Process and organization
There is a difference between churning out content for the sake of it and content that is actually effective at generating engagement and results on social.
What do all great online brands have in common? Fantastic social media content.
That clichéd phrase “content is king” still rings true today. In fact, in an incredibly saturated online space, high quality, effective social media content is more important than ever.
Without it, brands will fail to outpace the competition and cut through the noise to attract their ideal customers.
But the keyword here is effective social media content.
There is a difference between churning out content for the sake of it and content that is actually effective. Making lots of beautifully designed, attention-grabbing social graphics is great. But if they’re not grounded in a strong strategy, then you’ll pour a lot of time into content creation with very little to show for it.
Keep reading to discover how to avoid falling into this trap and instead create an effective social media content plan that gets you results.
If you want to develop a strong social media content plan, first you must get clear on what you want to achieve. Then, you must decide which social media channels will help you get there.
For example, if your goal is to build a close-knit community, a Facebook group might make more sense than Twitter. If you’re an ecommerce brand that wants to generate awareness and drive sales, Instagram (with its integrated Shopping features) is an obvious choice.
It’s not necessary to be present on every single social media platform. In fact, trying to do this when you’re a small team or solopreneur is the fastest way to burn out. So, start with your short- and long-term goals and be picky about platforms.
And don’t forget to set SMART goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Instead of “generate awareness”, make this “increase followers by 25% in the next 60 days.” Rather than “grow our email list”, make this “grow our email list to 500 subscribers by the end of Q3 2021.”
The more specific you are, the easier it will be to keep track of your progress and pivot your strategy as necessary to meet your goals.
Pro tip: If possible, select one primary goal per social media channel. For example, if Instagram is one of your marketing platforms, decide if your goal (for this quarter) will be: to grow your email list, make direct sales (via the DMs or the link in your bio) or book sales calls. Focusing on one goal will make your calls-to-action (and content generally) simpler and more direct. Clear messaging removes any ambiguity, making it easier for your followers and potential customers to take action.
As you’re setting goals, I recommend reviewing your sales funnel to ensure everything is aligned.
Whether you’re an online business owner wearing many hats, or a social media manager working as part of a bigger team, it’s important that your social media content plan doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
How does your business (or the business you’re working for) convert prospects into customers? Is it through product sales made via your website? During a sales call? Via an application form served at the end of an email nurture sequence?
This will differ from business to business, depending on whether you’re a product-based/ecommerce brand, coach, consultant, or service-based business. Whichever applies to you, make sure your social media content plan is helping funnel people towards that conversion.
That could mean encouraging people to download your lead magnet so that they’re added to your nurture sequence and served an invitation to fill out an application form to work together 1:1.
That could mean directing people straight to your product landing page with the incentive to use a 10% discount code.
Ultimately, you want your social media content to fuel your sales funnel, channelling people towards the bottom (the conversion).
Must read: Here, you can go in-depth on exactly how to create a social media sales funnel that converts.
It’s important to get a feel for what your competitors are doing. Not so that you can do the same, but so that you can do even better.
Reviewing the competitive landscape helps to understand what is already resonating with your ideal customers. For this reason, keep a close eye on competitors with a good engagement rate. What tone of voice, style of branding, type of post, and subject matter seem to generate the most likes, comments, retweets, and so on.
This will help to spark inspiration for your own social media content plan. But more importantly, it will show you where and how to raise the bar. It might also illuminate what’s missing from your competitors’ social media content, presenting you with an opportunity to fill that gap.
You don’t need me to tell you that the internet is an extremely saturated place. Your ideal customers don’t want to consume the same content again and again. They’re looking for something different, something unique. The better you know what makes them tick, the easier this will be to accomplish, which brings me nicely onto my next point...
You can’t have an effective social media content plan without factoring in your ideal customer - the person you hope will like, share, and save this content.
Almost all business owners know the importance of customer research and developing an ideal customer avatar. However, after initially gathering this data, it often gets left to gather dust in a folder somewhere far, far away on a shared drive - never to be looked at again.
We tell ourselves we instinctively “get” our target audience. Perhaps we can even rattle off some of their hobbies and key demographic information. But this isn’t enough. Not if we want to create the most effective social media content plan possible.
For this to happen, we need to be inside the heads of our ideal customers. We must understand their struggles (and how these manifest day-to-day), how they’re trying to solve them, what they truly desire, and what obstacles are getting in the way. Better yet, we should have answers to these questions straight from the horse’s mouth.
Why not refresh your ideal customer research with some interviews or surveys? These don’t have to be long and time-intensive. In fact, the more succinct and strategic you can be with the questions you ask, the more feedback you’ll get from past/existing/ideal customers. Keep questions open-ended, and make sure they will provide you with as much useful data as possible.
These responses will not only give you heaps of content ideas but also words and phrases you can use verbatim in your social media messaging. Talk about speaking directly to the right people!
With your goal(s) decided and aligned to your sales funnel, the next step is to confirm how often you’re going to post to each platform.
Remember: there is a difference between consistently and constantly. You do not need to publish content every single day to remain relevant and achieve results. As SEO guru Neil Patel said, the best posting schedule is one you can stick to, consistently. That could mean posting 3x per week or 5x per week. It’s up to you.
It does also depend slightly on the social media platforms you choose. For example, you’ll see faster results on Twitter if you’re able to tweet at least once per day. While that might feel like a lot, content creation is (usually) a little simpler compared to a platform like Instagram.
This is why I don’t recommend trying to maintain a presence everywhere - because for most human beings, it simply isn’t feasible.
For me personally, I publish grid content on Instagram 3x per week and Stories 4x per week. I upload a YouTube video and email my list once per week.
When you know how many pieces of social media content you need to create per channel, per week, it makes forward planning (and, if applicable, delegation) much easier. This is how you can start to get on top of social media content creation without it taking over your life.
One of the realities of social media marketing is that it is constantly changing. New apps and features are launched seemingly every day, which can make online marketing both incredibly exciting and very overwhelming!
While it’s important not to fall for the hype of every new thing that’s launched, it’s important to be aware of wider consumer trends that will keep you one step ahead of your competitors. Video is one key example of this, which I’ll talk more about in the point below.
Other examples include the rise of shareable and saveable content like memes, GIFs, and infographics. These aren’t “new” types of content, but the brands savvy enough to notice consumers’ increased interest in them were able to capitalise on accelerated growth and engagement.
If you want to create an effective social media content plan, start with your goals and sales funnel first and foremost. Then, make sure you’re aware of the trends most popular right now, so that you can create engaging content that’s proven to work.
One major trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon is video. You only need to spend a few minutes researching the stats to see just how vital it’s become to brands and businesses marketing online.
That’s why any effective social media content plan in 2021 (and beyond) will include video. Whether it’s Instagram Reels, TikTok videos, YouTube Shorts, or Facebook Lives, there’s a huge variety of formats and platforms to choose from.
After all, Instagram didn’t change the entire layout of the app’s homepage for nothing. It put Reels front and center in response to consumer demand for video. That doesn’t mean all brands have to start creating Reels. Not at all. But it does mean that they should be mindful that short-form video is a great way to communicate brand personality and provide helpful, quick-win content.
The stats prove video’s effectiveness compared to static content. For ecommerce brands, it helps bring products to life through product demos and live tutorials.
For service-based businesses and personal brands (like coaches and consultants), it’s a great way to educate and inform audiences through how-tos and mini trainings.
So as you’re putting together your social media content plan, see where you can incorporate video. It’s one of the best ways to build intimacy - faster - with your audience.
If you’ve set goals and aligned your content plan to your sales funnel, you can rest assured that you’re building a social media content plan rooted in strategy.
That’s on a macro level. But what about on a micro level? How can you ensure that individual posts are moving you one step closer to achieving your goal?
Great question. And it’s a fairly simple one to answer. As you’re planning content - fleshing out the idea, drafting the video outline or caption - ask yourself: What is the purpose of this piece of content?
Every single post must have a clear purpose. Here’s a few examples:
Those are just some ideas to get you started. Every brand will have a different set of priorities depending on their unique sales funnel and goal(s) for the quarter.
To ensure you achieve the desired outcome of individual posts, be sure to include strong calls-to-action e.g. comment below, save this, watch the video, click the link to access, etc.
Pro tip: If the purpose of a post within your content plan isn’t immediately obvious, scrap it. There’s no room for wishy-washy posts in an effective social media content plan! And, if there happens to be any content tenuously linked to “National Dog Day”, “International Day Of Mushrooms” and so on - ask yourself again: Will this really help get us where we need to be?
This one’s for all my social media managers or online business owners wearing all the hats (CEO, graphic designer, social media manager, and so on).
I’ve shared more detailed time management tips previously, but it’s worth mentioning briefly here that an effective social media content plan is one that doesn’t impinge on your other daily tasks...
… because an effective social media content plan isn’t a one-and-done type situation. It’s dynamic. To get the best results requires ongoing tweaking and analysis. And that requires regular time and attention from you.
That’s why it’s essential to equip yourself with tools and templates to streamline the process. Here are some of my favourite tools that I use on a daily basis:
Once you’ve finished this article and developed your social media content plan, I recommend you time how long it takes to complete the various tasks involved in bringing that plan to life.
For example, time how long it takes to actually plan the content ideas for the month ahead. Time how long it takes to draft captions for every post for that month, and so on.
Over time, you will naturally get faster. But it’s a great habit to get into so you know exactly how long each part of the content creation process takes. Especially since most humans vastly underestimate how long things take us.
In addition to this, review your process from start to finish and see which bits you could automate (wholly or partially) with a tool or a template.
Could you create a caption template to speed up the process of writing these again and again? Is there a tool you could use to more easily plan content (if Google Sheets just isn’t working effectively for you?). The more you can automate, the easier and faster your content creation process will be.
Nobody online started off perfect. Far from it. In fact, the brands that excel on social media are those that test, learn, and tweak regularly.
Once you’re clear on your content strategy, plan a solid month or two of content. Then analyse the results. Even with the best strategy in the world, you won’t know what truly resonates with your audience until you’ve got a good amount of data to mine.
That’s why I recommend online business owners and social media managers give their content plans a chance before worrying that they don’t “get” their audience. These things take time - and you won’t find the answer after posting for just a couple of weeks.
With a good amount of data to analyse, keep an eye on patterns. Is there a particular type of post that resonates well (again and again) with your audience? That could be the format - like video or carousel - or it could be the subject matter. When you spot a trend like this, get as much as you can from the high-performing posts to re-use in future content plans.
Let’s say there was a step-by-step educational carousel post that performed very well. How could you use this to give your audience more of what they (clearly) want? For example:
Conversely, if there are certain content formats or topics that performed poorly across the board - i.e. didn’t generate much of any metric - think about scaling those back next month. Don’t scrap them completely, but make sure you’re putting most of your efforts into the types of content that are working.
Do be mindful that not every post is going to be a winner for every metric. That’s why it’s important to review a post’s performance against its original purpose.
If you designed a piece of content with the purpose of generating link clicks and boosting website traffic, then that post - on the surface - might look as though it performed poorly because other engagement metrics like comments/shares/saves aren’t very high. However, you know that it didn’t perform poorly because you achieved the intended purpose.
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth remembering since sometimes we get caught up in the shiny numbers that everyone else can see when in actual fact, it’s the numbers no-one else sees that tell a different story.
An effective social media content plan isn’t done once you hit publish. If that were the case, we wouldn’t call it a social media content plan.
To see the full potential of your strategically crafted content, don’t simply broadcast. Engage with your audience. Respond to their feedback and questions in the comments sections and inboxes of your chosen platforms.
Spotlight the people who regularly engage with your content. Use features like Instagram Story stickers and Twitter polls to encourage interaction from your followers and show them that their opinions count. The more two-way conversation you can facilitate, the more results your social media content plan will generate.
Because the more you talk to your social media followers, the more you’ll understand their wants, needs, and frustrations in real-time. This strengthens relationships, builds community, and improves your content.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that developing an effective social media content plan is easy as pie. Everyone and their dog has a social media presence - so if they can pump out quality content regularly, why can’t you?
You can! But being aware of exactly what goes into a strong, results-driven social media content plan is vital. There’s a difference between short-term “virality” and a content plan grounded in strategy and developed with specific goals in mind.
The former might look sexy on the surface with metrics that everyone can see. But the latter will stand the test of time - and trends - and help you achieve your bigger business objectives.
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