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.

How to Conduct a Social Media Audit

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Have you ever been asked to conduct a social media audit for a client or brand? It can be tough getting started. It’s important to focus on the big picture. First, take a look at the brand’s overall web presence. Take notes on the website, campaign microsites and blogs. Also, to find the number of monthly unique visitors to the site, Compete and Quantcast are helpful measuring tools.

From there, take a look at the brand’s social presence. Which platforms is the brand utilizing or under utilizing? Does it make sense to be on all platforms? For example, while a fashion brand typically receives the majority of site referral traffic from Pinterest – that might not be the same for a pharmaceutical company.  Always put yourself in the mindset of the social platform user. For example, if I logged onto Facebook and noticed a request to “like” a tile company, I would kindly decline. Also, people log on to Twitter to be informed or entertained. As a result, blogs, news and humor handles have the largest following. Moreover, always be mindful of who the brand audience is. Similarly, take the time to understand which content is appropriate per social channel.

Content is King  & Context is Queen

Next, take a look at how many followers, likes or subscribers each social channel has. If the content is high quality, people will share it. Evaluate the brand voice. Is the brand successful in engaging each community? Furthermore, is the brand nurturing its community by addressing fan’s questions and concerns?

Key Performance Indicators

Depending on the industry of the company, there should be specific key performance indicators. Key performance indicators are vital to both reporting on investments and strategic planning in social media. Key performance can be measured in a variety of ways: referral traffic, time spent on the site, fan acquisition, engagement, content sharing, purchases, email opt-ins, downloads, etc. Once KPI’s are defined, you can then define the impact on each social goal. For example, if the goal is referral traffic, evaluate the language used in Tweets and Facebook posts. Did the brand create a call to action that would make the fan click on the link?

Additionally, if the goal of the brand is to maximize engagement on Facebook, take a look at the type of content the brand is posting. Is the brand simply sharing links – or is there a variety of content? To increase “Virality” and “People Talking About This” stats within Facebook Insights, take a look at which posts are getting the most action. You will most likely find that pictures, more than links, receive more shares and likes. Why? Because pictures play on emotions. According to Facebook, posts that include a picture generate about 120% more engagement. Other posts that drive engagement include appeals to nostalgia, humor, sex, quotes and major events. The key is to mix it up. Variety is the spice of life!

Timing, Quality and Quantity of Posts

No one ever wants to be the Facebook user who posts a million times per day. You know, the girl who thinks we all care about her dead hamster, The Bachelor finale, her bad breakup and third paper cut this week? According to EdgeRank, a post is considered dead when the growth in engagement is less than 10% of the largest growth of engagement between hourly snapshots. Furthermore, posting too frequently can be off putting. Don’t be that girl. Moral of the story: Quality > quantity. Pay attention to which times throughout the day your audience is most engaged. Every brand is different. Once you have it figured out, capitalize on it. You’ll come to notice that it’s more about “what time” than “how often.”

Conclusion

The purpose of a social media audit is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a brand’s digital presence. From there, you can address the needs and provide solutions for each social channel. With over 300 networks, it is worth focusing efforts on only the major players relevant to the brand. Finally, through analytics tools such as Google Analytics, HootSuite, Bit.ly, SocialFlow and Facebook Insights, you can measure the performance of each social campaign.

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