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August 31, 2011

How to Get a Handle on Your Social Media Schedule

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You have all these really great ideas on how to keep your brand engaged in social media, yet all those other things you have to do, all those work things, keep getting in the way. It happens to the best of us. The first problem? We have to realize that social media is work, and it should be viewed as part of the work week.

snoopy-social-media

If you want to make strides in social media, you have to make time for social media. And that’s what we’re talking about today – taking control of your schedule in a way that makes social media work for your success, not against it.

Organize Your Social Media Channels and Opportunities

Creating a social media calendar is a lot like creating an editorial calendar. Identify opportunities to engage and create content ahead of time, and fill in the blanks where needed.

Start by listing out all the social networks you’re committed to, and within each one, list opportunities for engagement. For example, one social network’s planning could look something like this:

Facebook opportunities:

  • Photos
  • Contests
  • Events
  • Community engagement

Then, in each one of those categories, further define what will comprise them. For example:

  • Photos: Staff photos out and about; staff photos in house; event photos for industry get-togethers; event photos for industry conferences.
  • Contests: Community-driven photo contest promoting upcoming launch of service.
  • Events: Industry events, training courses, executive travel calendar.
  • Community engagement: Thought-provoking questions, news items, polls and surveys, commenting on other Fan pages and profiles.

Do this for every social network you engage in. And now you’re well on your way to creating a calendar. Next up is:

Schedule Social Media Communications by Priority and Task

Of your social media opportunities for each channel, identify what items are more recurring and what items have a ‘laxed timeline. Pulling from the example above, you may find that a contest runs only quarterly or every six months; updating events is once per month; opportunities for uploading photos are bi-monthly and community engagement is daily.

Once you have that down, you can begin to think about breaking things into digestible chunks that are part of your work tasks. To build on that idea, remember that social media isn’t just about pushing communications outward, but also about planning for engagement.

Your calendar should also include a schedule of how quickly you respond to your community’s inquiries and conversations by medium. Some mediums require a faster response than others, for example a blog versus Facebook versus Twitter.

You might have a schedule that says something like:

  • Facebook responses: By end of business day, respond to community members.
  • Twitter responses: Use email alerts to respond quickly during standard hours.
  • Blog response: Once or twice daily, respond to comments.

And while we’re on the topic of timing, each type of social network can require a different approach in the delivery time and method of communications. Dan Zarella has done some interesting research on the science of social media, including how timing comes into play.

With some experimentation, you may find that you want to increase or decrease your communications for any given social network, or change the time of day you send Twitter or Facebook updates and so on.

And how you’ll track the success of these adjustments relies on how you monitor your social media efforts, which also requires scheduling. Some questions to ponder are:

  • How often will you check in on tracking your metrics so that you can tweak the strategy?
  • Do some campaigns and channels require a faster response to the data discovered in tracking?
  • How will the data and your decisions affect the social media calendar?

Plan Out Your Social Media Calendar

Now that you know which platforms you’re focusing on and the tasks they require, lay out your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly objectives for each of your social media channels.

To put it into perspective, organizing your social media schedule may look something like this:

Social Media Channels

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Blog

Social Media Elements

  • Tasks
  • Timing
  • Tracking

Daily Tasks

Decide what part of the day is best for you to focus on the daily requirements of social media. If you don’t commit to a timeline, chances are social media will feel overwhelming and induce serious ADD. If your early mornings and late afternoons are the quietest, try working your social media in then.

Weekly Tasks

What part of the work week makes most sense for you to complete the weekly tasks in your social media plan? Is it Monday? Maybe Friday? Set yourself up for success here. You want prioritize social media like you do all your “to dos” for the week.

Monthly Tasks

Here, you’ll decide at what point in the month is the best time to do monthly updates. I happen to like the first of the month, unless a certain industry event warrants an “off” date. If you have a blog calendar, this is also a good time to do that in conjunction. (Side note: for more information on how to keep fully engaged with your blog community weekly, read my post on managing blog relationships and time.)

Once you’ve got it all planned out, it’s time to add it to the calendar that’s in your line of vision every day, so it doesn’t slip.  Here’s a sample of what a social media schedule might look like:

Sample Social Media Calendar

Making social media a part of your work schedule makes it far less overwhelming and way easier to stay in front of your communities consistently. These are my tips for making social media scheduling work, what’s yours? Let us know in the comments below!

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6 responses to “How to Get a Handle on Your Social Media Schedule”

  1. Jerry writes:

    Great post.

    I usually need to schedule my client’s SM campaign on a monthly basis. It does take some time but I was thinking about using a third party service like social sprout.

    Any suggestions?

    Jerry

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Hi Jerry, thanks for the comment!

    I haven’t used that service, but it looks like it might be good for organization and aggregation of data. SocialOomph and HootSuite have free services that are helpful as well.

    As far as automation goes for sending out communications, I think it’s good in some cases, not so good in others. People want to interact with people.

    That said, I think it’s just a matter of monitoring and replying to responses to automated communications as needed, and also sprinkling in some impromptu conversation from time to time.

  3. Jerry writes:

    Hey Jessica,

    Thanks for those resources!

    I agree, automation is good in some cases but in most it’s not.

    I think it’s important to respond and have real conversations with users/customers. It’s just finding the time to do it and to schedule it, especially if small businesses don’t have a dedicated social media employee.

    I think that’s where some of the SM tool available would help in certain situations.

    All in all, thanks for the great post. I can see this really helping for my clients.

  4. Jessica Lee writes:

    You are so right — it’s a matter of being efficient and using tools as appropriate. Happy you enjoyed the post and thank you for taking the time to chat, Jerry.

  5. Louis Girifalco writes:

    This scheduling and planning is the perfect way for someone to figure out how to use these incredible new tools. As you work through this plan, you will make social media a natural extension of your life! Learn to live it and soon you will be commenting/posting/replying/etc way more than you originally delegated into your schedule!

    Great article Jess

  6. Jessica Lee writes:

    Thanks, Louis, appreciate that feedback! We’ll see you next week in NYC!



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