An 8-step guide to social media content planning

(This article was originally published by Hootsuite blog† It’s edited for content and style.)

Content planning is the single most important factor in the success of any social media strategy. It’s much more than choosing a photo, writing a caption, and planning to post. You can have the world’s best social media marketing strategy, but it won’t be successful without proper content planning.

Here’s why it is, and the eight steps anyone can take to plan effective, target-busting social media content.

Step 1: Plan Themes for Your Content

Before you can create content, you need to choose the categories you want to post about. How many topics you have and what they are will depend on your unique business, but Hootsuite writes about, for example:

This is your roadmap for content creation. If a post isn’t about one of the things on your list, don’t post it. (Or you rethink your marketing strategy and add a new category if it’s deserved.)

Step 2: Brainstorm campaign and post ideas

Make with your list of topics for you! Just think! To write! Do it!

Write down all the ideas you can think of that meet the following criteria:

  1. It’s about one of the topics on your list.
  2. It is linked to your marketing goals.

It’s not that easy to ‘think ideas’, even for those of us who spend all day smashing keyboards for a living. How you brainstorm is up to you, but here are a few ways to get inspired:

  • Reach your competition: What do they post? Can you put your own spin on those ideas?
  • View the past: Which campaigns have been the most successful for you before? Which elements of those campaigns were most effective? How can you replicate that for your new cause or campaign?

Step 3: Decide when to post

we have our Why and whatnow we need the when

  • Why: why are you posting this? (What business purpose does this content serve?)
  • What: what are you going to post? (The actual content you brainstormed.)
  • When: When is the best time to post the?

Sometimes it’s obvious when: vacation content, a product launch, etc. But the “when” is much more than the day you schedule it. You should also consider your general mailing frequency.

You’ll have to experiment with how often you post each week, how many posts per day, and the times of day. And platforms are constantly changing their algorithms, so what works now may not be possible in six months.

Step 4: Determine your content mix

There is no need to reinvent the wheel every day. A successful social media and content marketing plan includes a mix of original and curated content. But what should you curate? From where? How often?

Great curated content is:

  1. Relevant to your audience.
  2. Related to one of your content themes (from step 1).
  3. Linked to a business purpose.

How each piece and type of content fits into your other social media content is more important than how much of it you share, but a standard content mix is ​​40% original and 60% curated. Adjust that up or down, of course, depending on your preferences and production capacity for your own content.

Some weeks you can share more curated content than others, but on average stick to your plan. A surefire method of making sure you don’t overdo it? Share one post, create one post – repeat!

Step 5: Assign Responsibilities

It can be easy to lose track of content planning ahead of time and end up with that familiar “Oh shit, we need messages for tomorrow!” space, right? The planner’s job is to make sure that the work that needs to be done flows through to everyone else.

Clear expectations about who does what are essential for content planning. If you’re a lone content manager and don’t have a dedicated social marketing team with writers, designers, customer support and so on, now is the time to build one.

If you’re on a tight budget, find freelancers to outsource tasks when you need them so you can control costs. For internal and larger teams, you need to plan your schedule. It’s superfluous and really true.

So write it down: literally put it in your diary. Assign a planner/strategist to manage the overall content planning process and assign the work of each week or month. Then assign a designer, writer, project manager, etc. to each client and/or campaign you manage.

Step 6: Write Post Captions

Whenever possible, it’s best to write the content of your social media post before the campaign goes to the design team (the next step).

This has a number of important advantages:

  • It gives context to the designer so they can work efficiently.
  • They will better understand the structure and objectives of the entire campaign.
  • As you write the posts, you can come up with even more ideas to add to the campaign to fill in the gaps.
  • It saves time by allowing copy editing and approval to take place at the same time as the design, so you can publish it sooner.

Do you really want to write messages efficiently? Just like the first five minutes of any dystopian thriller, rely on sound artificial intelligence. AI-powered writing tools are out there, and while they can’t completely replace human writers, they can suggest topics, check your grammar, help with SEO, and help with the general content creation process.

Step 7: Create (or Source) Design Items

This is often where content plans get frustrated. You can think of all these great campaigns, but without the creative tools that make it stand out, like images and videos, you could be stuck in your drafts forever.

But that is precisely why assigning responsibilities is important. Having a dedicated person for every part of the content planning process keeps things moving and keeps everyone on the same page.

Step 8: Plan the Content in Advance

Last but not least, planning. I don’t need to tell you that planning your content in advance is important for basic efficiency. But it’s also the one thing that can make or break your entire social media marketing strategy. No pressure.

But what’s the point of planning content and following all the steps here if you don’t plan that content ahead of time in an organized, efficient, and strategic way? Precisely.

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