A friend asked me to show her how to automate posts to a group on Facebook. So, this is a step-by-step guide, for signing up with Hootsuite, connecting Facebook, and setting up a future post in a group. Keep in mind that this process is subject to change over time.
Sign Up For Hootsuite
This part is for anyone who wants help signing up for Hootsuite. If you just go there and follow the prompts, you probably don’t need all this detail, but just in case, I’m including it, here. If you don’t need it, skip down to “Configuring Hootsuite”.
First, go to Hootsuite.com*, and click “Sign Up”. You’ll want to start with the Free plan, but they may offer you advanced features for a while, hoping you’ll upgrade. Enter your email address, first and last name, select a password, and then select a time zone. The time zone is probably already correct, based on your IP address, so you probably won’t need to change it from the default.
A note, here. You’re going to be giving Hootsuite permission to post to Facebook for you. You may even decide to let it Tweet, or handle other accounts. Be smart about your password! In fact, start using a password manager, such as LastPass**. That’s a topic for another day. But, make sure that you use a password that you aren’t using for anything else, and that it contains special characters and numbers, at the very least. Hootsuite has a requirement that your password is at least 8 characters long, and uses both upper and lower case letters.
Once you’ve created your account, you’ll immediately be asked to connect your social networks. Click the Facebook link, and you’ll probably see a page that asks you to log into Facebook. Next, Facebok will ask you to give Hoosuite permission to post on your behalf. After you’ve approved this, you’ll be back at Hootsuite, and will be shown a list that includes your Facebook profile, any Facebook Pages that you have created, and then Facebook Groups that you are a member of. You’ll want to select which items that Hootsuite can post to. You can change this later, but if you think that you’ll want to automate posts for any of these, go ahead and select them now.When you select a group, you’ll see a green checkmark next to it. And when you then unselect a group, you’ll see a red minus symbol for just a moment. As of now, it’s a little wonky in Chrome, so just roll with it, and make sure you have the Green Check next to any items you want to include. Since this post will include setting up a post to be made in the future to a group, go ahead and select the group you want this to be posted to.
Click “Finished Importing”, and you’ll be returned to the step where you can add more social networks. Keep in mind that if you’re using Hootsuite to promote yourself or your business, don’t automate spammy posts to groups where you’ll annoy people. This can backfire on you, and make people dislike you, and your business! And you’ll probably get kicked out of the group.
Go ahead and click “Continue”, and then in the next step, click the “Done adding social networks” button.
This is where things might get confusing. The Hootsuite interface can be overwhelming. That’s why they have popover messages everywhere, trying to offer help figuring things out. Clippy, anyone?
Feel free to dismiss these, if you don’t want to view them, right now. You can always get back to the tutorials.
Hootsuite will go ahead and guide you into setting up Streams. Streams are basically a way of grouping things. I’ll let you learn about that from Owly, as he walks you through this. Be sure to select the group that you’ll want your post to go to, and then use the “Newsfeed” button. Owly pretty much forces you to create 3 streams, so you can do what you’d like, I’d recommend creating one stream for your profile page with “Newsfeed”, and one for the group with “Scheduled”, as well.
Owly will now walk you through creating tabs, and composing messages. You probably want to click the button that says “Don’t send. Skip this step”, when he asks you to send a post.
You may also see a request to add a browser extension. If you think this will be useful, go for it. Keep in mind that it will embed Hootsuite into Facebook and other connected sites, which will change the way those function, just a bit. So, only do this if you’re ready for that. You can always uninstall it, though.
Using Hootsuite – Scheduling a Post
Now you’ve got this chaotic screen going, but at least you don’t have an Owl trying to tell you what to do! Each tab is basically a feed showing whatever you set up there, maybe your own newsfeed, or the list of posts to a group. You can reply to posts from this screen, just like you would in Facebook. Now, we get to the useful stuff… scheduling!
Select the group that you want to post to in the left column. Then click inside the right textbox, and put your message there. All of those icons have different uses, such as adding a link to another web page, attaching an image, or setting privacy options. Hover your mouse over them, and you’ll see a description of what they do. We want the calendar icon, the second one in that row, which says “Scheduling” when you hover your mouse. When you click on the Scheduling icon, you’ll be able to select the date and time that you want the post to go live.
Also of note, if you move your mouse out of this popup window, it will disappear on you. Have no fear! You haven’t lost anything. Just move your mouse back over the box, and it will return, just as you have left it.
I would suggest that you decide on something that you would have posted to the group anyway, and use that for the message. If you look at Facebook icon with the number (2000) which is in the grey area, to the left of the “Send Now” button, that number tells you how many characters you have left in your message. Use this as a guide, so you don’t have to rewrite your message, if it’s too long. Then set the date to today, and the time to about 10 minutes from now. I would really suggest that you don’t use the “Email me when message is sent” option, because you’ll just be overwhelmed with email. But, do what you feel is right for you, there. When you’re satisfied, go ahead and click the “Schedule” button. Don’t be afraid. You can always delete the post from Facebook, and you can even edit a scheduled post that hasn’t happened, yet.
While you’re waiting for this new magic to happen, I’ll show you a couple of things. First, when you selected the group that the post should go to, you know that it’s going there because the group has a grey background. If you wanted to, you could select multiple items, and they’d all be grey. So, if you are posting something to a private group, be sure not to select your own profile, too!
If you click the Gold Star, which says “Move to Top” when you hover over it, that adds the group, page, or profile to your Favorites. If you have added a lot of groups and pages to Hootsuite, this will help you stay organized.
The pushpin icon, which says “Always Select” when you hover over it, will make it so that anytime you post, that group, page, or profile is always selected. If you use Hootsuite for just one thing, you probably want to go ahead and use this.
Hootsuite – Template Posts
If you have something that you want to post multiple times, say a weekly posting of group rules, you can save a post as a template. When you have the Schedule box showing, in the earlier steps, instead of clicking “Send Now”, you can click the “Save” icon, to “Save message as a template”. When you click the save button, the post will be saved as a draft, and the title will match the beginning of the message, just as you have entered it. And each time you click that Save button, a new draft will be saved. Feel free to delete old ones, by clicking the Trash Bin icon. You can view existing drafts, by clicking the down arrow, next to Save, that says “View templates”, when you hover.
If you click on a draft, it will then open, and you can schedule it for whenever you want. If you want a monthly post, just set up 12 posts, and schedule them for whatever day of the month you want, for the next 12 months.
This has just barely scratched the surface of how to use Hootsuite, there are many, many more features. I probably won’t post about them, unless I find something that blows my mind. If it would post to Google +, I’d probably use it as my main social media app, but since it doesn’t, I have stopped using it for anything beyond auto posting, for a group I help with.
*Hootsuite doesn’t have a “Refer a friend” type program, so this is not an affiliate link.
**This is a referral code for LastPass. I have paid for my subscription every year, for 3 years, now, but I can get an extra month of Premium for free, when someone uses my link to sign up. You don’t need Premium for LastPass to be useful, though. The free version is a great tool!