Updated: Feb 16
Social Media can be a great way to promote your business, let people know about what you do, and connect with your audience. The difficult part is needing content to feed into the ever-hungry machine.
Instead of approaching your accounts day by day (or forgetting entirely for extended periods,) I highly recommend planning your content in advance.
Planning in advance allows you to sit down and knock out a whole lot of content for the next month or so. You’re in the frame of mind for planning and writing, which means you’re optimizing your time by not switching between tasks. You’ll get more done and your work will be more focused and coherent.
You can also make your content flow better, by seeing it placed on a calendar or timeline (it could be within a scheduling service or just on paper.) You can actually tell a story that makes sense across your post, rather than appearing jumbled and sporadic.
Your posts can be planned to be much more consistent, giving users a better impression of your business. When placing posts in your calendar, you can see what times might be lean, what times might have too much going on and balance them out.
The content you create will be better quality because you've given yourself time to create it - rather than scrambling at the last second to post something.
Advance planning gives you peace of mind - you've done the work in a bigger batch and now you don't have to worry about content creation for a while.
If you didn’t already know, you can schedule your social posts to go live in advance, meaning you don’t have to sit there, frantically thinking of something to say before you have to move on to the next thing. You can set up your posts, then wait for them to pop up on the days and times you've chosen.
Facebook has a scheduler in-built (which you can access for free through your business page manager, under ‘publishing tools’) and there are many other paid and free apps that allow you to schedule for other platforms, like Pinterest, linked-in, Instagram, and Twitter. The Social platforms you use and the level of management you need will affect what third party scheduler works for you, so shop around, try free versions and see what you like best. As you upgrade, you can manage more accounts and access more useful features.
How to Plan in Advance:
Set aside time to plan and create your content. If you’re planning for the next month, you might want to do this a couple of weeks in advance to allow time for writing, designing, or any other tasks that need doing.
Choose a time you know you’re going to be at your most focused and creative. Make it as uninterrupted as possible - get someone else to man the phones, shut the office door, give yourself a space to focus.
List out everything you’ve got going on in your business for the next while that will appeal to customers. Think about any events, tradeshows or specials you might have coming up. List them with their actual dates, and think about how soon you need to start posting about them. An event or tradeshow for instance might require a couple of weeks’ notice, where a sale is something you’re more likely to share about when it goes live.
If you don’t have a lot of internal events going on, think about other, topical social, national or international events you can tap into. For instance, you might want to write a post about school holidays, a national holiday, awareness day (eg. International Women’s Day) or other observance. Choose these based on what affect or tie well into your business. If it’s a public holiday, remind people to be safe, list your opening hours or show what your team are up to.
Other content ideas you might want to try could include showing recent projects, showcasing staff, sharing a blog post. Download the free cheat sheet below for more content ideas.
Look at the content you want to share and start putting them into slots on your calendar or timeline.
Think about the following:
Do you want to share the exact same content across platforms or vary it slightly?
Do you want your content to follow a particular chronological ‘order/?’
When are the best times/days to post? (You can learn about this using business insights on Instagram and Facebook)
How often do you want to post?
Do you want to focus on a particular topic for a while, or mix it up?
Are there specific dates you must post? Eg. September 10th Sale goes live.
What content needs creating and how long will it take? What writing, design, photography or video needs to be created? Who will do it?
There can be a bit of juggling involved, but with practice you’ll get to know the ideal flow of content that works for your business.
Once you've got your calendar rolling, it's important to check in every couple of days to see how it's being received.
Answer questions, respond to comments (especially if you're asking your audience a question!) and keep an eye generally on what's going on. Unfortunately social media isn't set and forget - always remember that users can interact.
From time to time, check what you've scheduled and make sure there are no accidental double-ups, mistakes, or wrong information in the the pipeline. Sometimes world events happen, businesses change, and we need to make sure we don't have something accidentally taboo scheduled.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew to start with - especially if you’re the only person responsible for managing, creating and scheduling content. Stick to what you know you can do, look at outsourcing if you need to and start small. You can get more adventurous over time, but the main thing is to establish a consistent posting schedule first.
To save even more time:
Use stock photos where appropriate - there are many places where you can get them legally for free - see resources below for a couple of great sites.
Use ‘User Generated content’ occasionally - share someone else’s post or repost someone’s image of your product/service. Make sure you ask permission and credit the account you got it from (people are usually more than happy to oblige.) A quick “hey we love this image! May we please share to our social media with credit to you?” usually does the trick. Be polite and if they say no, respect that.
Use Canva for quick and easy graphic design if you’re doing it yourself - they have great templates to help your designs look professional, and the tool is easy and intuitive to use. The best part is the basic version is free!
If you aim to post on each platform a couple of times a week (instead of every day) the content ideas you do have will go much further and you can choose to post only the best.
When browsing Facebook in your free time, save relevant posts you might like to share in a ‘share later folder.’ Then, you can find them again for later (unfortunately the sharing function cannot be pre-scheduled.)
Try and find or create content that will always be relevant - this is called ‘evergreen content’ and you can use it multiple times without it becoming obsolete.
I encourage you to have a go at scheduling in advance - try a month and see how you go. Do you feel more in control? Are you able to create enough content in one go? I'd love to hear your experience planning content in advance.
As always, if you want support on creating ongoing marketing plans for your small business (including social) get in touch with me about the Think Like A Marketer programme.
Third party scheduling options
Free stock image galleries