Building a Content Calendar

Using social media creates a content monster that needs to be fed. In most organisations a lot of thought and planning goes into the concept, design and development of content. Today’s post is a framework for building that content plan. I am focusing on social media, but the principles of building this plan work for other types of content.

Think about your content in terms of layers.

Content can be broken out into three types; evergreen, events and spontaneous. Each requires a different approach but when used together will increase the impact of your social media presence.

Evergreen Content

Sometimes also called drumbeat content, evergreen content can be planned and developed ahead of publishing.

Use dates that are important in your industry

Think more broadly than company specific dates. For example Philips, manufacturer of X-ray machines, posts on Marie Curie’s birthday.

Build out from campaigns and events

If you’re running a campaign on a specific product build brand content that supports your campaign message. For example, if a bank is running a campaign around savings products then the brand content could include articles on the psychology of saving.

Build a theme

Even if there is no specific date to connect it to you can build content around a theme, for example designate May as “Internet of Things” month and produce content around the trends, technology and developments in this field, of course you can connect this content to your own connected products,

Build a series

Use a specific rhythm to activate one idea. For example there’s a “Meatless Monday” trend in certain healthy circles if you’re a food company you could use this and promote vegetarian menus every Monday. Alternatively use a series of longer articles to go into depth on a specific area of your company’s expertise.

* To make this work

  • Research relevant dates for you and determine which themes/ series you want to build on.
  • Develop quality content, which means spending on design, photography, writing or filming the content you need.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-use this content, either posting highlights onto twitter/facebook, or repurposing it for other platforms.
  • Keep cultural differences in mind, not everyone celebrates the same thing, in the same way, or even on the same date. (Mother’s day is widely celebrated – but not on the same date).

Events

There are already a number dates to use on social media; those company announcements, conferences, events and campaigns that your company attends or produces.

Product launches are known months, or even years in advance, adding brand content to support the launch can increase the impact of the campaign.

Company leaders attend and speak at events throughout the year, decide which of these would be of more general interest, take any “infographic” or suitable images from presentations and re-use them on social media.

* To make this work

  • Add the known events and campaigns to your calendar, include the event/campaign contact person.
  • Work with the event/campaign lead to develop content that supports their plans.
  • Use a simple hashtag for your own event/campaign and encourage a wider audience to publish under it.

Spontaneous

Your company wins an award, there’s the announcement of a merger (or divestment), you’re finally in the ranking you’ve been working towards, you hear of an significant date that matches your company’s portfolio – on the date itself.  Every content team I’ve ever worked with has “last minute” content needs. So while I’m a big fan of planning ahead you also need a little flexibility to take advantage of these opportunities.

* To make this work

  • Prepare likely potential images for your asset library, eg relating to awards ahead of time. The more diverse your asset library is the more likely you are to have a suitable image to hand.
  • Use your social listening tools to monitor awards in your industry, and watch for the announcement of relevant rankings.
  • Maintain good contact with the colleagues who handle last minute announcements. Explain to them that you don’t need to know the content of the announcement which may be confidential, but if you know the timing and the sort of content they’ll need you can work with that. Encourage their input into the asset library to build relevant assets.

Putting the three layers together we can see that the impact of your content, whether measured in exposure or share of voice, increase when the layers are combined.

 

Planning Ahead

All three forms of what does a content calendar need good planning to be successful, but how far ahead to you have to plan?

The honest answer is “it depends”.

For this blog I have a plan that’s about 2 months ahead, with a content deadline of about a week before publication. But that timing needs to change if you’re collaborating on content with a team or you have approval steps needed. Large organisations are more likely to have deadlines further ahead of publication and the plan for content themes is probably running 6-12 months ahead. Making that “Spontaneous” category harder more important in order to stay relevant.

Tools

I use a google calendar, I can look at anywhere, on any device, I can add assets and links as I go. But my blog drafts are written directly into wordpress (not best practice). That works for a one person company and would probably scale up to a small team. For large companies there is an amazing array of sophisticated tools on the market. They enable planning and collaborative development of content, publication, sharing/editing of posts and assets, and reporting on content performance.

None of this is that hard to work out, but maintaining quality content requires a rare combination of creativity and discipline, with a dash of flexibility to take advantage of those out of the blue opportunities.

Image: Desktop via Pixabay

Win-Win Situation

We’re often encouraged to look for the “win-win” outcome, or a situation will be described as “win-win”. Generally it’s used to point teams to look for outcomes where all parties will benefit.

It’s common parlance now but it comes from game theory, specifically from “non-zero-sum” theory. That is a game some outcomes have a total greater or less than zero, best illustrated by the prisoners dilemma.

Imagine that two prisoners can either betray the other or remain silent with the following potential outcomes.

Rationally prisoners will betray, since that gives them the best outcome when they don’t know how the other will behave. Which gives you an indication of how hard it is to get to a win-win situation between two parties with competing interests.

The above table becomes abstracted and generalised to the following;

In addition the win-win should be a new solution that delivers positive outcomes to both parties, in practice a compromise can be called a win-win when it delivers less to each party and is in fact a lose-lose, but with both parties losing less than in a dual defect situation. Given that there is a rational advantage in defecting, and often in defecting early, it can take tricky negotiation to get both parties to co-operate.

Image: Adventure via Pixabay  |  CC0

Cyberslacking

Perfect subject for a Friday!

Cyberslacking refers to the use of a company’s computer and internet connection for personal activities when one should be doing work.

It’s not the occasional email, or lunchtime Facebook status check that’s deserves the name, it’s the excessive use of work time to play on the internet. Those times when you look up one little thing and 30 minutes later you’re in an internet black hole arguing, or buying another light sabre or watching cat videos. And of course mobile phones make it even easier.

It’s not a new thing, as early as 2000 reports flagged the cost of lost productivity as more than 50 billion USD in the US. The same report notes that companies were already taking action, putting in place specific internet use policies and firing the greatest violators – such as employees spending as much as 8 hours a day on gambling sites. More recent estimates put the costs to a business at 35 million per year for a company of just 1000 people, if each employee cyberslacked for an hour a day.

Some companies see this as a loss of productivity, effectively money down the drain and seek to monitor or to limit access to all non-work internet sites for all employees.

Employees find their own strategies; blocking access on work machines means they’ll use their own devices, trying to watch over their shoulder leads to cheeky solutions like the “look busy” button on Last Minute’s Australian site (it used to be on more of their sites, but apparently only the Australians kept their sense of humour).

There is some research showing that people who take internet breaks at work are more productive. I’m inclined to agree,  if people are busy with meaningful work and producing great results, brief internet breaks are not going to cause a dramatic drop in productivity. In fact if managers focus on results the fear of productivity loss goes away.

This holds true even in extreme cases; the guy playing on online gambling sites all day is unlikely to produce the expected quality of work – addressing that issue early could have a better outcome for both the company and the employee.

This focus on results is one of the key principles of the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), in fact in a ROWE the time spent on the job becomes irrelevant, employees are trusted to use their judgement to plan their workdays. In my view it’s a much healthier than putting increasing layers of monitoring on employee’s use of internet.

I guess I’m in favour of mild cyberslacking.

Build an Engaged Community

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Companies are using digital platforms to connect with their consumers and/or employees. So whether it’s via an internal enterprise social media network or a Facebook page building engaged communities has become more important.

What would an engaged community look like? Lots of people active in the community and some productive outcomes.  What constitutes a productive outcome depends on the community’s purpose, it might be questions answered in a support community or successful idea generation conversations in a strategic community, or money generated in a crowd-sourcing community.

Purpose

Your community should have a strong sense of purpose, you might even state your community’s purpose right on your front page.

sharepoint community

Communities without a purpose suffer one of two fates; either they shrivel and die, or they become social only – virtual watercoolers. In one company I know of the most active community was one where employees discussed their pets. I’m a fan of pets, but I doubt the company built a enterprise social network to facilitate this discussion.

Content & Programmes

You need to feed the community with content. The Community Roundtable identified five great ideas for content and programmes.

  • member spotlights
  • ask me anythings
  • work out louds
  • photo sharing contests
  • questions of the week

Notice anything? All these examples explicitly call on the community to participate.

ask me anything

Download the free e-book from the Community Roundtable for ideas and examples on making all of these work.

Community Manager

The best community managers make it look easy; from welcoming new members, answering questions, modelling the behaviour of the community, solving any issues and providing the content and programmes to serve the community and build the purpose. It takes a particular kind of person to do it well.

Sprout Social has made a good distinction between the roles of social media manager, who functions as a brand representative for a company, and a community manager who champions the purpose of the community.

community manager

Community managers who build engaged communities can share their expertise in their own communities, and need to be rewarded for their expertise and the care they take.

Image:  networks | geralt via pixabay  |   CC0 1.0 

Engagement Ladder

Engagement Ladder

There’s a figure that gets quoted about engagement; 1, 9, 90. Which is a ratio representation of engagement.  For everyone person who contributes content, 9 might like it and 90 will see it. It’s a little simplistic, and there are more forms of engagement now so it’s helpful to think of the engagement ladder.

Engagement Ladder

Starting from the lowest rung of the ladder

Seen / Read

How many people saw your image, watched your video, read your content. This is the lowest level of engagement as it requires the least amount of effort from your visitor. It’s roughly equivalent to reach, although you might want to consider how much of your content was viewed or read.

It doesn’t tell you much about the person’s attitude to your brand, or their likelihood to purchase. We’ve all read stuff we don’t agree with, sometimes because we don’t agree with it. To compare this to a classic sales funnel it’s at least awareness.

Liked / Facebook Reaction

The next rung on the engagement ladder is a like, a G+, a Facebook reaction. It’s low commitment, a one click easy reaction, Facebook reactions tell you a more. Personally I’m pretty quick to like posts on Facebook or Instagram, much less likely to do so on Twitter.  As likes are visible to others this level of engagement does indicate that the visitor has a possible interest in your brand – but be careful. Facebook rates all reactions the same, but a thousand “angry” reactions won’t translate to sales for your company.

Commented

The third rung is comments, or reactions to your posts. If you’re posting on social issues, as Banana Republic did in the screenshot below, you’re likely to attract a lot of comments.

It takes more effort to comment on a post, positive comments are a public endorsement of your brand. It’s going to take some effort on your part to analyse the comments, or to parse the sentiment analysis provided by social listening tools.

facebook comments

Shared

If a person shares a post, retweets, embeds your video, they’re increasing your reach as your content is now (potentially) reaching a new audience.  They’ve also added your brand to their online reputation, this doesn’t map easily to a step in the sales process, but sits between evaluation and decision. They’ve added your company to a mental list for possible future purchases.

CTA

Some of your content might included a specific Call To Action, or CTA. For many companies this is exactly how they sign up more customers or subscribers, you can see some examples of great CTAs in this article from HubSpot. (And I’ve just shared content from a brand I have never been a customer of, but I’m aware of them, and they remain a potential supplier if I’m ever in a purchase decision for their services in the future).

Your CTA might be a subscribe, follow, download, or purchase option.

Created Content

The ultimate brand accolade, when users generate their own content related to your brand. But it’s a tricky area, with brands needing to pay attention to copyright and privacy issues.

Spotify have taken the step of using the real titles of subscribers’ lists in their own ads, it’s a campaign strategy that is infinite since their users will always be creating new lists. It resonates with their audience really well – seeing your own list picked up for an ad is cool, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

When your customers take the step of creating content around your brand and sharing it you can bet you’ve got the ultimate level of engagement.

Image: Ladder | Rich Bowen  |  CC BY 2.0

Your Job Title

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What is your job title?

Digital Prophet, Chief Happiness Officer, Scrum Master, Paranoid-in-Chief, Hacker in Residence and Bacon Critic are all real jobs. There are even weirder ones than that around. It turns up on documentation, your email signature, your linkedin profile, websites and badges/labels at conferences.

How much does your job title matter?

It’s part of the first impression you make, and as first impressions are often online that occupational descriptor is important.

Your job title should say something about the field you work in, it might only be meaningful within that field. One of my communications colleagues used to delight in introducing me as a web mistress, to his ears it sounded much naughtier than the standard web master. I didn’t object to it on those grounds, but because “webmaster” has a specific meaning in the world of digital, and I do not have those skills.

Titles can also indicate your seniority, and in hierarchical companies that can make a difference to how you are treated. There can be differences in different countries, at one company I’ve worked with the media relations team had two sets of business cards, one for Europe and one for the US which used the identifier “VP” for vice-president.

In large companies there’s often a standardised list of titles that describe roles for an occupational framework. In one company that used such a job framework the official, HR sanctioned, job title I had was never used outside the company. Instead I chose something that was simple, descriptive and short. The digital field is littered with obfuscating titles, I didn’t want to add to the mess.

If you’re able to choose your own title go for something that describes you and lets people know your work. Be realistic, you want to be signalling to people who receive your business card what you really do. Make sure it aligns with your expertise and your seniority. If you work in a hierarchical company check that it’s in line with your colleagues  and your boss’ expectations.

You can create any job title, there’s even an online generator to help you. One word of caution, avoid the crazy terms, they may ruin your credibility.

Having said that my all time favourite job title was Chief Nerd.

Image:  Name Badges  |  University of Exeter  |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0