Introducing The Shuffler!

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What is this thing?

The Shuffler is a social networking tool. It uses an Excel spreadsheet of categorized messages that you create – you load the spreadsheet, choose the category or categories you want, how many messages to select, and The Shuffler returns randomly chosen messages from those categories.

You then copy and paste the messages into your social media scheduler. I use HootSuite, but you could use any web-based social media scheduler.

How’d You Come Up With This?

By day I’m a software developer; in my off-time I’m a writer and indie filmmaker. I’ve been trying to build an audience through social media, and in order to effectively do that I need to use an automator. This isn’t something I’m making up – companies like HubSpot and HootSuite know this, and Lynn Serafin has written several excellent books on the topic.

One of the things I picked up from Lynn was building a message library. Using a library made life much easier over coming up with new content every week, but as the library grew I found I was spending more and more time deciding on the messages I wanted to send. That got me thinking about how I could automate that process, and The Shuffler was the resulting program.

You can listen to Lynn's interview on Episode 2 of The Author's Marketing Podcast.

Does It Work?

When I was manually scheduling tweets, I would schedule 12-14 hours worth of tweets a day. Using The Shuffler, I can set up 24 hours of tweets in considerably less time – I was spending 3-4 hours scheduling tweets, now I spend about an hour, and I schedule a lot more messages. I’ve also found a significant uptick in activity – retweets, favorites, and mentions – with more active tweeting.

Where Do The Messages Come From?

You create them.

You come up with the messaging. You categorize it. The Shuffler takes the burden of selecting messages away.

What Are The Limitations?

I’ve set a limit of 24 messages from a given category at one time. My reasoning behind this is if you’re tweeting about a topic more than once an hour you could risk getting flagged as a spammer. Ideally you should have a variety of messages on a given topic. If you’re going to repeat a message, you should wait several hours or more depending on the social network you’re using.

If you have fewer messages than you select – say you have 5 messages in a category, and you tell The Shuffler you want 6 – one of them will repeat. In this version of the tool you may get repeats, especially when you have a small number of messages in the category.

How you handle this is up to you – you could schedule the message at a later time, you could switch to another category, or you can create more content for that category.

The spreadsheet must be the .xslx format (Excel 2003+/OpenOffice), and three columns are necessary: the message, an optional URL, and a category. I’ve included a sample in the install directory to get you started.

Make sure you back up your message spreadsheet!

Is My Account Safe?

My original intent was to send the messages into HootSuite directly. At this time there is no direct connection between your social media accounts and this tool. This version requires you to log into HootSuite (or your social media scheduler of choice) using a web browser, then copy and paste the messages from The Shuffler into the scheduler.

If the API opens back up for direct access to allow scheduling, I will consider adding that feature.

Will It Work With The Bulk Uploader?

That is something I’m considering for a future version, depending on user feedback.

What Do I Need to Run It?

The Shuffler is a Windows program that requires the .NET Framework 4.0 to be installed on your computer. If you have a relatively recent copy of Windows (Windows 7/8/10) and the latest updates, you should be able to use The Shuffler.If you can run .NET 4.0 on your computer, you should be able to run this program.

Just download the installer from the link on the right, run it, and follow the prompts to set it up. A sample spreadsheet will be loaded into the install directory to help you get started.

The program is compiled as a 32-bit application, so it will work on either 32 or 64-bit operating systems. I've run it on Windows 7, 8 and 10 64-bit without issues.

Any Advice For Using The Shuffler?

There’s a lot to this and no one tool can guarantee success. You’re going to need to experiment with your messaging to figure out what works for you based on your target audience. How you write the message, the links you include, the times you message…all of that is going to factor into how successful you are. You need to create interesting content.

I break my messages out by times – at the top of the hour I tweet writing advice; at quarter past I tweet about filmmaking; at half past I tweet self-promotion, and at quarter to I choose another topic. Sometimes I mix up the times, but this is a good way to start.

How Much Does This Thing Cost?

This tool is intended for independent creatives struggling to build an audience. I know firsthand how difficult it is to try to make money with creative works. I’ve seen a number of tools charging $10-20 a month, and let’s face it… a lot of us aren’t making that much a month from our creative works.

That’s why The Shuffler is a free download. That means you can get the program, the sample spreadsheet (which will drop into the install directory), and use it free of charge.

If you find value in it and feel generous, there’s a donation button on the site. You can send a contribution through PayPal. The recommended contribution is $2 US, but this is not a requirement.

I want to thank Kevin Macleod over at Incompetech.com for inspiring me to take this approach.

I manage social media for a company. Is it free for me too?

Free means free. Free for everyone, free forever. I can’t rule out a paid version with additional features down the road – I have some things in mind, but I want to see if the user community agrees with me first. As long as you don’t mind copying and pasting, this version of The Shuffler will be available free of charge.

If you find The Shuffler saves you a significant amount of time, and more importantly you see results, please consider making a contribution to support continued development.

There is no requirement or expectation that you will do this.

I have a feature request, or I want a customization. Can you help me?

Fill in the contact form located in the top menu if you’re interested in customizations.