The Social Media Essentials: Content Creation
Whether you are building a brand from scratch or your current social media / digital PR presence doesn’t seem to be working out, there are some things you can do today to get going in the right direction. One half of (successful) social media content creation is organization and planning. You can’t post willy nilly and expect things to just work out in your favor.
Here’s the first in a series of checklists I created to cover the bare minimum of what needs to be done on social, how to ensure you’re going in the right direction and what questions to ask yourself about your social media presence. We couldn’t include creative brainpower, knowledge of all the latest trends and your very own social media content creation specialists in this PDF, but this will help you to plan and hold yourself accountable as you delve into the always changing, totally confusing digital dimension.
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If you’re just kicking things off, you need to decide where you need to be getting your message out to actually have an effect. A (good) social media professional will probably be able to look at a brand and make an assessment of which platforms to focus on pretty quickly. But for someone who doesn’t read articles endlessly, research emerging social platforms and has had lots of time to experiment and learn, this might not be the case. If you’re going it alone (because resources don’t permit you hiring a consultant or paying someone to manage your online presence), you need to lay a foundation first. The same kind of thing can be said for someone who isn’t having great success with social. Ask yourself (and others involved), which channels are working and which aren’t.
Note: The time you have to spend on social should be determining how many channels you are taking on. If you’re half-assing it on Google+, SnapChat, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Medium, your own blog… you aren’t going to have a dynamic presence anywhere. Pick three platforms, make an impact and dial it up from there.
Tip: You have to be on Facebook and Twitter, but pick at least one other channel that makes sense for your niche market and devote time to that one as well. A quick rule of thumb is to spend 40% of your time engaging and creating for Facebook (still the big gun), 30% on Twitter and 30% on another channel. Once you streamline things, you might find that you have time to add another channel. Just make sure it’s a good fit, and don’t be afraid to ditch it after a trial period of 3-6 months of good effort.
Another Tip: Grab all handles or URLs for all major social channels, whether you plan to use them or not. Keep the login info for these in one (secure) place. Create one email that links to all of them to say organized.
You’ve already done a bit of research about what channels are good for what and why. Now, you’re going to have to pound the keyboard a little more drumming up a list of go-to resources that suit your brand. This means blogs, publication sites and image databases (for when you actually start creating content – we have a forthcoming blog chockful of great resources that are free or low cost coming!). This step also includes determining what kinds of “Post Types” you’re going to try. An example of a Post Type would be links to blog reviews about your restaurant, or memes that highlight your local ethos.
Note: Try is the keyword here! If you post a months worth of Throwback Thursday posts and they all are duds, you can (and should) ditch that Post Type, and scratch the cool old-timey blog you found all those pics on too.
Tip: Start small with only a few kinds of things to post. Once you’re in the swing of things, you can always add on. When you’re just getting started you should be posting less and researching more! When you hit a sweet spot. Post less, and post the highest quality stuff. The time will be well worth the results. As time goes on (and if you’re paying attention to responses) it’ll get slightly easier to come up with posts your audience likes. If it doesn’t, hire a pro. Seriously.
Another Tip: Follow “Allies” on social channels, even organize them into lists, to make keeping up with things easy. We will explore this aspect of monitoring more in our next checklist post.
Your brand needs a distinct visual brand, reflected in all posts you will make. Determine this first, and create a style guide.
Do you have experience with Photoshop? If not, this is where you hire someone who does. The digital realm really does favor sophisticated visuals (in most cases, there are some hilarious memes out there that look horrendous). While you can find totally worthwhile info on Facebook or engage on Twitter without a designer on hand, you need to recognize your limitations from the get go and adjust the Post Types you plan to tackle.
Note: If you don’t have the time to learn or the resources to pay, gauge your limitations and adjust your Post Types. While you might love to post an inspirational images with a quote on it, do not use one of those crappy meme generators.
Tip: There are some acceptable apps out there that allow you to adjust images in attractive ways. They certainly have limitations compared to a designer but consider trying if you really can’t pay to create a flier for an important upcoming event but really want your audience to share that info. Check out Overgram and Afterlight.
Another Tip: Social sizing is very important! Here’s an “always up-to-date” resource to bookmark and reference when creating content for various channels. I would also recommend starting dummy or “sandbox” pages. Use these to post to first, and make things look right before they go ahead and post on your official channels.
Similar to the rundown about design, writing isn’t the easiest thing, and copy writing for the web really is a skill that comes with time. That being said, you can make determinations about how to write for your brand and then practice (a lot) until you get really good at communicating your brand’s message.
Note: When I graduated from Journalism School I really hoped to never hear this word again but pithy is the best way to write for the web. Keep social status updates short as a rule. Hit the right notes and consider linking off to your blog for more. Social media channels are the place you entice people to learn more. Tell your story over several posts, with different images.
Tip: Create a tone triangle! This is the easiest way to hone in on how you want your brand will read online. Is your brand chic? Smart? Pretentious? Snarky? Think about it, discuss it and then draw your tone triangle. Going forward from there, each post should exhibit at least one of the adjectives you singled. As you get better at writing for social, you’ll often be able to hit all three in one post.
Another tip: As a companion to your tone triangle, write out some style rules. Oxford comma or no oxford comma? Are you writing as a “we” or team, or as “I” or one person (a mascot, the boss, the brand itself)? Above all else, once these decisions are made, STICK TO YOUR OWN RULES. There’s nothing worse than a confused brand.
While tags are not a part of every channel, many do incorporate them in some way (even Facebook uses hashtags now!) so its worth keeping the best practice of them in mind when you’re creating. As you probably know, there are two kinds of tags: those on blog platforms like Tumblr and WordPress and those on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, etc. that link your post to others using the same hashtag.
Note: Participating in conversations through hashtagging can increase your audience. It can also look tacky. Do not hashtag the shit out of a Facebook post, but do consider adding one applicable hashtag. Bonus points if that hashtag appears seamlessly within your post copy.
Tip: Observe how successful accounts in your vertical are using hashtags. You have to tag blog posts (if you are making them) because not doing so is pretending like SEO isn’t important. You do not have to use hashtags to make an impact. So don’t go crazy. Minimal is better – use one or two, or none.
Timing is the most experimental of all of the components of impactful social media posts. While I can tell you what has worked for me and my clients, there is no one size fits all plan for when to post. Social Media professionals are metrics hounds. It’s the only way we can fine-tune our strategy. Experimentation can get you pretty close to perfection.
Note: To guide your whole posting schedule – now that you have posts in the bank and ready to go – you should be using one Excel document or Content Calendar. Use this area to mark out when you posted every single post you make.
Tip: Start with your gut instinct and then tweak your strategy. Pick a few dates and times to start that you think will work. Plug in the same Post Types at completely different times within the week and then check the number. If a post about your weekly special was posted on four different days and at four different times and did the best when it was posted on Tuesdays at 11AM, then that’s where it should go from there on out.
Next up in this series is… TRACK.
Check back next Monday to learn the importance of tracking conversations online and how to get things setup. The most exciting part about this step? Setting this stuff up will seriously free you up to create content.
As always, tweet us what you think.