Maintaining a constant social media presence can be difficult, especially for busy entrepreneurs looking to stay in touch with their communities.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to help ease the burden. One of the most useful functionalities for a social management tool is the ability to schedule updates.
Here is a list of 11 free services for scheduling social media updates, either across multiple social platforms or just for Twitter.
At the end of the list, you'll also find a quick note on 11 paid services that you may be interested in investigating as well. If your service of choice—free or paid—isn't in this post, let us know in the comments.
Free Multi-Platform Services
If you or your company have an extensive online presence across multiple social platforms, you should check out some of the following services that allow for scheduling social media updates across multiple platforms.
Hootsuite has a broad range of apps, including their web-based original, mobile apps (iPhone and Android), desktop apps (Windows, Mac and Linux) and add-ons for Firefox and Chrome, all with the power to schedule updates.
Social Platforms: The desktop and web-based apps allow you to schedule to Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn, Ping.fm, Wordpress, MySpace and Foursquare, while the mobile apps are limited to Twitter and Facebook.
On the sign-in screen, you can log in using either your Twitter or Facebook information. After choosing your time zone, you can either start scheduling updates or add more social accounts. You can add multiple Twitter accounts and are limited to one Facebook account.
When scheduling an update, you can choose which accounts the update should be posted on and when. If you schedule a particular update to multiple accounts, they appear separately in the queue, so that you can edit them individually. For Facebook, you can mark posts as recurring daily, every other day, weekly, every other week, monthly or annually.
Social Platforms: Twitter and Facebook.
CoTweet is an enterprise-grade tool for monitor a brand's Twitter accounts and engaging with customers. One of the many features is the ability to schedule tweets by time and date. CoTweet can also be configured to send updates to Ping.fm. The Ping.fm configuration allows for you to send updates to any of the social platforms that your Ping.fm account is hooked up to.
Social Platforms: Twitter and Ping.fm.
After logging in with your Twitter information, choosing your time zone, and providing an e-mail address, you're on your way to scheduling tweets with Twaitter, soon to be called Gremln. Scheduled tweets appear in a queue and can be edited or deleted prior to being sent.
Twaitter has a built-in URL shortener and spell checker, and also boasts the abilities to translate tweets, save drafts and mark tweets as recurring. You can also connect your Ping.fm account to Twaitter and begin scheduling updates on that platform, too.
Social Platforms: Twitter and Ping.fm.
Free Services for Twitter Only
For the Twitterati members out there who focus their efforts on Twitter, dismissing all other social platforms, the following seven services may be of particular interest. Whether your goal is to keep your Twitter followers updated on your social life, feed them with the hottest news in your industry or inform them of upcoming marketing programs, these free services will help you schedule each tweet accordingly.
FutureTweet allows you to sign in using Twitter OAuth. Choose your time zone and get to tweeting.
Oddly, FutureTweet gives you the choice to "flip" your tweet upside down and in reverse. Why you would want to do this, I'm not so sure, but strangely they offer the option.
I enjoy the analog clock they provide, if only for its campy feel—the user experience behind manually choosing a time on an old-fashioned clock isn't so swell. In that case, you can just type in a time and date.
Tweetsqueue puts an emphasis on frequency. Although currently in closed beta, you can request an invite, and after gaining access, simply sign in using your Twitter account, choose your time zone and set your tweet frequency (e.g., every 45 minutes). This queuing system allows for a constant flow of tweets at a predetermined interval.
Dynamic Tweets allows you to schedule tweets in advance (by the hour or for a specific time and date). The most unique feature in Dynamic Tweets is the option to upload a CSV file of planned tweets, including information for the time, date, Twitter account, tweet and optional tracking code. This could be useful for companies that have massive lists of scheduled tweets planned.
What's happening in the future? That's the question that Taweet asks of users, as opposed to Twitter's default, "What's happening?"
The purpose of Taweet is to allow users to schedule future tweets in coordination with events they are planning on participating in. When scheduling, you have the option to share a tweet that announces your future tweet. For example, on July 30th, I'll be at Chelsea Piers Date Night.
As you can see in the example above, I scheduled the tweet and shared it with my followers in case anyone was interested in joining me—killing two birds with one stone, I suppose. If you'd rather not share the future tweet at the time of scheduling, you can deselect the "Share Now" button.
From the Taweet platform, you and other users can comment on future tweets. This can be useful for planning and coordinating.
Tweet-U-Later has three main options: scheduling a tweet, scheduling a private message (known as a Direct Message on Twitter), and scheduling tweets via e-mail.
When scheduling a tweet, you choose the time, date, time zone, message and whether you'd like the tweet to be a recurring message. Pending tweets appear in a queue, where you can edit or delete them.
To schedule tweets via e-mail, you are given a Tweet-U-Later e-mail address. In order to successfully schedule a tweet via e-mail, you must follow this format: "Your message goes here;YYYY-MM-DD@HH:MM." This option seems extremely susceptible to human error, so be careful if you plan on using it.
TweetSched is a desktop app, available for free download, that allows you to schedule your tweets by date and time. The simple interface includes a text box, add button and queue where you can edit and delete pending tweets.
You can easily sign onto Twuffer using your Twitter username and password. After setting your time zone, preferred time and date formats, and whether you'd like your tweets shown on Twuffer's homepage, you can begin scheduling tweets. There are two lists of tweets, the queue for scheduled tweets and the list of sent tweets.
Unfortunately, you can't edit your tweets once they are queued. The only option for defunct tweets is deleting and starting from scratch.
For the record, there are also a lot of services out there with various pricing plans. This post was dedicated to free services, but if you're interested in checking out a whole slew of options, check out Objective Marketer, SocialTALK, Vitrue, AMP, Postling, Sendible, Buzzom Premium, Media Funnel, Converse, SocialOomph and Social Tomorrow. Some of these services have freemium models, with limited-usability free versions.
Social management tools are growing in popularity, and scheduling social updates is just one of the great features that many of these tool come packaged with. If you've tested some of the services in this list or you currently use a service that wasn't mentioned, let us know in the comments.
Image credit: alancleaver