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In this article I’m going to show you how you can pause or delete all of your scheduled activity on social media. I’ll touch on why you should, and then go through the necessary steps to take, tools to use, and tactics to consider.
Because when there’s a crisis facing your audience; when your audience is completely focused on something else, they need you to demonstrate empathy. They need you, a brand, to act in ways that are as human as possible. And that means:
#1 – You listen. You stop talking and listen.
#2 – You help. Whether you’re saying something or doing something, to show empathy for someone else, what you’re doing must be helpful to them in that moment.
And this forms the basis of how brands approach social media in a crisis.
They stop or pause all of their activity and then evaluate what they’re saying and doing and make sure that they approach it in a way that’s actually helpful to their audience at that time.
One of the criticisms you might see of brands online is that they are or have been tone deaf. The normal definition of tone deaf has to do with being unable to hear the differences in musical pitch, so how does that apply to brands, and why should they avoid it?
The idea is that social media is a dynamic platform on which millions of individuals are having conversations and because the networks are fueled by posts and content from individual people, that content, and the networks themselves, are constantly shaped and re-shaped by those users at any given moment.
An easy example is to go Twitter and notice what’s trending. Typically what’s trending will be hashtags related to specific news items, because those are the topics and posts that are being discussed the most right now. The more people talk about a particular topic, the more likely it is that when you log into your network of choice and scan your feed, more and more of the posts from your friends and connections will be about that topic.
Contrast that with, say, a billboard on the side of the highway. That advertisement – that message from a business – is static. It doesn’t change depending on the mood or interests of the people driving by, nor does it participate in the conversations that are taking place.
When businesses post or advertise on social media, they’re participating in conversations just as if they’d walked into a coffee house and started talking to the people there. Some businesses choose to make announcements to the whole room, while others prefer to try to engage in more meaningful conversations.
Imagine what might happen though if you, representing your business, walked into a coffee house where there was a serious meeting and discussion going on about the role of police in today’s society, with community leaders and activists engaged in meaningful dialogue with politicians and precinct captains, and you marched in and started talking about how wonderful your services are and how you’ve helped so many businesses.
What do you imagine their reaction might be?
Brands who pay no attention to what is happening to their audience, what’s being discussed right then on social media, and post their own self-interested content instead, are failing to hear all of the notes. They’ve missed the complexity of the harmony and decided to belt out their own off-key version of the tune.
When my girls do it it’s adorable. When brands do it, they risk alienating fans and drawing well-deserved criticism.
What I want to cover here, in more detail than I have elsewhere, is the technical steps and considerations with regard to all of your potential social media activity. And this is going to cover five general areas so that you approach your social media with empathy, not tone deafness:
Planned Manual activity refers to things you intended to do on social media natively, without a tool or scheduled post. Examples would include planning to go live on Facebook, or having graphics ready to post this afternoon to promote a new blog post.
While it may be easy to pause social media activity like this since it simply requires the decision not to do this activity, it’s worth mentioning because these might very well be important activities to your business that should be thought through and potentially rescheduled. It’s also possible that you might have other team members involved who need to be informed and brought into the conversation.
It’s also possible that you have something planned which you’ve pre-promoted, like a tweet chat, which doesn’t necessarily go out automatically, and yet was anticipated nonetheless. In this case, you might want to consider not only pausing the activity, but posting something else instead that says the event is cancelled or the planned activity won’t be taking place.
Hopefully you’re using a social media planner which you can easily crack open and review your intended activities.
The activity that many of us have set up, and is likely where our trouble may begin, is scheduled activity.
These are posts that you’ve set up to be shared on a specific date at a specific time, and you’ve either used a third party tool to handle it or the native platform if that’s supported, such as your Facebook Page. Using Facebook’s Creator Studio, you can schedule posts to your Facebook Page or your connected Instagram business profile. Twitter and YouTube also support scheduling natively.
When you need to review and potentially reschedule or even delete such activity, you’ll need to go to each platform where you’ve scheduled content to review it. So unfortunately, when you want to pause social media activity like this, it may be time-consuming.
For instance, if I had a post scheduled to be shared to The Social Media Hat’s Facebook Page, it would be listed within Scheduled posts. Whether there’s one post or a hundred, the process is the same.
Here’s what that looks like:
At present, there is no option to bulk delete or re-schedule such posts, so this may be a time-consuming process if you’ve scheduled a lot of posts. And don’t forget, you’ll need to repeat this entire process for every platform you’ve scheduled posts to in this way.
Similarly, third party tools like Agorapulse make it easier to schedule content to social platforms, particularly multiple platforms, so brands that are particularly active on multiple social channels will often make use of social media management tools to help with that activity.
However, reviewing and adjusting scheduled content is typically a manual process here as well. While a few third party schedulers have bulk action available, most, like Agorapulse, still require that you review each scheduled post for each profile and adjust as needed. There are a couple of advantages though to using a tool.
First, it’s easier and more efficient to log into one dashboard and then click through all of your social profiles than it is to log into each profile individually, particularly if you’re managing social media for clients. Accessing each social profile natively requires that you log in and that may be problematic as well as time-consuming.
Second, deleting a scheduled post on the native platform may require two or more clicks per post. With Agorapulse, as you review the posts you planned to have published, there’s a delete button right on the post:
Deciding not to proceed with that scheduled activity is then fairly straightforward to accomplish.
Other scheduling tools you might be using and have forgotten include:
My preferred method for scheduling social media activity is the use of queues.
A queue is a line of social posts and when you set up a specific queue in a tool like Agorapulse, you get to determine which social profile and what the schedule might be for that profile. As each time slot comes up, say, 6:00 AM CST on a Monday, your social media management tool will automatically grab and post the next piece of content you have in the queue.
It’s cool because you can set up different categories and different sets of time slots and schedules for each, helping to create a robust schedule of activity, like this:
What’s more important here is that, if you have your scheduled content controlled by queues, you can easily pause an entire queue with a click of a button, even on mobile!
If you’re using Agorapulse, click on Publishing Lists in the left sidebar, then on Queued in the top tab. There you’ll see each queue you have set up, kanban style, with queued posts below each column. Click the three dot menu in the upper right corner of any particular queue to get to the “Pause this queue category” button and your scheduled social media activity will be immediately paused.
At any time you can click on “Resume publishing” to start your queue back up.
Since I tend to rely on category queues for my baseline social activity on most profiles, pausing these categories, particularly when there’s a major crisis that requires reviewing or even silencing social activity, takes just moments.
After the brutal murder of George Floyd and the outrage that exploded on social media, I opened my Agorapulse app and paused every queue I had running for all of my personal and brand profiles. Within a day, I’d created a new queue called “Social Media Advice” into which I bulk uploaded a dozen pieces of advice for other brands on how to approach social media marketing in that moment. I wanted to make sure that the only content I was sharing on those channels was either directly in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, or at least relevant to my audience of social media users at that time.
There’s one additional kind of “organic” social media activity that you may need to address, and that is automated. Unlike the previous types of social media posts, automated posts are ones that go out without any knowledge or review or intention because there’s a system or app in place that is automatically posting on your behalf once triggered.
For instance, WordPress sites come equipped with a plugin called Jetpack and one of the optional settings within that plugin is to automatically share new blog posts to connected social profiles. While that may sound like a convenient time saver, it’s usually just a waste of time since the shared posts aren’t customized for those channels and audiences at all – just a ho-hum post of the title and link.
While that’s less than ideal under normal circumstances, automatically sharing new blog posts during a crisis might be a disaster, particularly if the title and topic of the post might be seen by your audience as being tone deaf.
If you have a system like that in place, at a minimum, you must be aware of its existence and how to disable it when necessary. I recommend having a Crisis Management doc or at least some notes in your social media planner.
If you’re actively utilizing reciprocal sharing services or aggregators like these, make note of those too as you’ll need to be able to quickly run through and disable any of them:
For instance, you might have some IFTTT widgets set up to automatically share posts from bloggers or sites you trust to Twitter. It’s a nice widget that routinely scans their RSS feed and tweets out new links. But during a crisis, you probably should make sure that doesn’t happen without your knowledge, so disconnect them.
Finally, brands need to be cognizant of the fact that their audiences, social media users and prospects, often cannot and will not distinguish between advertisements and organic posts. That means if you’re reviewing and potentially stopping your normal social media activity, you must at the same time consider your paid ads.
For each platform you’re advertising on, log into your ad account and go to your dashboard to see your active campaigns. Just as with your social media posts, review every ad for tone, intent, timing… make sure the text and image or video, and the resulting link as well, are all appropriate even with whatever’s happening that’s causing the review. If there’s any doubt whatsoever, pause the campaign.
Taking the time to review all of these ways and tools in order to pause social media activity is critical and, if you document it in your planner, it will be easy to manage. But what’s next?
From a technical perspective, un-pausing is as simple as clicking the resume button on your queues or re-created your scheduled activity and resuming your plans.
However, the more complicated consideration is timing. When should you resume your normal activities? This will be an extremely subjective decision, but should mirror the original considerations that led you to pause your activity.
What are you posting? How will it be received by your audience? Is it sensitive to the context of what else will be happening on social media today?
Sometimes, before you un-pause social media activity, there needs to be period of time when you are active on social media in completely new and different ways. When the pandemic hit the United States and Europe, Agorapulse which operates predominantly in those markets, paused and then shifted all content and social media activity to be appropriate to the time.
After the murder of George Floyd, not only did savvy brands go silent on social media, within a very short amount of time many got loud with their vocal support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and became strong advocates and allies. They changed their messaging and activity to support people of color everywhere and their audiences noticed. And brands who ignored that particular tone, who by their silence on the issue evidenced complicit approval, they were noticed too.
What’s important is to always treat your social channels and audiences as members of your community, which means showing empathy and understanding. That is, in fact, an approach that should guide your social activity each and every day.