None of us can possibly keep up to date with the ever-growing number of social media contacts we need to engage with, without using tools to automate some of the processes and managing our time carefully.

One of those tools which has become increasingly useful for those with busy schedules is Buffer – the application which allows you to pre-schedule Tweets to be sent to your Twitter account automatically at times set by you.

So, for instance, if you have blog posts and articles which you would like to bring to people’s attention, but you know you will be in meetings all day for the next two days, you can schedule these tweets (with links to your own website, of course) to go out whilst you are otherwise committed.

For a busy team in a large marcomms department, this can make it really easy to see who else is planning to send out what and when, rather than inundating your followers with a deluge of tweets from different authors who just happened not to know what everyone else was about to do.

Now, Buffer has added the scheduling of Facebook posts to the app, which can only be a good thing for companies looking to intersperse real-world communications with news and PR on Facebook. It is vital not to use any of your social media real estate simply as a one-way mechanism, and alternating broadcast announcements with some one to one human communication with those who post on your wall, page or group is of paramount importance if you want people to return.

After all, social media is not just about how many Likes or Followers you have. It is also about the dialogue that you engage in with those who have taken the time to seek you out and indicate their interest.

Buffer offers a number of plug-ins and apps for multiple devices and browsers, so being able to automate tweets from your iPhone or Android for your business. Or for remote workers to tweet from the road or out of office so that others can see what may be scheduled over the next few days and build additional campaigns or marketing around that.

The Facebook addition allows you to tweet to both Facebook and twitter at once, or just one of the networks (as do applications such as Foursquare) which will reduce your workload and ensure that you reach the different audiences who will be following through the social media of their choice.

A word of warning: if you already have Tweets being posted to Facebook automatically via another mechanism (or vice versa), be very careful not to create a loop. This can mean that you post something to Twitter, which automatically gets posted to FB, and is then automatically posted back to Twitter etc etc until you feel as though you are standing in a room full of mirrors! Keep a record of the tools you trial for which automation tasks as they may conflict if you accidentally set up an infinite loop. And it could have been months since you experimented with a new tool and remembering which it was, passwords, and so on, may come too late if you have a group of followers who find themselves inundated with email notifications from you before you have resolved the issue.

Not that I speak from experience. Oh no. 😉

Give Buffer a try. It’s free and definitely worth using if your time is limited, if you need to manage a large team, and if you want to schedule in advance any communications when you know you will be otherwise engaged.

http://www.bufferapp.com

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology