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How to Build a Smart Yet Simple Social Media Marketing Plan [Template]


One of the core tasks involved in documenting your content marketing strategy is to develop your social media marketing plan, also known as your channel plan. This plan details where you will distribute your content and what you can expect to achieve by doing so.

Many brands mistakenly assume that they need to post their content anywhere and everywhere. But plastering your brand’s content across every social network, trendy news site, and video platform that comes along is not a channel plan — it’s more like a channel pipe bomb: It might spray content shrapnel as far as possible, but it has no regard for whom it strikes, how they might be impacted, or how that impact might reflect on the business. 

Plastering your brand's content across every network is not a channel plan, says @Joderama. #socialmedia Share on X

Remember: Your content marketing strategy should define your social media marketing strategy — not the other way around. It’s best to evaluate each social channel before you start distributing content there. And when you turn this evaluation into an actionable plan, everybody on your team will know where, when, and what they should be posting on each channel, as well as what their efforts are meant to achieve.

Here’s how to create and implement a basic social media marketing plan that will help you do just that.

4 Secrets to Building Social Momentum

Make informed decisions

There are two core steps to the channel-planning process — understanding the value proposition of the platform and creating the use case for your brand to engage there. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Social media channel choices: The nature of each channel and the engagement preferences of its core community will play a major role in whether your content will be a good fit. For example, your audience might be open to following a brand on Twitter, but prefers to reserve Snapchat for conversations with personal friends. Long-form content might play well on LinkedIn or SlideShare, while memes and captioned photos on these platforms would be inappropriate. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the characteristics of each channel and its corresponding community before joining the conversation.

Use case: With a short list of potential channels in hand, you will want to map your existing content assets to the most appropriate channels for their distribution.

Map existing #content assets to the most appropriate channels for distribution, says @joderama. #socialmedia Share on X

Answering the following questions (adapted from our Social Media Survival Guide) will help you decide whether a channel is a good fit, and may provide some clues as to how to position your content to compel the audience to take action:

Who uses this channel, and what are they using it for?

  • Is it an important channel for our personas?
  • What are conversations like here?

Will it help us meet our objectives?

  • Why does it make sense for our business to use this channel?
  • What specific goals will we pursue through our actions here? 

Does it fit in with our editorial mission?

  • Will our content be viewed as unique and valuable here, or will the community find it intrusive/irrelevant?
  • Have our competitors established a strong presence, or is there a chance for us to lead the conversation?

What results do we want to achieve?

  • What should we be asking fans and followers to do after engaging with our content? Share it? Comment? Visit our site? Subscribe to our newsletter?
  • Is this an action this community is likely to take?

What kinds of content will work best on this platform?

  • Are our topics relevant to this audience?
  • Have we created enough content in the appropriate formats to communicate consistently?

What’s the right tone of voice for this platform?

  • Would a friendly, fun approach work best, or will the audience be expecting a more serious, professional demeanor?
  • Does the conversation style match our brand’s voice and values?

What’s the ideal posting frequency?

  • Should we publish once a week? Multiple times a day?
  • What days and times of day work best?
  • Do we have the ability to sustain our efforts over the long term?

If your responses don’t reveal a compelling opportunity to engage on that channel or if the platform’s environment isn’t well-suited to your brand’s content vision and mission, it may be best to step away and reserve your team’s resources for channels that are a better fit.

Additional considerations: The primary purpose of content distribution is to build a trusted connection with your audience. While your company’s goals are important, you also need to find the right tone, voice, and topics to interest people in what you have to say.

The primary purpose of content distribution is to build a trusted connection w/ your audience. @Joderama Share on X

Scott Aughtmon outlines some of the most enduring principles of creating “crave-worthy” content, but it’s also worth considering these variable factors:

Consumption preferences and audience trends
Are there particular industry events, media innovations, or consumer behaviors on which your content distribution can capitalize (e.g., live-streaming video, new search-engine algorithms, popular memes)? How might these impact the tone/velocity you should adopt for distribution?

Current events
As trendy topics come into the spotlight, they can present timely distribution opportunities for your business. For example: Women’s issues are earning some (long overdue, ahem) extra love in the U.S. media right now. This means brands with content promoting female-fronted initiatives (like GE’s video pledge to increase its ranks of women in STEM roles) might earn a high-profile spot in social media circles they normally wouldn’t pursue.

Team resources
If you only have an editor or two managing the content marketing process, their bandwidth for consistent distribution and conversation monitoring may be limited to a few outlets; however, if you have a full team of writers, editors, and other distribution partners at your disposal, the extra manpower (or womanpower, see above) affords you the increased flexibility and control to manage content across many more channels.

Build your plan

Now that you have all the information to determine where, when, and how to distribute your content, building the actual plan is pretty simple. Create a matrix of the channels that make the most sense for your brand, and make a note of all the specifics of engagement your team should follow for each one. When all the fields are filled out, you have a template that can be referenced easily, updated as necessary, and shared throughout your organization.

Create a matrix of the channels that make the most sense for your brand, says @joderama. #socialmedia Share on X

In my experience, it can be useful to outline as much information as possible in your initial plan, so your team can refer to it when new opportunities emerge and decisions need to be made. But it’s perfectly OK to start simple and then build on/refine your data fields as you start to learn what’s working and what isn’t.

The following is a snapshot of the information I recommend accounting for in your initial channel plan, but you can also download a copy of the template I built (go to “File > Download As >” and select the format you would like), and customize it for your own needs:

  • Who we will reach: The persona(s) most active/engaged on this channel
  • Target goals/benefits: What this channel will help accomplish; any unique opportunities that we can’t achieve elsewhere
  • Featured topics: Specific subject areas/conversations likely to resonate with this community
  • Target velocity: How often/what time of day to post on this channel; how much time to spend monitoring/contributing to other relevant conversations
  • Formats: Content types to share here; formats that could give a competitive advantage in this space
  • Tone and rules of engagement: Conversation style and voice that works best here; special criteria or considerations we need to follow (e.g., write a maximum of 140 characters, avoid enabling videos to play automatically, emphasize visuals over text)
  • Team resources: Team member in charge of communication on this channel; other personnel authorized to post on company’s behalf; whom to notify if questions arise or issues escalate
  • Call to action: Owned media/conversion point to drive traffic to
  • Key performance indicators: Metrics to gauge content performance against goals

channel-plan-template - final

Click to download

Editor’s note: While I used CMI as a reference when creating this template, the sample data shown here does not represent our real channel plan.

You may also want to consider including the following data:

  • Target keywords/hashtags: Listing the keywords you are likely to target will make you more effective at including them in the content you post on that channel.
  • Potential distribution partners: Any influencers, industry experts, or network connections you may have at your disposal can help manage and amplify your outreach on the channel.
  • Promotion opportunities: Tools, paid campaigns, and other opportunities you can leverage can help support the content you post on that channel.


No matter how far and wide your business intends to extend its reach, successful content marketing distribution often comes down to having a strategic, systematic, and scalable approach. Our model is one way to ensure that everyone involved with your content is working from the same blueprint, but it’s not the only way to get the job done. Let us know what processes you use to determine where, when, and how you share your content and spread your brand influence.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute