GUEST POST: Social media content: how to plan in advance

Doncaster Council have won admiration for their wit and style on social media. But how do they manage the clamour for content? NICK FROMONT their digital communications manager explains how.

Planning. It’s always a vital part of any comms campaign.

Many of my colleagues successfully create and execute plans that look ahead days, weeks, even months in advance. But when you’re working in the world of digital comms it’s not quite as easy.

How do you plan in the fast moving, immediate world of social media, where successful content can still be engaging days after clicking ‘post’ and your reaction to relevant trending topics can boost your campaign in ways you were neve expecting days before?

The wonder of Trello

One thing we’ve found vital at Doncaster Council to help us plan our social media output is Trello. For those that don’t know Trello, it’s a free web application which allows you to work and manage projects collaboratively – and it includes a calendar feature! Here’s how a blank one looks:

 But why do we like it so much? Well…

  • We’ve got our own social media content calendar board which all the members of our team have access to. That means they have easy access to see what’s planned to go out when – particularly useful in the last 18 months when we’ve all been working remotely.
  • You can create separate cards for each piece of content, and provide further information when you click into it if needed.
  • You can assign separate card to team members so others know who’s working on it.
  • You can label each card with lovely colour coded labels – we use ours to label the platforms we plan to post on to, here they are in all their glory.
  • It’s really easy to move cards around and change dates if needed – as we know, social media planning can be really fluid, so this makes having a rethink when needed much easier.

Here’s an example of one of our days content showing the contents and labels:

Don’t plan too far ahead

So we’ve got the platform to plan our content, but how do we actually use it? Well first of all, we try not to plan too far ahead. We’re aware of longer-term landmarks, council projects and key dates that we pencil into the diary, but on the whole, we find short term content planning works best. Social media is such an immediate and ever-changing landscape that getting bogged down in longer term planning just wouldn’t be useful or effective. As a rule, we work on a week-to-week basis.

Work out when and where

Every Monday morning, it’s about sorting the content for the week – what do we have on the list to go out? From there it’s about deciding which platforms will be best to reach the target audience for each message and labelling them up. Then we’ll then work out when each message should be posted to give each post the best change possible of successfully engaging. For instance, post too many messages on Facebook on the same day and some of them will simply get lost in the algorithm, as it pushes the best performing posts up people’s timelines. With that in mind we try and space out where and when to post messages on each day.

Leave a bit of space – you never know what might crop up

Most importantly, we’ll always keep room in our schedule for any last minute stories and content changes. We’ve all been there. The last minute desperate calls about a vital story that needs to go out that afternoon – if you haven’t got the space to move things around to fit it in then you might be in trouble!

Another reason we leave space is just in case something starts trending on social media – and we think there’s an opportunity for us to jump on the trend. Obviously there’s no way of knowing what’s going to be trending from one day to the next, so we always need to be prepared to spot something and move quickly to try and engage with our own messages within a trending topic.

At Doncaster Council, we’ve had plenty of examples of this over the years, whether it’s using a trending hashtag or repurposing a successful meme, but these posts ALWAYS need to be timely. A perfect example was a post we did on the European Super League. There was no way this could have been planned beforehand, the story broke on the Sunday afternoon and by Monday this post had gone out and ‘gone viral’.

Make sure everyone’s happy

As a management team we’ll then meet and go through the board to make sure everyone’s happy, we’ve got all the information we need and everything’s covered. This meeting also provides a chance to discuss the approach for posts, what we might still need from the service and any last minutes changes that might crop up.

Time to get to work

Then it’s just about prepping and posting the content, and being prepared for the next big trending topic that we can somehow change to a message about fly-tipping or bin collections!

And don’t worry, no matter how much planning you do, there always be that last minute bit of content that needs tweeting straight away, but we’ve found that following these little tips have really helped our messages be as successful as possible across all of our social media channels

Nick Fromont is digital communications manager at Doncaster Council.

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