A trick to HootSuite bulk scheduling
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!