By Debbie Williams published December 1, 2010

Developing a Social Media Conversation Calendar

It’s well known that social media presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses to connect directly with their customers and potential customers.  But, at Sprout Content, we hear all too often, “I started a Facebook page, but what do I say?”

Social media Conversation Calendars are a great way to not only develop your content strategy for social media, but also make the process more efficient and keep your posts updated regularly. Here are few guidelines that will help you get started.

Determine who and why

First, you need to develop a social media content strategy. You have to know who you’re trying to reach and why. Identifying your target audience and the kind of information they’re looking for is essential.

For example, if you’re an organic snack food company trying to reach moms, think about what moms would want to know about your product or hear from your brand.  Then, create three to four “buckets” of information that each post should connect back to, such as healthy ingredient information, health topics for kids, brand news, and conversation starters with moms. Once you start developing your calendar, create a column for each content bucket to keep you on track. (More on that shortly.)

Develop your voice and tone

Many brands and companies make the mistake of posting inconsistently from a different voice or perspective. Decide upfront if you are going to post and respond from the first person “I” or from a personal, yet collective brand/business perspective “We.” You can also use a more neutral third person without the use of a pronoun.

Choosing the tone of your content is also important. Is your brand’s social media personality light and friendly or serious and informative? Be consistent when writing posts and responding to fan feedback or questions.

Start your conversation calendar

Conversation Calendars usually include two to three of your planned posts per week for an entire month. Keep in mind that topics and posts can, and will likely, change depending on current news or last-minute promotions. No matter what, the calendar will set the foundation for your social media engagement and ensure you are posting regularly.

After your audience is established (e.g., moms), and your content strategy is determined (topic buckets), it’s time to decide what to write about. Need ideas? Look at the news, industry trends and blogs for inspiration, as well as any relevant company information such as new products or services and special offers. Also, think about the questions that your customers ask most often.

Here’s a simple set up for a social media conversation calendar:

  1. Set up a spreadsheet with monthly worksheets, and create columns for the post date, day of the week, content bucket, anc actual Facebook and Twitter posts.
  2. Upload the conversation calendar to your daily calendar or shared calendar/Intranet, etc. if there will be more than one person posting.

 

Own your social media content

Whether you are a business of one or 1,000, someone must be in charge of your company’s content strategy, creation, approval and governance. Establishing your social media content process and designating responsibilities for managing it are essential steps.

  • Who is responsible for developing, writing and posting according to schedule?
  • Who is responsible for monitoring and responding to comments in relative real time?

Measuring success

Finally, you have to determine how you will deem your social media content a success. Social media is only valuable for businesses if you use it to meet specific objectives.  These may include an increase in the number of fans or followers, an increase in feedback, “likes”, or “shares,” or a boost in website traffic. Here are a few easy tools that can help you get started.

  • Hootsuite lets you monitor most of your social networks in one place.
  • Facebook Insights offers numbers on engagement, “likes” and users.
  • Social mention is a free tool for real-time social media search results. Sign up to receive free daily email alerts for your company, product, a news topic or even a competitor.

Is your company, big or small, using a conversation calendar for social media?

Author: Debbie Williams

As co-founder of SPROUT Content, Debbie Williams is passionate about developing strategic, creative content that eloquently captures the spirit and emotion of brands through words. After more than 10 years of copywriting and creative marketing experience for global beauty brands and consumer goods companies, she now knows that content marketing is what she’s been doing all along. Follow her on Twitter @sproutcontent.

Other posts by Debbie Williams

  • Anonymous

    Great, practical advice! Updating social media can so easily fall through the cracks. Even remembering to post about last minute news and promotions can be forgotten if it’s not clear whose shoulders the responsibility is on. Thanks for the post!

    • Debbie

      Thanks Tracy! Things so easily fall through the cracks but social media (and other forms of content marketing) can be a well managed, and easy process once it’s scheduled and assigned.

  • Laurie Dunlop

    Dear Debbie,

    I like the conversation calendar concept. To take that idea a step further, perhaps the person in charge of adding those conversations to the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts (or whatever social media platforms the company uses) he or she could also seek out or initiate those conversations in other related profiles. Besides asking your own followers about their healthy eating habits, you could ask those same questions on the Facebook page for the dairy industry, etc.

    • Debbie

      That’s a good idea Laurie. Your own comany conversation starters could certainly be used to start dialogue and engage with people with shared interests and industrys to broaden your reach. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • http://www.firehead.net CJ

    Thanks for a very useful article, Debbie. We’re going to be implementing some of your ideas at Firehead in the new year.

    • Debbie

      That’s fantsastic CJ! It’s so nice to hear that the ideas will be put in to action. Please let me know if you have any questions!

  • Anonymous

    Man, can I just tell you that I’ve read blog after blog about the importance of “content strategy” but I haven’t seen anyone lay it out like this.

    I’ve drawn up a few on my own and I never really felt like I was capturing the essence of what I was after.

    Totally just re-created this concept for folks on my team. Tre-men-dous :)

    • Debbie

      Thank you David! It’s wonderful to hear that you found the information so clear and useful. There are so many facets to content strategy, and it can seem overwhelming. This is just one aspect in a bigger picture, but laying it out clearly with actionable steps can simplifiy the process. It really can be easy! Thanks so much for the great input.

  • http://blog.gotbins.com/ GotBins

    Thanks for this article, the “buckets” concept is an excellent way fro me to keep my readers/follows engaged in my service.
    I am going to start using your conversation calendar right away! I can see how this concept will help me clearly define the whys and when of my posts and keep me on take and free up my time so i can be more productive instead of always wondering what to post next.

    • Debbie

      So happy to hear that you are going to put it to work! The buckets really help streamline your content and keep you on strategy. Thanks!

  • Ahava

    Debbie–this is a great way to explain this process. Great, useful article! Thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie

      Hi Ahava! Thanks so much. Just wanted to show it doesn’t have to be hard, and something so simple can be really effective. Hope all is well!

  • http://twitter.com/AaronMandelbaum Aaron Mandelbaum

    Debbie fantastic article. Great insight.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaLFlowers Lisa L Flowers

    This is just what I was looking for! Thanks!

  • http://3ftfromgold.net Nathan Burns

    Hi Debbie

    Just by the time stamps on each comment I’m not sure you will see my comment and respond. However, this is a fantastic article and well received by me. I have been using social media for several months now, and have not received the outcome I was hoping for. I truly believe that your strategy is going to change things for my blog.  Great stuff!

  • http://venpop.com/ Cameron Carter

    Great ideas in your post! I recently offered up some tips
    for setting up a social media editorial calendar that may help your readers http://venpop.com/2011/5-tips-for-setting-up-a-social-media-editorial-calendar/

  • http://www.marmaladecopy.co.uk/ Sarah

    Really useful alongside an editorial calendar for getting to the nitty-gritty of your strateg – Ta!

  • http://www.wholesaleinsurance.net/life-insurance/ Life Insurance

    Thanks for the advice I hadn’t thought about voice and tone consistency until you mentioned it. but now that you have I’m starting to see how a reader could be incredibly confused. Thanks for the help (again) !

  • Mokshjuneja

    We have been using this on a weekly basis. Taking approvals from client is a task, still.

  • http://ebooksestate.com/ Samuel Amaechi

    Debbie, Your social media calender is indeed fantastic.Thank you very much for providing us with this great master-piece

  • Therese Pope

    The social media calendar is not a “new” concept. I developed and implemented social media calendars for my marketing clients a few years ago. In theory, an editorial calendar is a great idea but the follow-through is the most difficult. Unfortunately, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make the horse drink. 

    You left out a few critical points regarding “measuring success.” It doesn’t make sense to measure when a campaign is brand new. A social media campaign needs time to organically mature. I agree with you that it’s important to set up alerts. Google Alerts is a great way to keep track of your online rep, but when it comes down to hard stats you aren’t going to see results overnight. 

    For solo entrepreneurs and smaller companies (I am speaking from personal experience), the responsibility of social media marketing falls on the owner’s shoulders. That’s why most smaller companies and entrepreneurs don’t have the time to follow through with their calendars. Not to mention, the smaller companies are so bombarded with social media/new media “speak” that they become frustrated and throw in the towel. Social media can be a double-edged sword, and I do the best I can with the time and resources I have. 

    I’m a copywriter and there is a LOT that goes into setting the voice and tone. You touched briefly upon strategy and tone, but I want to emphasize how crucial these steps are. BEFORE a company even tackles social media, they need to ensure that their value proposition/messaging is rock-solid and is reflective of their company’s mission. I have seen many companies mess up their online rep because of the drivel they post on their social media channels. Or they ignore their customers altogether and don’t respond immediately to negative feedback and reviews. I work with hospitality/food and restaurant clients, and it’s imperative that their social media copy/content directly reflect their brand. Service-based companies do not have the luxury to be lax with their social media content. The copy (posts and tweets) should directly engage with audiences (and hopefully, bring new customers through their doors!) The tone you use needs to be consistent and not flip-flop back and forth. You can’t be casual one day and then decide to be corporate and “stiff-sounding’ the next day – you will only confuse your audience.  

  • farah

    This is very helpful, making the complicated into simple stages/steps.. easy to follow. Many thanks!

  • P.K. Hunter

    Hi, is there any Excel or Word file we could download as a sample? Thanks for this lovely piece, got our mental engines revved up!