Last week, I returned from a 10-day vacation, which I haven’t taken in several years. Although an avalanche of unread emails and deadlines and catch-up work had accumulated in my absence and I returned with an unwanted souvenir (a cold), I felt refreshed and grateful for the chance to get away. A change of scenery and time away from my computer inspired some new story ideas, too. One of the ideas I pondered during my eight hour flight was this post.
In anticipation of the big trip, I alerted my clients well in advance and tried to schedule deadlines before or after my trip. But with the social media client, I’m responsible for posting daily tweets, Facebook status updates, and the like, so that got into messier territory.
I opted to schedule tweets and status updates to cover my vacation so our feed wouldn’t be dormant while I’m away. I also scheduled one tweet each weekday for my own Twitter feed–and surprisingly, my Klout score remained steady even though I wasn’t actively engaging while I was away. But in talking to other freelancers who have an active social media presence (either for themselves or their clients), I discovered some downsides to this approach. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of scheduling social media updates as well as some other options.
- No interruption to updates: Even if you run into spotty internet access while you’re away, you can be reasonably sure (see below) that your social media feed will remain active so you don’t lose momentum while you’re away.
- Efficiency: Posting on social media several times per day eats up valuable time switching back and forth between tasks. Writing a batch social media updates at once but spacing them apart so you don’t overwhelm your followers is a more efficient use of time. I also found that scheduling 10 days worth of tweets made me think more big picture strategy instead of tweeting whatever caught my eye in that moment.
- More control over timing: Scheduling updates in advance allows you to control when they appear in your feed. If you know that most of your followers check Twitter or Facebook first thing in the morning Eastern Standard Time, for instance, you can make sure you appear in their feeds at that time even if you’re not physically at your computer.
- Lack of timeliness: If you post about current events in your feed, scheduled tweets could feel stale by the time they actually appear in your feed. I tried to counter this concern by front-loading the feed with timely tweets at the beginning of my vacation and using more evergreen links towards the end. The other issue is that if something catastrophic happens while you’re away (think: Hurricane Sandy or the Sandy Hook massacre), you could look like a jerk for tweeting about fashion or luxury travel during a crisis. My plan was to find an internet cafe and disable scheduled tweets if something like that happened while I was away.
- Lack of personal interaction: Personal interactions like @ mentions, DMs, or RTs go a long way towards building an online community. Not responding in real time could make you seem robotic or impersonal. One freelancer I spoke with schedules the majority of her tweets while she’s away and checks in periodically to make sure she’s also mixing in a few RTs or @ mentions.
- Possible tech glitches: Sometimes scheduling software doesn’t work, and that can result in interruptions to your feed. If you’re not actively monitoring your accounts, you may not know about these issues until days later.
If you post on social media for clients, here are some alternatives to scheduling status updates during a vacation:
- Subcontracting: If your client is cool with it, you may be able to subcontract social media responsibilities to a trusted colleague while you’re away. In my case, I knew that this client wouldn’t be keen on sharing account passwords and access with someone they hadn’t vetted. Of course, you can always reset the passwords once you return. The other issue is making sure that whoever is covering for you understands nuances of the client’s voice and any guidelines on what they should or shouldn’t tweet, because their mistakes could reflect poorly on you.
- Having the client cover: Depending on how hands-on the client is, they may prefer to handle social media themselves while you’re away instead of handing off the reins to someone else. Of course, this probably means you’ll have to take a temporary pay cut if you’re on a monthly or weekly retainer. You could also send some suggested tweets in advance and have them post at their discretion to avoid the issue of context mentioned above.
- Posting while away: Some people don’t mind spending a little time each or every other day of a vacation checking social media, especially if they could easily do it from a smartphone or tablet. The downsides of this are, of course, you still have to think about work while you’re away and make sure you have reliable internet access. I didn’t have consistent wifi access and my iPhone didn’t work, so if I’d planned to tweet, it would have created a lot of unnecessary stress. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, you’d either need to factor in the time change as you’re posting or reconcile yourself to the fact that your updates may not appear at the most optimal time for your followers (for instance, if you usually post at 9am ET most mornings and you’re traveling to the West Coast, you’d either have to get up at 6am PT to tweet to your East Coast followers or post later in the day). In my case, I felt it was important to completely unplug to avoid burnout and because I’d be in a foreign country, I wanted to avoid roaming charges or lugging around unnecessary stuff.
Your turn! Do you schedule social media updates while you’re on vacation? How would you handle this situation? Do tell!
Flickr photo courtesy of Helga Weber