• By taking a few thoughtful minutes to configure free tools such as Buffer, Zapier and IFTTT, you can collect and publish social media content effortlessly.
  • The goal is to automate your social media heavy lifting so that you can cut straight to engaging.
  • Be a real human online -- be personable, share your local expertise and your brand’s personality.

New Zealand is incredible, but Wi-Fi in New Zealand is not so incredible. Knowing this, I left our brokerage social media in the hands of various apps and automated web-based services for almost three weeks while I was on vacation 8,476 miles away.

The sad thing is, no one really noticed I was gone. Our impressions, comments and sharing stats were not drastically different while I was away. They were lower, but not significantly lower.

Here’s what I had been preaching but not practicing: social media does not cultivate your farm area, you do.

Below are the simple tools and processes I used to make my daily routine irrelevant. Do not use them to replace actual human interaction online, but let them get the heavy lifting out of the way so that you can cut right to engaging.

1. Buffer: The scheduler

Buffer is the epicenter of my operation. Everything I post is flowed through Buffer, so I know that nothing is posting twice or getting lost in translation.

I connect Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest pages to queue photos, links or statuses shared on a custom schedule. The free version allows 10 posts in social queues and limited analytics, or you can upgrade for 200 posts and 12 social profiles.

While I was out of the country, I scheduled two to three tweets a day; I kept in mind the type of content, the time of day and the day of the week as I planned.

For example, I usually reserved weekend posts for neighborhood-specific home searchers (open house invites, local events, etc.). Our automated tweets are a mix of listing promotion, neighborhood/local news and blog posts. Buffer content is collected through Zaps.

2. Zapier: The connector

Zapier is an awesome tool. It’s the muscle behind efficiently posting and collecting shareable data. All of my scheduled WordPress posts are zapped to Buffer immediately after they are published.

Photos by Lucy MacLeish

Photos by Lucy MacLeish

You can filter by post title or schedule a custom date and time, and you can customize what you want the tweet or post to say based on a number of different triggers.

My favorite part is that you can Zap to specific social platforms and customize relevant info in each channel. I love the donut example of what to share and how; it’s a bit out of date now, but it’s still a great example that sharing and engaging on different platforms is very different.

3. WordPress: The content

I write most blog posts weeks in advance and schedule them to publish. I have a template for market updates in our farm area that pulls new listings each week through our IDX and also includes local news and events.

These events are compiled by IFTTT in a Google Doc automatically, and I just copy and paste them into each weekly post. It’s an easy, scalable way to create buzz and be an area expert.

4. Canva: The pretty

It’s obvious that tweets and Facebook posts with photos generate higher engagement. Planning theses ahead of time is easy with Canva; you can quickly create branded social media-sized images and attach them to Buffer posts.

I’ve found this especially effective with Pinterest. Buffer recently released Pablo, which is an even simpler social image creator, but it does not have all the bells and whistles that Canva offers.

5. IFTTT: The other stuff

I have consolidated most of my IFTTT recipes to Zaps, but still use it for quick, basic functions.

For example, any news that I tweet with specific hashtags is fed directly to a Google Doc to put into neighborhood update posts at the end of the week.

I also like the recipe that makes Instagram photos post as native Twitter photos through Buffer. I’ve read about agents using IFTTT to collect buyer leads through Twitter, but it hasn’t been something I’ve found efficient in our area.

6. MailChimp: To keep in touch

Attractive and engaging email campaigns can be created and scheduled in MailChimp. If you take the time to build a few good contact lists, you can quickly send templates with new listings to top producers in specific neighborhoods, broker’s open invites and monthly farm area newsletters.

An awesome paid feature is automated emails that can trigger after people subscribe, click or open something.

Take thoughtful time to automate as much as you can to free your minutes for developing new relationships, strengthening old ones and cultivating quality leads through engagement online.

Be genuine and personable. Share company culture and expert local knowledge. Those are the ends I’m chasing now, whether I’m at my desk or not.

Hillary Rinehart is the marketing coordinator with TrustLarry Real Estate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Follow her on Twitter or on Facebook.

Email Hillary Rinehart.

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