One thing I always get a kick out of seeing online is when a corporate account makes a post to social media that starts something like this, “Happening Now” or ”Join us later today” or “Today kicks off the beginning of.”
Now I’m not talking about breaking news, an incident, or a press conference. I expect all of those things to be short notice events. I’m talking about an agency campaign, community meeting, or preplanned event of any type. You know, something like a week-long pedestrian safety campaign, or national distracted driving awareness campaign. Events that are planned, historic, and on the radar of your agency for a long time are things that you should be planning for your social media posts well in advance.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the immediacy of social media that we can forget that you can prepare to post information days, weeks, or months in advance. Another problem we often encounter is we run out of steam in a hurry. Lots of buildup, announcements, and then…crickets.
There is an easy way to ensure that you are never providing short notice to your community or running out of steam after a barrage of tweets, posts, and pins in one day. Build a “Content Calendar.”
Look at your corporate calendar, community events, and national awareness campaigns. Find the events that are going on in the future and put them in a calendar or better yet, write them on a giant white board that turn into a calendar.
In three months, you know that school gets out for the summer, so start planning your messaging for that now. Put the last day of school for your area on the calendar and start working backwards. Mark on the calendar a block of time that you want to put out traffic safety information a few days ahead of the last day. Write down summer activities in your community that kids and parents can get involved in. Design into your calendar specific days you will post tweets, updates, pictures, or whatever else and plan that messaging ahead of time.
You have a town hall meeting coming up? Think about when someone invites you over for dinner. How much time do you need to plan for something like that? Find a clear day, then get baby-sitters, block the time, etc. Do you think your public wouldn’t like the same amount of time? Don’t advertise the town hall meeting a day or two in advance…let people know two or three weeks ahead of time. Then continually remind them.
Once the event happens, talk about it and then talk about it after. Think about your communication plan as a movie. How would you feel if you get all of this great build-up, excitement, and plot development and then with fifteen minutes left, the movie stops? That’s what you do to a lot of your community with information you put out to announce something. The event happens and then nothing…your virtual community is left hanging, waiting for the movie to turn back on.
Using a content calendar will help you build up to an event, talk about it, and close it off with follow-up information.
We will all have days that you look at your social channels and just don’t have any inspiration to come up with something but by planning out your content well in advance, you can have filler material between your conversations and breaking news.
Last, you can have fun with it. Try this for the next two weeks. Go to your favorite “National Day of… site” and write down the upcoming day that it will be each day for two weeks. Start planning at least one piece of content on one platform every day. It’s a simple exercise but the idea is to get you into the mindset of planning ahead, creating content using a calendar to guide you in the future.
Don’t have a favorite “National whatever day” site? Here are a few to help you out: