Don’t get me wrong, I love to embrace spontaneity. Accepting an invitation to a Nelly concert 60 minutes before showtime, grabbing a Lyft to dash across town during rush hour, and walking into the stadium just in time to hear “Hot in Herre” is fine proof of this. However, there’s a time and a place for life’s unprompted thrills, and your social media content is certainly not one of them. Would you wing your monthly invoicing? Risk showing up to the bank to cash a check five minutes after close on a Saturday afternoon? Didn’t ‘t think so. Just like invoicing, your social media content is a fundamental component of your business, and for this reason, your content should be mindful, premeditated, and planned in a calendar. Here are five of the most common content planning myths debunked.
MYTH #1: You don’t need a content calendar
Still resisting the idea of a planning mechanism? I’ve been there too. Social media should be fun and scrappy, right? Wrong. Well, partially wrong. Fun and scrappy can work for something fleeting like stories that disappear after 24 hours, but when it comes to your newsfeed content, you’ll need to plan it out. Really, truly, content is most foundational component of your social media strategy. Content is how you deliver value online, and what’s the point of a follower subscribing to your channels if you’re not delivering value? Trust me, content and calendars go together like Italian cheese and a fine wine, so please don’t skip this step.
MYTH #2: There is one universally correct format for a content calendar
Now, you may be wondering how to properly format a social media content calendar. Truth is, there is no right or wrong format here, only personal preference. Your content calendar could take the form of a Microsoft Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, a Google Drive doc, or you could populate your content in a fancy planning tool like Later. I personally prefer to kick it old-school with a simple Word document. They’re easy to create, easy to edit, and easy to spellcheck. Regardless of format, your planning should include these foundational components: a visual (image or video), post copy, any external URLs you plan to use, and a set of hashtags.
MYTH #3: The content calendar should cover a significant timeframe
If the thought of planning content out for the next three months gives you sweaty palms, fear not! You don’t have to plan THAT far ahead. I do recommend high-level planning on a quarterly basis with general campaign timeframes, content series, and a rough idea of what you may like to say in each month. That said, trying to write out three months of complete posts in advance is completely unnecessary, and frankly, not a very good idea because our world changes so quick, and our content should pivot quickly along with it. Start by planning out one week of content and work your way up to planning two weeks at a time once you get used to this whole ‘calendar thing.’
MYTH #4: It doesn’t matter what your Instagram feed looks like
As you acquire new followers, they’ll arrive at your feed precisely one time. In a matter of seconds, they’ll either buy into you and tap the follow button, or they’ll leave. Yes, it’s true that most people consume your content via their newsfeed after they’ve followed you, but the initial impression you make determines whether you get the follow in the first place. The tools you have in order to make a good first (digital) impression include: a profile picture, a bio description, story highlights, and a feed of images and videos. Pay attention to how your feed looks and plan out your content from both a contextual and a visual standpoint. The app I like to use to plan out how my Instagram feed will look is called UNUM. There are plenty of options like this one, so drop into the app store and choose whichever visual feed planning app makes your heart sing.
MYTH #5: Plan one piece of content and then post it everywhere
Now, I’m not saying you should post radically different content on each of your social media platforms, but you also shouldn’t literally “copy/paste” the exact same post across them all. There’s a happy medium that involves taking a bit of time to tailor your content to each platform before you post. Why? Each platform has its own quirks to be acknowledged. Take hashtags for example, on Facebook, hashtags are essentially useless, but on Instagram you’ll absolutely want to include up to 30 on each post. LinkedIn has made hashtags searchable and even features content that “trends” within a certain topic, so go for it but use no more than five hashtags max to avoid looking like a spammer. With the idea of platform nuances in mind, use your content calendar to fully flesh out an idea, and then adapt the copy slightly for each channel. Here’s an example of a Self-Love Score blog update that I shared across three platforms:
Facebook: No hashtags, includes URL and web-generated image, and an emoji
LinkedIn: Includes three hashtags, URL and web-generated image, no emojis
Instagram: Includes many hashtags, uses an image since URLs are not supported, includes emoji
So, there you have it, five of the top content planning myths debunked. The best way to get started with content planning? Find a calendar format that you feel comfortable with, collect your ideas and assets, and create a week's worth of social media content. Remember, content is the way you deliver value to your audience online, and it pays to take a planful approach.