15 min read
8 steps to create a social media content calendar
Ah. Content creation. It can be the best part of a digital marketer’s job or the bane of one’s existence. Generating interesting, unique content that is representative of your brand and reaches your audience is like the Holy Grail of writing. And it’s tough…but not impossible.
VP, Strategy & UX
Ntara’s integrated marketing team really geeks out on content strategy, and we’re excited to share some tricks of the trade. This isn’t another blog post with fluffy, feel-good ideas. Reading this post will provide you with real, actionable, manageable tactics to go forth and conquer your own social media content calendar. How? These are the steps we actually use to create social media content calendars for our own clients at Ntara.
There are eight steps in this process, and each may require more than you anticipated. Our advice: take it one step at a time. Strategy first. Kick-ass content later. And don’t worry, we’re here to help.
1. Define your audience
To produce effective content, you must first know your audience. Who interacts with customers within your organization? Interview them and learn as much as you can. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What questions do your stakeholders answer regularly?
- What do customers often misunderstand?
- What do customers value about your company?
- What frustrates them?
- When do they choose the competition? Why?
Develop visual snapshots of your target audiences that illustrate their preferences and values (we use PowerPoint). Many in the industry (us included) call these “personas.”
When possible, verify your personas through primary research. To us, that means surveying a statistically significant sample of your customer base. If research isn’t within your scope, talk to a few customers to ensure their comments echo those of your internal stakeholders.
- What typically motivates customers to convert?
- What challenges do they face that your brand can address?
- What platforms (social, email, text, etc.) do they use? When? Why?
- What information are they seeking about your brand or related topics?
- What questions do they have?
- What do they think of your company versus your competitors?
2. Gather internal input
Director. CEO. Sales. Customer service. You need input from throughout your organization to create your social media goals because your goals should support those of the rest of the company.
- What are your corporate business goals?
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- What are the key messages that support your differentiation?
- What assets exist that could be shared or linked on social?
Organize what you learn into a master document (we love Excel for tracking; then create a PowerPoint for presentation). Keep that document updated and reference it often. Use it to create SMART social media goals that support the goals of your business. This will make your stakeholders happy because you’re using social media to support their efforts. Go you!
Sales team business goal: increase engagement with key customers
- Social media goals:
- Identify key customers and develop unique engagement strategies for each
- Increase traffic to the website
- Increase engagement on Facebook, Twitter
Human Resources team business goal: increase local applicants
- Social media goals:
- Increase engagement with local audience
- Increase applicants through local, geo-targeted, sponsored social
You’ll generate tons of ideas, especially if you know the goals of every department in your business. We recommend focusing where you can create the highest value. Also, your goals must be measurable.
3. Identify themes
In your master document, you should also summarize what you learned in your interviews. Read back through your documentation and track recurring themes that can be broken down into pieces of content. Which of your audiences care about these themes? What business goals do they support?
- Theme: Education
If you interviewed a true cross-section of your business, the pieces begin falling into place. Every piece of content you publish should be for a specific audience, supporting a specific business goal.
4. Choose your channels
During your research, it’s very important to ask about communication preference. Which social media platforms do each audience use? Why and how do they use them?
For some brands and audiences, Facebook converts to website traffic. Other times, it’s more effective in recruiting or event communication. Some LinkedIn audiences engage with thought leadership pieces. Other times, brands have trouble establishing connections.
If you can’t ask your customers about their preferences directly, you can always rely on your metrics. Try various content on multiple platforms and see what performs. Over time, it will become clear what you should be publishing where.
5. Define what "success" means
For every goal you’ve set, you’ll need a detailed plan of how to track success.
- What will you measure?
- What indicates “success”?
- What happens when you find out something doesn’t work?
- Who needs to be informed about performance?
You’ll also need a process for tracking the attributes of each post.
- What times of day are optimal for Instagram engagement?
- What call to action works best for a given theme?
- Do links get better reach than photos on LinkedIn?
- Who approved that content?
Most platforms have built-in analytics tools, but they can’t track everything needed to inform your content strategy. We typically use a spreadsheet to document post-specific metrics. Once we have insights to share, we put those in a PowerPoint for our stakeholders. Here’s a snapshot of what we might track:
- Approved by
- Category (i.e. theme)
- Media (e.g. individual photo, photo album, video)
- Post reach (how many people potentially saw this content)
- Post engagement (e.g. likes, comments, shares, etc.)
Trust us, we know this is a lot of work. But it’s important. You must track what works for your brand and what does not so you can continue to optimize your social content.
6. Educate your writers
Ensure your writers know your brand – and we don’t mean logo and color palette. What tone of voice do you use? What are your defining characteristics? Is your brand voice strong and firm or empathetic and light?
We’re serious. You need to know.
Everyone who embodies your brand on social must know how it thinks, sounds, and acts. Your audience deserves (and expects) a consistent message.
Create a style guide for all current and future writers. Here are a few must haves:
- Do you use the Oxford comma?
- What acronyms need to be introduced and which do your audiences already know?
- Do you use sentence case or title case in headlines for your Facebook notes?
- What types of images are “on brand” and which are not?
- What’s your process for link sharing?
- PRO TIP: We recommend parameterized URLs for everything.
- What type of content will you curate? From where?
Deciding these things ahead of time will streamline your content creation and give your audience a more cohesive brand experience. It will also help your approvers stay on task when reviewing content, as they won’t be sidetracked by grammatical inconsistencies.
7. Create your social calendar
Now for the fun stuff. Revisit your themes and ideate like your life depends on it. No idea is a bad one, unless it doesn’t speak to your audience or support one of your goals.
- What questions did your audience have? How can you answer them?
- What confused them? What did sales want to clarify?
- What does your audience love about your brand?
- What do you need them to do? How can you encourage them to do it?
Create a weekly content calendar, organized by topic. This doesn’t mean you have to publish content every day of the week. What it does mean is that when you post, you’ll have a theme to guide you. For example:
- Meet Our Staff Monday
- Education Tuesday
- Company News Wednesday
- Thought Leadership Thursday
- Funny Friday
Remember, these topics come from your research. They should set you up to write content that answers customer questions and supports business goals.
On a more macro level, consider holidays and other initiatives that align with your brand. Healthcare organizations may celebrate National Nurses Week. Mattress companies may promote World Sleep Day. Create a monthly calendar that overlays such initiatives with any federal holidays or corporate initiatives that should be considered when writing social content.
8. Go forth and kill it
Finally, the last step – the one that never ends.
Write and publish based on your calendar. Use your guidelines. Check analytics regularly. When something works, do more of it. When something doesn’t, determine why.
Adjust your publishing frequency based on engagement and conversion. There is no right or wrong quantity; there is only what works for you.
Test your messages and calls to action. Track and share what you learn.
You are a social media content master and you are providing well-researched, well-planned content that is of high value to your business. And always remember, if you need a friend to help you through it or an agency to help you do it, we’re here.