How To Use A Social Media Planner

Last updated: 05-27-2020

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How To Use A Social Media Planner

If you’ve never used a social media planner, you’re about level up your social media marketing. And I’ll be honest, when it comes to my personal social media profiles, I don’t have much of a plan or schedule or strategic approach. I post whatever I feel like posting, when I have the urge or opportunity.

When it comes to your business profiles, that’s not an option.

Businesses that want to take advantage of the benefits social media can bring must have a plan and they must have a consistent approach. That means knowing what you’re going to post, giving yourself enough time to create valuable, targeted information, and doing that over and over again. It’s simply not possible to do that without some kind of social media planner.

Now, your planner could be a spreadsheet or a Google Doc or a shared calendar. You might use a paid tool like Asana or Basecamp or even Agorapulse. And while those tools are great and obviously Agorapulse is ideally suited to scheduling and monitoring your social media activity, they aren’t designed to plan your social media success. So what is?

First and foremost, a social media planner should be designed to help you think through the key questions and considerations surrounding your brand’s social media activity. Why are you posting? Who are you trying to reach? What will you talk about, and How will you share that information?

Why, who, what and how.

There’s nothing more important than determining your Why for anything, certainly social media. This is, in fact, where most businesses fail to create goals and a strategy to achieve them, and therefore end up wasting their time. By considering this first, you’re likely already ahead of your competition!

Imagine for a moment that you’re one of your target customers. You do not open Facebook or Instagram to see posts from brands, regardless of how much you might like them, so what might interest you? What might you see from a brand, right now, that would stop you from scrolling and get you to read more or watch a video?

Ok, put your brand’s “social media manager hat” back on. What’s your Why? What’s your motivation for being on social media and trying to connect with customers and fans?

For my Blogging Brute brand, I want to help people see the value in blogging, as well as help them remove the barriers and challenges that are getting in the way of them creating valuable content. Over at Agorapulse, we exist to help social media managers around the world do better for the businesses they represent.

Everything I do… everything Agorapulse does… everything you do… should reflect that Why. This will fuel the Goals that you set for your social media marketing.

Once you’ve determined your Why, it will help you frame who it is that you’re talking to. While Agorapulse has this nailed – they’re talking to social media managers and social media agency owners – this is an area where I’ve struggled with The Social Media Hat. This is mostly because, from the very start, this site was a side project and a passion project for me. A place where I could write about the things that interested me and see what might happen.

Yet I’ve learned from starting Blogging Brute that knowing your Who is critical for longterm success. Over there, I know that I’m talking to business owners who want to learn content marketing, as well as individuals who are interested in blogging as a side hustle. Two very different, yet compelling, audiences.

In fact, when I teach Content Marketing, I often talk about the need for focus and how important it is for bloggers and businesses to target specific keywords and get as niche as possible. But that also must include the Who – the people you’re actually trying to reach – otherwise you’ll miss the mark.

When it comes to social media marketing, that Who becomes even more critical as your target audience may determine which platforms you should focus on and even the kind of content you need to create. For instance, if you’re in B2B sales and need to get in front of C suite executives, LinkedIn will likely be the most lucrative platform for you with thoughtful articles written. Whereas, younger audiences may prefer video content on more trendy platforms like Instagram or TikTok.

One of the effective tactics you can employ on social media, once you’ve identified your target audience, is to have Themes for your posts and activity. Each week or month, you can have an established topic that all of your posts reflect, helping to establish your authority on the topic and perhaps even build to an important announcement or sale.

So with your Why and your Who firmly in mind, you can begin planning the What of your social media which, as I just suggested, is going to combine a determination of platform alongside a determine of content.

What will you share, and where will it go?

You might, for instance, start with a weekly Facebook Live that broadcasts to your Page as well as YouTube and Periscope. You can then repurpose that video into smaller video snippets for Twitter and Instagram, as well as quotes throughout the coming weeks. That one hour a week of video can fuel an entire month of social media content.

Or, alternatively, you might decide that your focus is going to be on building community – specifically, a Facebook Group – and so you begin to determine the kinds of content you can share there which your growing audience would appreciate.

This is the core of what a helpful social media planner will provide you. While calendaring content is critical, you also need help planning what you might post, making sure you have tracking links and hashtags and audiences selected appropriately.

And that leads us into the How – the final piece to our social media planning.

How often will you schedule posts? What tracking considerations do you need to make? Will you use Influencers or Events, and how much testing will you use?

There are tool considerations, such as whether to post natively to the platforms of choice or use a social media management tool like Agorapulse. But also time and creative energy considerations, such as who is going to handle all of these posts and any graphics or videos you anticipate needing.

A great social media planner will help you with all of these questions and considerations, and since I wasn’t aware of one that already existing, I built one for you.

The Social Media Planner for Social Media Success is designed to be an affordable, very utilitarian approach to planning social media that will be useful to solopreneurs, small to medium businesses, social media managers, and even social media agency owners. The planner is a downloadable, printable PDF that can be used over and over again, which means if you’re a freelance social media manager with a few clients, you may feel free to purchase a single Social Media Planner and then print as many copies as you need to work with your clients.

I will go through how each of the Social Media Planner sections work in a moment, but for just $10, you’ll receive all of these great worksheets and calendars:

The beauty of this planner is that it’s not designed for a specific calendar year. You can purchase it and start using it today and, technically, just print more calendars and other worksheets as you need them. While I like creating my blog and content planner afresh each year, with that year’s months and dates and other new features, I decided that you should be able to keep using your social media planner for as long as you wanted.

Let’s walk through each of the Social Media Planner sections as there are some helpful tips and advice I might share with you for each.

One of the reasons I’ve started including some form of goal worksheet in every planner I create is because I’ve come around to the importance of goals. Goals were never something I did personally, but having worked for Agorapulse for years, I now see the value.

Goals help keep our thoughts and activities focused. They also create opportunities for us to actually achieve success. Because if you have no goals, how do you know if you’ve been successful in what you’ve done?

I also added to this worksheet prompts to identify new improvements to make or tactics to learn, as that personal growth is also an important aspect of goal-setting.

To Do lists are extremely important. Not only is it helpful to have a central place to record and recall the things you need to do, there’s a great deal about this planner that involves brainstorming, as you’ll see in a moment. If you’re in the midst of thinking about topic ideas for a series of videos, and it suddenly occurs to you that you should create a playlist of your existing videos, don’t stop brainstorming! Just jot down the note on your To Do List and get back to letting your creative mind work its magic.

Using your To Do list strategically can also help you prioritize your work and platforms. A reminder to update your Facebook cover photo may serve as inspiration to review and update all your profile cover images and graphics.

An area where you can excel thanks to having a social media planner is that of having a consistent theme throughout all of your posts for any given week or month. This particular sheet inspires you to think through an entire year and determine what themes you might tackle.

Not only does this give you content a consistent message throughout a month, it also gives you an opportunity to think about and plan your content approach for the entire year.

For instance, you might decide that you want to talk about your main topic in January and then hit some of the sub topics in the subsequent months, and then revisit your main topic again in May. Now you’ve got months and months of great content and engagement on social media, as well as a well-informed audience who is ready to buy from you.

And guess what? When you decide on a theme for a month, it can actually make brainstorming topics and posts during that month easier. Which leads us to…

The next four worksheets are here to help you think about specific posts and topics you can create on your social channels.

Questions/Discussions is a post type that will be designed to encourage engagement with the post and your brand channel. If an audience member engages with your post, it accomplishes two things:

It’s definitely a good idea to include these kinds of posts regularly.

Inspirational or aspirational type posts are another staple for most brands on social media. These are the kinds of posts that can put your audience in the correct, positive state of mind: dreaming.

Most brands are going to want to step their audience through a series of emotional states in which they’re curious, then interested, then imagining themselves in whatever position your business or services would put them. That’s the point at which they’ll commit to spending their money.

I’d never heard of “Duck Donuts” but the name intrigued me. Then I saw pictures of their donut creations on Facebook that looked amazing, and read that they assemble the donuts in front of you, which got me really interested. I imagined those donuts must taste delicious, and I also imagined my children would really enjoy watching the process, so we went in and bought a dozen.

Once you’ve gotten your audience engaged with your posts, and helped shape their thinking into an imaginative state, now they’re primed to pay attention to a post that brings you value. A resource or a sale type post.

When you publish new content to your blog, and want to drop a link to your social channels, this would fall under that category. You’ve created a new resource that you’re ready to share with your audience. This also applies to past posts that are evergreen in nature – still relevant to today’s audiences.

Likewise, when you have a sale or just want to promote a particular product or service, now’s the time to do it.

Notice that this post type comes after you’ve sparked engagement and tickled inspiration. These posts could all come within hours of each other on the same day, or spread out one day at a time. But this sequence of posts is important, and one of the solid reasons you need planner to map this out. When it comes to planning out your social media content for a particular network, you can draw one post from your Discussion brainstorming worksheet, one from the Inspiration worksheet, and one from the Resources worksheet, and now you’ve got social media activity backed by a strategy that works.

Couple that with with weekly and monthly themes, and you’re on your way to achieving real success.

Finally, I wanted to draw attention to a specific format of post – videos and events – that’s going to be the most effective and engaging kind of post you can create. No matter which networks you choose to focus on, video content will be preferred – particularly live video if possible – so that needs to be integrated into your social media marketing plan.

What kinds of video can you create?

These videos can be pre-recorded, live, or even as part of events. Of the major social platforms currently, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn support live streaming, and you can also upload video to Pinterest.

Every social network now supports the use of hashtags to link your post to other posts from other people that are similar in nature and have had the same hashtag added. While Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest typically only see a few hashtags used, on Instagram you’re encouraged to use 20 or more.

So start with this worksheet and begin to identify specific hashtags you might use on your posts for specific networks. You can punch in hashtags on each network to see what comes up, or you can use a tool to speed the process.

hashtagify.me supports Twitter and Instagram, which are the networks most amicable to using hashtags well.

On Facebook, hashtags are only useful on public posts to your public Page, and for your particular industry, may end up being completely ignored, so test that. Create ten posts over thirty days with hashtags and ten similar posts throughout the same timeframe without hashtags and see if you see a difference in reach and engagement.

There are currently no tools available for LinkedIn hashtag research. Instead, LinkedIn has built-in recommendations that surface when you begin creating your post, which aren’t bad. You might also mimic your top 2 – 3 hashtags selected for Twitter or Instagram.

When it comes to building a hashtag strategy, particularly for Instagram where you need to use so many, Jenn Herman’s hashtag strategy is the gold standard.

Local, national and global holidays and events may or may not be relevant to your brand. But chances are, you need to at least be aware of major holidays that might impact your prospects interest or availability. And for some brands and industries, certain holidays are pivotal.

Like florists around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, as an obvious example.

Which means it’s important to take the time to note down key holidays and events coming up so that as you’re planning your social media strategy and specific posts, you can pan in advance.

Furthermore, you might do a little digging and find some fun observance-type dates that could be relevant and great for engaging social media posts or even campaigns. National Donut Day perhaps?

Just as we set goals for the entire year, now it’s time to set goals for each month. Since this planner is designed to give you at least 12 months of planning from the moment you buy it, there are 12 monthly goal setting worksheets that you can print and simply write in the months in the upper right, starting with the next full month.

Think about your goals for each month as a subset of what you wanted to accomplish throughout the year.

When it comes to goal-setting, there are arguments to made for setting goals that you can actually achieve, versus setting goals that are stretch goals which you’re unlikely to achieve. I recommend trying both approaches to see what works best for you. Either way, the goals should never be easy or they won’t motivate and you won’t feel any sense of accomplishment when you achieve them.

I’ve interspersed the Social Media Goal Setting worksheets with the Monthly Calendars so that you can easily see your goals and plans for each month together.

The calendars within your Social Media Planner are the core of the resource. This is where you pull together all of the brainstorming and thinking you’ve been doing and start to create actual plans.

Just like the goal setting worksheets, start with the next full month and label each of the twelve calendars accordingly.

Next, add the themes you came up with from your Monthly Theme Brainstorming worksheet. Then, pop in the days of the month starting with the first day of that month. So if August starts on a Friday, put “1” in the grey box in the upper left of the top-most Friday and proceed to number the rest of the days in kind.

Now you can begin to map out specific posts for each day, and even note a theme for that week if it makes sense to do so. All you need to write is a couple words to remind you what you wanted to post about, like, “Donut Day, video.” Or you could even use a naming system that numbers, abbreviates and tags posts. FB-03-vid for instance.

I’ve listed the major social networks along with lines for entries for each day, as well as a blank space for an optional 5th network. Though of course you can choose to use the Instagram slot for Pinterest or a second Twitter profile – however you’d like to manage those placements.

If there’s anything special you want to test or note about that particular month, there’s a space below to write that in.

At the bottom are lines to place all of the hashtags you want to make sure you use that month, as well as your UTM tracking link parameters. More on UTMs in a moment.

Whether you’re attending events online or off, there are sure to be speakers, organizers and other attendees that you meet and connect with and, hopefully, may want to make sure you create opportunities in the future to deepen that relationship.

Events are a wonderful way to meet new people because simply by attending the same event, you already have a clear shared interest and a shared history, if only for the space of that event. That’s something that can be built on over time and can lead to friendships, collaborative work, and of course prospects and sales.

Do not underestimate the importance of event connections and how critical it is to make note of them.

When you’re ready to take your social media planner to the next level, start working on your influencer marketing strategy. Influencers are incredibly effective ways to reach new audiences that fit your targeting – your Who – in very authoritative ways.

Consider this. If I tell you that I’m an expert at blogging and that I can help you craft a content marketing strategy that will serve your business well for years, you might be inclined to believe me but it wouldn’t necessarily be impactful. However, if someone else you’ve been following on social media for years posts to Facebook how much they’ve learned from me and how appreciative they are for my guidance when it comes to their content, that’s a testimonial. It’s weighted far more in our mind because it comes from someone else, someone we may already know, like and trust.

This is why, for over a century, brands have been turning to famous celebrities to get them to endorse their brand or products. The advantage you have as a business owner is that you can connect with and leverage influencers on social media far more affordably, and effectively, than how big brands tapped celebrities.

Use this worksheet to make note of key influencers that you identify and talk to.

When you share a link to a social network like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn, and someone clicks on that link, you will see that network as a “referral” in your Google Analytics. That tells you that your website and that linked content received so much traffic, and you can even tell how long those visitors stayed and what they did next.

What you cannot tell is which posts drove that traffic, or even if it was your posts. If I share a link to one of my blog posts to Twitter a couple of times in a month, and you share a link to that same blog post to Twitter a couple of times yourself, all Google Analytics will tell me is the total number of people who clicked any of those links on Twitter.com to visit that piece of content.

Unless, of course, you use a tracking link.

There are a variety of ways and tools you can use to generate tracking links but the method I’m recommending here is to use UTM Parameters which is a series of tags you can add to any link you share. When the link is clicked, Google Analytics will automatically see and parse the traffic according to the parameters.

For instance, if that blog post I’d shared to Twitter earlier had used a UTM campaign tag of MikeAllton, I would be able to differentiate between the traffic I sent and any referrals other people might have generated.

Since you can use whatever you want for campaign, source and medium parameters, you can get extremely detailed in your link tracking – particularly useful when you have important campaigns and really want to know whether specific posts were successful.

With the UTM Link Builder worksheet within your social media planner, you can write down a campaign, medium and source for any given link you want to share and build that link using the link URL template and example at the bottom.

Have you ever participated in a tweet chat? It’s amazing.

At a predetermined time, an organizer will begin a tweet chat and everyone who participates will follow and tweet using the same hashtag, like, #AgencyChat. Most tweet chats follow a standard format where a set number of questions are posed and anyone can feel free to tweet their answer or opinion, always including the tweet chat hashtag so everyone following along can easily see.

Not only are these sessions fun and frenetic, they’re a great event around which to network and build brand authority.

And the great part is, you don’t have to run your own tweet chat, though that’s an option. For now, what you’ll want to do is head to Twitter and start searching for tweet chats that pertain to your business and industry – conversations you’re likely to find folks interested in your own brand and content.

Every established tweet chat will have a regular date and time that they start, a hashtag they use, and someone who sets the details each week. Not all of those down within the Tweet Chat tracker in your social media planner so that you can take part in a few and see if there are any you want to regularly attend and schedule.

One of the first questions most businesses want to know when they start social media marketing is what the best time to post is. So they turn to Google, and find all kinds of articles and info graphs stating that such and such a time is best time to publish.

And of course they’re all wrong.

The best time for you to publish is different than mine. And it will likely be different depending on which social network you’re talking about and what you hope to accomplish. Your “best time” on Twitter may be different than your “best time” on Facebook, and that, in turn, may change over time or even with what you’re posting about.

Which means this, like many other questions you may have or tactics you want to employ, requires a test.

In marketing, we refer to this as an A/B or Split test. The simple version of the idea is that you have a question, you wonder whether it’s better to post using A or B, so you post with both and see which post performs the best.

That’s exactly what you have in the A/B Test Log of your social media planner, a slot to record a date, your two variants, and the results you saw.

Now, because when it comes to social media posting it’s not possible to eliminate all variables, it’s likely that you’ll want to run a test for 4 weeks, using a decent number of posts throughout that time so that you can compare an aggregate of results for each variant. It doesn’t have to be scientifically irrefutable – what matters is that you routinely test ideas and record the results so that you can continue to iterate and improve your social media marketing.

Finally, I always include a Change Log in my planners because it’s extremely important to record any change we employ. Otherwise, the hectic pace of business and, you know, real life, impede our ability to everything that happened weeks prior and why we’re now seeing something new and different happen.

While we can usually attribute large positive changes to specific actions, it’s harder to draw conclusions from declines in success or even mild improvements. If, for instance, you begin to see more traffic coming from Facebook, could it be perhaps that you change the call to action button on your Page? Or maybe it’s because you created a new cover photo, or changed how often you’re posting?

If you use the social media planner Change Log to track any of the changes and improvements and adjustments you make, determination of these questions will be far easier.

While you could scratch by with a series of Google Docs, or invest in an expensive planning app, I think you’ll appreciate the simplicity and affordability of the downloadable Social Media Planner.


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