“Are social media content calendars really necessary?” is one of the most frequent questions the digital experts on our team get asked.
Our answer is always the same: in a non-stop digital world, you’d better believe it!
Social media content calendars are digital roadmaps that allow you to categorize, organize and segment content by audience, campaign, platform, etc. Whether it’s a simple black and white Excel sheet or color-coding your content in a third-party app, maintaining a content calendar will help you keep your cool in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Even better, your work becomes an archive of your content over time, helping you to complete future calendars even more efficiently.
So where do you start?
Define – or refine – your social media objectives, goals, strategies and measurements (OGSM).
Why are you on social media?
Your brand doesn’t have to be on every social network under the sun in order to be successful – really!
Brand awareness? Lead generation? Community engagement? This level of detailed evaluation is necessary to identify the best platforms, assess performance, and target opportunities for your brand. An OGSM framework will also determine how to strategically develop and deliver copy centered around:
- All of the above
Research Where You Fit
Do you have a treasure trove of old photos? #ThrowbackThursday or #FlashbackFriday are hashtags you can utilize to amplify the reach of your content.
Do you specialize in food and beverage services? Research related “national holidays” that will help your brand get in on the conversation.
Do you serve entrepreneurs and startups? Did you know that February is Time Management Month or that March is National Credit Education Month – these are just a few copy-inspiring (and related) themes for your audience.
If you manage social for a nonprofit, fundraising calendars and storytelling opportunities go hand-in-hand in communicating mission-critical services and needs.
Identify groups, hashtags, influencers, and competitor content for direction and opportunity. Whether you are looking to join a conversation or disrupt a digital space, research is essential.
Find Your Voice
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the list goes on — and all have very different models of engagement. While Facebook still reigns as the “most users” behemoth, if your audience is Generation Z, YouTube or TikTok will provide more engagement. If you’re not sure where your audience is actively consuming content, check out Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project studies, along with resources like HubSpot, PR News and Social Media Examiner.
Once you’ve selected platforms, you can begin drafting a content framework – and we recommend getting started with the things that never change: holidays, workplace anniversaries, hiring, annual events and other general branded content you can outline with your eyes closed.
We recommend creating monthly content frameworks to outline copy strategy and drafting content in at least two-week increments. Reviewing, approving, and scheduling content in advance provides community managers the opportunity to interact with audiences in real time.
This approach also allows flexibility for pop-up content, like media coverage or unexpected influencer visits. When you know what’s planned, you know where there are content openings or when copy should be paused or simply rescheduled. Plotting out your content topics also helps you see the cadence and ensure you’re varying content to different products, lines of business or services your organization offers.
Monitor & Experiment
Social media trends come and go as quickly as timeline algorithm updates. That’s why it’s so important to monitor engagement — as well as community behaviors and preferences — while tracking the benchmarks set by your initial OGSM framework. These metrics can provide valuable insight when deciding where and how to experiment on social media: posting schedule and frequency; or types of media like gifs, panoramas, memes; and more.
The one area that all brands should be experimenting with across platforms? Video. The growth of Instagram Stories, adoption of TikTok, and the dedication to YouTube channel subscriptions all demonstrate that video content is here to stay. Smart Insights reports that the average person will spend 100 minutes every day watching online videos in 2021 – a 19% increase compared to 84 minutes in 2019. The only way to find out if your audience is interested in short-form, long-form, corporate or arthouse style is to experiment and compare metrics.
In short, social media content calendars are not one-size-fits-all. Developing a strategic content plan requires research, goal setting, measurement, creativity, performance monitoring, flexibility and an understanding that best practices will evolve as online community behaviors and expectations change.