I’ve been on holiday. The last week was spent in a very cold snowy but stunning Paris. Whenever I’m going away, whether it’s to a conference or on a holiday I am always conflicted. Should I keep my social media and blogging consistent even though I’m somewhere else and even if I’m not able to directly respond? Sometimes I’m organised and schedule everything, sometimes I just close up and let everyone know I’ll be quiet until my return. This time I chose to schedule blog posts and Facebook updates, some issues arose but in general it worked quite well. I wonder if the effort worth it? Did people notice that I wasn’t as responsive as usual? Did they notice I wasn’t on Twitter?
I’d like to hear what you think, is scheduling posts when you are away good or bad etiquette? But before you share here’s some pros and cons to scheduling in advance.
1. Customers require an instant response
Studies have shown that customers expect a more or less instant response to their queries on social media. Luckily due to the nature of my business the volume of customer service queries I get is low. I am able to contact my clients directly in advance of my absence to let them know that I won’t be contactable. However I did schedule posts on Facebook designed to provoke conversation and I couldn’t have done this if I hadn’t had Internet access. I needed to be there to respond to comments and join in the conversation.
It’s likely that those of you who manage social media for larger businesses are able to pass social media duties on to someone else whilst you are away. In that case it is important that the person you are trusting your social media to is trained in your companies social media policy and strategy. As long as this is in place it shouldn’t be an issue to leave your social media in other hands during your absence.
Small business owners and particularly retailers may find that shutting the doors or even closing the shop facility on their website is the best solution. Customers do expect that fast response and not fulfilling an order could effect your brand reputation and loose future custom. Social media is the perfect channel to communicate closing dates.
2. Even careful scheduling can go wrong
I spent the weekend before my departure blogging and scheduling but even with careful planning there were a few issues. Thankfully my Facebook friends came to the rescue on both occasions.
Blog links – I scheduled both my blog posts and the Facebook posts promoting them. This presented me with a problem. Scheduling a link to a post that is not yet published means that Facebook is unable to serve a thumbnail image to accompany it. The solution was to post an image from the blog as a photo and to include the link along with a bit of blurb in the description.
Although I was careful to copy links correctly there was a problem with the second one I posted, it appeared broken when it published on Wednesday, luckily one of my Facebook friends alerted me to the issue and I was able to change the link later in the day. One of the advantages of posting a link attached to a photograph is that you are able to change the text posted with the image at a later stage, this was very helpful when I needed to correct my mistake.
I also had a problem with embedded content in my scheduled posts. WordPress seemed to strip the code from my posts before publishing. As I was accessing the Internet via a mobile device (iPad) I was unable to grab the code again myself and had to rely on my Facebook friends to get it for me. I then had to re-edit and re-post the content.
3. Can’t be topical
Even though I was able to replicate most of my posting schedule I was unable to produce my weekly social media roundup post. This relies on me scouring all the articles I’ve read in a week and sharing my favorites. It was impossible for me to replicate this whilst I was gone. Creating topical posts in a fast moving industry is simply not possible to do in advance and in some cases this means you could loose the edge.
1. No one knows you are gone
We hear lots of scare stories about people who announce their holidays on social media. We’re told that burglars are just waiting for someone to tweet about their holiday plans. It is even more unwise to share our plans online if we are in a small business, any holiday would be spoiled by returning to a ransacked office. By retaining our social media schedule we are not making our absence obvious. Of course there are other steps you can take to avoid burglary and by announcing our absence we are not necessarily telling people we are leaving our homes and offices unattended.
2. Be consistent
Consistency is important in social media and blogging. Your readers and customer are used to seeing content from you and expect it to pop up on particular days and times. It may be slightly arrogant of me to expect that people would notice my absence but I find that particularly on Facebook it can be a struggle to keep engagement and interaction levels going after I have left the page unmanned for a period of time.
3. Take a break
I wasn’t really sure if this was a pro or con but it’s an important consideration. If you are going on holiday it’s a good idea to take a complete break, it helps recharge your batteries and leaves your mind free to explore new ideas. On your return you will feel refreshed and ready to attack your work with a new energy, this can be your most productive time. If you don’t switch off you are loosing this productivity and the ideas that come with it. I always take two weeks off for Christmas and this holiday was close enough to mean that I didn’t need my batteries recharged. This was one of the key reasons I chose to schedule this time, along with my Hotel having WiFi enabling me to check in everyday and make sure everything was running smoothly.
If you don’t want to either schedule posts or leave your social media accounts empty during your absence there are other solutions.
1. Get a VA
It’s not just those who work in larger organisations that can hand over their social media updating during an absence, small businesses can do this too. Hiring a VA (Virtual Assistant) is one great solution. Many of us may use a call answering services but have you considered using a VA service to update your monitor your social media whilst away? It’s a common sense solution, shouldn’t be too expensive and will ensure that your customer queries will always be answered.
If you decide to go this route it’s very important to train your VA on your company social media policy and etiquette, I’d go as far as writing a short manual that they can follow. I would also recommend that you alert your followers that someone else is handling queries whilst you are gone, many of them will know you by name and would feel cheated if they discovered that they were dealing with someone else.
2. Guest posting / Interviews
A VA may be the solution for your social media but we can’t rely on a VA to write our blog posts. In the past I have relied on guest blog posts and Interviews to fill the gaps whilst I’ve been gone. These are always quick to publish saving you the mad rush to write a whole bunch of posts before you leave. The downside with guest posting is that people are notoriously late with their submissions and you may need to spend some time chasing them in order to get the content.
Over the past week I’ve received a lot less social media shares of my blog posts. I’ve put most of this down to me not promoting them on Twitter, I’ve also spent less time interacting with others on all my social media channels, click throughs from Pinterest and Google+ were almost non-existent, again these are channels I didn’t spend time on whilst I was away. On the plus side traffic to my website has increased over the week.
So that’s my thoughts on holiday posting but I’d like to hear your stories and experiences. What do you think? Is it best to close up, or schedule posts? Would you feel cheated if someone was pretending to be there when they’re not? Leave me a comment and we’ll discuss it.
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