Content planning is more than scheduling. Run your accounts like a well-oiled machine with a strategic social media content plan.
Content planning is the most important factor in the success of your social media strategy. (There, I said it.) It’s much more than choosing a photo, writing a caption, and scheduling it 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 that is, and the 8 steps anyone can do to plan effective, goal-crushing social media content.
Scheduling your social posts ahead of time is great, but it’s only a small part of what makes up a content plan. Truly effective content planning focuses on the big picture: Your marketing goals.
Which strategy is more likely to succeed?
Your social media marketing strategy is what you want to achieve and how you will get there. Content planning is the process of designing content for those goals to actually get you there.
Batching your content is way more efficient than trying to come up with a post on the fly every day, or for a specific campaign. Batching means you’re taking the time to specifically write a bunch of social media content at once.
Besides being a more efficient way to write content, you’ll get more out of it. As you write each piece of content, extract pieces of it to repurpose. One post can quickly become five or more without much extra time. For example:
Content planning saves time and gets you the most mileage out of your work.
Oh, crap, it’s 10am on National Do A Grouch a Favor Day and you haven’t got anything scheduled to go out. (It’s February 16th in case you were wondering when you need to do me a favor.)
What will your customers think of you? Whether you post for every made-up holiday or only the real ones, content planning means you and your team will never stress out trying to create something last-minute because you forgot why this weekend is a long weekend.
More than the expected holiday observances, content planning ensures you do your best work. Planning ahead allows space for creative thinking, collaboration, and avoids burnout. All are important for creating a positive workplace culture where employees become brand advocates.
Content planning keeps your eyes on the prize. You’ve got a formal marketing strategy, and hopefully a content strategy, too. (No? We’ve got a free social media strategy template for ya.) Your content planning process is what connects those big picture documents to the day-to-day marketing work your team does.
Each social media post = not that important on its own.
All your posts together = what determines if your social media strategy will sink or swim. Fail or fly. Crash out or cash in. You get it.
Content planning is the most important part of a social marketer’s job, but don’t sweat it: It’s easy once you’ve got the right process.
Let’s create your personalized content plan right now.
Before you can create content, you need to choose the categories you’ll post about. How many topics you have and what they are depends on your unique business, but as an example, Hootsuite posts about:
This is your content creation roadmap. If a post isn’t about one of the things on your list, you don’t post it. (Or, you rethink your marketing strategy and add a new category for it if it’s merited.)
With your topic list in front of you, create! Just… think! Write! Do it!
Write down all the ideas you can think of that meet the following criteria:
It’s not that simple to “think of ideas,” even for those of us who smash keyboards all day for a living. How you brainstorm is up to you, but here are a few ways I get inspired:
To know what’s worked before, you need top-notch analytics reports, right? Yes, you can piece together the information manually from each social platform, Google Analytics, and other sources… but why would you?
Hootsuite Analytics measures the real data you need to determine success, not just basic engagement metrics. It gives you a full 360 degree view of your performance across all networks with the ability to customize and run reports however you like, in real-time.
Additionally, Hootsuite Impact calculates the ROI of your organic and paid campaigns, both per platform and overall, to give you true insights into exactly what’s driving your results. Here’s how it works:
Cheat: For inspiration, check out our list of 21 specific Instagram post ideas.
We’ve got our why and what, now we need the when.
Sometimes, the when is obvious: Holiday content, a product launch, etc. But there’s a lot more to the when than the day you’re scheduling it for. You also need to consider your overall posting frequency.
You’ll need to experiment with how often you’re posting every week, how many posts per day, and the times of day. And, platforms change their algorithms all the time so what’s working now might not in six months.
Thankfully, you can back up your experiments with personalized intelligence, thanks to Hootsuite’s Best Time to Publish feature. It analyzes your unique audience engagement patterns to determine the best times to post across all your accounts.
Going a step further, it also recommends different times for different goals. For example, when to post awareness or brand-building content, and when to push hard for sales.
Need to get your social marketing started quickly and hit the ground running? Add your posts, either individually or via bulk upload, hit AutoSchedule, and Hootsuite does the rest. Boom—your social media for the month done in under five minutes.
Of course, AutoSchedule is great for those pressed for time, but you should still experiment with different numbers of posts per week and times of day to find what works best for your target audience.
You can customize AutoSchedule to only post during set times or days of the week. Once you decide how often and when to post, either with Hootsuite Analytics or other tools, modify your AutoSchedule settings and now you have effortless social media post scheduling. Nice.
Only want to post once a day at a specific time? No problem.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel daily. A successful social media and content marketing plan contains a mix of original and curated content. But what should you curate? Where from? How often?
How each piece and type of content fits in with 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. Of course, adjust that up or down depending on your preferences and production capacity for your own content.
Some weeks you may share more curated content than others, but on average, stick to your plan. A surefire method for ensuring you don’t overdo it? Share one post, create one post—repeat!
With Hootsuite, you can easily add content from around the web to build a library of quality content to share later. When you find something to share, create a new post with the link and save it to your Drafts section.
And, you can use Streams to easily capture content from social media accounts you follow to re-share later.
When it’s time to schedule out your content—more on that later—you can just drag and drop from Drafts straight into your editorial calendar in Hootsuite Planner.
It can be easy to lose track of planning content ahead of time and end up in that familiar “Oh, crap, we need posts for tomorrow!” space, right? It’s the planner’s job to ensure the work that needs to get done flows down through to everyone else.
Clear expectations around who’s doing what are essential for content planning (and, so I hear, life). If you’re a lone content manager and don’t have a dedicated social marketing team with writers, designers, customer support peeps, and so on, now’s the time to build one.
If you’re on a tight budget, find freelancers to outsource tasks to as you need them so you can control expenses. For in-house and larger teams, you need to plan your planning. It’s redundant, and truly true.
So spell it out: Literally put it on your calendar. Assign a planner/strategist to manage the overall content planning process and assign each week or month’s work. Then, assign a designer, writer, project manager, etc to each client and/or campaign you’re managing.
Whenever possible, it’s best to write your social media post content before the campaign goes off to the design team (the next step).
This has a few key benefits:
Want to write posts really efficiently? Like the first 5 minutes of every dystopian thriller, place your trust in wholesome artificial intelligence. AI-powered writing tools are out there, and while they can’t totally replace human writers (in this meat suit’s humble opinion), they can suggest topics, check your grammar, help with SEO, and assist with the overall content creation process.
This is often where content plans get bottlenecked. You can think up all these amazing campaigns, but without the creative assets that get it noticed, like graphics and videos, you can be stuck in your drafts forever.
But this is exactly why assigning responsibilities is important. Having a dedicated person for each part of the content planning process keeps things moving along and everyone’s on the same page.
With Hootsuite Planner, you can collaborate with other team members on specific campaigns, view the overall calendar, and map out your content to identify opportunities and gaps to fill. Plus, approvals are a snap with a built-in review process so the only content that gets posted is the content that should be.
Here’s how everyone can work together inside Hootsuite to bring a campaign from idea to finished:
Last but very un-least, scheduling. I don’t need to tell you scheduling your content ahead of time 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 really, what’s the point of content planning and following all the steps here if you’re not going to schedule out that content ahead of time in an organized, efficient, strategic way? Exactly.
There’s always room for improvement, though. If you’re not already using Hootsuite, try it out and see how much time you’ll save scheduling posts. Plus: team collaboration, detailed analytics, ads management, social listening, and more—all in one convenient place.
You can create single posts in Composer or dial up your efficiency to 11 with the much-loved bulk upload tool, where you and 350 of your best posts can be scheduled in under 2 minutes flat.
Hootsuite is your content planning partner in success with robust scheduling, collaboration, analytics, and smart insights like the Best Time to Publish feature to make your job easier. Sign up for free today.