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Strong social media campaigns start with strong planning. There are no shortcuts to success.
Planning isn’t easy though. It takes both creative and strategic thinking to really get it right. It also requires clear communication with everyone involved in approving and executing your ideas, including your own team members and those of your client (if you’re working as a consultant or in an agency).
What you need is a solid process and the right tools for the job. In this post, we’ll show you:
Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Planning allows you to be thoughtful and intentional about your work.
Let’s say you have an event coming up. You could just create some posts here and there to get the word out. Or, you could plan a cohesive campaign with clear and consistent messaging is much more likely to deliver results.
Which approach do you think would produce better results?
We’re not saying everything you say and do on social media needs to be planned out ahead of time. Some spontaneity is good. Social media moves fast, and you want to stay relevant.
However, executing an entire social media marketing strategy completely on the fly, well, sucks.
It’ll leave your social team constantly scrambling to create and share content. The results will, almost certainly, feel rushed and unfocused.
So, stop pulling your hair out while creating crappy content. Start planning instead.
Make planning out your next campaign easy. Download these free templates:
Each of these pieces will make it easier to put the following advice into action.
A campaign is really just a coordinated series of posts. They could all share a certain slogan or messaging, or promote a particular event, product, or piece of content. Those posts might be tied together with a consistent hashtag or visual aesthetic too.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these roundup posts of successful campaigns:
There are a lot of ways to get started with campaign planning. However, there are a couple reasons why we suggest starting with channel selection:
If you need some assistance determining which channels might be best suited to your campaign, check this quick visual guide:
Some other reasons to choose particular networks over others might include:
Successful campaigns need a purpose.
Before you get too far in your planning process, determine exactly what you want your campaign to achieve. Here are some ideas:
Once you have some broad overarching goals, connect them to actual metrics to measure success. The data you use to measure success to be directly connected to your goals.
In order to set realistic goals, however, you’ll need to know how your content typically performs on social media. One way to do this is to dig into in-app analytics available for each social media network.
Once you know where to gather your performance data, you’ll need to know how to connect your metrics to your goals. Here’s a quick visual guide:
When you’re preparing your campaign plan, you can summarize your goals following this format:
“This campaign aims to improve [INSERT GOAL] by [INSERT PERCENTAGE] over [INSERT TIMESPAN].”
Your goal can get even more specific than what’s on the graphic shown above, too. If your goal is to improve brand loyalty, your goal statement might read something like this:
“This campaign will strengthen brand awareness by growing our Twitter following by 25% over three months.”
Simple. Specific. Accountable.
That’s all your goals need to be.
The first step in social media campaign planning is determining your audience. This could be your core customer base, or simply a specific segment of your total audience.
For example, if you sell automotive parts, you might create a campaign promoting winter vehicle accessories to followers in snowy areas. Or, if you sell musical instruments, you might create a campaign targeting people who play a particular instrument.
Successful campaigns are driven by big ideas. In traditional advertising parlance, a “big idea” is a general overarching theme or concept you want to communicate.
Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan is a classic example. The company realized people’s aversion to working out was a roadblock stopping them from buying running shoes. So, they devised messaging that pushed people to “just do it” anyway.
How do you come up with creative ideas like this?
Start by connecting two things:
You could also approach this in terms of finding an intersection between your audience’s interests in general, and your product or service. This connection is what makes most classic creative slogans work (and good content marketing in general).
Write your posts first. Start off by determining two things:
The answers to each point above depend on the importance of what you’re promoting, the size of your budget, and how much time you have.
Here are some hypothetical examples to consider:
These are all common situations marketers find themselves in. They’re also all completely different from one another, requiring different numbers of posts across varying numbers of social channels.
So, what you’ll need to determine is how much content does your campaign really warrant. Then, you’ll need to lay out a plan that fits an appropriate level of effort and attention.
Here’s what a hypothetical posting schedule might look like for a large-scale social campaign:
Let’s say you have a smaller campaign promoting an original research report you’ve produced. You decide your Facebook audience might not be interested, but your followers include a high number of professionals on Twitter and LinkedIn. In this case, here’s what your post outline might look like:
These aren’t scientific numbers by any means. The key takeaway here is to simply consider how many posts you’ll create for each network you’ve selected. Getting this right might take some trial and error, and that’s okay. Just make a plan, execute it, and see what happens.
If you’re a consultant or agency marketer, you may need to get approval for your campaign. One way to do this is with a well-crafted proposal.
Generally speaking, your proposal should include:
If you’re running a smaller campaign, you might go into more detail and include an outline for each post in your campaign. For example, if you were running a contest, your post outline could look like this:
If you’re planning an extremely high volume of posts, mapping out each one this way may not make sense. However, if it’s reasonable to do so, it can help you lay out a clear purpose for each post throughout your campaign.
And doing things with purpose is why we’re investing in campaign planning in the first place, right?
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get the real work done. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
As you’re writing your social media posts, keep these things in mind:
It’s also important to craft unique messages for every social network. What works well might not be a good fit on Twitter, and so on.
Write out each post either in a spreadsheet or word processor (the download bundle in this post includes a free spreadsheet for this purpose). For each post, include the following:
A hypothetical example might look like this:
Copy: This is an #awesome social media post.
Image: A person doing something awesome.
Assuming you’ll be creating images for your posts, we recommend having a writer put together image direction first. The two-person writer / designer team structure goes back to traditional advertising. Typically, a writer will sketch out an idea that a designer helps bring to life. If you have a designer on staff, this approach can help create a seamless workflow for your campaign creative.
Sometimes, writers and designers can butt heads. This is sometimes the result of miscommunication. If you want to keep your designer happy, follow these tips:
If you find yourself struggling to explain your ideas for an image, consider using MS Paint (Windows) or Paintbrush (Mac) to make a rough sketch of what you’re thinking. It doesn’t have to be great, as long as it conveys what you’d like the end product to look like.
Once your copy is prepared, it’s time to create visual content. This could mean having a designer create images, or you might choose to shoot videos.
Follow these tips for keeping everything consistent:
The next step is to drop all your content onto your social media calendar. If you’re using a spreadsheet (or CoSchedule), we recommend color-coding campaign content. This will make it easier to quickly see which posts belong to which campaign:
Start by creating a new calendar item and create a new social campaign:
Then, give your campaign a name and fill in the description field:
Next, let’s apply a Social Template. These are reusable posting schedules you can build and save in CoSchedule. If you don’t have a social template you’d like to use, create a new one.
Start by selecting +New Template. Then, click Create New:
Give your new template a name and click Next:
Then, start adding social helpers. You have three options here:
These are essentially fields that allow you to create text, image, or video posts. Pretty self-explanatory so far here.
Select one, and then give the template a name:
Next, add your post content (leave this blank if you’d like to create a generic template to reuse later):
Use the “Select a social profile …” dialogue box to choose a profile for each post. Then, select the day and time you’d like to schedule each post (or use Best Time Scheduling to automatically determine your optimal posting time):
Repeat this process until you’ve added all your campaign content.
Once your posts are scheduled, they’ll appear on your CoSchedule calendar alongside all the rest of your content:
If you’re looking for a more detailed demonstration, this video breaks down how Social Campaigns work:
Once you’ve executed your campaign, it’s time to measure your results.
The easiest way to do this is with Social Campaign Reports in CoSchedule. This report makes it easy for your team to:
Planning out social media campaigns can sometimes feel like a waste of time. It isn’t. The better you plan, the better you’ll execute, and the greater returns you’ll see from your efforts. It’s time well spent, and now you have the knowledge and tools to do it right.
What’s your top tip for planning social campaigns? Drop us a comment below and get the conversation started.
This post was originally published on Feb. 7, 2017. It was updated on Feb. 28, 2018.
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