Given the spontaneity of social media, it may be surprising to hear you should be planning out your social media posts well in advance.
An editorial calendar can help guide the short and long-term goals of your social media presence. Planning ensures a pool of quality content for your social updates, in addition to any unplanned updates you will still make.
Some benefits to planning your social posts:
- Frequent/consistent updates. There will be no excuse for going days at a time without any updates.
- Cohesive tone & messaging. This is especially important if you have multiple team members posting updates.
- Have a purpose. Instead of just trying to update X number of times per day on each social network, an editorial calendar ensures you’re not posting “just because.”
- Variety. Categorizing your posts by content type will help you see if you’re providing your audience with a good mix of content.
Now, let’s walk through the steps for making your social media content planning more productive…
1. Create an Editorial Calendar
First you need to decide how far ahead to plan. Making a detailed calendar month-to-month is sufficient, but if your company lays out other marketing plans quarterly, then 3-month planning periods may be more appropriate. A yearly calendar outlined for social media initiatives is also helpful for seeing the “big picture.”
Rather than using an actual calendar, I find it easier to use a spreadsheet as a calendar. List all of the dates for the month with columns for the type of content, source, each social network, and any creative assets that will accompany the post (such as photos or graphics).
Here’s a no-frills example of how to format an editorial calendar for Facebook posts (you can add additional columns for each social network you’re active on):
Type of Content
|Jan 1, 2012||
Categorize what type of post
Include any links for the post
Fill in copy for the post
Attach any media for the post
|Jan 2, 2012|
Depending on how frequently you post, you can also include the time of day or get as specific as an hour. If you have multiple people manning your profiles on different days, the calendar can specify who is responsible for posting each update.
Types of Content
Creating an editorial calendar allows you to see at a glance if you’re keeping your updates varied. Below are some examples of different types of content to post…
- Resourceful Content - links to 3rd party articles, tutorials, tips & tricks for your industry
- Interactive Content – questions for your audience, polls, fill-in-the-blanks, trivia, contests
- Visual Media - videos, images, infographics, presentations
- Company News - blog posts, links to press mentions, events (including online events like podcasts & webinars)
Evergreen vs. What’s Hot Now
A mistake I see a lot of brands making on their social profiles is they’re only sharing brand new links and information. You won’t stand out in social streams & feeds if you’re sharing the same content others are sharing that day. Plus, unless you’re a news source, your fans don’t expect you to be breaking news.
Instead of getting caught up with sharing things that are hot rightthissecond, go back in time and share some of your old content that is still relevant. Share links about the topics you know your community cares about and wants to learn about, even if these links are from months ago. If there’s a great video tutorial that’s 3 years old, but you know it’s something your audience will value, then share it.
Sync Up With Other Departments
Any other marketing initiatives, whether online or offline, should be coordinated with the social media posting schedule. In larger companies, this will require opening communication between a handful of departments.
If you don’t have a company-wide calendar of important upcoming dates, make the social media calendar easily shareable/accessible so others on your team and in different departments can view it. Before creating a calendar for the next month, ask the other departments to fill in any significant dates coming up for your brand’s overall marketing initiatives.
From there, you can decide how to market these initiatives using social media and also plan ahead for which other teams will need to be involved with your social efforts.
2. Find Content Ideas
Creating Original Content
One of the trickiest parts of updating social profiles is creating original content that’s both timely and relevant to your audience. You already know you shouldn’t be talking about your brand constantly (you DO know that, right?), so how can you come up with original posts that your followers will want to engage with?
Every day of the year has some sort of significance, whether it’s of historical importance, a wacky holiday, or the date of a major sporting event. By being aware of these dates, you will always have something to talk about with your social audience.
Mentions of holidays or current events don’t always have to be 100% relevant to your industry, but adding a twist about how these dates relate to what your company does will make these posts even more valuable to your followers. Is there a significant date in the history of your industry coming up? Does a celebrity closely tied to your brand or who’s part of your industry have a birthday this month?
Predicting what topics will be of interest to your followers in the future may sound impossible, but the following resources can help you plan out what the public consciousness may be thinking about at a given time.
Historical Anniversary/ Holiday Calendars
- New York Times On This Day – Historical dates and current/historical birthdays for every day of the year.
- Wikipedia List of Historical Anniversaries – Comprehensive list of significant historical events, holidays, and famous birthdays/deaths for every day of the year.
- BBC On This Day – Collection of significant stories broadcast by the BBC since 1950, searchable by day of the year.
- TV Guide – Check for any big sporting events, award shows, or other popular TV events coming up that your audience will be talking about.
- IMDB Movies Coming Soon – Lists all of the upcoming movie release dates.
- Amazon Hot New Releases – Searchable by category, this is a collection of popular new products on Amazon (books, electronics, movies/TV, clothing, etc.). If you see a new book or product out that your followers might like, consider discussing it on your profiles.
- Google Trends – This is a tool mostly used to spot recent search trends, but it’s also helpful for advanced planning. You can go back to the date a year ago and see what people were searching about (it goes back as far as May 2007). This may tip you off to seasonal events that weren’t included in any of the historical calendars listed above.
- If you have a large international following, include mentions of holidays or important dates in their countries.
- When all else fails, talk about the weather. Blizzards, hurricanes, and other weather phenomena that affect large areas are always widely talked about.
Finding Sources to Share
While it’s great to already have a reliable group of blogs and sites your audience expects you to share content from, it’s important to branch out and find some lesser-known sources to share from.
Your community will be appreciative of learning new sites rather than seeing you share links everyone else in your industry has already shared.
Some sites for finding fresh content sources:
- Alltop – This is a huge collection of current headlines on blogs & sites, categorized by topic. The more popular a site is, the higher it will show up on topic page. Scroll to the bottom of a topic page to find undiscovered gems.
- Blogged – Extensive blog directory where blogs are given ratings by users.
- Best of the Web Blogs – This directory has been around forever and is still a great source for finding respected blogs.
- Technorati Blog Directory – Organized by topics and you can filter results by either blogs or news sites.
- Google Blog Search – This is best for finding recent posts on specific topics rather than actual blogs to follow, but you may also end up finding great blogs to follow regularly through searching here.
- Check the blog roll of any blogs you already like and share from. You can expect a quality blogger to endorse other quality blogs in their genre.
- The social networks listed in Ryan Sammy’s guide for where to promote content are also great for finding new content sources.
- Crowd source your company. Find out what industry sites and blogs your team members read.
3. Organize Content Sources
Getting all of your content sources organized will help you generate ideas for posts and quickly retrieve links to share on your social profiles. Below are ways to make your favorite content sources easier to search…
Custom Search Engines
Build a custom search engine (CSE) to easily search through sites you trust as valuable resources. A CSE will save you from weeding through crappy content when you want to share an article on a specific topic with your audience. To get started, Annie has written a detailed post on setting up CSEs.
- What to include in your CSE: sites you’ve bookmarked, already share from, news sources in your industry, bloggers in your industry.
- Be sure to go back and update your CSE with new sites you find each month (make this part of your monthly social content planning).
You’re probably already using an RSS reader to keep track of all of your favorite blogs (if not, this post will get you started).
Tips for a more organized reader:
- Separating all of the blogs in your reader by category will make it easier to scan recent blog posts on a certain topic. The more categories you create, the easier it will be to find exactly what kind of content you want to share.
- Also consider categorizing the blogs in your reader by “rank,” like: news outlets, industry blogs, casual bloggers. This is helpful when you’re looking for a more authoritative source.
- Every time you add a new blog to your reader, file it into the proper category.
- For speed reading, organize your RSS reader by list view instead of expanded view. This lets you just scan headlines, instead of scrolling through entire posts.
Switching to list view in Google Reader
While it does take effort up front, creating an editorial calendar for your social media posts will provide your audience with richer content and also make daily management of your social profiles more efficient. Keep in mind the calendar should act as a guideline and not be set in stone. Remain flexible and expect to make adjustments as you go.
Bottom line: if you’re not strategically planning the content you post on social networks, you won’t see long-term growth and engagement within your social communities.
How do you plan what to post on social networks?