Creating A Content Plan: Your Ultimate Guide to Planning a Year's Worth of Engaging Social Media Content
Creating a content plan starts with committing to a planning process and following through. If you plan correctly, consistently delivering great content across social media and other channels is a cinch. Consistent content also is what a successful marketing program looks like.
Setting the Stage to create your content plan
Setting clear objectives is essential before diving headfirst into creating a content plan. What do you hope to achieve with your social media presence this year? Is it to boost brand awareness, increase website traffic, generate leads, or boost sales? Knowing your goals is the first step in creating a business content plan that makes sense.
Know your Audience
Your audience is at the heart of your social media strategy. Take the time to understand their preferences, interests, demographics, and pain points. After all, you want to create content that resonates with them, so knowing who they are is crucial.
A handy list to create for reference when creating your plan would be:
- Key demographics (age, gender, location, job title, parent, single, etc – whatever is relevant to them and forms a picture of the person you would typically target)
- What would be some key values, e.g. Sustainability, value for money?
- What are the key problems they have concerning your service or product?
- What are their interests
- What are their digital channels of preferences?
- What is the type of content they prefer to consume (in relation to your product or service), e.g. White papers, long-form video, short-form video, visuals.
Learning from the Past
It's also worth doing a quick content audit to see what worked and what didn't in your past social media posts. Pay close attention to your top-performing content; it can provide valuable insights for your upcoming plan.
The Content Calendar: Your Best Friend
Creating a content plan will be your savior throughout the year. You can use a simple spreadsheet or dedicated social media management tools, but sometimes simple is best. The calendar helps you visualise your entire year. Depending on your needs, it allows you to organise your content by months, weeks, or even days.
To create your content calendar, you want to have the following:
Content categories (or silos)
Creating categories or silos of content allows you to identify the different kinds of content you will create on an ongoing basis. It will form the basis of your calendar.
The categories or silos are themes or groups of similar topics such as educational, promotional, behind-the-scenes, user-generated, and testimonials. Each category should serve a specific purpose within your overall strategy and align with the objectives discussed at the top of this article.
To help to create your content categories or silos, you can draw on what you've posted (and has worked well) in the Past – or do research on your competitor's popular/high-performing content, or do a huge ideas dump and then use this to start understanding the categories and aligning each category to your business goals.
For each category, you should identify which channel you will publish to. For example, you might only publish educational and promotional to LinkedIn but include these AND behind-the-scenes and fun, related content on your Instagram account.
This is also the point to note anything about the content that needs to be specific or only for certain channels. For example, you may only share articles of professional interest on LinkedIn rather than on Instagram.
Noting what content goes into which channels is also helpful to see how you can leverage the repurposing of content rather than having to create new content for each separate channel.
Next, you want to note various content formats, such as blog posts, videos, webinars, podcasts, stories, and live sessions. Different formats cater to different audience segments, so offering a little something for everyone is wise. Again, it helps you know what content needs to be created based on your audience's preferences rather than just making it up on the fly.
Diversity is the name of the game when it comes to social media. Mix it up with text posts, images, videos, infographics, polls, user-generated content, and more. Variety keeps your audience intrigued and eager to see what's coming next. It also helps you to have flexibility within the plan when it comes to creating the content.
Finally, you want to indicate the frequency for each of your channels. This means you can then quantify how much content needs to be created.
Some platforms thrive on more frequent updates, while others can do with less. The key is to be consistent to keep your audience engaged.
The frequency will be times per week. Twice a week or once per week. You may also wish to indicate the day of the week and time of day, particularly if you understand when your audience is online on their preferred channels. This increases your likelihood of your content being seen by the right people.
Map out the year
The next step in creating a content plan is to fill in the details of when you should be talking about things.
This starts with an annual plan by assigning a monthly theme or focus. For instance, January could revolve around New Year's resolutions, while February is all about the lovey-dovey vibes of Valentine's Day. Your content should align with these themes to keep your audience engaged.
Next on your annual calendar should be any specific dates you want to prepare content for or will form the basis of a campaign. What these dates might be will depend on your business. For example, are school holidays relevant? Mothers or Father's Day? Christmas gift-giving or end-of-financial-year sales?
Be sure to think about including special promotions, campaigns, and events.
Creating a content plan without considering once-off or recurring campaigns is missing opportunities to leverage ideal times to be talking to your audience at points of high relevance.
The best way to identify potential campaigns is to consider your business goals and look for moments of seasonality that make sense to provide a special offer or to increase your presence when the needs of your audience might be heightened. An example of this is promoting swimwear in the lead-up to summer rather than at the beginning of the Winter season.
This now provides you with the next level detail of what you'll be talking about (or campaigning on) across the year – and the ability to start creating content ahead of time. Hence, you are able to schedule ahead of time. Trying to have a period of prepared content ready to publish really does lighten the load for a small business owner.
This process also prepares the groundwork to start batching your content.
Content Creation: Getting down to work
When the planning stage of creating a content plan is done, you still need to execute. It can be as simple as starting work on the next month's content, using your content categories and annual plan.
Or you can sit down and do the next level of detail, mapping out specific topics and doing dot points on what will be covered in each piece of content.
One benefit to this extra step of detail can be to identify any piece of content that needs extra creativity or production time, for example, creating videos.
Now, let your creative juices flow and get down to creating content that aligns with your themes and topics. Make it count, whether it's writing, designing graphics, recording videos, or any other content type relevant to your plan.
This is also the stage where you should be batching content to prepare a week, months or more at once. This is one the true benefits of creating a content plan!
This allows you to get into the zone and concentrate instead of being distracted by many things (as is common for a small business owner) and then preschedule the content to minimise distractions when focused on other areas of your business!
Engaging with Your Audience
Don't forget that social media is a two-way street. Creating your content plan should include how you'll engage with your audience. Respond to comments and messages; don't forget to interact with your followers regularly. It's about building relationships, and this should be scheduled in your diary to ensure you take advantage of this important step. If you've prepared and scheduled your content, you will likely have extra time to make this activity happen.
Adapt and Adjust
Don't forget to measure your success by setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and tracking your progress. Social media platforms and third-party tools often provide analytics to help you gauge your results.
Regularly watching your analytics lets you adjust your plan to optimise as you go. Don't set your content plan in stone. Instead, regularly review your plan and adjust it based on what's working and what's not. Stay flexible to accommodate new trends and events that may pop up unexpectedly.
Delegate and Collaborate
If you're working with a team, assign content creation, posting, engagement, and analytics tracking responsibilities. Collaboration tools like Asana or Trello can help manage tasks seamlessly and can remove the pain of creating a content plan where there are multiple people doing the work.
Remember, your year-long content plan is your enabler and guide, not a strict rulebook. Be open to adjusting as you learn more about your audience and the social media landscape evolves. With dedication, creativity, and a dash of flexibility, you'll craft a social media strategy that keeps your small business thriving. This process works equally well for all your channels and makes it easy to incorporate email, blogs and other content into the mix.