19 Jul 2013

Planning your Social Media content activity

This is a short post to give you the reader a top level look at creating and using a Social Media content calendar and what I call the 'Key Pillars of Social Media Content'. It touches on tone of voice, content creation and dealing with negative feedback, but these elements are not the focus for this post.

Before we begin it is worth noting and accepting that as with most things in life, there is not a 'one hat fits all' solution when it comes to planning your brands Social Media activity - we are innately and sometimes spectacularly different - what works for one person or team may fail miserably for another.

That said, I believe there are some basic pillars associated with Social Media activity that if constantly considered will ensure that your brands Social Media content remains exciting, engaging, and therefore diverse. By using a calendar you will be able to have a 'helicopter view' (sorry for the gregarious use of such an overused and underwhelming marketing term!) of your weekly Social Media activity.

Even though I use Hootsuite Pro and other Social Media tools in a professional sense, I still use a top level Social Media Activity calendar created and shared to our marketing and agency teams on Google Drive, which allows us to discuss and edit it in real-time.

Why a Social Media Calendar?

  • It forces you and your team to actually spend time planning your activity
  • By spending time on the planning it forces you to consider how the activity fits with the overall brand objectives 
  • It allows you and your team to have a helicopter view of the weekly activity
  • It allows you to overlay important calendar dates into your content plan
Which results in....
  • Keeping the content exciting
  • Keeping the content engaging and relevant to other real events / topics
  • Therefore - Keeping the content diverse and your audience engaged

A content plan doesn't need to be a rigid plan and can be amended at any time.

Audience & Objectives

Audience - As with all marketing, you must have a clear understanding of the people you are talking to - be it loyal or disgruntled customers (or likely both and the many in between),  prospective customers or simply the general public. 

An alcohol brand will have a completely different tone of voice compared with a Political Party and a Sports Broadcaster.....well one would hope at least.

What they should have in common though is a content activity calendar/plan that utilises all of the content pillars - that is, has a diverse mix of planned activity that educates, inspires, engages and informs the audience. 

Objectives - Define what these are before you start planning your Social Media content. This may sound obvious but it is amazing as to how many brands do not do this, or do not spend enough time doing it properly. Your entire Social Media activity is probably not just done for laughs and giggles, the activity collectively has multiple purposes; grow an engaged tribe, sell a product or service, be a customer service channel, understand what people think about your product / service etc. 

Define your objectives, create a KPI plan and plan how you will track against these KPI's - know your audience. Here is a past post on Goal Setting.

Negative Feedback - This post will not focus on how to deal with negative feedback and escalation processes - my only comment on this here is that brands should welcome negative feedback. It provides an intimate yet public opportunity for a brand to truly understand real issues their customers may be having, and it provides a public forum for the brand to correct a wrong. This may be daunting for some but better you know the issues people are having with your brand/service that you can create an action plan to atone it than losing a bunch of customers forever who may well evangelise about your company in a negative way - you can't control that.

Yes there are 'trolls' on Social Media but by and large my experience of managing International brands on Social Media has taught me that even the angriest of people can be quickly calmed down and an issue resolved just through acknowledgement and a speedy response.

My good friend Craig Page now Digital Strategy Director at Havas recently wrote a brilliant article 'Crisis Management in Social Media' that is well worth a read. I completely concur with his opinion on this.

Key Pillars of Social Media Content

All of your Social Media content should fall into one of the four categories below. If all of your content focuses on only one of these categories I.E Engagement, then clearly it isn't a very diverse activity plan and overtime it will start to be very stale content for the audience. To keep your activity fresh and varied - mix it up. Try and include all of these categories throughout the week.

1. Engage - Posts that encourage audience participation. E.g 'Picture of two football players from opposing teams with the copy '2 teams and only 1 winner. Thoughts?'  These are the most popular type of posts for brands on Social Media and can be extremely affective at driving engagement. They can also be overused and start to lose their individuality and creativity with one post blurring into the next. Remember - Mix it up.

2. Inform - Posts that are literally telling the audience something relevant to your brand that you believe they will find useful. Engagement is not the primary desired response from this type of post. E.g 'X has just been confirmed for live broadcast tomorrow morning'. 

3. Educate - Fans like to learn new things. These type of posts give the audience facts about a topic. E.g 'Interesting infographic comparing the fitness of professional Footballers vs other sports'. More often than not these types of posts will be shared and debated by the audience, which is great for viral reach of your brand / message.

4. Inspire - A post that gets the audience excited. E.g - A video promo for a football match that shows previous goals. People get inspired and thus they listen, watch, engage and act. 

Example: Social Media Activity Calendar

Above is a very basic example spreadsheet screengrab just showing one days worth of bogus content. it would obviously have columns for every day of the week and some of the titles and Social Networks are specific for my line of work; Sports Broadcasting. Easy to change though.

I also have a row at the bottom of the spreadsheet that is called 'News'. In Sport and indeed most industries, there are often engaging, inspiring, informative and educational news articles that can be used to spur discussion around a relevant narrative. When a member of our team finds a relevant news article we add it to this column, which can then be referenced in a post during the week.

The copy within the spreadsheet does not need to be the actual copy used in the posts (as I use other tools like Hootsuite Pro for that). It is just used to give an overview of the upcoming content for the week that the marketing team can look over and discuss.

Each spreadsheet just covers a week and at the end of the week it is archived.

Download: You can download the example spreadsheet for free on Google Drive.

The point is this

Social Media activity and content development requires time, thought-planning, and creativity. This spreadsheet is a very basic tool to help you on your way. Develop, use and mould it into whatever helps your brand reach its goals on Social Media as effectively as possible. Maybe you don't need a spreadsheet, or you have another tool that does the same thing like Kapost. Well that is great, but always remember "A goal without a plan is just a wish" (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &

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