by Susan Shelby
Like all things in marketing, the most successful initiatives are well-planned and strategized for maximum benefit. Social media, with its many channels and opportunities for public conversation, is no different. If you’re not planning your social media content in advance, you may find yourself scrambling for something to share. A little advance planning by way of a social media calendar is an easy and important step to successful social media.
But isn’t social media supposed to be spontaneous, you ask? Sure, if you have a dedicated person monitoring your social media channels 24×7. Unlike consumer companies and lifestyle brands, professional services firms don’t require that immediate user response to create a real social media presence. A few rules of thumb for thinking about social media calendars:
- Choose a champion (or two). Identify the people in your firm — ideally marketing or public relations staff — who will be responsible for social media. Assigning one person to focus on a particular channel can help share the workload. Accountability is important, so determine how much time your team should spend on company social media per day or per week and what the expectations are. This is where using a social media calendar really keeps your whole team on the same page.
- Decide how you want to set up your calendar system. While a list or spreadsheet format might be necessary to organize post details, a visual calendar color-coded by channel or content type is very helpful. Use your calendar and detail system to track a variety of information, including publish date and time, post text, attached link, and images. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel though: There are many free online tools out there for creating social media calendars and organizing content.
- Content is still king! Social media content — to tweet, post, or share, depending on the channel — could include company blogs, press coverage on a project, byline articles authored by staff, or industry-specific articles on news and trends. The social media calendar should be explicit about what type of post is posted to each channel, and when. Conventional wisdom points to the 80/20 rule for social media: 80% of posts, tweets, or retweets should be sharing other people’s content or industry-related news, and only 20% should be related to your firm. Fun Friday posts are fine; just make sure your tweets, posts, and shares are always appropriate and professional, as they will stay in the public domain of social media.
- Use what you have. Review your overall marketing activities to see when new content might be generated, events promoted, and project milestones marked. Speaking opportunities, trade shows, and hosted seminars are great fodder for social media, and those activities should be factored into the posting schedule as well. Enlist everyone in the firm to help with content creation. The amount of unique content you produce will determine your social media posting frequency.
- Be realistic about frequency. And be consistent with whichever channels you choose. If time and commitment to social media are limited, your firm may opt to stick with the widely used Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn channels. While most professional services firms would be hard-pressed to keep up this schedule, experts say that companies should post to Facebook three to 10 times per week; Twitter at least five times a day; and LinkedIn two to five times per week. Keep it real and aim to post to your channels at least once per week. In 140 characters or less, Twitter makes it easy to post every day.
- To automate or not? Live, timely posts show your followers that your firm is current with news and trends and your experts can be relied upon to provide thought leadership. However, live tweeting, for example, isn’t always possible — hence the calendar! — and automated, third-party platforms like HootSuite can do the monitoring and scheduling for you.
- Pay attention. Remember to monitor your social media channels so your firm isn’t left out of the conversation. Comments are made or questions may be asked, and your company needs to be responsive. Social media allows you to monitor your brand and hear what people are saying about you, while providing channels to communicate with clients, partners, and employees.
The key takeaway is to interact with your social media audience on a schedule that works for you. Just don’t go dark and not post at all — or you’ll lose your audience and that hard-won social media presence.
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations.