Part 3: Free Social Media Strategy Course: How to create a Social Media Editorial Calendar
In part 3 of our free Social Media Strategy Course I will show you how to set up and use one of the most useful Social Media tools for Marketers that will help you stay on track with your Social Media strategy: The Social Media Editorial Calendar (Including free template)
1. Why your company needs a Social Media Editorial Calendar and why “Winging it” no longer works!
Can you imagine your New York Times arriving at your door step two days late, because they didn’t get it done in time? They’d probably loose you as a reader pretty quickly, right? People are creatures of habit. Especially when it comes to content, people like to know what to expect. Does this Newspaper come every day, once a week, monthly? Same goes for Social Media. Consistency is key!
Advantages: Having a Social Media Editorial Calendar is great because it forces you to sit down and develop a content strategy, so you don’t hustle from one post to the next. If that happens, you often just want to post “something”, just to get it done. And then you forget about your customers and clients, because you are in hurry. What do they want to read? What information could be helpful for them?
It also keeps you in check with how much of your own content you are sharing. Your main focus should be providing valuable information to customers, not pitching your sale. Make others shine. Share their stuff. Then, sprinkle in some of your content.
2. What is a Social Media Editorial Calendar?
Editorial Calendars have been around forever. Newspapers, Publishers and Bloggers have been relying on them to stay on track where they are at with their upcoming issues, book releases and blog posts. Just like any project plan, a Social Media editorial calendar is a planning tool when you will release which content on which platform.
I like to use the Google Calendar for this. It’s free and it allows me to share the calendar and have several contributors, but you can use any calendar that you feel comfortable with. Recently, I have been playing around with Evernote to organize our Jupiter Labs Editorial Calendar, but it’s too early to tell if I will stick with it. I would recommend using an Online Calendar rather than a paper version though, because you then you can already prepare most of the content and just copy/paste it from your source to your calendar and finally to the Social Media Network of your choice.
- Daily Calendar: Prepare each individual post as it will appear on each Social Media Network. Prepare images, curate content, write the descriptions and texts Remember to include a detailed and keyword optimized description and a catchy title to increase your engagement and clicks! Include Hashtags on appropriate Networks, and decide when you will post each update. To make it easy for you, I created a Daily Social Media Editorial Calendar that you can download here for free!
- Weekly Calendar: Plan ahead and designate certain days for certain content, for example on Mondays and Thursdays you share your latest blog posts, Tuesday is Customer Appreciation Day, Wednesday is Quote Wednesday, Friday is Fun Video Day, Saturdays you share an old blog post and Sundays you take a break from posting. However, don’t plan out every day of the week for a fixed special. You may want run a promotion or respond to a current event, so you need flexibility in your scheduling. But having a few fixed themes will help you come up with ideas for suitable content.
- Monthly Calendar: Plan ahead for special occasions, like Christmas, Thanksgiving or even Tax Season. Do you want to start a blog series related to this topic? Do you want to do a special sale or promotion, giveaways or anything larger? Plan ahead and build up buzz by integrating it into your Social Media Editorial Calendar!
In general, I like to develop an outline for my clients for all monthly events for the whole year ahead of time, as well as create a structure for the weekly events, as they could change for example according to season. Then, about 4-12 weeks in advance (depending on how much advance preparation and promotion is required, I recommend planning the monthly events (creating content, images, planning launches, rules, etc). All fixed weekly content, like Meatless Monday Recipes, I like to plan approximately 4 weeks in advance. Finally, all flexible content, as well as most Twitter updates, I recommend creating approximately 1 week before to stay flexible. IMPORTANT: Remember to check if your content is still relevant and up to date!
3. How often should you post on each Social Media Network?
That depends. I know, this is not the answer you want to hear, but unfortunately, there is no “One-size-fits-all” approach to this. There are some general rules though and hopefully they will help you find a balance for your specific goals, industry and target market:
How often you can and should post depends on the specific Social Media Network, your company’s goals, budget and time commitment and finally your audience’s interest in the topic, for example: If you have a blog that shares healthy recipe ideas, you can probably get away with posting several times a day on Facebook, because you are sharing information that is helpful and also fun for people to look at. If you are a CPA, do you think your followers want to be reminded of the IRS and doing their dreaded taxes 5-7 times a day? Probably not, even if your info is really helpful!
- Twitter: At least 5x per week, up to 50/day; You can post as much as you want per day on Twitter, as long as you spread it out over the whole day and not spam your follower’s Twitter feed with one update after the other
- Facebook/Google+: Very industry specific, but between 2-7 times/day
- Instagram/Flickr: Depending on your industry; try to do at least one image per week, more during live events, promotions etc
- Pinterest: Minimum: Every time you update your blog; Up to 7-10/day if you spread them out through a scheduling tool.
- YouTube/Vine: Once per week would be ideal, but is also unrealistic for most medium sized companies. Maybe once a month or once a quarter is more realistic for small to medium sized companies.
- Keep the season in mind! If you are selling swim suites, scale down your posting schedule during the winter months, if you are an Accountant, start reminding your followers in January to get started with their taxes and increase your posts during the tax season.
- Testing! Testing! Testing! It is essential to try out what works and what doesn’t work for your company specifically. Start posting once per day on Facebook for one week and then try 2x day for one week and see what has changed. If your engagement and likes increased, try 3x day and go on until you find your sweet spot. Usually, you will see that people are reacting if you are posting too much. You will lose followers or people will outright tell you to slow down a bit.
4. What kind of content works well on which Network?
While some Social Media Networks are obviously optimized for certain kinds of content, such as YouTube, Instagram or Flickr, others allow several types of posts.
Here is what works great on each network:
- Pinterest: Infographics, How-To guides, Videos, long/vertical images, promotions/contests
- Facebook: Images and Videos, Quotes, Cat pictures, promotions/contests
- Google+: Very visual, great Photo and Video display, Google Hangouts
- Twitter: Pictures, Quotes, Links to useful articles
But there are other factors that you have to keep in mind when deciding what to post on your Social Media Networks:
- How is this helping my customer?
- Does it solve a problem for your customer?
- Is this article/photo/video/quote relevant and interesting for my target market?
- Am I building trust with this post? Is the article I am linking to high quality and deserve my endorsement?
- Is this the right platform to post this kind of content?
- How can I make this post visually more appealing by adding an image or video?
- How do I engage my customers with this post?
- Remember to include a call to action with your post. Just ask for one thing or you’ll confuse them.
- While you can post the same content on your various Social Media Networks, change the wording/image and timing, so you don’t bore your biggest fans, who follow you on multiple Social Networks.
Yes, I needed to scream that at you, because it is just about the most important rule of Social Media. Don’t just share your own content!!! Highlight others and share content that is valuable. In general, I suggest sharing about a 6/1 ratio, meaning 6 times content from other sources and then share your blog post, promotion, special offer.
5. What is the best time to post on each Social Media Network?
Again, this depends very much on the habits of your target market. If you are targeting Moms with young children, between 6-8 PM is probably not the best time to reach them, as they are hustling to feed their kids, clean up and get the kids to bed. If you are targeting Managers, early mornings is probably a good time, because a lot of them tend to read emails and check up on industry news first thing in the morning before they get pulled into meetings, etc.
Graphics like the one on the left are not really helpful, as the behavior of users in different target markets varies greatly. Also, if you post at the peak times of when everybody is on a particular Social Network, you are also competing with many of your competitors that follow these rules blindly as well. So what are you supposed to do?
Testing! Testing! Testing! This is what it all comes down to. Use some common sense rules to find approximate time frames and start trying. Also, use monitoring tools like Facebook Insights (free), or Sprout Social to find out about the times your followers are most active. Keep in mind that user behavior also changes over time. So remember to re-test your strategy every 9-12 months, or whenever you feel there is a drop in engagement on you Social Media Networks.
6. To schedule or not to schedule
I often get asked by my clients if they should use scheduling software like Hootsuite, Buffer and such to post their updates. There are 3 reasons why you should use scheduling software for Social Media and one dangerous pitfall of using automation the wrong way!
- Use it to get access to analytics and metrics about your posts. Which posts were shared and liked the most and at which time? Which ones were not?
- Use it to share your updates spread out over the day, especially on Twitter and Pinterest.
- Use it for times like during meetings or in case your Social Media Coordinator is sick or on vacation to have a minimum flow of activity on your Social Media streams
- DON’T use it to schedule updates months in advance just to forget about your Social Media! Social Media is a two-way road and you need to communicate, share, engage, answer questions, reply to comments and remarks and offer Customer Service when someone complains. Show that you care and that you are an actual person behind that big brand logo. You might be tempted to not log in your accounts and interact, engage and respond to questions or problems. If your followers feel like they are talking to a wall, they will not develop a connection with your brand, but become annoyed rather quickly.
- Danger: If you do schedule in advance, make sure your updates are still relevant and pay attention to current events, especially catastrophes. Many of your customers will be put off, if you post your Friday Fun Video after a tragedy.
7. Life happens, so stay flexible
When I create Social Media Strategies for my clients, my services also include a customized template for their Social Media Editorial Calendar. I plan out one monthly event, such as a promotion, holiday, seasonal, etc for the whole year and then a weekly plan as well that includes repetitive series of posts that are shared on a specific day of the week, like Fun Video Friday or Meatless Monday Recipe. However, it is important to keep in mind that there might be disruptions that will interfere with your plan. Your budget gets cut, or your Social Media Coordinator quits. Have a contingency plan in place that allows you to create content more easily. Don’t plan too many special events or you might get overwhelmed or overwhelm your customers. Consistency is key, but more is not always better!
Having a Social Media Editorial Calendar might need some getting used to and requires a bit of discipline to stick to. But it is great to have guidelines to follow, because it gives you structure and also makes it easier for you to come up with content. Imagine if I ask you to draw “something”. You’ll spend 5 minutes figuring out what you should draw and waste a lot of time. If I tell you to draw me a bird, you might think about it for 20 seconds and then start drawing. You have a road map and a goal.
REMEMBER: Please download your free Social Media Editorial Calendar Template here!
Next Monday, I’ll explain how to create an editorial calendar for your blog, how to come up with creative topics and how to re-purpose your blog posts to get the most out of your work.
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