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No Social Media Calendar? Here’s How to Make One

A fantastic social post idea just popped into your head. Will you jot it down on a sticky note, or enter it into a social media calendar?

Whether you create social posts alone or with a team, a social media calendar can help keep you on point.

Benefits of a Social Media Calendar

You might say, “I don’t have time to create a social media calendar. My sticky-note method works just fine, thank you very much.”

Kudos if you’re already a genius at social media. But the rest of us need a little help organizing our posts.

In fact, data show that using a social media calendar can streamline efforts, keep teams accountable, and measurably improve results.

Calendar image by RawPixel for Unsplash, social media calendar

Image Source: Unsplash

For instance, Nathan Ellering of CoSchedule saw clicks increase by 3,150 percent simply by using a social media calendar.

Here are a few other benefits to using a social calendar daily.

Organization

Chances are, you’re already swamped with work-related duties. And social media is just one more thing on a very long list.

Fortunately, even a simple social media calendar can outline your week, month, and year for every channel you manage.

To boot, you’ll maximize your efforts and save time—time that you can then devote to other tasks.

Illustration, cell phone, Ouch.pics

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Accountability

When it comes to posting on social media, procrastination is the common enemy.

Luckily, a social media calendar makes deadlines visible. No more excuses or random content on your social pages at the last minute.

Whether you’re using an old-school wall calendar, an Excel spreadsheet, or an automated tool like Banyan, every member of your team will be on the same page.

Plus, you’ll be that much closer to posting social content your followers will appreciate.

Photo of blackboard grid with post-it notes, social media calendar, Daniele Riggi for Unsplash

Image Source: Daniele Riggi

Efficiency

Posting to more than one social channel? That’s the reality for most businesses today.

A social media calendar helps you streamline your posting strategy and work more efficiently. Because you’re planning in advance, you’re also free from the tyranny of when to post.

“Generally speaking, if you control matter more precisely, you can get more efficiency out of any process.” – Steve Jurvetson

Ouch.pics, message sent (Fogg design), illustration of a hang glider as metaphor for a message sent

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Now that we’ve covered why you should use a social media calendar, let’s talk more about how.

Mapping Out Your Social Strategy

There are lots of social media calendar templates out there. Which one is right for your business?

To help you decide, first conduct an audit of your social channels, factor in your business goals, and brainstorm content that appeals to your target audience.

Audit

To run a preliminary social media audit, follow these steps by CoSchedule:

  1. Check your social profiles, update them as needed, and store your passwords securely.
  2. Track past social metrics and insights to see which channels are most popular with your followers.
  3. Review the average (weekly, monthly) posts per medium to determine an optimal posting frequency.
  4. Check audience demographics to see if your social pages are attracting the right audience.
  5. Make note of your most (and least) popular social media content types (e.g., video versus memes).
  6. Determine your business’s strengths, weaknesses, problems, and opportunities on social media.
  7. Review social media goals you met in the past year.
Online analytics on a laptop screen, via Stephen Dawson for Unsplash

Image Source: Stephen Dawson

Strategize

At this point, you should have a much better picture of what your target audience wants. This information will help you focus your social strategy going forward.

According to Neil Patel and Sprout Social:

  • 7 out of 10 Gen X consumers are willing to buy products from a brand they follow on social media.
  • 30 percent of Millennials will engage with brands at least once monthly on social media.
  • 60 percent of Baby Boomers look primarily for promotional content on social media.

Keep these statistics in mind as you revise your social plan and prepare your social calendar.

Also, has your organization set any new business goals for the upcoming year? Now’s the time to make sure your content goals align with these higher-level KPIs.

UFO illustration, flying saucer with computer in its beam, Ouch.pics

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Brainstorm

Depending on your business, social media could be a team effort. If so, now’s the time to brainstorm.

First, what do you want to track on your social media calendar?

“Keep in mind that while vanity metrics like retweets and likes are fun and easy to track, it’s hard to prove their real value for your business.” – Hootsuite

Instead of zeroing in just on likes and shares, for instance, maybe you should track web referrals from your social pages instead.

Discuss what you’re really hoping to accomplish on each social platform. Is it brand awareness? More appointments? How will you measure your progress?

Now you’re ready to brainstorm content that will match your goals.

You’re also ready to create your social media calendar.

brainstorming session at work, showing people posting notes to a blackboard, photo by Raw Pixel for Unsplash

Image Source: RawPixel

Steps to Creating Your Social Media Calendar

As mentioned above, social media calendars come in all forms.

Some businesses like to create their calendar via DropBox or Google Sheets, simply for the ease of collaboration.

Others prefer an erasable whiteboard or a wall calendar placed in a prominent place.

For those whose budget allows, there are also plenty of paid social media calendar tools around. And of course, you’ll find many free templates online.

For example, check out CoSchedule’s social-media-editorial-calendar-template.

For more options, just google ‘social media calendar templates.’

Hugo 'list is empty' illustration via Ouch.pics (pencil, list on clipboard)

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Before you start creating your social media calendar—no matter its format—try to make a mission statement for every social channel you use.

Some businesses use Instagram Stories for tutorials and Facebook for all other customer interactions.

Having trouble coming up with a goal for each social network? Ask yourself if that network is really worth your time investment.

Here’s some data for reference:

eMarketer data, methods used to communicate with customers, Sept 2017

Image Source: eMarketer

Gather

Once you have a calendar template up and running, it’s time to gather more information.

Remember, this calendar represents a running history of your social content. But it only works if you adapt it to your business goals.

First, decide on your timeframe.

We recommend you map out an overview of your social content for the next six months. Then, you’ll be able to adjust the plan as you see your followers’ reactions.

 Next, choose a monthly (or quarterly) theme for your social content.

For instance, a healthcare provider could list “Heart Health” as a theme for a given month. Then, all pieces of content would relate to this theme.

Don’t forget: you can adapt your calendar any way you choose!

Now, plan your actual social content over the next few months.

For inspiration, check out SproutSocial’s 2019 List of Hashtag Holidays.

Ouch.pics, hugo design, Co-workers illustration

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Create

Think, for a moment, about the themes (or holidays and special events) you’ve chosen for the next few months.

What type of content will match?

It’s no surprise that your followers like variety. So, videos, polls, memes, user-generated content, photos, contests, and other content types should factor into your plan.

It’s also helpful to include content type, captions, visuals (e.g., photos, videos, graphics), campaign-specific hashtags, and URLs in your calendar.

Then, when the time comes to post, you’ll be ready to ‘plug and publish’ with minimum fuss.

Hootsuite social media calendar example

Image Source: Hootsuite

As you plan your social content:

  • Include compelling images and video content.
  • Occasionally, share curated content that matches your audience’s interests.
  • Post engaging articles from your blog, if you have one.
  • Share information on new product features and company news (sparingly).

Entertaining visual posts are more important than ever on all social channels, but especially on Facebook and Instagram.

And remember, your followers don’t want to be hit over the head with company news 24/7. Promotional posts are great occasionally if they fill a need for your customers.

Include posts that ask questions, offer amazing facts, show followers what’s in it for them, and spark discussion.

Measure

As we mentioned earlier, remember to measure what’s working and what needs more attention on your social channels.

Illustration by Ouch.pics of construction worker building a structure of brick

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Let’s say you’re most interested in reach and engagement on Facebook.

Depending on how you organize your calendar, you’ll want to track this information regularly (weekly, monthly) over time via Facebook Insights.

Report this data somewhere in your social media calendar. The same goes for each social network you manage.

Likewise, Google Analytics can also help you track social media traffic to your website. Feel free to list this information somewhere on your calendar, too.

Image via CoSchedule, Google Analytics dashboard

Image Source: CoSchedule

Bottom line: If you track what matters to you, you’ll be more successful on social media. Start small—but start somewhere.

Maintain

Even the best social media calendar won’t compensate for haphazard posting habits. Consistency is key.

“No one will want to follow you if the most recent post on your profile is from two years ago. A consistent posting schedule shows potential followers you are invested—meaning a follow will be worth their time.” – Shannon Tien, Hootsuite

By all means, be realistic about what you can create and post. This is particularly true if you’re the only one posting.

Thumbs-up illustration by Ouch.pics

Illustration by Ouch.pics

Think of your social media calendar as a continually evolving document. More than that; think of it as a valuable record of your efforts to connect with followers and grow your business.

Finally, remember: You can always adapt your social media calendar to work for you. Otherwise, what’s the point?

When it comes to social media management, you got this.

 

Need more help with your social media posts? Sign up for Banyan’s Social Media Assistant for free!

 

 

nicholas-green-324622-unsplash1-1

User-Generated Content: Why You Need It—and How to Get It

What do YouTube, Wikipedia, Instagram, and Quora have in common? They all depend on user-generated content to exist.

“User-generated content, or UGC, is any contribution to a site or campaign that an individual outside the company has created.” – Jeff Bullas

For businesses, user-generated content could be anything from a website video testimonial to a customer’s photo on Facebook.

Most people associate UGC with social media. But there’s more to the story.

Why User-Generated Content Matters

Ask any social marketing expert why user-generated content is a big deal for businesses. Without fail, the word authenticity is mentioned.

Truth is, most consumers are bored by heavy-handed sales pitches and glossy product photos. Overall, they care less about production values and more about credible content.

Surprised? Think about your own consumer behavior for a minute.

How often do you read Amazon reviews before purchasing a product? Or talk about a service provider on Facebook?

Facebook product review example

If you’ve done either of these things, you’ve engaged with (or created) user-generated content.

UGC Is Everywhere

The genesis of user-generated content goes back to the dawn of the Internet and the decentralization of traditional media.

Remember when blogs—the ultimate UGC—first started popping up back in the day? Then, MySpace became a thing. And as more people purchased cell phones, anyone could share a newsworthy photo.

Soon, user-generated news articles were the norm and traditional news outlets had to adapt. Along with everyone else.

Now, user-generated content is so pervasive, it’s hard to imagine an online experience without it.

User-generated content, consumer influencers, Crowdtap infographic 2015

Image source: Crowdtap

Business as Usual?

Why do consumers love businesses that share user-generated content? Again, it’s about ‘authenticity.’ We tend to trust businesses that celebrate customer input.

“61 percent of people would be more likely to engage with an advertisement if it contained user-generated content.” – Reevoo

Content strategists at Curata list additional benefits of user-generated content:

  • Cost effective timesaver – UGC can boost your marketing effectiveness when your budget is tight and staff members are busy.
  • Greater social reach – The more user-generated content you post, the better your social following and reach will be.
  • Boosted brand awareness – As your UGC brings in more likes and shares, your brand message will spread.
  • Effective SEO – Every time you create a new user-generated campaign or get new reviews, your SEO ranking climbs.
  • Audience feedback – As you pay attention to the most-shared UGC, you can make changes and drive more conversions.
  • Unique viewpoints – Customers’ UGC provides different points of view, which helps your followers stay engaged.
  • Personalized campaigns – Effective UGC campaigns will show you the way to targeting smaller segments of your audience.
  • Improved customer relationships – This may well be the most important benefit that keeps customers with you for life.

Banyan Facebook contest, Facebook post, UGC

Clearly, the benefits of user-generated content are compelling. The trick is getting your customers to participate.

How to Inspire More User-Generated Content

It’s one thing for a big company to spend lots of money on creative UGC campaigns. But what if you’re a small business with a modest budget?

As we mentioned earlier, user-generated content can actually save you time and money. But you still have to be creative to make UGC work.

The ALS Association is proof that creativity doesn’t have to be expensive to pay big dividends. Remember the #icebucketchallenge?

Wiki Commons photo, ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, User-generated content

More about that epic challenge:

In 2014, Jeannette Senerchia’s cousin Chris introduced her to an ice-bucket challenge unrelated to ALS.

Coincidentally, the ice water stimulus mimicked the rigid muscle response so common to ALS sufferers like Jeannette’s husband Anthony.

And just like that, the ice bucket challenge became a cause for ALS research. The rest is history.

Creativity Is Key

As you can see, creative ideas often come about accidentally.

To jumpstart your creative approach to UGC, hold a brainstorming session with your team. Talk about your values and your unique sales proposition.

Next, determine your primary goals for user-generated content. Do you want better brand recognition? More social interaction and shares? Better customer reviews?

Pursue your goals one at a time with a targeted UGC campaign.

Applewhite Dental Partners, Facebook post, contest

Social Proof

It’s a given that your business wants great reviews and customer recommendations. So, why not turn those opportunities into events?

Maybe you offer discounts to customers who volunteer with you at a Habitat for Humanity building project.

At the event, you take loads of photos and videos. Then, you email the best photos out to customers on the spot so they can tag you on social media.

Or, you invite customers to a Fall carnival where a professional videographer is present.

Customers take home visual mementos; you get customer testimonials for your website or social pages.

Jordan Rowland photo, Unsplash, cotton candy, social event

Product Publicity

Getting ready to launch a new product or service? User-generated campaigns can be a fun way to create some buzz.

To tap into UGC, ask customers to guess what the new product is. Share a mysterious photo that hints at the product without showing it completely.

Several days before the big reveal, invite followers to enter a contest or giveaway by submitting some form of UGC—possibly a video showing how they’ll use the product.

Aaron Agius of the Content Marketing Institute puts it this way: “A (customer) given something of value will feel a subconscious urge to repay the favor.”

In other words, don’t be afraid to offer incentives for user-generated content.

Invisalign Instagram post, incentive for user-generated content

Brand Recognition

What if your following is still pretty modest? You can still recognize customers individually and grow your brand.

Charity events and sponsorships can also stimulate brand recognition and customer participation, especially if they’re part of a long-term strategy.

Also, if your business sponsors an organization, you’re already one step closer to great user-generated content. Encourage photo and video sharing that includes your branded hashtag.

“When your brand shares something a customer or fan created, that external recognition not only strengthens the customer or fan’s affinity with the brand, it encourages that person to share the content further with his or her friends (and your brand benefits vicariously).” – Aaron Agius, CMI

Starbucks has no trouble with brand recognition. But could part of its ongoing success come from creative UGC campaigns? Judge for yourself.

Starbucks, #redcupcontest, user-generated content

This contest is an especially effective UGC campaign: it’s simple (fans do something creative with Starbucks’ red cup and share a photo), it’s seasonal, and it offers the chance at a gift card. Win-win.

Customer Trust

What about customers who aren’t yet following you on social media? They can still offer UGC in the form of reviews. After a great experience with you is a great time to ask them to review your business.

You can also build customer trust by responding quickly to reviews when they come in (Banyan users can do this via their user dashboard).

Banyan reviews dashboard

If there are complaints about an issue, address them and/or invite your customer to contact you directly.

If someone comments on one of your social posts, start a conversation. Send an emoji. Show followers that their input matters.

And of course, if a customer raves about you on Facebook, thank them right away. Want to go above and beyond? Send them a freebie or a discount to show your thanks.

“According to research by Halfords and Bazaarvoice, people (who) read and/or take part in the writing of reviews wind up converting at a rate that’s 82% higher than users that don’t participate in this actions.” – Jeff Bullas

The fact is, customers want businesses to notice them and reward their content. How will you do this?

 

We’d love to see your best UGC campaigns. Tag us @banyansocial so we can help spread the word about your business.