How to Smartly – and Cheaply – Automate Routine Social Media Posts

Getting Started

How to Smartly – and Cheaply – Automate Routine Social Media Posts

Aug 26, 2014 | Getting Started

How to Smartly – and Cheaply – Automate Routine Social Media Posts

Aug 26, 2014 | Getting Started

How to Smartly – and Cheaply – Automate Routine Social Media PostsIsn’t it annoying that we've typically had to create a social media calendar in one format to plan our updates, and then copy/paste that information into another system for scheduling? What if you could have a single social media automation system that boils this process down to just one step – not for hundreds or thousands of dollars a month, but for less than $15 a month (maybe even free)? You can, and I’m going to show you how.

At Solo PR, don't endorse blanket or overdone automated sharing of social media posts. But there are some messages that call for some degree of scheduling (a new blog post, for example). While we don’t “set it and forget it,” most of us have learned that these days it’s necessary to share information on social media more frequently – and scheduling some of your routine social media updates frees you up to actually interact with your community in a meaningful way.

Most all-in-one content calendar/social media automation tools are priced out of reach for indie consultants. There may be times when a standalone social media calendar is still the best option for clients, but this post will reveal two road-tested – inexpensive – methods for automating updates that really work. My days of paying a virtual assistant to help me schedule social media posts are over!

The Requirements

As with most communicators I know, I need a robust tool. To make the system useful for both my clients and me, it must:

  • Connect to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ pages, at a minimum
  • Allow me to easily see – in a combined calendar view – which social network an update is going to, ideally with color coding (this is where tools like Hootsuite fall short)
  • Allow for edits to the schedule on the calendar view using drag-and-drop
  • Show at least the beginning of the planned update/post text, so I can see the topic from the calendar view (some tools just show that a post is scheduled for Twitter, for example, without any post content)
  • Be collaborative, with the ability to share the tools with clients and/or subcontractors, as appropriate

The two methods I’ve identified and tested are:

1. Zapier (or IFTTT) with Google Calendar

2. CoSchedule

The How-Tos, Pros and Cons for each of these methods follow:

1. Zapier/Google Calendar

This one may seem a little techie, but once you have it established you're done (and if you don't understand exactly how it works, that's OK – we just have to know how to set it up. If it's too much for you, scroll on down to method #2). It’s possible to use this automation method for free. Yes, free!


  • Works even if you don’t have a blog (you can just set up different Google calendars for each network, schedule the updates, and then have Zapier automate the distribution)
  • You can add additional social media updates directly to a Google Calendar, so the planning benefits are not limited to blog posts
  • You don’t need access to the backend of your client’s blog for installation of a plugin or tool – you can manage blog-related updates using their RSS feed
  • When a client wants the ability to review and edit your planned social updates – you can share the calendars with them, and they can edit easily
  • If you don’t want your client anywhere near your actual live tool J, you can do a screen grab or PDF of the calendar and send it to them


  • Rigid scheduling – for the Zapier-driven updates, your posts will go out at the same time, every time
  • When combined with a blog’s RSS, the planned social media updates don’t appear on your Google Calendar until after the post goes live
  • There is no automatic link or campaign tracking, though you could add those links manually within the calendar
  • There’s no reporting within the system – you can see which social network drove traffic in Google Analytics (if you use it), but you won’t see which update was most effective or how many people shared/clicked an individual post

How To

Zapier is a tool similar to IFTTT (If This Then That), which allows you to easily automate certain tasks. I personally find Zapier to be more logical and easier to use than the more widely-known IFTTT, but this method can work with either. IFTTT is free, while Zapier has a free plan with a limited number of automations/tasks (I use Zapier’s unlimited $15/month plan – still a bargain).

In Zapier parlance, a “Zap” is each automation you setup (for example, RSS to Twitter), a “task” is each time that automation is performed (in our previous example, one tweet). Here are the steps:

1. Create a Google Calendar for each social network you plan to use – color code them in a way that’s meaningful to you, so you can identify each at-a-glance in the combined view. Also give them meaningful names, since you'll use those in Zapier.

Example Google Calendars

Example Google Calendar List

2. Decide what you'd like your schedule for automated posts to be (for example, post to Twitter when the blog post goes live, another 3 hours later, another 6 hours later, etc.).

Solo PR PRO Premium members: See my own schedule for Solo PR.

3. Go to Zapier and create “Zaps” for each post you’d like to make.

Solo PR PRO Premium members: Skip the steps below! Use the Solo PR “Zap” templates.

The system will walk you through the steps to set them up – in our example to follow, we are telling Zapier to create a scheduled tweet in Google Calendar each time there's a new blog post (using the blog's RSS feed), and post to Twitter on the desired schedule.

First, create a new Zap, select RSS/New Item in Feed as the trigger, and create a New Detailed Event in Google Calendar as the action:

To use Zapier with Google Calendar, tell it to create a "New Detailed Event"

To use Zapier with Google Calendar, tell it to create a “New Detailed Event”

After filling in the specifics of your feed and integrating your calendar (the system helps you do this), choose one of the Google Calendars you created in Step 1 (for example, @KellyeCrane on Twitter).

Note that in the Summary section, you will define the wording of the tweet. Use the “Insert Fields” button to identify placeholders  – such your post's “Title” and “Link,” in our example – that will change based on each new blog post. You can also include text that is universally applicable, such as “new today,” “now available,” “our latest post,” and relevant hashtags:

Choose the proper Google Calendar

Choose the Google Calendar that corresponds to this action (for example, @KellyeCrane Twitter), and use the Summary to define how the tweet will read.

Next, Zapier asks you for the Start and End Date & Time for your Google Calendar entry (they should be the same). This is also the section that allows you to add time to a Zap so you can space out the updates (in our example, this tweet will go out 26 hours after a blog post goes live):

Add the Time Since Publishing

In this example the “Pub Date” is when the blog post goes live – add hours to schedule later updates

4. Test the function from Zap to see if updates appear properly in your Google Calendar(s).

Test this Zap5. Then, create a separate Zap that tells Zapier to send the events from a given Google Calendar (it will ask you which Calendar – in this case, @KellyeCrane Twitter) to the appropriate network (Twitter).

Tells Zapier to send a calendar's events to the appropriate network

Tell Zapier to send a calendar's events to the appropriate network

Create a separate Zap for each update you'd like to schedule/automate. – note that you can create a copy of your first Zap, and then just change the Time and Summary (as described above, the Summary field of each Zap should vary so your updates are not too monotonous).  The following list of example Zaps corresponds to a regular drumbeat of Twitter updates when a new blog post is published:

List of sample Zaps for Twitter

List of sample Zaps for Twitter – Note that you only have to create the GCal to Twitter Zap once

5. Once your blog posts go live, you can view the schedule in Google Calendar (sample below), and if you’d like to make any changes to a planned update, just click the individual calendar event and make your edits. You can also add additional events to the same calendar Zapier is using to schedule tweets not related to a blog post.

Scheduled Posts on Google Calendar

Scheduled Posts on Google Calendar

6. Note you can also pause the zaps any time (for example, if there’s a national emergency) by turning them “off.”

Variation: Zapier/Buffer
One variation of the above method involves using Zapier to send posts to Buffer. Buffer’s relatively new “move to top” and “schedule posts” features mean you can use this combo to automatically schedule dissemination of your blog posts via Buffer. However, Buffer doesn’t offer a calendar view – the updates will just appear in your Buffer queue/list.

Pro Tip: If you don’t need to see all your social media updates in one combined Google Calendar view, you can use Zapier with GCal and Buffer in tandem. For example, I found that posts to the Solo PR Pro Facebook page worked better when I routed them through Buffer, while I used Google Calendar for tweets.


For $10 a month, CoSchedule is an editorial calendar for WordPress that also makes planning blog posts and social media messages simple and visual. In the past I found this product clunky, but after putting the current version through its paces, this is the tool I’m now using for Solo PR Pro, and I’m a fan!


  • Customize each social media update individually (though you can send the same update to more than one network), so there’s complete flexibility in what you say and when you say it.
  • You can use drag-and-drop in the calendar view to change the publishing date for a blog post, and all its associated scheduled social media posts automatically update to go with it. Cool!
  • Many editorial calendar tools require you to actually schedule the blog post before you can work with it – this always makes me nervous (I prefer to schedule a post only when it’s actually complete). Coschedule allows you to put draft posts on your calendar, which is excellent.
  • CoSchedule can automatically add Google Analytics tracking tags to all of your links.
  • integration allows you to tap into analytics for your shared content, and it provides social sharing stats.
  • Makes image posts (increasingly important on Twitter) super easy.
  • Team features (permissions, task and to-do tools) help with your content workflow.


  • Crafting each post individually requires more time than a truly automated method like Zapier.
  • You must have a self-hosted WordPress blog.

How To
CoSchedule is a paid service that integrates with WordPress via a plugin, allowing you to plan and schedule blog posts, as well as social media messages. Access your schedule either within the blog post/plugin itself, or in a web-based version online for easy sharing and access.

Here are the steps:

1. Install the CoSchedule WordPress plugin (CoSchedule works with self-hosted blogs – if your blog URL is, yours is not self-hosted)

CoSchedule Plugin

2. Sign up for a free trial of CoSchedule either within the plugin or at You’ll establish a CoSchedule login that works for both your blog and the online website – so you can use either interface whenever you like.

3. Connect your social media profiles – very intuitive.

Cochedule social networks

4. Start scheduling! CoSchedule functions appear at the bottom of every draft blog post (so you can schedule social media messages right from your Add New Post screen), as well as in the plugin screen and the online versions.

You can even view how often a past post has been shared in the calendar overview:

CoSchedule Example

For more on getting up and running on CoSchedule, checkout their Ultimate Guide (but don’t let it overwhelm you – it really is easy to get started).

To reiterate, the methods outlined here are in no way meant to represent the entirety of a social media program. Round out your efforts with real-time communications and responses, and consider a tool like Buffer to keep a queue of valuable content from other thought leaders coming from your social media channels, as well.

What do you think about these options? Have you tried any variations? Have any questions? If so, please share in the comments.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve received no compensation from any tool mentioned here – we always share the tools we recommend without regard to such things!

Do you want more in-depth how-tos and advice on stretching your budget each month? Join Solo PR PRO Premium today!
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Written By Kellye Crane
Kellye Crane is the founder of Solo PR Pro, which provides the tools, education, advocacy and community resources needed for indies to succeed and grow. She's a veteran and award-winning communicator with more than 20 years of experience - 19 of them solo.


  1. Sorry, I disagree with pre-scheduling. This is a wonderfully written post. But if there is no one on this end when a tweet goes out it’s called broadcast marketing and not social marketing. Social requires the opportunity for a two-way conversation. Pre-scheduling tweets and posts is a very simple way to kill any potential for conversation.

    Or course, it’s okay not to agree with me.


  2. Hi JMac- Except for your first sentence, I actually agree with you completely. I didn’t make this point in the post (so thanks for bringing it up), but I only schedule tweets for times when I’m online. Though many experts advise otherwise, I’ve made the decision to not schedule tweets for nights or weekends, because I may not be there to respond to the conversation, as you say.

    That’s a personal decision, as is most things in social media. I wouldn’t include a link to my blog in a blog comment (as you’ve done), but we each make our own choices. It’s what makes the world go ’round. J

  3. Nothing is cheaper than ‘free’ so IFTTT wins for me, but even then.. there’s almost nothing so rote and ‘routine’ I turn it over to blind automation. I’m not broadcasting, I’m scheduling the few shares I’ve limited myself to – and it IS a limit b/c I don’t want to be all links, all the time. (like you, it’s days/times while I’m online for business; I may be online for play too, but that’s real time and not broadcast/scheduled.)

    Where this kind of scheduled automation can help is if you have a lot of content, that you share often. If you have the same kind of updates, the same ways it makes sense to make that as little work as possible. FWIW what I don’t share enough are my own posts; I need to get over that, RT myself once in a while.

  4. Thanks, Davina – you’re exactly right that the more active you try to be, the more a system for sharing helps. And yes, you should share your stuff more! As social media has become more mainstream (I know we were both around before it was), I think it’s just a necessary evil to make sure the people who *want* to hear from you don’t miss out.

    If you ever did decide to use a tool, I think you’d like CoSchedule. There’s no “blind automation” involved, since you individually craft and schedule each update. That’s why I’ve embraced it for Solo PR Pro – control freak. J Also, I often go in to CoSchedule if I want to send additional real-time updates about a post after it’s already live — that way, all of a given blog post’s social messages are in one place, with stats. Another cool benefit.

  5. I tried CoSchedule awhile back and didn’t like it. I have also been hesitant to try the other scheduling apps for the reason you said. I hate posts sitting out there that might fire off without me remembering to finish them. Maybe I will have to try this tool again.

    On another note, I wish it was also available on the web without a blog or WordPress site. I could sure use this with some of our clients.

  6. I strongly disliked CoSchedule when I tried it around 18 months ago and abandoned it quickly. But they’ve upgraded and the bugs are gone – replaced with a nice and responsive system – so you may want to give it another try!

    FYI- when putting this post together, I contacted them to confirm that WordPress was necessary. The response was yes, but that they’re open to suggestions on this – so there may be hope for a standalone version down the road.