How to Develop a Killer Social Media Content Calendar

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Drafting a killer social media content calendar is definitely time consuming. (If you want successful results) The important part is spending time more time focusing on big picture ideas and less time on formatting. Many social media managers struggle to get started on a content calendar because they worry about how it should look off the bat.

Step 1: Brainstorming ideas

Step away from your computer and find somewhere quiet with no distractions. All you need is a pen and paper. Begin by writing down every single idea that comes to your mind so that you don’t forget anything. These ideas do not have to be in ANY order; just keep writing until your brain hits a brick wall.

Does your notepad look like a schizophrenic mess? Excellent. You’re on the right track. Now it’s time to go back to your computer. Print out a blank calendar template that you can jot down ideas into specific dates. Begin to organize your ideas. Start researching upcoming holidays (official and unofficial) and events relevant to the brand’s industry. How will you engage your community around these events? What type of content should be created to activate your audience? How will you develop viral content around an event to position brand from competition? Which social channels will you utilize?

Different brands will obviously cater to different audiences. As a result, the content calendar should be highly targeted.  See below for an example of a social media content calendar for a celebrity gossip website.

September 2012 Social Media Calendar

Step 2: Developing Themes

When I was a social media for a celebrity gossip website, I researched anything and everything that is relevant to pop culture. For example, upcoming holidays, TV and movie premieres, celebrity birthdays, fashion and beauty trends, music, etc. From there, I developed social media franchises around each campaign. Let’s use the month of March for example.  Beginning my brainstorming list of March themes, I’ve included: Spring, rainbow, colors, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover, March Madness, Spring fashion, TV premieres, etc.  From there, I developed a list of topics and questions to ask around each theme.  So far, I know I will be developing Pinterest boards around Spring fashion, emerald green accessories and Easter and Passover recipes. Furthermore, for Twitter, I’ve drafted a list of questions with dedicated hash tags that will drive conversation around all of my themes. On a daily basis, I am aware of the trending topics on Twitter and make sure to utilize dedicated hash tags to categorize and extend my reach. Similarly, I am retweeting and re-pinning influencer content to develop credibility.

Step 3: Ideating Campaigns, Promotions & Giveaways

Giveaways and promotions are an excellent way to encourage user generated content, brand advocacy and expanding social communities. As such, reach out to third party agency contacts to pitch ideas for a giveaway. Why partner? Most likely, you will have little to no money for a social media budget.  After all, if you can execute a successful campaign strategy that is 100% organic, think of the results you could produce if you had a budget!  Once you’ve secured a win-win agreement and swag for my giveaway, you can start planning the promotional strategy. When the vision, copy, timing, rules and messaging are established, run the idea past legal for approval. Once approved, collaborate with the production team to develop powerful promotional images for collateral.

Live Q&As and Google + Hangouts

Two more pieces of content to consider:  A live Q&A session with an industry leader hosted on a brand’s Facebook or Twitter page is a great way to increase engagement and followers.  Furthermore, Google + Hangouts can help your brand grow by:

  • Increasing SEO
  • Driving engagement
  • Launching a new product or service
  • “How to” videos
  • Interviews
  • Internal meetings and training

Step 4: Timing and Frequency

Depending on holidays and events, some weeks will have more content than others. Likewise, it makes sense to plug a promotion or giveaway into a week that’s less busy. Similarly, if you plan to roll out a Pinterest or Instagram campaign, be mindful of how much is on your plate that week.  To avoid working around the clock, there are helpful scheduling tools. HootSuite, and SocialFlow are three social media analytics platforms that enable a user to schedule posts in advance on social media platforms.

Step 5: Measuring Success: Analytics Reporting

Watching the results in growth and also what is popular in content via tools such as Google Analytics will give you valuable information for future editorial ideas. In contrast, you can also measure content that was unpopular and develop a better understanding of your audience.

Thinking of Creating a Rewards Program?

One of Savvy Marketing’s clients is creating a rewards program to increase customer engagement across their product portfolio.  They are starting from a blank slate and need to determine branding, digital assets, market fit, pricing/rewards as well as a communications calendar.  As part of the project, I evaluated the benefits of multiple rewards programs and came up with the following framework.

The best rewards programs include the following:

  • Obvious value proposition with tangible benefits such as significant discounts and rebates or ability to earn points redeemable for services and products
  • Intuitive and straightforward user experience at acquisition and activation
  • Intangible, often unpublished benefits that can include preferential access to services
  • Frequent communication reinforcing the value proposition

First a quick history lesson. Do you know who launched one of the first rewards programs?  Betty Crocker, which started one of the first rewards program in 1930s along with a few grocery stores.  Betty Crocker’s target customers (housewives managing a budget) could earn rewards points and exchange them for household items at substantial savings.  General Mills closed the program in 2006 to focus on a new program: BoxTops for Education, which earned $74m for schools in 2012.

Today, consumers have many more choices, yet not all programs provide tangible benefits that improve the daily lives of their target customers.  As of 2011, US consumers belong to 2.1 billion different types of loyalty memberships ranging from travel to financial services and retail. The average US household joined 18.4 programs in 2011, up from 14.1 programs in 2009. Despite the increase in overall membership, households only actively participate in 8.4.  The challenge today is making sure that your loyalty program is among the 8.4 that people actively use.  Without active participation it’s difficult to generate a decent ROI.
Here are a few examples of successful loyalty programs that combine tangible benefits (rewards, discounts) with intangible benefits (access to events, VIP feel).
Barnes and Noble
  • Loyalty Card costs $25, customers sign up online or at stores
  • Free one- to three-day shipping; discount of 20% percent on hardcover books (40% percent on best sellers)
  • Additional perk of 10% at Starbucks cafes in B&N stores
  • Discounts are applied at the time of purchase
American Express Membership Rewards
  • Customers earn points based on spending
  • Points are redeemable for travel at participating airlines,  products part of Shop Amex or for gift certificates to restaurants and events
  • Point balances are included on monthly statements
  • Customers can accrue as many points as they want before redeeming
Amazon Prime
  • Membership to Prime is free the first year $79 the second year
  • Prime Members enjoy free two-day shipping
  • Free movies and TV
  • Instant access to Kindle titles
  • Prime members see “eligible for Prime” as a delivery option at check out
Museum of Modern Art
  • Family Membership is $175
  • Members receive 20% off retail prices
  • Members have access to “viewing hours” before the museum opens, Little Member Mornings  and Mother’s Day at the Museum
  • New benefits include access to the Digital Lounge an online community for members only
The key elements are to reward customers with tangible benefits that they can’t get elsewhere to acquire customers.  Then to make sure they stay active, remind customers of the value proposition as often as possible across all customer touchpoints.  Finally, recognize that intangible benefits cost nothing and make customers feel good about continuing to participate in the program.

Betty Crocker logo used until 2003

Betty Crocker logo used until 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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