The Content Corner: Is Scheduling Social Media Posts Truly Social?

May 23, 2016

Good communicators are always…well…evaluating the way they communicate. As we think of the “customer experience,” it is key to constantly consider your methods for engaging with your audience. Just as the platforms themselves continue to change to keep their audience, continuing to refine our ways of sending messages will assure that you don’t get left behind.

A clock with multiple hands that have U.S. cities on them

With the explosion of social media, almost to the point of supplanting traditional media, various software platforms seek to assist communicators with planning and even the day-to-day. Analytics, management, search enhancement, etc., can be very helpful to enhance your social media brand when used properly.

While I certainly still see the need for it, when it comes to scheduling social media posts I think there is a fine line to walk before social media can lose its value. Here are some reasons for, and some reasons against scheduling social media posts. I look forward to hearing how you feel in the comments section.


  • Ability to eclipse time zones – Those of us in the federal space, must always be thinking about the country as a whole; ie. the California resident is likely not going to see your 8am EST post (for eastern states and territories this is likely not such a big issue). Some of us with a key faction as an international audience (military, state department), are often forced to consider scheduling to meet the audience in the middle of the night. What more can be done here beyond having some staff with alternative work schedules?
  • Content Management – Keeping up with the content demand can be a daunting task. Pushing out little bits of content, consistently, is certainly a challenge for even the best communicators. Scheduling allows communicators to clearly see their social media posts along the calendar and attempt to tell a narrative. Alternatively, consider having posts ready in a calendar, and then post them in real-time when you may tweak or re-arrange based on the current conversation.
  • Approval Process – This is not an issue isolated to the public sector. Social media gaffes can be detrimental to an organization’s brand, and even affect our opportunity to position our brand as an authoritative resource. Approval processes can be arduous, and often by the time the message is approved, the moment of opportunity is gone. Some strategies to overcome the approval process and stay within the news cycle, starts with equipping those who own social with authority to speak for your agency. I know, I know…we all have legal teams with our best interests in mind. But a well-thought-out policy on file that is developed and reviewed by legal, and having those who post really study it and abide by it, can prevent grave mistakes. At the end of the day though, we’re all human, and mistakes just emphasize that. But keeping the mistakes as least impactful due to following a well-thought-out policy is essential.


  • Alienating your audience – You never know what will be going on in the world at the time when your scheduled post from last week, or even yesterday, goes out. Posting at the wrong time, can make your agency look insensitive or even outright stupid.

    Social Media terms on a clock face instead of numbers to indicate.

  • Adding to the noise – Don’t fill space with stuff that doesn’t matter in the desire to push out messages. After all, Social Media is a Behavioral Shift, Not a Broadcast Medium. Be “social” and don’t ever forget about the current conversation. Listen and engage in real time. Social media is a two-way conversation. As communicators, we need to listen way more than we speak. Don’t talk at your audience, have a conversation. The real value of our social media efforts lies within our interaction. When you’re planning your content, think about a mix of information that will serve. People are hungry for a conversation, just take a look at what’s lurking in the comments section of your favorite news site. We live in a generation where everyone is wrapped up in their digital world; meet the audience where they are at to have a conversation. Higher engagement means more meaningful customer relationships. Also–if you have something good to say, why schedule it for Thursday at 10:36 am?

“Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”– Gandhi

  • In-authenticity – In today’s digital age, where influencers are almost as trusted as friends, it’s important to be genuine and authentic. Scheduling posts with evergreen content can certainly seem like your agency is just trying to shove information down the audience’s throat, and de-values their need to hear your messages. Agencies and influencers (perhaps agency leadership on social media) are knowledgeable, passionate and authentic, and because of this are seen as trusted sources.

Once you stop scheduling, you force yourself to be more attentive to the needs of your audience. Consider posting manually—even if it’s for just a trial period. It could make a huge difference in the way your message is received. After all, if you don’t have the time, then why are you doing social?You’ve just finished reading the latest article from our Monday column, The Content Corner. This column focuses on helping solve the main content issues facing federal digital professionals, including producing enough content and making that content engaging.