Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TUESDAY TIP Using #Hootsuite to BulkSchedule Days Worth of Tweets (Revisited) @BulkSchedule #pubtip #twitter #autotweet #bot

Last week, I went off all happy and spry after I posted my Tuesday Tip on using Hootsuite Pro to Bulk Schedule massive amounts of tweets in minutes. I foolishly believed I'd just follow my own instructions and have 3-5 days worth of tweets uploaded in 3-5 minutes. Not. Making the stupid CSV file work was driving me insane!!

Enter Patrick (@BulkSchedule) maker of the fine, FREE app Hootsuite Bulk Upload. I wish his TwitterID matched his web site address but then, he's better-known as Hootsuite's Small Miracle Worker anyway ^_^ Click through the jump-break to learn why.

What They Don't Tell You
As I was writing last week's Tuesday Tip, my anticipation to try this kewel new toy of automation was mounting, but also, I saw immediately, Hootsuite neglected to fully-document this feature. I was searching and searching, but it was hard to find any documentation at all on how to go about setting up the auto-tweets. It felt as though they expected you to just know these things.

Two points in particular seemed kind of critical to me and amazing as it sounds, not only do the #Hootsuite guys leave the 2 points off their documentation, even Patrick only got one of them! What are they?

Q1) What is the actual number of characters allowed for the "message" (inside the quotes) if there is to be a link appended to the end of it?
Patrick, at least, identified this limit for us. You get 115 characters for the "message" if you choose to use a link after it. His macros will check for the maximum number of 115 characters.

Q2) Will the link be auto-magically "ow.ly'd" or taken "as is"? If I use an ow.ly link, will it be re-ow.ly'd or recognized (so I can use one repeatedly and track all clicks for that day by that one link)? If the link is taken "as is" what's the length limit?
Even Patrick ignores this important question. See, Hootsuite designers, we users don't actually know this sort of thing. You have to tell us!

I kind of knew there was no way a link would be taken "as is" and not ow.ly'd (shortened) since Hootsuite's branding as a link-shortener (in competition with Bit.ly) is pretty strong. I wasn't too sure about whether or not I could reuse a single ow.ly link again and again for my own, personal tracking reasons though.

The answer, of course, is that the link will, in fact, be automatically ow.ly'd and appended to the end of the "message" together with an utter waste of 3 characters: Hootsuite inserts a space, a hyphen and a space " - " and then appends the new ow.ly'd link. The ow.ly link will be created "on the fly" and not repeated. It will ow.ly an already ow.ly'd link.

So.  o_O

No handy-dandy tracking of a single URL unless you manually insert one link into all tweets after the CSV has been generated uploaded into Publisher. Yes, I'm saying you'd have to manually edit each individual link inside the Hootsuite Publisher environment to get tracking of a single URL on a single day. It's still better than manually hand-coding each tweet from scratch, I guess. Isn't it? Maybe not.

I now see why @KreelanWarrior said he really prefers Bit.ly's tracking tools. WAY better and more flexible URL usage. I definitely use both but might start using Bit.ly's more from this point forward. Plus they're customizable and therefore, easy to remember and give out "on the fly."

What @BulkUpload Can Do For You
Patrick has designed a Microsoft Excel sheet with macros that will actually check your 3 value fields (remember, you need "date", "message", "link" for each tweet, one per line) and generate a clean CSV file for you in a single button click. It's a fairly straightforward tool with very few issues. Best of all, it's FREE and Patrick will provide support via email. You email and ask. He answers. Thank you, Patrick!

Get the FREE HootsuiteBulkUpload tool here. Multiple versions of Excel are supported, so be sure to get the right file for your version of Excel (He even has MacOS support!)

1) You enter your dates however you prefer (either mm/dd/yy or dd/mm/yy) and the date-formatted column will display them correctly for you. The macros will check for correct formatting when you click the "validation" button later.

2) You enter your tweet's "message" and upon validation, the tool will tell you if you have too many characters (background of cell turns red). To disable the 115 character limit on your "message" (so you can include your own URL, forex) just tick the checkbox at the top.

3) You enter any link you want in the "URL" column and the tool will take care of validating it for you (and it will be ow.ly'd later). Just leave this column blank if you want to do something else with the links (like use a customized Bit.ly link you can actually track in some meaningful way. Silly, I know, but some of us want to track our traffic as a feedback system for whether or not what we're doing is actually working. Go figure.)

The Minor Issues, Not An Issue At All
I feel compelled to note there are a couple of minor issues with the HootsuiteBulkUpload.com tool but they are so minor, it's not really fair to call these bugs. Just issues. I suspect Patrick is already working on them, too.

1) There needs to be a native way to "browse" for a file location and/or to an existing file you can replace when it comes time to export the CSV. Right now, you have to either accept the default (it'll be called "Hootsuite1.csv" and be placed on your Desktop) or manually type in the entire path to the file location. I suspect half the users don't even know what the entire path actually is let alone how to type it correctly for their Operating System.

2a) There needs to be a character counter (column with the current count) added so you know when you're starting to get close to the limit--or so you know when you've managed to edit a long tweet down sufficiently. This is easy to add yourself (Just use the native Excel formula "LEN()" where you click a cell to insert its address inside those parenthesis, forex, "LEN(A1)" if A1 is where your "message" text is being typed.) but really, Patrick, you should add it (hint hint hint)

2b) Better than adding a character counter column, just make the field "sensitive" so that when I'm typing in my message, as I reach or pass the 115 character mark, the cell turns red. Your macro should be able to do that "real time" right?

3) There needs to be some documentation on the links. I'm stating here that the links will get ow.ly'd but since Hootsuite doesn't tell us, Patrick, you really should mention it. Be better than Hootsuite. Actually document your tools! ^)^

What's Next....
Next Monday I'll be starting a new marketing series on Branding. If you haven't already read through my previous series, please check out The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors) and the Positioning (for Indie Authors) while you wait for the new series to begin.

Next Tuesday, I'll address the necessary topic of how to compose and stockpile a collection of promo tweets.

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