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.

Two Ways to Structure Social Media Teams

Social Media Week 2012 SP

Social Media Strategists at Work

As social media gets broader with more platforms (not just Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instgram) the role of social media become more specialized.  Some media companies have developed separate marketing or audience development groups with others have opted to have editors and writers promote their own content.  Here are two ways to structure the team.

One VP/Head who is responsible for overall traffic growth across title(s) and multiple channels (email, partnerships, search, mobile and social).

Two social media strategists who cover all the platforms and evaluate the most effective approach to driving traffic for your titles.  The most popular platforms include Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.  Their responsibilities include collaborating with editorial to ensure that stories get out in a high quality, timely manner.  This usually involves creating and following monthly editorial calendars for social media based on the overall editorial calendar.  Social media strategists will adjust the story according to platform.  Like being more visual on Tumblr vs Twitter for example.  There are many tools that make distributing content very efficient, Hootsuite is very common.

One metrics/reporting person who tracks traffic based on source, page views, number of stories per session.  This person produces weekly/monthly and should be capable of coming up with a few actionable insights. For example, 85% of our retweets come from 10 followers.

Here is an example of editorial leading social media.

One General Manager who is responsible for all aspects of the title, from website functionality to traffic growth and page views.

One Digital editor who determines the content strategy across the title’s website (or .com) and all the content on tablet/mobile plus relevant social media platforms.  There may/may not be a print element to the content strategy, but that’s a different story

Three or four assistant editors who are responsible for creating and distributing content on the website and across social media.  I’ve seen editors who prefer to develop expertise in select platform, there’s often a divide between Pinterest or Twitter for example.  Assistant editors are responsible for tracking and measuring the results.

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