Plan your social media updates with a content calendar

This post was originally published for Hook Media which you can find here. 

A content or editorial calendar is a helpful tool to plan your social media updates in advance, ensuring that you are not rushing to create and post something last minute, or struggling to find content to post on your platforms.

Think about your social media content calendar as a ‘to-do’ list of topics and updates that you will post about throughout the week, month and year.

It is a great place to start for anyone looking to either get started on social media with their business or personal brand, or for helping lay out a road map for those struggling for ideas on what to post, and why. But with the added benefit of flexibility and adaptability to ensure the ‘breaking news’ and ‘cultural trends’ are not missed.

Sometimes known as editorial calendars, these documents have become essential to many companies communications plans, helping them choose what content will appear across their digital assets including their website, blogs, and of course social media platforms.

After taking off in the business and brand world, more and more individuals are creating content calendars to plan their online persona and identity in a much more organised way.

Many celebrities have their social media updates planned weeks and months in advance (generally by outside marketing companies), all designed perfectly to coincide with and fit seamlessly with ‘offline’ existence and activities.

For most of us, the main benefit to taking the time to implement a social media content calendar is the time it frees up. Time spent scrambling to think of, create and post something at the last minute, as well as the added bonus of helping us structure our social media communications to appear at the optimal time of the month, to maximise engagement with each post.

content calendar image

Where should you start?

Our social media content calendar is housed in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but any calendar you can add text to (and ideally hyperlinks) will work.

Once you have a blank calendar for the month, you are ready to start adding in ideas for content that make sense for each day, and it’s time to start asking these questions;

What’s always on?

In the world of social media content, there are a number of things that are time-tested and true, and they roll around every week, begging to be mentioned in a post. There are variations that can be and are used, so ride that wave to get the ball rolling on ideas to start filling out your social media content calendar. You can even create your own, or put your own twist on a favourite as some people have done in the examples below.

Don’t worry about what you’ll actually post, just get the day filled with what’s happening. Ever heard of;

Monday – Pick me up Mondays, Man Crush Mondays, MJ Mondays, or Menu Mondays? Use one of these, or create your own. It’s a consistent, memorable catchphrase to post about.

Wednesday – Hump Day or Hump Day Humour? Another social media staple that will help engagement.

Thursday – What about Throwback Thursday? Always fun to look back at past experiences, successes and embarrassments (all in good fun of course).

Friday – What about Fun Fact Friday? Or Flashback Friday? Or even the original Follow Friday?

content calendar - sunday

What’s on this month in your world?

It might be a product, season or event launch for you or a client; whatever it is, write it into the calendar. Again, don’t worry about what you’ll actually post, just get the day filled with what’s happening.

Starting with the big ‘knowns’ is a great base, but you’ll now want to keep working backwards to fill in the blank space on as many days as possible. Trust me, it’s amazing how quickly you fill it up.

What’s your theme or topic of the month?

Do you have an event, product or general topic that you want to focus heavily on during the month? Make that your social media content ‘theme’. You might choose one day a week to focus on introducing your audience to the particular theme or topic, or use it as an opportunity to build your audience in one area you are lacking or looking to show some love. One month could certainly have more than one ‘theme’, but as an example, try to think of at least four key messages related to the event or product that you could talk about in an engaging way online, and then decide on the days you will roll them out.

For an event it could be as simple as;

TOPIC 1: Announcing the event is happening, plus a look back at last year’s event

TOPIC 2: Announcing how and where to buy tickets

TOPIC 3: Detail on the history of the event, the background of the subject that is the event’s theme.

TOPIC 4: A reminder. Tonight is the night, come and enjoy what should be an amazing event.

TOPIC 5: Event wrap-up including images, key announcements, and thanking attendees.

Again, this is less about planning exactly what each updates will look like, and more about strategically planning what updates need to be created and rolled out.

content calendar - event

What’s on this month around the world?

It’s time to think about what is happening this time of year outside of your personal world. Are there any major events, holidays, or announcements to be made in the next 30 days? A few notables from 2014 that held the world’s attention online so far include the soccer World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, the Academy Awards, and of course holiday’s such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, ANZAC Day and the seasons of winter, spring and summer to name just a few.

Similar to the Hump Day or Throwback Thursday updates, by no means is it boring or a ‘cop out’ to follow the crowd and use these ideas as the basis for your updates. It is actually a smart move, opening your content up to be seen by a wider audience who may not search your particular brand that day, but might search the hashtag or words that you mentioned.

Generally, depending on the industry you’re in, events and holidays will hold varying degrees of significance for you, and should be given content priority accordingly. For retail companies, it’s Christmas, for a jewelry store or florist, it might be Valentine’s Day and for a sporting organisation it would be the World Cup or Olympics.

What does your audience want to know?

Updates that solve or respond to customer or audience questions are great for social media content. Do you have a FAQ section of your website? Are there particular customers concerns, queries or questions that are asked a little more frequently than others? Take some time to answer that question publically. You may save some people who were wondering about it, or were thinking of going elsewhere with their attention, or business, from doing so but addressing the issue they were facing. It is also a great way to show that you are listening to your community online and want to help make life easier for them.

What’s happening in your industry or market?

Similar to the above advice on answer customer queries, providing updates and links to stories, articles, videos, blogs and insights into your industry’s world is another great way to round out a social media content calendar. Provided the links are adding value to your audience, that is, they will likely find them either educational, informative, or entertaining.

Links to related online content are great to fill gaps in your month. Simply save the links into the calendar, and chop and change where you will use them until you have found an appropriate position. Don’t neglect a valuable link or update because your calendar is currently full. Paste it into the next month and find a place for it eventually. If you are covered for content for the day, or find something for throwback Thursday on a Sunday, don’t waste it. Fill another gap down the calendar and save time and energy!

What’s happening behind-the-scenes?

The social media loves exclusive or ‘behind the scenes’ content. It gives them a sense of being included in something, rather than sold to about something, and is something you should plan to include each month on your calendar. Could you leak a picture of a new dish on the menu, or show a picture from the production line, or a locker-room coach’s address to your loyal followers? Offer them something that money can’t buy, and give the impression they are being taken behind the curtain for something special.

content calendar - finally

Your ideas and theme are planned, so what type of content should you create?

This is probably a post for a later date but to get started, here are some tips;

If you do have a theme or topic you want to focus on, like Spring, Christmas, Easter, the World Cup; then think of ways to incorporate it into your calendar. Ask yourself, how can I relate my upcoming event to Throwback Thursday? What about a picture from the first ever event we held? How can I relate my sale on a personal training boot-camp to Humpday?

What about posting a picture from the boot-camp and someone fit and athletic, saying ‘Don’t struggle through #Humpday. Jump over it.’ Or, if you’re constantly asked about clothing sizes for your retail store, perhaps creating a post giving your advice and guidance would help solve some customer issues.

And in terms of the ‘type’ of content you put out, mix it up! Nobody wants to see only text, or article link updates. Have fun with it and remember that video and images generally gather the most interactions and engagements online.

What do you do with the unexpected pieces of content that fall in your lap?

Remember, don’t be afraid to jump in and ride other people’s conversations, or trending hashtags or topics. What is topical today? Think about recent trends, breaking news or in the moment updates. Try to prepare with adding a couple of ‘Breaking News/In the moment’ slots on your calendar because inevitably something will happen out of the blue that will make engaging content. An unexpected customer or guest, an unexpected business announcement or simply riding the wave of an unexpected news story or cultural phenomenon like the #ALSicebucketchallenge or #BreakingBad or #GameofThrones .

Finally

Don’t be afraid to post the same or similar content more than once. Not everyone will see it the first time, or use social media the exact same time every day. Post key announcements more than once, at varied days and times.

You can also pre-prepare your social media updates and paste them into the calendar ready to be posted. If you are pressed for time (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) why not schedule the content you’ve planned and written ahead of time? Again, much of the content you have used this month can be reused, or at the very least you can simply start with a new theme, or update any new events or topics. Again, start with the obvious and work backwards.

 

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