We all write blog posts with the hope that people will read them, but hope is not a plan. We need to promote our content so that the people who are interested in our topic will find our blog post and read it, sharing it to their circle of contacts who in turn will share it to their followers. That is how we build readership and drive the right kind of traffic to our blogs.
Certainly, one of the best ways to share content is through our social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook pages and groups, Pinterest, Instagram and so on. We want to share our content when it is published but because not everyone will see that initial post, we also want to share it again, probably more than once, over the course of the next days, weeks or even months so that more people will read it and click through to our blog. But let’s face it, the process of sharing content manually is tedious and time consuming and the time we spend doing this, if we do it at all, could be far better spent writing new content if only there was a way to automate social sharing.
Over on The Social Historian, I recently spent several hours scheduling some of my older content to post to The Social Historian Facebook page over several weeks. The results of my scheduled sharing campaign were that I grew my subscriber list over that period by about 10% which was quite impressive, given that I only wrote one new article during that time. But setting up the archived posts to appear on my Facebook page each day took quite a long time and I wondered if there was a better way. I began researching plugins and services that could help me automate some of that work, not only on The Social Historian, but also here at WordPress for XYZ and over on my Out of My Tree Genealogy News website.
Free or low initial cost
While I’m not totally against spending money to save time, I don’t technically have a budget for purchasing new tools for my blogs. While some higher traffic commercial blogs can offset the cost of such tools with increased revenues, I make little money on my websites, so any outlay is coming out of my own pocket.
No annual fee or a low annual fee
With many companies moving to an annual fee structure for their services, I’ve found that I have a growing monthly and yearly outlay to maintain the services I use. I’m not interested in increasing those expenses any more than absolutely necessary because it all adds up over time.
Scheduled Sharing of Archives
While there are many free plugins and services that share an initial blog post well, there are fewer that allow automatic scheduling for archived posts. That is a premium feature for many plugins, requiring the purchase of the pro version or an annual subscription fee.
Ease of Use
Whatever I choose, I want it to be easier, not harder, to share my content. If it takes more time to manage the scheduling than it does to manually share my content, then I’m not gaining anything, am I?
While I understand why the authors of plugins and services want to include their name in my posts, I prefer that each of my post shares are not advertisements for the company I choose. I want them to look professional, and exactly as though I had manually scheduled them. I don’t want to advertise that I’m getting someone else to do my work for me.
My main social media streams include Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest so these are the integrations I’m primarily interested in. I don’t currently share to LinkedIn and I’m not an Instagram user yet, although it is something I might explore in future. I also use the Bit.ly URL shortener extensively, so it would be great if there was an integration to that service. Google Analytics integration would be great too, so I can measure the success of increased sharing.
On two of my websites, Out of My Tree Genealogy News, and this one, WordPress for XYZ, I sometimes publish posts about current news events including promotions and breaking news, so I need a way to exclude certain categories from being reshared. No one wants to see that last year there was a discount on a product that they might want to buy this year.
Like many WordPress bloggers, I currently have Jetpack installed on my WordPress websites and have the sharing option enabled. I’ve connected my Social Media accounts to Jetpack Publicize and it faithfully shares new content when it is published.
But the free or personal plans don’t include scheduled sharing of older content. I would have to upgrade to their premium plan to enable this feature.
There is an annual cost for this service which is currently $12 a month or $129 a year. This fee would also add some other premium features such as a daily automated backup, enhanced security scanning, SEO preview tools, Google Analytics integration, Jetpack’s Ad Network and PayPal integration.
I already have most of these features. My awesome web host, Site Ground, does site backups for free and they also provide awesome security tools as part of my hosting package. I already have SEO tools and Google Analytics integration with my pro version of Yoast SEO and I’m not looking for another Ad network or PayPal integration right now.
However, after quite a bit of searching, I’ve found that the sharing of old posts through Jetpack is a manual exercise currently and can’t be scheduled, so this service is not what I’m looking for.
I’ve heard a lot about CoSchedule and their ReQueue service sounds like a great plan, but it is also very expensive at a minimum of $480 a year and would only work on one website.
There is a 14 day free trial, but honestly, this one is out of reach for me and most hobby bloggers but perhaps someday, I will have the traffic and revenue to consider it.
The Blog2Social plugin is free and it automatically shares, auto-posts, re-publishes, re-posts blog posts on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as several other social media sites. At first glance, this plugin seems to do what I want it to do and the price, free, sounds great. But further reading shows that in order to re-share older posts as evergreen content on my social networks, I will need the Smart version, which is $79 a year and to use the service on 3 blogs, I would have to subscribe to the Pro version which is $119 a year.
The Pro version does include a number of nice features, including auto-scheduling at best times, a social media calendar, posts custom formatted per network, and there are performance reports although currently this seems to be nothing more than a list of posts and the number of times they were shared.
When I tested the free version of the plugin, the Facebook Page post showed “Posted by Blog2Social“, however an extensive search of the FAQs does show that this is only visible to the Page admins and not to the readers of the post, something that the authors of this plugin would be advised to make more prominent on their website since this would have been a deal breaker for me.
There is a free 30 day trial available for the premium version, allowing you to try-before-you-buy and definitely something I will be doing.
The Revive Old Post plugin is one I used a long time ago when it was free and only worked with Twitter, but it appears to have had some updates since then and now has several annual fee options. It shares to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Xing but not Pinterest. The Personal plan, at $75 a year, only allows support for 1 site and I’m looking for 3 sites, so I would need to subscribe to the Business Plan, currently priced at $149 a year.
This plan randomly schedules old posts, allows category exclusions and includes custom scheduling and queue management and includes images on tweets. It appears to offer most of what I’m looking for, with the exception of Pinterest integration.
This plugin could be what I’m looking for and I will start by testing it for a week or so on one of my sites.
NextScripts SNAP is a free plugin that lets you share your posts to a very long list of social networks, although reposting options are either new to old or old to new. It also appears to let you import comments from Facebook into your WordPress installation which is a nice feature.
Since the free plugin is, well, free, I’m taking it for a test drive on Out of My Tree Genealogy News. The setup instructions are very detailed but are lengthy and should be followed carefully as there are many steps, all of them important.
NextScripts also has a pro version and an API version although the differences between them seem quite complicated. As I understand it, the pro version works with the standard networks such as Facebook and Twitter while the API version is best if you are wanting to post to more premium networks such as Pinterest and Instagram. The pro version is $49.95, and the API version is $49.95 per year but the API apparently requires the pro plugin to work. It appears both are available for $49.95 for the first year so essentially, the pro plugin is free if you subscribe to the API and the API is free for one year if you buy the pro version of the plugin. But with three websites, my cost would be $150 each year so before making the leap, I think I will try the free version for a week or so.
Three of these options, Blog2Social, Revive Old Posts and NextScripts SNAP look promising and I will post a full review of all three, once I’ve had a chance to test them all out.