The best Twitter users tweet often -- almost constantly. But most of us don't have time to be tapping out pithy 140-character statements on our phones 24-7, because we have things like jobs, families, and the need to sleep. That's where tweet scheduling comes into play -- by using a handy free tool to schedule your tweets in advance, it's easy to stay relevant in the Twittersphere without feeling tied to your Twitter account.
Hootsuite is a free social media management tool that lets you schedule tweets (and Facebook posts and Instagram pics) for maximum impact. With the free version of Hootsuite, you can connect up to three different social media accounts and schedule your tweets in increments of five minutes. To schedule a tweet via Hootsuite, all you have to do is click the little calendar button and choose the date and time you want your tweet to go live. While you can attach photos to your Hootsuite tweets, they will show up as links rather than native Twitter images.
Hootsuite also has an AutoSchedule tool that uses your timezone to determine the best time to schedule tweets. In Settings > AutoSchedule you can tweak the tool to work with your schedule -- you can black out certain dates, for example, or have Hootsuite only schedule updates between certain times. You can also choose how many tweets per day Hootsuite will auto schedule (up to 10). Once you set this up, Hootsuite will automatically schedule tweets at optimal times until it hits the maximum number of auto-scheduled tweets, and then it will start scheduling tweets for the next day.
Buffer is another free social media management tool similar to Hootsuite, but with a few advantages. While I don't love Buffer's interface (Hootsuite acts as a dashboard where you can see multiple feeds, while Buffer makes you pay for this feature), its scheduling tools are a bit more advanced. For one thing, you can schedule tweets in Buffer down to the minute, instead of every five minutes, which makes them look a bit less premeditated. You can also add photos and videos to your tweets, which will show up as native Twitter images and videos.
Unlike Hootsuite, Buffer lets you create a custom schedule that all tweets in your queue will adhere to. In the Schedule tab, you can choose specific times for your content to be posted each day (and you can also black out days if you like). This is sort of like Hootsuite's AutoSchedule tool, except you choose the exact times. Buffer also has an Optimal Timing Tool that's almost exactly like Hootsuite's AutoSchedule, except you can't tweak it (no blackout days or time constraints) and you can schedule up to 16 posts per day.
TweetDeck is a free, simple Twitter-exclusive dashboard (that is now owned by Twitter). Like Hootsuite, TweetDeck acts as a hub where you can view multiple streams from your feed. You can also schedule tweets down to the minute, but TweetDeck doesn't have an automatic scheduling tool or a calendar that you can set up -- you'll have to schedule each tweet individually. To schedule a tweet, just type your tweet out and hit Schedule Tweet, pick the date and time you want your tweet to air, and then click the Tweet button, which will now say Tweet at [date] or Tweet at [time] (if your tweet is schedule for later the same day).
For those of you who aren't invested enough in tweet scheduling to sign up for a full social media management service, FutureTweets is a website that lets you schedule tweets individually. You do need to "sign up" for the service (and grant access to your Twitter account), but once you've signed in, scheduling your tweet is as easy as typing it out, choosing the date and time, and clicking schedule. FutureTweets is extremely basic -- you can't add media and it doesn't automatically shorten links. But the service does keep a record of your past and future scheduled tweets.
Twuffer is another relatively simple Web-based tweet scheduler, similar to FutureTweets but with a slightly more attractive layout. Like FutureTweets, Twuffer asks only for your Twitter credentials and has a very basic scheduler that lets you type your tweet and choose the date and time you want it to publish. Twuffer doesn't have any fancy built-in options like media or link shortening, but it does keep a record of your scheduled tweets -- including separate tabs for currently scheduled, sent, and failed.
LaterBro is similar to FutureTweets and Twuffer, but it also offers Facebook scheduling. With LaterBro, you'll need to sign in with your Twitter account and pick your timezone. You can then type your tweet and pick the date and time -- in increments of 15 minutes -- you want it to be published. To schedule your tweet, you'll need to check the box next to your Twitter account before you click schedule. You can add a Facebook account by going to Settings > Add a Facebook account, and you can schedule things to post simultaneously to both your Twitter and your Facebook account. Like the other website tweet schedulers, LaterBro has no media support or link shortening, but it's quick and painless if you just want to schedule a couple of quick tweets.