You've set up social media profiles – now what?
Just having profiles on social media platforms doesn't guarantee success--not by a long shot. You need to have a system for sharing content and interacting with consumers.
That's where the need to set up a social media calendar comes in.
A social media calendar is basically what it sounds like--a calendar that outlines your social media updates and activities. But there are several factors that go into creating a successful social media calendar. Here is a guide.
Find the right social media calendar template for your business
When you start to set up a social media calendar, it helps to have some kind of visual tool or representation that you can fill in or customize to your business. You can create your own editorial calendar online by starting with a blank calendar in Excel or Google Calendar or using some other program, of course.
But to save time and give you a guide, download a pre-made template that fits your business's needs.
Tailor the template
Take the time to tailor a social media calendar template to fit your company. Some businesses make the mistake of feeling like they have to slavishly follow someone else's calendar. They fail from the start because they are overly ambitious or doing activity on networks where they need not be.
Include all of the social networks where your business has an active presence.
Ignore any platforms where you've decided you just can't spend the time or won't get enough of a return. After all, success is often about what you choose NOT to do.
Be realistic with your time
Don't go overboard! In theory it might seem like a good idea to post ten times a day on six social platforms--just because you have a pretty color-coded calendar. That's not realistic or even desirable. Take small steps and fit social media into your other work.
Schedule time for updates--and to interact
Social media should be a two-way street. A big mistake of some small businesses using a calendar is to think it's all about pushing more stuff out as updates. Wrong!
- Schedule days/times of the week to post updates.
- Also schedule time to check for responses and engage with followers and fans.
Create a process
Come up with a routine for researching content. For instance, subscribe to some news feeds and set aside 15 minutes twice a week to search for interesting content. Or you could shoot a quick email to your team once a week asking for some interesting internal news or images to post.
Then set a process for posting the content. Automation or delegation as described below can help.
The calendar is just a tool. How you use it matters more. Think "repeatable processes" and "batching your work"--these techniques make you more efficient and help avoid the temptation to fritter away too much time on social media.
Take the pulse of each social network
The amount and frequency of your social media posts will vary based on what platforms you use. For example, it makes sense for some businesses to send out tweets fairly regularly throughout the day, since they're short and people tend to miss or overlook some tweets as they scroll through their feeds.
But Instagram, on the other hand, is a different animal. If you post ten times per day on Instagram, that could be seen as a bit much.
You have to get a pulse from your network on each platform to determine how often you should post without annoying or overwhelming your audience.
Choose relevant but varied content
Choose a few different categories and formats of content. That way you keep your approach interesting to followers--and you can adapt your content to suit the style of each network. For example, your calendar might call for you to share your company's latest blog post each Monday on Twitter and Facebook. Then on Tuesday you could share company images on Instagram and/or Pinterest. On Wednesday thank a happy customer for their feedback on Facebook, or share an industry news item on LinkedIn. On Thursday you could share posts intended to increase engagement, like polls or questions to your customers and followers--or even discounts and offers. Be creative!
Look into social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer. These tools allow you to create posts and then schedule them to go live throughout the week as your calendar calls for. They also help your monitor engagement and responses, so you can jump in and respond.
If you have a team, you might also choose to delegate some of the responsibilities. Don't forget to make sure team members know they are to check each platform regularly to respond to questions or mentions from customers. Even if you delegate, as with all things in business "inspect what you expect"--meaning, look at your social channels yourself from time to time to be sure your team is meeting your expectations. At the very least, it gives you a reason to give them some kudos for a job well done.
Experiment and measure results
As with most business functions, creating a successful social media calendar is not an exact science. Rather, it is something that takes time and tinkering to perfect. So once you have your initial social media calendar set up, make sure you keep an eye on what works and what doesn't. Use analytics to track the success of your posts and keep an eye on interaction. Then revise your calendar going forward.
This article originally appeared on Inc.