| Jun 23, 2023 | | 15 min read

The definitive 10-step guide to mastering social media content planning


Through a strategic plan, it’s much easier for you as a social media manager to maintain consistency and cohesiveness online, enabling businesses and individuals to communicate their brand message and connect with their audience effectively.

Be successful with social media on behalf of your clients by downloading “The ultimate guide to effective social media for business” now.

Whether you’re new to social media content planning or you just want to dust off your skills, we’ll walk you through exactly how to create a content plan for your SMB clients.

What is social media content planning?

Social media content planning is the process of strategically creating, organizing, and scheduling engaging and relevant content to share on social media platforms. A social media planner takes into account factors like the target audience and business goals while understanding the unique features of each social platform being used.

In short, social media content planning ensures businesses and marketers have a clear and purposeful approach to their social media presence. By planning ahead, they can create content that aligns with their objectives, maintains brand consistency, and appeals to their prospective customers.

Content planning also allows for effective scheduling and optimization, leading to increased engagement, better reach, and the ability to track and measure the success of social media efforts—all while spending less time on social media.

The perks of planning: Benefits of social media content planning for SMBs

When it comes to social media content marketing, planning is the secret sauce that differentiates an effective social marketing campaign from one that doesn’t get much traction. Here’s why

1. It establishes a unified brand voice across platforms

Through the creation of a social media content marketing plan, it’s much easier to maintain consistency in a brand’s voice and message across multiple platforms. When businesses or marketers share content haphazardly without a clear plan, the result is inevitable: a fragmented and confusing online presence that doesn’t drive conversions.

This inconsistent messaging can confuse the audience and dilute brand identity. But by planning ahead, SMBs can ensure that their posts are always in line with their brand values, personality, and tone of voice—no matter who’s in charge of social media management at any given time. This consistency works to build a strong and recognizable brand personality, fostering trust and loyalty among followers.

2. It improves the relevance and quality of content

Social media content planning allows for a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to content creation. The result? A social media calendar filled with relevant, high-quality posts rather than random content.

Planning in advance allows ample time for research, brainstorming, and crafting compelling and engaging posts. When marketers take the time to plan their social media content, they can focus on creating valuable and meaningful posts that resonate. They aren’t just filling their calendar to meet a quota, but are consciously creating each post to add value to their audience’s feed.

Well-planned content is also more likely to be visually appealing, better written, and generally more compelling because there’s more time to polish and refine it.

3. It saves time and resources

While it may seem like filling out a social media post planner for every platform is more work than just posting to them directly, don’t underestimate the power of batch-creating content.

Efficiency is a major perk of social media content planning. By dedicating time to planning content in advance, businesses can streamline their social media efforts and make the most of their resources—even if they’re limited.

Rather than constantly scrambling to come up with fresh ideas and create content on the fly, a content plan allows for a more structured and organized approach. Marketers can create many pieces of content in one session and schedule them in a social media post planner for future publication. One day’s work can mean that the next few weeks of the content calendar are filled, giving your SMB clients the time and freedom to work on other aspects of their businesses.

4. It supports marketing goals

By defining clear objectives and taking the time to understand the needs and preferences of their target audience, businesses can develop content that supports these goals and delights their viewers.

Whether the aim is to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, generate leads, or bolster the bottom line, a well-planned content strategy allows for targeted and purposeful content creation that supports the desired goal.

Regardless of what your client’s goals are, the path to success requires aligning with the wants and preferences of their target audience. Through social media content planning, it’s much easier to consistently tailor messaging and content to suit their interests and desires. The greater the alignment between the social media strategy and the audience’s wants, the most likely they’ll take the desired action, whether that’s subscribing to a newsletter or making a purchase.

5. It boosts engagement

When content is thoughtfully planned and executed, it has a higher chance of capturing the attention and interest of the target audience. Engaging and relevant content sparks conversations, encourages likes, comments, and shares, and prompts followers to take action.

By strategically incorporating interactive elements like polls, questions, or contests into the social media calendar, SMBs can create opportunities for their audience to actively participate and engage with their brand. This doesn’t just help strengthen a brand’s relationship with it’s existing audience, it also increases its visibility online, helping more prospective customers join the online community.

Anatomy of a social media content plan: Key components

A social media content plan is more than just an outline of what to post. It has key elements that ensure the plan is effective in helping the business meet its goals. When all of these components are properly implemented, marketing magic happens.

Audience analysis and segmentation

Understanding the audience forms the bedrock of any successful social media content marketing plan. The process of audience analysis includes identifying demographic characteristics, such as age and income level, as well as interests, online behavior, and general content preferences.

Collecting this information will shape your social media strategy, setting the stage for more effective communication. But to really get the most out of audience analysis, segmentation into smaller groups based on shared characteristics can be a game-changer.

Audience segmentation allows for a more personalized approach, creating content that accurately caters to each group’s unique needs and preferences. The result of this tailored strategy is higher engagement and more conversions. Investing time in audience analysis and segmentation will lay the groundwork for a social media content plan that delivers serious results.

Clearly defined content goals

Without setting clear goals and objectives for your social media campaigns, it’s impossible to know when—or if—you’re succeeding. The goal-setting process serves as a compass, defining your client’s direction and helping them guide content creation toward their desired outcomes.

So, what might these goals be? Some common social media content marketing goals include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Generating leads
  • Growing a newsletter list
  • Driving website traffic
  • Generating more sales

The clarity gained through goal-setting helps shape the content creation process, aligning each piece of content with a specific purpose that directly supports your overarching objectives. While a business may post several types of content, such as images, videos, and infographics, across multiple social media platforms, a common goal will tie the content together. Filling out a social media post planner without a clear goal may result in an attractive and engaging social media presence, but it’s much less likely to drive concrete results.

Another important benefit of setting goals is that it gives you something to measure success against. Are you reaching your target? Great! Are you falling short of them? If so, how can your social media content planning be modified to better support those goals?

A variety of content types and formats

The selection of content types and formats you use on social media can meaningfully determine the overall impact and engagement of your posts. Content types range from images and infographics that are visually interesting or informative, text posts that provide detailed insights, and videos that are scroll-stopping and engaging, to interactive content like polls or quizzes that encourage audience participation.

The right format will align with the audience’s preferences, deliver the brand’s message effectively, and suit the specifications and culture of the platform being used. This might involve some experimentation with different content types to determine what resonates best with an audience.

Incorporating a variety of post types keeps your feed diverse and fresh and retains the element of surprise and intrigue for followers, inviting them to stay tuned for what’s next.

Strategic content themes and topics

Social media content marketing success hinges on posting content that audiences continually find compelling. You can’t keep posting variations on the same theme and expect audiences to stay engaged and interested.

By choosing a variety of themes that mirror your brand’s values and unique selling propositions, and align with your audience’s interests, you can create a consistent and captivating social media presence that never feels stale.

The different themes in your content planner should all be related to the core message of the brand while remaining distinct. For example, content themes and topics might include

  • Promotional content that showcases the business’s product or service
  • Educational content that enlightens the audiences with information about a business’s niche or industry
  • Behind-the-scenes glimpses that humanize a brand and introduce audiences to the people who make it all happen
  • User-generated content that helps customers feel appreciated and fosters community
  • Thought leadership pieces that establish the authority of the business owner in their industry

The strategic selection of themes can lead to a cohesive yet diverse and engaging social media presence that feels robust and fresh, even if there is a formula behind it. It weaves a more complete narrative of a business, inviting audiences to stay engaged.

Social media calendars and scheduling tools

Content planners are powerful tools that make it possible to put social media strategies into action.

A social media post planner serves as a strategic blueprint, providing a birds-eye view of what content will be shared, when, and on what platform. By using a calendar to plan ahead, it’s easier to stay consistent and maintain an optimal content mix of different themes, subjects, and post types. It also makes capitalizing on key dates, events, and trending topics easy.

Complementing this with advance post-scheduling is an effective way to streamline your workflow as a marketer and ensure content goes live at the best times for audience engagement.

10 Proven steps to mastering social media content planning

1. Define your target audience and personas

It’s essential to know who the target audience of a social campaign is before planning any posts. A helpful way to approach this step is to create distinct customer personas, which can be used as a north star in the content creation process. These are fictionalized characterizations of an audience or audience segment.

When creating a persona, take the time to define their interests, personality, demographic characteristics, values, and more. The more detailed and real they seem, the better.

These personas help SMBs and marketers conceptualize their audience on an easy-to-understand level, making it easier to craft posts that resonate, engage, and convert effectively.

2. Set SMART goals for your social media content

SMART goals are goals that meet a set of requirements to make them extra-useful when it comes to social media content marketing. The SMART acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Making sure your campaign goals satisfy all these criteria will set your content planning efforts up for success.

Consider what your client wants to achieve through their social media content. Then, rewrite those goals as SMART goals. Here’s an example:

  • Client goal: I want to raise brand awareness.
  • SMART goal: I want to grow my Instagram follower count by 500 this quarter.

The goal of “raising brand awareness” is common, but it’s too vague on its own. The SMART goal version of this defines which social platform is most relevant to the client’s goal, provides an achievable and measurable metric that can be tracked, is relevant to the goal, and specified to a timeline.

3. Conduct a competitive analysis

Understanding competitors’ strategies can help you avoid mistakes, find points of differentiation from others in the same niche, and spot approaches that might be worth borrowing.

Observing and analyzing the competition allows you to learn from their successes and mistakes. Conduct a thorough competitive analysis to examine what kind of content your client’s rivals are creating, which strategies they’re using, and how their audience is responding. Look for their strengths to draw inspiration and identify their weaknesses to find potential opportunities.

It’s easy to do: just head to their social profiles and scroll through to see things like how frequently they post, which posts get the most engagement, what engagement-boosting strategies they use, and any other insights you can glean. There are also third-party resellable social media solutions that include competitor analysis tools.

4. Create a content calendar and schedule posts

To stay organized when it comes to content creation and planning, the next step is to develop a comprehensive content calendar.

This calendar should include key dates such as:

  • Holidays like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas
  • Fun or jokey holidays like National Cheese Day (as long as they are somewhat relevant to the business—you don’t have to post about every quirky holiday out there)
  • Product or service launch days

Once these are in your social media calendar, you can fill out the rest with other types of posts. For example, maybe you’ll use Tuesdays to post informative and educational content, followed by more promotional content on Wednesdays. You don’t have to use the exact same structure every week, but creating a consistent mix—and building it right into your social media planner—ensures that your content will be well-balanced and varied, keeping the audience engaged.

Use a social media marketing tool that enables you to schedule posts as well. That way, once you populate the calendar with media, you’ll be able to put posting on autopilot.

5. Come up with key themes and a content mix

Creating a balanced content mix is critical to keeping audiences intrigued and invested.

Aim to strike a balance between educational content, promotional posts, user-generated content, and engagement-driving posts. Having a diverse content mix prevents your client’s feed from becoming monotonous and predictable. Deciding on a few core content themes that align with the brand identity can make a business’s social media presence more cohesive and recognizable, strengthening its brand image and online reputation.

Plus, you’ll thank yourself when it comes to creating content: when you know your key content themes, brainstorming SMB content ideas becomes much easier and more focused.

6. Optimize content for each social media platform

Each social media platform has its unique “vibe”, expectations, and audience behavior.

What works on Instagram may seem out of place and inappropriate on LinkedIn. Given these differences, it’s important to optimize social media content planning to suit the specifics of each platform.

Remember, your clients don’t have to be active on every platform. Focus on the ones where their target customer is most likely to hang out. Then, consider factors like the platform’s predominant demographics, popular content formats, and the best times for posting. By customizing your approach to content for each platform, you’ll maximize the effectiveness and reach of your posts.

7. Incorporate visual and multimedia elements

Social media is overwhelmingly visual. Even on more text-based platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, visuals can help a post get noticed.

Whether you use engaging infographics, eye-catching images, fun GIFs, or immersive short- or long-form videos, visual content is often the thing that gets us to stop scrolling and see what a post is all about.

Visual elements also make your content more digestible and compelling. It takes more commitment to read a 100-word caption than to quickly glance at a visual or watch a short clip. Building eye-catching visuals into your social media calendars is a surefire way to get your message across to audiences faster and more effectively.

8. Plan for audience engagement and interaction

Social media is a two-way conversation. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place for interacting with audiences on social platforms.

Engagement can take the form of replies, comments, likes, direct messages, and more. Staying engaged—and promoting engagement from audiences—can help businesses foster strong, active online communities that ultimately drive more sales.

If your clients don’t have the time to stay on top of this vital but time-consuming task, white-label social media management just might be your secret weapon. Pros will work under your agency’s banner to manage your clients’ accounts, ensuring that no comment goes ignored or unnoticed.

9. Monitor and analyze content performance

Measuring content performance is a non-negotiable social media guideline for understanding what resonates with the audience and what doesn’t. It’s impossible to predict this accurately 100 percent of the time, and analytics can provide unexpected and valuable insights.

Regularly monitor key performance metrics like engagement rate, reach, impressions, and conversions. By keeping a pulse on these metrics, you can create more of the type of content the audience has revealed they love.

10. Iterate and refine your content plan

Social media content planning should be flexible. As you gather data from monitoring your content’s performance, be prepared to make adjustments and refinements to your social media post planner.

Maybe a certain content format consistently outperforms others. Or perhaps your audience engagement is higher on specific days of the week. Use these insights to iterate and refine your social media planner continually. Your strategy should be an evolving asset that adapts to the audience’s preferences and the ever-changing social media environment.

Frequently asked questions

What are some common mistakes to avoid when creating a social media content plan?

Common mistakes to avoid when creating a social media content plan include not setting clear and measurable goals, failing to understand your target audience, inconsistency in posting, not diversifying content types, and neglecting engagement with your audience. Another common pitfall is ignoring analytics and not adjusting your strategy based on performance data.

How often should you update your social media content plan?

Your social media content plan should be subject to regular review and updates. Ideally, you should reassess your strategy monthly or quarterly. It’s important to stay flexible and make adjustments as needed, especially in response to significant changes in audience behavior, platform algorithms, or your business goals.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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