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A trick to HootSuite bulk scheduling

January 9, 2011
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I finally had a chance to try out the relatively new HootSuite bulk scheduling feature for Pro account users. It wasn’t pretty. What should have been a cut-and-dry  process—according to the HootSuite instructions, anyway—turned into over an hour of frustrated file swapping and forum surfing. When I finally got it to work, though, I swear an angelic chorus sounded from above. So here is some background and my solution that, knock on wood, is working for me consistently.

Bulk scheduler basics

After you’ve logged in to your HootSuite dashboard, click in the “Compose message” box, then on the calendar “Schedule Message” icon. This pops up the scheduler window, which has a “Schedule in Bulk” button. Click there to pull up the bulk scheduler. Basically, you upload a CSV file with a time stamp, message, and URL, which the HootSuite servers then parse to create your pending posts.

Scheduler frustrations

Ater visiting HootSuite’s help portal, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one having problems. Most issues seem to be rooted in users’ tool-of-choice (usually Microsoft Excel) for creating CSV files. I read the whole bleepin’ thread and still couldn’t get my CSV file to upload properly.

One user suggestion was to use Google Docs spreadsheets to create the CSV file. I tried that but still got an error that my date strings weren’t correct.

Multiple HootSuite support personnel posts suggested that people should use plain text editors to ensure proper  markup in the CSV file. Sorry folks, but wrong answer. If I wanted to take the time to edit a CSV file with up to 50 entries, checking to make sure each column has commas, etc., I wouldn’t be bothering with this. Without the ability to edit in spreadsheet format, the feature loses a significant aspect of its convenience. Then again, maybe most people are more patient them I am.

My final solution

I have now gotten this to work properly on three consecutive uploads, so hopefully it will work for you. If you plan to use a spreadsheet program like Excel, here’s what I do.

  1. Start with a fresh spreadsheet. Do not use the sample CSV file that HootSuite provides if you plan to use a spreadsheet program like Excel. Excel does some sort of auto-formatting (which I have yet to figure out how to disable) that makes the CSV-XLS-CSV formatting unpredictable.
  2. Format cells as General Text. Do not use auto-formatting for your time stamp column. This also seems to cause unpredictability in the XLS-CSV conversion. Some users suggested using the Date format in Excel, but I could not get a consistent result doing that.
  3. Save two versions of your spreadsheet. Work with your content in a document saved as an Excel spreadsheet (XLS or XLSX) until you’re ready to upload. Then save it as CSV.
  4. Don’t pre-shorten your URL’s. Some of the URL’s I pre-shortened worked, some didn’t. So I’ve just decided to enter the full URL in my spreadsheet.
  5. Create separate spreadsheets for each network. You have to select the network you want to post to when you upload your CSV file. Don’t try to create tabs in one spreadsheet for each network as this will mess up your CSV export (CSV files don’t support tabs).

I hope these tips help! Please let me know if you found other tricks to help the process along.

Feature wishlist

There are two big things I’m hoping HootSuite will improve in the scheduling feature. Okay, three. First, the CSV parsing is very picky, so any way they can make that more forgiving will surely reduce the number of tickets they have to open. Beyond that, the biggies are:

  • Create a shortcut to access the bulk scheduler. Give me a menu option or button on the homescreen so I don’t have to click through the message composer to get to the feature.
  • Provide support for multiple networks in one CSV. A column to designate which network to post to would be super convenient. Please!
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34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 12:26 pm

    Thanks for the feedback – we’ll keep looking at ways to refine this powerful (and very popular) new feature. If you have any other feature requests, please share them at the Feedback channel: http://feedback.hootsuite.com – this allows others to vote for your idea and add their comments.

    • January 10, 2011 2:17 pm

      Thanks, Dave! With these tricks, I see myself using (and loving) this feature often.

  2. January 30, 2011 3:23 am

    Hi Becca,
    Just wondering, do you do any formattingbeyond general for the date column?

    Leanne

    • January 30, 2011 2:43 pm

      I’ve discovered that either General or Text formatting works for the date column. Beyond, that, the formatting hasn’t mattered as long as I make all edits in the XLS format. If I open the CSV to make an edit and resave it, Excel does something that causes the HootSuite import to fail again. So I create my worksheet with general formatting, make all changes, then export to CSV and upload. I hope that helps!

    • May 25, 2012 5:23 pm

      I do custom formatting for the date column.

      1. Highlight the column.
      2. Right click and choose “format cells”
      3. On the Format tab click “Custom”
      4. Type into the line dialogue “DD/MM/YYYY HH:MM:SS AM/PM”
      5. Press Apply and Ok to close the dialogue

      VOILA! Your dates/times are all standardized!

  3. February 5, 2011 2:37 pm

    Thanks for this, I’ve been trying to get an answer out of the guys over at Hootsuite for a week now! They’d make me a very, very happy girl if I could just enter my tweets on some form of calendar – and if I could tweet to different accounts at the same time, heaven! I await their updates!

    • February 7, 2011 10:47 am

      I agree Ali, the long-form timestamp is tedious. Once I got the hang of the uploads, the feature indeed saves me time, but with a few usability enhancements this could be a game-changer.

  4. Charski permalink
    February 7, 2011 4:29 am

    Hi Becca

    Thanks for the tips, they’re really useful as I’m just starting to use the bulk schedule feature.

    Does it automatically shrink URLs within the CSV file as part of the upload process, or do you have to allow for longer links?

    Charski

    • February 7, 2011 10:45 am

      Use long URLs in the spreadsheet and they’ll be shortened to ow.ly links. But it’s a good idea to allow at least 18-20 characters of the total 140 tweet for shortened URLs. So when I’m drafting my tweets I aim for 120 characters or less for the tweet content. Hope that helps!

  5. February 23, 2011 2:45 pm

    Hi, so I am new to HootSuite and I have to do bulk messaging. I have been working on it the past two days 7 hours straight and am still getting errors. I found your blog most helpful but still cannot figure out where im going wrote. Heres the link to my blog that i included your site in for other people having trouble.
    http://blog.hudsonhorizons.com/Article/Trouble-with-Bulk-Messaging-on-HootSuite.htm

    I dont know how people uploaded their csv file other wise I would ask you for advise. Anyway thank you for the great blog!

  6. February 28, 2011 10:10 pm

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been tasked with checking how this works to Facebook. My client wants the link to show up with the thumbnail. Your link to the help portal got me the answer I was trying to find.
    Next they should add a feature to DELETE multiple scheduled posts. Bulk uploading 40+ that are all wrong and having to delete them one at a time is a real pisser. Or am I just missing some obvious button somewhere?

    • March 1, 2011 7:15 pm

      Thank you, Pattie! I feel your pain on wanting the delete multiple pending updates–had to do that more than once. Sucks up a lot of time!

      • Franchize615 permalink
        May 13, 2011 4:44 pm

        The only 2 ways to delete multiple pending posts…

        1. Delete each message one by one. Which if u have more than a couple, it will take forever, as yall have seen!

        2. (the best way) Just delete the Social network, and then Add it back. (this will remove all pending messages, and other than the time it takes to add it back, i dont see that it changes or effects anything else. )
        Worked like a charm for me, after hours of looking for another solution and finding NOTHING.

  7. March 22, 2011 7:34 am

    The real problem here is NOT setting up the tweets for bulk, the format is quite simple. It is that the programme we use try to think for us and spit the data out in a format we don’t want, with no choices to edit the export format.
    We had problems with
    1. Google (no chance)
    2. Excel 9horrible
    3. Open Office (pulling teeth is easier)

    mainly because;
    1. They will spit things out with “””” instead of ”
    2. DD/MM/YYYY HH:MM secretly has HH:MM:SS added! Where did I say Add ‘seconds’
    3. Not include a “,” at an a line end

    Finally it worked with using open office and then on output find and replacing all “””” (3 quotes) with a single ” in notpad

    I suspect a programmer wrote the bulk upload, hand coded a line and it worked… then when you try bulk using a non notpad app it is a hell of a lot more difficult…

    Why not make a simple interface for users to ADD the 50 tweets themselves?

    any way good blog 🙂

  8. Erica permalink
    April 3, 2011 12:41 am

    I used this for the first time last week and when I got it working it was amazing!

    I worked out the time stamp finally, edited the duplicates and long tweets, and off it went. Then I scanned the scheduled tweets and discovered that any tweet that had a comma in it had been truncated at that point. So I had to manually edit about half of the scheduled tweets.

    Does anyone have any idea why this might have happened or how I go about preventing it from happening next time?

  9. Rebecca permalink
    April 6, 2011 9:52 am

    I was wondering if you (or anyone else) also gets quotes when they use the bulk schedule feature. When I use it, the quotes actually post so my tweet would read:
    “Happy Friday” instead of just Happy Friday
    Make sense? Anyone know how to fix this?

  10. April 7, 2011 12:36 pm

    Bald is not a good look for me, Becca. And that is why I must thank you, because I was on the verge of tearing my hair out the last time I tried messing with this. According to Hootsuite, I’ve just successfully scheduled 3 messages in bulk. Oh, thank you.

  11. May 11, 2011 12:51 pm

    Becca — excellent work! Good thread as well. My head is spinning trying to track scheduled tweets/wallposts outside of HootSuite. Until the Calendar feature appears this looks like as good as it gets, which is saying something indeed.

    P.S. You should use Shareaholic’s Sexy Bookmarks plugin on your blog !

  12. August 21, 2011 3:08 pm

    This post will save me tons of needless anxiety. Many thanks!

  13. Krisha permalink
    August 23, 2011 8:25 pm

    How I shorten my messages. I mean, I want all my message to be read by my readers without deleting any characters. Please help. Thanks!

  14. August 31, 2011 2:59 pm

    Hi Becca,
    I have scheduled my first list of tweets. But we only have a limit of 50 per list and we can not use the same “scheduled” message twice. So, my burning need right now is that I need to know if it is possibel to someway cause a recurring list to be used? or If we are sending out 24 messages per list per day, do we have to upload a new list every day? Is there someway around this?

    • December 6, 2011 1:55 pm

      Yes, there is a way around this, but its not exactly pretty, or at least the one i figured out isnt. You are using excel, so you can find a formula that will add a number to your message. You can make it a row number, the time, or some kind of randomly generated number. I just used the row number and added some random txt to it to make it seem more random. An example would be the formula below:
      =”HEY, here is my generic hootsuite post. eg” & ROW()

      This would output… HEY, here is my generic hootsuite post. eg(and the row number here).
      SO this is what you get…
      HEY, here is my generic hootsuite post. eg2
      HEY, here is my generic hootsuite post. eg3
      HEY, here is my generic hootsuite post. eg4

      Im not sure if there is a prettier or more effective way, but in all my looking/trying this is one of the easier and best ways i figured out.

  15. October 28, 2011 5:41 pm

    I have gotten the bulk uploader to work, and then it doesn’t. My biggest problem right now is I can’t get Excel to stop taking away my leading zero on 01/11/11. I was doing great until that date came into view. Now I can’t get it to work. Help!

    • December 6, 2011 1:39 pm

      You might have fixed this, but i just saw it. Maybe this will help you or something else. But In order to have it accept your leading Zero, you have to change the number format insde the “format cells” options (select the column, right click on any of the selected cells, then click “format cells”, just in cause u dont know). Make SURE that you make the number format has DD/MM/YYYY HH:MM. This may not be under the one that says “time”, it may be under the “Custom” formats, but most likely you will have to edit the cloest one you can find to make sure it says this. DD/MM/YYYY HH:MM. This will make all number have the correct format, all the extras zeros and etc. It will output like 15/04/2011 03:30, meaning April 15, 2011 at 3.30 am or 09/12/2011 15:00 for November 9, 2011 at 3pm .
      Also, after you save your file as a CSV, sometimes if you reopen it, it will reset this column. So u might have to go back and do the custom Number Format again and save it before you upload it.

  16. November 16, 2011 12:05 am

    I love the bulk uploading however I can’t seem to get it to except any AM messages. It will take 1:00:00 PM but not 1:00:00 AM. I even used the template they recommended and kept the sample time they had of 6:15:00 AM and that didn’t work either. Any suggestions as to how I make this work?

    • December 6, 2011 1:42 pm

      @moneta24lorna. I will say paste the same thing i typed to the answer above. You might have fixed this, but i just saw it. Maybe this will help you or something else. But In order to have it accept the am format and some dates correctly, you have to change the number format insde the “format cells” options (select the column, right click on any of the selected cells, then click “format cells”, just in cause u dont know). Make SURE that you make the number format has DD/MM/YYYY HH:MM. This may not be under the one that says “time”, it may be under the “Custom” formats, but most likely you will have to edit the cloest one you can find to make sure it says this. DD/MM/YYYY HH:MM. This will make all numbers have the correct format, all the extras zeros and etc. It will output like 15/04/2011 03:30, meaning April 15, 2011 at 3.30 am or 09/12/2011 15:00 for November 9, 2011 at 3pm .
      Also, after you save your file as a CSV, sometimes if you reopen it, it will reset this column. So u might have to go back and do the custom Number Format again and save it before you upload it.

  17. January 6, 2012 1:15 am

    There’s a lot of little details about the Bulk Schedule feature that trip people up, especially with the date. Many people have had success with this free Excel tool @ http://www.HootSuiteBulkUpload.com that does quite a bit of error checking and creates CSV files in the correct format.

    • FollyBeachBound permalink
      January 9, 2013 12:09 pm

      …only works in Excel, not OO, unfortunately…

  18. Patrick permalink
    January 8, 2012 4:20 pm

    There’s an easier way to bulk schedule tweet for HootSuite @ http://www.HootSuiteBulkUpload.com

  19. May 19, 2012 3:36 pm

    I love this tool too. But I am wondering if I can upload images and videos in bulk too. I guess if I were to include a youtube video link, then it would display a small icon for the video on the FB page? how about photos though? the only way I can think of is to upload the images to a server first, then use the URL to that image. Too much work!

    Does anyone know?

  20. May 26, 2012 3:25 pm

    Try using Google Drive’s spreadsheet. Then… File-Download the current tab. Only the tab gets downloaded, not the whole file. 🙂

  21. July 9, 2012 3:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Incorporating Social Media In Education K-12 and commented:
    having similar problems and thought I was going crazy as well!

  22. September 4, 2013 7:07 pm

    Im sorry I still can’t figure out how to get the am and pm to upload correctly. I fixed the custom cells like one of the replies mentioned and it didn’t seem to do anything. Any additional details would help! Thanks for any additional help!
    -kate

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