A friend of mine recently confided her alarm at being asked to write a blog post for her company, a small startup. She’s an articulate writer and a terrifically creative woman, so I asked her why she was concerned. “Well, it came out of the blue — they asked me to do it over the weekend.” I knew the company engaged in a lot of social media and content curation. Didn’t they have a calendar for this sort of thing, I asked? She smiled. “I’d say there’s a lot of excitement around here. Not a lot of planning.”
I have had this conversation many times, mostly with frustrated marketing managers. And a few overwhelmed interns.
There is a lot of information out there about how to more effectively use social media, but I find that some startups and nonprofits simply struggle with how to scale. They want to be on several platforms engaging with audiences they care about, but it gets overwhelming fast.
Here’s how to scale social media for a brand.
First and foremost, create a calendar and use it. This is the primary way agencies are able to run social media for several brands simultaneously. Calendars do not have to be complicated. Commonly they are made in Excel, with individual days listed down the left and social media platforms across the top. You can work your way down the days, filling in ideas for individual posts, and work your way across, tweaking each day’s message for the different social platforms you are using. For example, Facebook and Twitter cultures are very different, but it only takes a moment to customize the same message for each platform. If, like my friends’s company, you have a blog, it’s great to list that as well to make sure all of the content is cross-promoted correctly.
The hardest part is staying ahead of the game. You need to keep the calendar filled out at least a month in advance, and coming up with all those posts can be challenging for even the most creative people. But it’s possible. What about when things change at the last minute and you have to post something else instead? Yep, it happens. It’s good to review the calendar weekly and move reusable content around if it gets bumped by something urgent.
Using a calendar makes daily posting very quick: you’ve already done the thinking and editing and reviewing, so you can post to several platforms in minutes. There’s less need for third-party tools or automatic cross-posting that can truncate messages. It also makes switching roles a snap. If someone is gone for a week, you have an entire calendar of posts written and ready for a backup.
A few more basics:
Run campaigns. When you are managing social media for a brand, everything you do needs to tie back to your organization’s purpose and strategies. If you’re not sure what those are, ask — you are not just “managing a community” or “having a conversation.” There is always a point. Maybe it’s encouraging the community to check out books. Maybe it’s getting customers to buy shoes. Maybe it’s recruiting college hires. Posting thematically in campaigns is a fresh way to bring that purpose to life for your audience and the best way to build a following.
Rethink live. Live-tweeting, live-blogging, and hosting video chats are great ways to engage audiences. But for big brands, many of these events are carefully crafted ahead of time and run by teams in tandem: some people at the event, some people remotely at their computers. Again, similar to crafting an editorial calendar, the key is getting ahead of the game. Create a timeline and script as much as you can in advance, then punctuate those ready posts with what’s happening live.
Report your results. Nearly every social media platform provides analytics free to brands — one major difference between a brand account and a personal account. For instance, Facebook alone slices data in more detail than organizations typically need for insights, and it’s easy to download accurate numbers that show growth month-over-month. It’s important to take a step back and summarize those campaigns: here’s what we did, here’s how people responded, here’s why that’s important, here’s what’s next.