Social media offers a myriad of choices to small to medium-sized business owners. However, "One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis rather than liberation . . . and even if we manage to overcome paralysis and make a choice, we are less satisfied than we would have been if we had fewer options." according to the psychologist Barry Schwartz. The way to overcome the paralysis is to have a structure. I'm not talking about spending all your time planning so you have no time left for doing. Rather, I'm suggesting you commit to a schedule for social media marketing.
Initially, it seemed like a time-consuming task to me, but I quickly realized how comfortable it makes my life. We are lost without our Google calendars every day. The same logic applies when it comes to planning social media marketing. With so many tools available for creating a calendar, planning social media for an SMB entrepreneur or marketer has become much easier. Tools like timeline calendar helps in planning Facebook postings, tools like HootSuite, TweetDeck and SocialOomph come with many auto alerts. They help to pre-program your social media activities and also post on your behalf on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social sites. This feature makes it very convenient for weekends or other times when you are away from work. Social media can also be planned using a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and shared on Google Docs, where all team members can see it and make suggestions.
Here are some tips for making your social media calendar:
1. Focus on small periods of time initially
Do not attempt to create a whole year's calendar for two reasons: first, it is going to be such a huge task that it might put you off, and second, we are dealing with media in real-time here. The stories, discussions and trends change every day and we need to respond. That's why planning for a week or two to start allows you to be ahead of things while also having enough time to plan for new developments.
2. Set different themes every week
It is good to assign a broad category to each week that is identifiable to your audience. For example, back to school, the trade show calendar, holidays, etc. We dedicate some weeks to special days and weeks that are not public holidays but hold special importance for people such as American Heart Month in February or Administrative Assistants Week in April. This way, we find different ways to connect with our audience and remain at top of mind. You could also plan a week or a month to focus on a particular product or service or an achievement made by your company. Tweets, blog posts and Facebook collages could be dedicated to these special themes.
3. Share and get ideas
A social media calendar can have inputs from all team members as each one contributes in his/her special way to your brand. You would be surprised to see the level of involvement when you ask people to suggest ideas for Facebook updates or topics for blog posts. Once, the target audience is clearly defined and understood by the team, you will never have shortage of ideas and suggestions.
4. Plan promotional activities
Your calendar could help you in promote your seasonal sales and offers. Talk about upcoming specials on Facebook and Twitter. You could pin up pictures of your products or brochures prepared for sales and link them to Twitter. What about a blog post that talks about the season, how it affects customers and what special offers they can expect from you to prepare them in advance? All this is possible with some planning and creation of timelines.
5. Use planning tools effectively
When using social media, planning tools like HootSuite and others, keep track of the following:
- Make sure you know which active Facebook and Twitter applications push to the other so you don't get duplicate messages.
- Be careful about the tools pushing content automatically (without your scheduling it) so you don't tweet the same thing twice.
Connecting with your customers through social media has many advantages; you can take it to a different level of success if you plan. All it takes is a framework, whether you build it on seasons, events or other occasions you can anticipate. It gives you the room to engage, response, react and be . . . social!