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, Bit.ly 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.

Trying to Evaluate Market Fit? Here’s one Approach.

English: an incon to indicate that there is a ...

How does this product serve the marketplace?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met with a bunch of very smart founders at early stage start-ups who need to evaluate market fit as part of a business plan for investors.  There are many approaches to assessing market fit, creating use cases and developing key product differentiators.  Here is approach that I developed over time, starting with a framework I used while leading a new product development team at American Express and then refined while evaluating brand extensions for The Economist and promoting digital subscriptions for other media clients.

For purposes of discussion, let’s imagine that we’re building an app designed to make people’s commute a little easier with live updates and seamless interaction from train to taxi.  We can call it ComUter.

Product: What it is and how does it add value?

ComUter helps people get around town easier with live updates across all transportation lines and provides easy access to taxis using Uber.

Marketplace: What is the size of this marketplace?

The MTA reports around 5.2m passengers per day during the workweek and 3.3m passengers on weekends. In London there are around 3.2 to 3.6m passengers.  A 1% penetration rate translates into 50,00o to 30,000 in NYC and 32,000 to 36,000 in London.
Note: In the beginning, it’s difficult to estimate penetration rates with any accuracy.   It’s fine to use 1% is a placeholder for market demand at a high level that you can revise once you’ve launched your product and seen the initial conversion rates.

Competition: Who else is doing this?

No one has created an application that combines both public transportation with taxi access.  There are apps on the marketplace that cover specific lines (Exit Strategy 1,000+ Google Play downloads @$2.50), or provide directions across lines of public transportation (Hop Stop with 500k+ downloads on Google Play) or that hail taxis (Uber 100,000+ Google Play downloads).

Use Cases: Who is the Customer?

Sample use cases include daily commuters in major cities, occasional commuters, people on vacationing in cities, transportation and train enthusiasts.  Facebook’s targeting capability is a great way to do market test your use cases by segmenting use cases and asking a few survey questions.

Product Differentiators: Why Would a Customer choose this Product?

This is where people usually get stuck.  The answer is must be based on how your product is better than anything else on the market, either because it’s available across mobile, tablet and web or has unique features or can provide a discount of some sort.  Ideally, this should be something that is difficult to replicate.   For the case of ComUter, let’s say that the GPS can sense when your train is rolling into the station and automatically orders an Uber car for example.  While this sounds great, it would likely be easy for a competitor to copy unless there is a patent.

Go to market plan: How will you launch the product and tell your Customers?

This is really a question about distribution and driving awareness using inbound marketing.  In the example of ComUter, it’s launching Google Play and Apple App store and negotiating with Apple and Google to promote your product.  That’s the distribution element.  In terms of driving awareness, the most effective approaches to drive inbound marketing are a combination of search, social and mobile.  It’s helpful to have a website as a destination point for search that can then point people to the App.

Resources Required: What do you need to build it?

How much money will it cost to build a bug-free app that customers can download and use immediately? It has to be flawless when you launch or it’s over before it even starts.  If you launch a buggy app in either of these stores, it will kill your business at that moment and forever in the future.  The reason is that dissatisfied customers can be vocal, which ends up as a negative product review that everyone sees.  So consider this scenario, you’ve done all the hard work creating the compelling inbound marketing required to get someone to come to an app store and they don’t purchase it because they see a negative review.  This is a crying shame from a marketing point of view.

Initial Forecast: How many Customers will you get in the First Three Months?

Based on the size of the market, we’re saying that the total universe of potential customers is around 30k to 50k in NYC and 32k to 36k in London.   You need to estimate the number of customers that you’ll get at launch (month 1) through the first three months.  In this case, estimate getting 1% (again) in the first month and likely .01% in the following month.  At the same time, realize that there will be some attrition and the volume of customers will be smaller in month 2 and 3 compared to the launch month.  Once you have customers in the door, the next marketing challenge is retention, which you can start in month 3. The retention element could be in the form of badges or discounts.

In Conclusion

This is a bare-bones outline for assessing market fit and identifying product differentiators.  The macro elements are understanding of the market size, competition and customer.   After the landscape becomes clear, the most important question to answer is why…why would a customer select this product over all the other ones on the market today?  Once you have a steady customer base and a really flawless app, the next question is figuring out the revenue model.  In the case of ComUter, the revenue model could come in a few forms as a paid app like Exit Strategy, support ads or take a referral fee when customers go to Uber.

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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