow me. It’s not work, it’s just when I find something interesting, I’ll share it.

          So no, I do not respond to al lot of those mentions There are too many, and many of them are just automatic. But if it’s personal and relevant and I see it, I’ll respond as a tweet. Someone recently sent me a message, Are you Married? No, I did not respond to that. You get the drift.

          • Molly Greene November 16, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

            Ha! I wouldn’t have replied to that, either 😉

  5. Caz Greenham November 15, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    Well, as soon as I see anything that’s automated, I ignore it. I do like and prefer the personal touch… I like to interact when a follower or non-follower comments within seconds of my tweet… and likewise, I ‘chat’ back. So, I won’t be automating anything.My blogs… I share manually…

    I just received an automated Twitter message… and these companies/apps always leave a Calling Card… so we can all see it’s automated. I hate that. And when I pointed that out to the tweeter, he immediately sent me a ‘hand-written’ message that we could chat about. And that’s how it suits me. Just saying.

    • Molly Greene November 15, 2016 at 10:02 am #

      Hi Caz! Thanks so much for your comment. When I first started on twitter in 2011 I spent lots of time live and it was great for building blog traffic and growing a following. But I’m rarely live now due to time constraints. Good for you for being so available, I know it works!

  6. Barb November 15, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    I agree with Caz – notifications come tagged.

  7. Caz Greenham November 16, 2016 at 5:39 am #

    Thanks Barb and Molly… I’ve heard so many authors say how they ignore and dislike automated tweets. I’m one of those. As for ‘selling books on twitter’ ~ well, that’s where most of my sales originate from. I’m approaching 10,000 followers which for me that’s pretty amazing, considering I was a later starter in writing; began in 2009 aged 59 back then. Just had my 67th birthday, and am delighted I’ve three published books. I have a publisher. Am considering taking the full-on self-publishing route in 2017. It’s something I want to try…no idea how to do it, yet! But will give it my best – another string to this ole bird’s bow.
    I like to think I follow the best…learn from the Masters. I was a secretary during my working life, and so, I’m thrilled at my achievements in the writing world. Primary schools buy my books for their School Library. A whopping (for me) 17 books on one occasion. I’m a perfection too, so I have a professional editor and proof-reader. Yeah! One delighted Granny to four… Have a fabulous day, y’all.
    Caz @CazsBooks My Website (I’ve learnt that skill too) is recently updated.

  8. Sue Coletta November 16, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    I got so aggravated with Hootesuite I gave up. I used to use RoundTeam, and I loved them until they flooded my timeline with advertisements for their site. Once in a while is fine, but they bombarded me with a 1:3 ratio. For every three tweets they sent one ad. Not cool.

    The best tool going, IMO, is drip marketing by MissngLttr. I love them. It’s so easy. Once you sign up for a free account (they have paid accounts too, which rock) and connect your blog, they do the rest. All you need to do is approve/deny campaigns. Over the course of a solid year, they tweet your campaigns, so it ends up being a nice mix of blog posts while resurrecting old posts. They have a bunch of great features, too. I feel a blog post coming on. LOL

  9. Molly Greene November 16, 2016 at 11:57 am #

    Aha! That’s the platform you told me about. I’m almost “over” Hootsuite after only using the free trial for two weeks. On to Feed140 next, and so far I’m loving the price and the dashboard. Isn’t it grand that we at least have great choices??! Mwah!

  10. Lorilyn Roberts November 16, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    I use Roundtree without the ads by paying a few bucks a month. It’s worth it to me — looks more professional not to have the ads.

    Again, for my own retweets, I use https://www.smqueue.com/

    For follows and unfollows, I use Crowdfire. https://web.crowdfireapp.com

    When I’m replying to messages or want to see several feeds at once, which you aren’t limited on the feeds like you are with hootsuite, I use https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/ which is free.

    Also, I use https://twitter.com/settings/widgets on my blog and website to give my tweets additional exposure as well as keep fresh feed coming to both. Most people don’t know about the widgets, but they can be personalized with size, colors, how many are “live,” et cetera

    Hope this helps someone. I think I pay about $25 per month for everything. It’s the best money I have spent on “advertising” compared to anything else I can think of. In the last 28 days, I just checked both accounts, and I’ve had 343,000 impressions.

    I can’t think of anything else I could have bought for $25 and gotten that amount of exposure. And that’s just my own impressions. That’s not counting all the retweets I get. I had on the 22,000 follower account almost 1,776 profile visits.

    I just keep slowly building my followers, very organic. Nothing spectacular, I follow three to 500 people per week. And then unfollow most of those who don’t follow me back. That way I always have more followers than I am following. It’s important to always have more followers than you are following for twitter ranking.

    • Anne Hagan November 18, 2016 at 3:27 am #

      Thank you. This is very helpful.

    • Anne Hagan November 18, 2016 at 3:29 am #

      Do you have a link for Roundtree? They’re not easy to find.

      • Anne Hagan December 2, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

        Nevermind; I figured out you meant RoundTeam not RoundTree. I signed up with them today. There’s a bit of a learning curve but after watching a few of their videos and setting up a couple hashtags and one of my lists, I think I’ve got the hang of it. I can still add another list too but I think what I’ve got will give me some pretty varied retweets for now which is what I needed. Now I’ll have stuff going out every day, 20 times a day that’s good stuff and I don’t have to worry if I don’t make it over to Twitter to do a little backscratching, so to speak.

        If it works like it appears it’s going to, I’m thinking I’ll step up to the 2nd level paid account and add our haunted house twitter feed too. It’s always an afterthought for me and, frankly, our followers there are much better at engaging…I just need to engage them.

        I’ve given SMQueue a look and a similar service, SocialJukebox. I’ll be picking one of those this weekend. Since I’ve set up the retweets of other people’s stuff to be more active on Twitter it only makes sense to mix in my own stuff daily. I don’t have the size of list you have but it grows a little each day and hopefully spending a little each month as you’ve suggested will nudge it along.

        • Lorilyn Roberts December 2, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

          That’s how I do it. If you would like to follow me, I’m at @LorilynRoberts and @John316Network.

          It took me a while to figure out how to RoundTeam also.

          What’s your handle?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Creative blogging - November 21, 2016

    […] Schedule Bulk Messages With Hootsuite Molly Greene, Molly Green blog. This is a great article and I learned a lot! “Its demise was timely, actually. The drawback about a plugin is that you can only tweet blog posts. I’d wanted to do more for a while. I need something – this time – that would let me (effortlessly?) post a few well-placed messages about my books and reviews and such while focusing on published blog posts that remain most relevant, popular, and helpful. And, while it is possible to fine-tune website plugins, it seemed easier to collect the URLs in one place, then put them on auto-pilot.” […]

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