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Post: How To Build a Winning Content Plan for Social Media [Template]



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How To Build a Winning Content Plan for Social Media [Template]

Social media offers a volatile space for marketing.

The rules of engagement vary across platforms, as do the audiences and opportunities for brands. The platforms’ popularity ebbs and flows while new challengers emerge, hoping to disrupt the scene and steal the spotlight. Once seemingly stable and reliable, shared media outlets shift their business priorities and become inhospitable.

Nevertheless, social media remains an invaluable channel for delivering your stories, insights, and advice into the hands of content-hungry consumers. Success requires knowing how to approach those content conversations.

A content plan for social media gives you that understanding. It clarifies where to focus your efforts, how to create meaningful connections, and what results you can achieve.

Start by investigating platform options, auditing existing assets, and determining where they best align with the priority goals. Then, turn those insights into an actionable content plan for social media marketing that lets your team know where, when, and what to post.

This guide and content plan template for social media can make the planning process easier and the resulting efforts more impactful.          

Make informed decisions

This social media content strategy planning process involves four steps:

  1. Investigate your options: Evaluate prospective outlets to understand the user base, distinct engagement opportunities, and value proposition.
  2. Audit existing assets: Identify distribution-ready conversations, assets that can be repurposed to enhance their appeal, and critical topic gaps to fill with new content.
  3. Identify top opportunities: Map your use cases against prospective platforms to determine which ones best align with your marketing strategy, content goals, and brand values.
  4. Establish procedures and guidelines: Ensure that your team is equipped to uphold your brand’s standards for quality conversations.

Let’s look closer at each step.

1. Investigate your channel options

Each platform’s unique characteristics and consumer preferences factor into its value proposition for content marketing. For example, your audience might be open to a dialogue with brands on X (formerly Twitter) but reserve Facebook for personal conversations.

Those distinct attributes affect the types of content conversations. Authoritative long-form content might play well on LinkedIn and Medium, while short-form videos, memes, and mashups get more play on Instagram and TikTok.

Critically evaluating the social landscape will prevent you from squandering resources on efforts unlikely to drive the desired results.

Use these questions to compare each platform’s audience makeup, profile types, conversation formats, and marketing potential.

Who uses this channel, and how do they use it?

  • Is it an essential channel for the target personas?
  • How much time, on average, do users spend here?
  • What are conversations and interactions like?

What content topics and formats get the most traction?

  • Do we already produce these types of conversations?
  • Do we have enough assets/resources to maintain a consistent presence?
  • Does the platform offer integrated creative tools to scale production?

How do brands engage and market here?

  • Do brands have different profile page options than other users? 
  • Is there a verification system?
  • What options exist for boosting organic reach?
  • How does the platform treat backlinks and referral traffic?
  • What metrics does the platform provide?

Can we gain a competitive advantage?

  • Are our competitors active in this space?
  • What kinds of content/conversations do they share here?

Once you’ve analyzed the platform options, you’re ready to assess the available content.

2. Audit your social media assets

You’re likely familiar with the purpose of a content audit and how to conduct one. An audit in the content plan for the social media process clarifies the stories available and how to position them for optimal impact on the platforms. It can also help reveal topical gaps you can fill to gain a competitive advantage.

For an abbreviated content audit, Intero Digital’s Kelsey Raymond recommends focusing on these three components:

  • Inventory of existing assets and metrics relevant to your social media goals. These elements give a snapshot of the available content, current format, URLs, and performance.
  • Data analysis for each asset’s keyword ranking, organic traffic, calls to action, and bounce and conversion rates. Assets that performed well on your site are likely of interest to your audience and worth sharing with your social community.
  • Competitive and gap analyses. These assessments can pinpoint opportunities where your brand can lead the conversation or topical areas worthy of new asset creation.

3. Identify top social channel opportunities

With a short list of potential channels in hand, map your content assets to their most appropriate distribution channels. Remember to consider the content experiences expected by audiences, determine if you have the resources to meet those expectations, and evaluate the potential to deliver meaningful business results.

Answer these questions to prioritize the platforms. Your responses can also provide clues on how to position your content to compel the audience to act.

Will this channel help us meet our objectives?

  • Why does it make sense for our business to use it?
  • Does it offer something we’re struggling to achieve through other means?
  • What marketing goals will we pursue on this channel?

Does it fit with our editorial mission?

  • Do the platform’s policies and practices align with our brand vision and values?
  • Would our content be viewed as trustworthy and uniquely valuable or intrusive?
  • Is there potential to lead the conversation and/or fill an unmet audience need?

Do we have sufficient team resources to produce quality experiences?

  • Do our creative and community team members have the bandwidth and flexibility to manage our content activities on this channel?
  • Do we have the technical capabilities to produce content in the preferred content types and formats?

 What results do we want to achieve? 

  • What should we ask fans and followers to do after engaging with our content? Share it? Comment? Visit our site? Subscribe to our newsletter?
  • Does this channel support those calls to action?
  • Are community members likely to take those actions, or will we need to provide additional incentives?
  • Do we have the correct metrics, monitoring, and KPIs to quantify and report our results meaningfully to stakeholders?

If your responses don’t reveal a compelling opportunity to engage on that channel or if the platform’s environment isn’t suited to your brand’s distinct content vision, mission, and capabilities, reserve your team’s resources for channels that are a better fit.

4. Establish social media guidelines and procedures

Everybody responsible for posting the brand’s content on social media should understand and align with your social media guidelines. Documenting the rules of conduct and accepted procedures helps the team maintain consistent conversational, stylistic, and quality standards and deliver a trustworthy experience for your audience.

Refine your company style guide with your social personality and ensure its accuracy and precision. Include the correct use and spelling of unique terms, such as company trademarks, product names, and personnel.

B2B content marketing consultant Erika Heald recommends adding these details to your social media guidelines:

  • Brand’s social media purpose. Explain why your company exists on each channel and how your social content should support that purpose.
  • Asset locations. Give your team members shared, centralized access to the needed editorial assets and branding materials, including company logos, article images, profile headers, and more. Keeping this information in one place increases production efficiency and the likelihood of staying on brand.

You should also outline sensitive topics or other issues to avoid discussing, as well as any legal or regulatory policies. You may include instructions for handling issues like:

  • Disclosures: Outline the required verbiage for promoting your content through sponsored posts or ad placements.
  • Rights management. Note the accepted processes for securing permission to publish copyrighted images on social and providing proper attribution for quoted source materials.
  • Use of proprietary insights and assets. Make it clear what materials are and are not approved for use in the brand’s social conversations.
  • Diversity and inclusivity. Provide details about your brand’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies, such as using gender-neutral language or images that reflect the diversity of your audience.

Build your social media content strategy plan

Once you have the information to determine where, when, and how to distribute your social content, incorporating it into a plan is simple. Create a matrix of the channels that make the most sense for your brand and note engagement specifics. When all the fields are filled, you have a content plan for social media that can be easily referenced, updated, and shared throughout your organization.

In my experience, it can be helpful to outline as much information as possible in the initial plan so your team can reference it when new opportunities emerge or snap decisions need to be made. But it’s also OK to start simply and build on or refine the fields as you learn what’s working and what isn’t.

The recommended information in your content plan for social media includes:

  • Who we will reach: Persona(s) most active/engaged on this channel
  • Target goals/benefits: What this channel will accomplish; any unique opportunities that can’t be achieved elsewhere
  • Featured topics/content types: Subject areas and assets likely to resonate with this community
  • Ideal velocity: Frequency and time on this channel; how much time to monitor and contribute to relevant conversations
  • Formats: Content types proven successful or emerging formats that present a chance to own the conversation in that social space
  • Tone and rules of engagement: Conversation style and voice; special criteria or considerations to follow (e.g., “280 characters or less,” “avoid enabling videos to play automatically,” “emphasize visuals over text”)
  • Team resources: Roles/individual colleagues in charge of your brand’s social communities; other personnel authorized to post on the company’s behalf; whom to notify if questions arise or issues escalate
  • Call(s) to action: Messaging and link URLs for referral traffic
  • Key performance indicators: Metrics to gauge content performance against marketing goals

Consider adding this information as well:

  • Keywords and topic tags: Priority keywords in social posts for SEO purposes and relevant hashtags or topic tags to draw your target audience’s attention
  • Distribution partners: Relevant influencers, industry experts, and community members to mention (using the @ symbol) or hire to help amplify reach and engagement
  • Promotion opportunities: Paid advertising products and any other platform-specific offerings to strengthen a post’s performance

We created a customizable template you can use to make the process even easier. In the first column, list the platforms you’ve prioritized. Then, fill in the other columns with all the key details of your content plan (you’ll see a reference sample for Facebook is already filled in). Get your copy of the full spreadsheet (registration required).

The recommended information in your content plan for social media downloadable template.

Make your brand the life of the social media party

No matter how far and wide your business intends to extend its reach, successful content marketing distribution often comes down to having a strategic, systematic, and scalable approach. This model ensures that everyone works from the same social media blueprint, but it’s not the only way to get the job done. Let us know what processes you use to determine where, when, and how you share your content and spread your brand influence.

Updated from a February 2021 article.

Bring your team to Content Marketing World this October for inspiration, ideas, and actionable advice on developing and executing a strategy that drives profit for your business. Group rates are available. Register today


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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