The Benefits of a Planned Social Media Strategy
It is vastly easier to implement and manage a social media plan if you work consistently with an editorial calendar in mind. Using automation to simplify posting to your channels will also make executing your plan much, much easier.
Generally, interaction with your social media channels can be impromptu — responding to events of the day and comments from others — a steady schedule and an editorial calendar makes it easier to get your work under control, and share the load with your fellow team members.
The Benefits of Consistent Scheduling
- Your content is promoted when your audience is most receptive
- You fulfill your audience’s expectations for regular updates
- You become part of your audience’s regular routines/habits
- You can work around holidays, vacations, etc. more easily
- You can get more team members involved on their schedules
- You have a record/archive of work for analysis and testing
Finding the Perfect Mix
A steady diet of promotions is the quickest way to lose followers. You want to engage and intrigue your audience: The goal is to provide value, not just links to your site.
Marketo, for example, uses what they call the “411” rule. Four educational, fun posts for every soft promotion (like an event) or hard promotion (like “sign up now!”).
Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin have different optimal posting volumes, times, etc. — You could post 10 times a day to Twitter without annoying your audience, but only 2 times to Facebook. This means that scheduling becomes important when you are balancing your messages among several social media channel.
The pros also tweak each message to strengths of the platform — brevity for Twitter, imagery for Facebook — and planning gives them the lead time necessary to re-work the posts for each channel.
Of course, the pros also need to get approvals from clients and department heads, so planning isn’t just advantageous, it’s required.
The major social media companies regularly update their research on scheduling, but CoSchedule’s version is a good place to start. Buffer and Followerwonk offer tools that check when your followers are most often online, and generates a schedule to match.
Generally, you can post to Twitter between 5–20 times a day, Facebook between 1–5 times, and Linkedin 1–3 times. The types of posts vary a great deal, of course. With Twitter, for example you may post 10 re-tweets or outgoing links for every inbound link to your site.
If you make interesting graphic images (and you should), these can be easily posted on Instagram and Pinterest as well.
You can create a calendar in any type of shared resource you are comfortable using — Google spreadsheet, Excel, Google calendar, Outlook — anything will work. You just need a way to list the day, time, where you’ll post (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), what you’ll post, and who will do it.
At it’s simplest, something like this will work:
Day | Time | Platform | Content | Link | Image | Writer/Editor
How far in advance should you plan? It depends on your schedule, but try to plan at least a month ahead for major events and a week ahead for team scheduling.
One month in advance, add all the major holidays, events, team goals, and staff birthdays that you know are coming up. Work in an industry with distinct seasonal cycles? Note them too.
One week in advance, note all the content that you can plan in advance. This may be a time-consuming task, but you only need to do it one day each week, and you’ll have the bulk of your work completed.
Here are some tips:
Keep a list of the best-performing evergreen content on your site and re-promote it highlighting different aspects and using unique language. Once you find a subject that attracts your audience, build it out into an editorial package by offering more information on each detail. Try to publish one new article a week.
Use a tool like Hootsuite or CoSchedule to schedule your posts in batches.
When you publish new content on your site, add it to the calendar across several months, re-promoting it regularly. Keep in mind that most people aren’t checking in every minute, so posts to Facebook one morning may reach a completely different set of your audience than an afternoon post the following day.
Few busy people spend all day checking and re-checking their social media. However, as a team you should plan on spending a minimum of 30 minutes a day, even if you’ve automated all the tasks you can. (I’ve added a brief description of my morning social media routine below.)
There are lots of time-saving tools in the marketplace to help streamline the process of curating content for social media and scheduling posts. Most of the good social media companies have free accounts that are perfectly acceptable for regular users.
(And personally, I vastly prefer companies that offer free tools and then upsell their premium products to companies that offer 30-day trial accounts. I don’t have time to explore all the ins-and-outs of a product in a month.)
These are the workhorses of social media planning. Get the free accounts and, if you need the expanded feature-set, buy the premium packages.)
Buffer — Allows you to view several social media accounts, schedule posts and view stats.
Hootsuite —Similar to Buffer. More complicated to use, but with more free features
Tweetdeck — Like Buffer and Hootsuite, but has a few additional powerful tools that use lists (Twitter-only)
Canva — Create images pre-sized for your social media platforms
Feedly — RSS reader for quickly scanning recently published content sources
Pocket — Turns links into extremely reader-friendly pages by stripping ads, etc.
Nuzzel — Gathers the links that your followers post and displays them newspaper-style
IFTTT — creates simple workflows, like sending a list of posts to a Google spreadsheet
How these Tools Work Together
My morning routine now consists of logging on to Gmail, Feedly, Pocket, Buffer, and Nuzzel, using the email address I set up for my social media accounts. (I actually have a little script that opens them all up.)
I then scan my newsletters in Gmail and the article excerpts in Feedly and Nuzzel. I find a selection of intriguing articles, saving all the likely links to Pocket for later reading. Once I’ve read the articles to make sure they’re worth sharing, I transfer the links to Buffer, where I write comments, add images and then set up the daily schedule for posting to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Currently, I experimenting with IFTTT to pull the posts down from my social channels as they are published and add them to the editorial calendar I keep in a Google spreadsheet.
These tools are all free — however, if you don’t mind paying a small monthly subscription fee, they offer more features and ease-of-use for the truly time-strapped and/or those who manage multiple company accounts.
How to Tell What’s Working
As you’d guess, in this app-saturated market, there are several good tools to gather data on your efforts. You can check the social media sites themselves for info — all have a metrics tab visible when you are logged in. Most of the sharing tools mentioned above also have built-in metrics sections.
Beyond these, here are some other free tracking tools to check out: