How to build a social media content calendar
It's important to plan your social media campaign before you start posting content.
Content calendars are a planning tool for public relations.
A calendar sets out a programme of activity for a campaign or social media community. It is typically laid out as a grid with events plotted against time, like a Gantt chart.
In this post I'm going to explore how to build a content calendar for a social media campaign. Here's a sample calendar that you can cut and paste from Google Documents.
Organisations create communities on social media from Facebook to Twitter; and from Instagram to Pinterest.
There’s often little thought given to building a community. Instead these online platforms are seen as a cheap and easy way of broadcasting content to large numbers of people. It’s plainly wrong.
The start point of an online community should be an understanding of your publics and how and where they engage on social media. What conversations are they having?
Asking people the question is a good place to start. Beyond this explore platforms for yourself or use rudimentary planning tools.
Your calendar should be based on a clear objective. What do you want to achieve?
Setting an objective
An objective might include attendance at an event; behaviour change; product sales; votes in an election; or donating to a cause.
In each case it should be possible to set a clear objective, and equally as important, a key performance indicator as a benchmark for success.
The strategy for any social media community will typically be to attract people to your community and engage them in conversation through content, in order to meet your objective.
Analytics and measurement
There's a risk in managing a social media community to obsess over followers, likes, shares and comments.
At best these metrics are indicators of the successful direction of a campaign rather than measures of its absolute success.
Incorporate them into your campaign as analytics by determining what data you need to evaluate ongoing progress against your desired outcome.
Your calendar should plot content over time. There is typically a natural cycle to a campaign built around events, launches or seasons. For example if you want people to donate to a cause, you need to tell a compelling story, ensure the campaign has strong momentum from the outset by posting regularly with a clear call to action and maintain this until the appeal is over.
Healthy communities should be a conversation between an organisation and publics.
Content posted in your community should aim to meet your community’s objective and engage people in dialogue. There's enough shit posted on the internet without adding more. Get it right and people will often drive the conversation and introduce new topics for you but it does need constant management.
At Ketchum we break it content down into four areas.
Activity or events that are a campaign priority and typically the focus of significant campaign investment. This will be based on key moments in a campaign.
Hygiene, or always on, content
News feed algorithm demand regular content. The lifecycle of content posted in a community is typically a day, and often less. Hygiene content is posted regularly, often several times a week, or more frequently.
This is content that responds to the community or a news event. It is created by listening and responding to the community.
Your community is a means of public engagement. It will be used as a means of two-way engagement by people wanting to ask questions. It’s potentially the most important form of content.
There's been an explosion in the types of content that an organisation can create and post online.
Content includes audio, either spoken words or music; words; images, both moving and static; and short and long form video. Each has its own dynamic depending on the platform.
There are additional crowdsourcing or engagement mechanics unique to each network, such as discussions, live video, and polls.
The cost of access to a platform may be zero but that doesn’t mean that online communities are necessarily inexpensive.
There are three costs associated with running a community. You'll need to budget in each of the following areas.
Video production has been added to the skillset of a communication team alongside copywriting and visual design. Each piece of content developed for a community will have an associated cost for which you need to budget. Tools like Canva may be free but there is also the cost of your time for creating whatever it is.
The organic reach of content posted in a social media community is typically less than 10 per cent. If you want to hit the newsfeed of the majority of your community, you’ll need to pay. Use the planning tool for each network to determine the cost. Invest in hero and improvised content.
The community manager is the public relations equivalent of the press officer. It’s a critical role that helps the organisation tell its story and acts as the eyes and ears of the organisation. The workload will depend on the geographic reach and scale of the community.
There’s an ongoing trend in public relations to move community management in house. Offshoring has also been tried to varying degrees of success. Cultural awareness and sensitivity is typically a key part of the role.
I’d urge you to explore a variety of online communities and deconstruct their content. Explore how different types of content is used. Look out for hero versus hygiene content and different approaches to community management.