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Establishing patterns and analyzing results is what social media managers live for. But how do we get the ball rolling in terms of social media content?

Enter content planning for social media! Content planning is a method of content generation that methodically generates a strategy for your content, so you can follow the plan and start establishing patterns. Content planning isn’t difficult – it’s surprisingly simple! You just need to . . . do it! We’ve broken down the six big steps to planning out content ahead of time, which will result in an organized, streamlined, and coordinated brand voice. Don’t forget, for this exercise to generate excellent ideas, you need to have your personas at the top of your mind.

Here are the six big steps to planning out content:

1- Figure out the ‘state of the union’. Do an audit of your social channels *as they are now*. Do you have zero channels? Great, you can only improve from here! Do you have accounts that have no specific cadence and no engagement? That is ok! The first step is the hardest – taking a critical eye to your own channels can help you figure out which direction you want to move in.

This step is IMPERATIVE and is the step that we see companies skipping the most often. How do you expect to reach your goals if you don’t establish a baseline? When you do this initial, introspective work, you might uncover some uncomfortable truths. But, that’s ok! Those truths won’t go away on their own – now that we know that they exist, we can work on our content to change the perception and conversation around your brand.

2- Get a calendar. You can’t plan ANYTHING in the future if you don’t have a calendar in front of your face. Whether it’s a whiteboard, a Google Doc, or a special online project management tool, you must have a calendar. Calendars serve two main purposes:

First, calendars align your brand with the rhythm of the real world. When your team sits down in August to content plan, you can see that autumn is coming, and with it, Halloween, and on the heels of that is Thanksgiving. When you know big, important dates and seasons are coming at you, it makes it easier to work backward with content generation.

Secondly, calendars bring your team together. It is important to have the CEO and all key stakeholders take a look at the calendar. You’d be shocked at how many business plans are carried out, without alerting the social media team – which results in stunted, random content. Calendars give your teams buy-in and allows for stronger and more creative collaboration.

3- Use your imagination and put yourself into your persona’s shoes. It is helpful when you content plan, to have a photo representation of your target audience in front of you, so you can keep at the top of your mind who you are creating this content for!

4- Plan out the content. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for – all this preparation is so you can sit down, and list out a whole bunch of ideas! Use the calendar and think about what your persona might like or expect to see from you, and start brainstorming content ideas. Write everything down, even the ‘bad ideas’.

Lost for a place to start? Look back at step 1 – are there any popular content themes that your audience likes from the past? Do you have any ‘low hanging fruit’ content like testimonials or user-generated content?

We recommend forming content ‘buckets’, and sticking to 2-4 content types. These could be ‘Testimonials’ or ‘Product post’, and so on. Once you know how many posts per week you want to have from each bucket, it’s a simple math problem to count up how many posts you need to create!

5- Organize. Now that you have a bunch of ideas, you have to do the thing. Add ideas to your calendar, and see what work you have coming up. This is the moment where you write the copy, source the images, and put it all together. We highly recommend you perform this step at least 24 hours after step 4. Letting your brainstorm ideas marinate a little bit before you execute on the content results in better content!

If you need to enlist writing, photography, or design help, seek out your partners! We love to collaborate, and an editor with a sharp eye can really hone in on your content to make it top-notch.

6- Do it. Now that you have posts composed and planned, post them!

After step 6, go back to step 1 and repeat! This whole content creation process can plan ahead for a week, a month, or a quarter ahead! However, when you reach ‘the end’ of the social media plan, go back to step 1 and repeat. The most important step of social media is to analyze, look for patterns, and adjust.

We hope this breakdown helps you. Happy planning!