In my last post, I explored how to decide the social media presence for a small business using one of my favorite small businesses – Scratch Baking in Milford, CT. Now it’s time to activate that presence. It’s time to plan and create content. No matter how strategic you are in choosing your business’ social media platforms, that will mean nothing if you’re not strategically and regularly creating engaging content for them.
Add Structure to Content Creation
Content creation is the hard part of social media. Think of it like going on a diet or starting a new exercise regimen. You must make the effort every day to hold yourself accountable to your goals or else you won’t achieve them. Because social media is living and breathing 24/7, if you’ve made a goal, for example, of posting once a day on your platforms and you miss a day, then you’ve just lost an opportunity for your brand to be in front of a lot of eyeballs.
This is a very basic way to look at content marketing on social media, but it’s true. At one job I had a Post-it stuck to my computer on which I’d written “Feed the Facebook monster” because that’s how it felt to me. I’d do all this work to make content and then post it, but the relief was short-lived. There was always another day, always demand for more. I was, of course, planning content according to my business’ goals, when and where their audience was active and what they liked to engage with, but no matter how successful I was, social media content creation is a little like being on a treadmill that never stops.
The larger a brand is the more resources they have to dedicate to content creation. Some brands have someone, or an entire team, dedicated to content creation for a single platform. Small businesses sometimes feel they just can’t compete on the treadmill. But quantity isn’t necessarily the deciding factor on who wins attention on social media. All it takes is one well-timed, relevant piece of content for social media to have a big impact on a small brand.
The problem is small businesses often create and post content on the fly. On one hand, this can be great because the content can feel very authentic and resonate more with users than highly curated content from big brands can. Plus, last-minute content is often inspired by the moment, which can make it feel more relevant, whereas pre-planned content, if not reexamined just prior to posting, can feel out of touch sometimes. On the other hand, though, this lack of structure for content creation also means you can miss opportunities because you’re distracted or find out about them too late to do anything.
Why and How to create A Content Calendar
Taking an hour or 2 to brainstorm content and create a content calendar for the week can give your small business a structured road map from which to maintain an active social media presence. If you’re swamped and unable on the day to think up content, no problem, because you’ve already done that mental labor and now it’s just the execution of creating and posting. If possible, you can even take photos and make graphics and videos ahead of schedule to make it easier if you know your days can be busy and unpredictable. Just be sure to do a quick scan of the news and Twitter trends before posting to make sure your content doesn’t accidentally make you look out of touch or insensitive.
One important note about content calendars is that using one does not mean you can take a set it and forget it approach to social media. You should still check in on your platforms daily to see if there are topics or trends you should join in on, opportunities to engage deeper with users, or customer service needs in comments or messages.
You should also always feel free to rearrange or change content. Content calendars should be living documents that strategically respond to what is happening in your business, on social media, and in the world. Analysis of your past content should also always be done to inform you of any needed strategic changes to your calendar – when and where you’re posting, what types of content you’re creating, the audiences you’re targeting.
You can use social media tools like Hootsuite, Hubspot, Sprout Social, or Loomly to plan, build, schedule, and monitor your content or you can just plan using a spreadsheet. I’ve mocked up an example content calendar for Scratch Baking below using my suggestions for the business from my last blog:
- Maintain current regular Facebook and Instagram posts with quality photos in support of daily sales
- Diversify content beyond photos to videos and GIFs
- More platform-specific content
- Expand the use of Instagram Stories beyond daily special announcements
- Add Twitter and focus on humorous or informational content about baking or trends rather than sales
- Add Pinterest to promote special order sales content to new customers and add some transparency/relatability to the brand image as a fan of baking like its customers
- Create more content featuring Scratch employees and their lives to tell the story of the community surrounding the Scratch brand
- Take advantage of user-generated content more and explore how the Scratch community can promote and add authenticity to the brand story on social media
This last suggestion gets into the topic of influencers. Large brands now commonly seek out and work with social media influencers compensating them with products, services, and money for promoting their brands. Small businesses, though, often don’t have the time or resources to do this. There are pros and cons to using influencers. Whether or not they are worth it has become questionable as fellow users have become aware of them and as authenticity has become the demand on social media. So, small brands may not be missing out on much by ignoring this tool.
However, small brands can use the strategy behind influencers to their advantage. Think of everyone in your business’ direct universe – your employees, your customers, their families, even your suppliers and vendors. These could all be possible influencers for you, although I like to think of them more as partners because they likely have a deeper interest in your business than a random person on social media with a big following.
Tag them, ask them, coordinate with them to help you raise your brand profile on social media. You’d be surprised how excited or flattered a regular customer might be if asked to feature their dog on your Instagram or another local business at the idea of cross-promoting on Facebook. You can see in my content calendar I’ve identified these opportunities while planning and creating content.
As you can see, a small business can have so much to work with in terms of social media content, but you really need a content calendar to help you create a strategic, planned approach to take these assets from possibilities to realities.
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