social media how toSo you’ve set up your social media empire using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and you’re blogging too.

But how do you make it all work together? You want to reach potential clients and establish your authority online, but what’s your plan?

This article delivers five foolproof steps to get you on your way to finding, formulating and distributing content that will get you noticed. Content could include your own blog posts or links to others people’s work posted on your social networks.

#1: Find Your Target Audience.

The first step in social media planning is largely the first step in identifying your brand—determine who you are and who your customers are.

What unique aspect of your product or service attracts your target population?

Are you a veteran business coach who works with small entrepreneurs? A grandmother and knitter who likes to teach others how to create gifts?

You’ll need to determine what your readers want to know from you, what their likes and dislikes are and where they congregate.

You’ll also need to find the right tone. The “social” in social media requires a conversational approach, but you still need to speak your clients’ language.

Be sure you know the lingo and style that your clients are comfortable with and where they talk to each other—on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs or on social bookmarking sites.

Write out a basic profile for your most common type of client or customer. How would you classify them in terms of education, hobbies, tech-savviness and time spent engaging in social networking?

#2: Solve Readers’ Most Important Problems.

Become a reporter/editor.

Sharing information on social media is essentially about becoming a reporter/editor for those who take part in your industry or your passion for your product or service. As a newspaper editor asks herself, so must you: “What do the readers really want to know?”

Most newspaper editors today have to admit that what readers want is tomorrow’s news yesterday. So be timely. Your clients have specific issues that need solving, whether they’re about your product or service or their own business struggles that you can help untangle.

Pick the right sources.

Research will be a big part of your social media planning, so make sure your sources are on the cutting edge of your topic.

You’ll also want to provide analysis to help guide your readers’ absorption of the information you provide. Most readers today—of any format—don’t feel they have the time to connect all the dots, so tell them why the information you’re sharing is relevant to them.

Do the work for them by writing on point, underscoring the impacts and keeping the content valuable. You’ll be rewarded with clients, followers and fans who trust your information and know you won’t waste their time.

Sit down now and write a list of burning questions the people you would like to have as fans and followers are asking. Later, you will conduct regular research to keep this list current. For now, the most pressing questions that are top of mind should form the initial core of the topics for your editorial plan.

#3: Decide How You’ll Fulfill the Content.

Who will regularly do the information-gathering, writing and distribution for your content? Is it you? Or maybe you have staff that can do it. Before you can determine volume and frequency, you’ll want to figure out what your business can reasonably deliver.

One thing to keep in mind: whatever schedule you set for yourself or your staff will no doubt require more time than you think, especially in the beginning. Getting started with social media content has a learning curve, so be prepared for the extra time needed to get comfortable with the process.

According to the recent 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, most business owners can maintain a very respectable social media presence in six hours a week, including research and production time.

#4: Create Your Plan.

Now it’s time to create a plan. You can use a number of different methods to help you build your content strategy.


Try mind-mapping for higher level development. If you have some themes that you would like to explore in intricate ways, mind-mapping helps you flesh out the many angles around any given idea. It can also help you plan how you would like the components of your social media plan to interact. Freemind, XMind and Mindjet are all popular mind-mapping programs.

Editorial calendar

The greatest time-saver and strategic tool in your content-planning arsenal is an editorial calendar. One option is this Google docs-based social media calendar to lay out your content by date and topic. This gives you an easy-to-follow look at the formats you use and what part of your theme you want to deliver during a given day or week:

Using an editorial calendar helps you bring clarity and purpose to your content—on a committed schedule. Never underestimate the power of a deadline!


You can also add keywords to your calendar, so you know which words you should be including in your content about a given theme. Google AdWords and Wordtracker both offer free tools to help you find the most valuable keywords for your subject.

Content cycles

A great deal of the content we respond to, whether by creating our own posts about it or directing readers to what someone else has said, happens as breaking news. As you chart your content, be sure to leave space for news from others.

Some content planners create a formula centered on blog posts: Monday for best-of lists; Tuesday for product/media reviews; Wednesday for personal experience stories; Thursday for an editorial on a controversial topic; and Friday for fun, freewheeling commentary or guest posts.

Interviews make great content as well, and because they happen less frequently, you can target individuals for monthly, bimonthly or quarterly rotation. And don’t forget about video! Share clips from the interviews you conduct or vlog your how-to article on a given week, rather than writing it. Now you’ve added YouTube as another platform to post your content.

More great content ideas are found in these Social Media Examiner articles: “5 Easy Steps to Creating Reusable Social Media” and “4 Steps to Driving Faster Sales with Social Media Content.”

#5: Schedule Your Content

To schedule your content, consider what formats you will be sending and how often. Applications such as TweetDeck, HootSuite and SocialOomph will let you simultaneously post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others.

Platforms like HootSuite allow you to schedule your tweets for future dates. When you type your post into the left-top field, you can use the calendar button to choose your release date.

But a strong word of caution here. Automating posts, when done carefully, is an effective way of pushing content when you can’t be there to do it yourself. But consider the following:

  • Twitter and Facebook both have applications that will push to the other when you post to one, so know if you have set that up.
  • Whatever Facebook RSS app you use to pull your blog posts to your profile or fan page may also be given permission to update automatically.
  • If given the proper permissions, HootSuite and TweetDeck (and others) can push content automatically, without you scheduling it, so they may also tweet a new blog post, for instance, when you’ve already done so using another app.

All of these various permissions can lead to an embarrassing loop of repeat tweets and/or Facebook status updates if you’re not careful. Consider going manual until you understand exactly which permissions you have opted into for each platform.

Quality Over Quantity

You don’t have to post every day to create an effective presence with your social media. Find the frequency that makes sense for your business and go with that. Remember, quality must always trump quantity. If you can’t maintain the quality level of your content at the rate you’re trying for, reduce the frequency until you can.

Whew! Seems a lot to do, right? Well, the beauty of content planning is that it will create its own cycle. Use responses and questions you get to one area of content to begin planning your approach to deepen understanding on a given topic or to explore another.

The single most important component to your editorial planning should be your ability to absorb new information and create valuable content from it.

What do you think?  Have you employed any of these ideas? Have a few of your own to share?  Please comment in the box below…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Get Social Media Examiner’s Future Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 480,000+ of your peers! Get our latest articles delivered to your email inbox and get the FREE Social Media Marketing Industry Report (56 pages, 90 charts)!

More info...
  • Great suggestions. While I blog and am on FB and Twitter, I have not set up automatic postings between these. Will give it some thought. Thanks.

  • billysticker

    Quality over quantity. This blog is an example of both. Great content.

    “People down plan to fail, they fail to plan.” We’ve heard it and its true. Plan it then work the plan.

  • SirScrapalot

    I have been using a calendar to plan out my blog posts for a month, and then using HootSuite to schedule posts to my fan page and twitter account. I stick to three scheduled posts a day: one for my new blog post, one linking to another relevant article from me or an outside source, and one question. I have them spaced out and reply to them as I find time.

  • Fulfilling your readers concerns is the best way to benefit from social media. If you constantly offer answers and help, they will continue to come back to you over and over. and once you have that relationship, then moving them to your blog and making them a lifelong readers, customer is a lot easier.

    Great tips.

  • I appreciate the clear, simple steps you’ve outlined. Your editorial calendar is a great template and since that is an element many people are looking for so they can plan and schedule, you’ve offered a excellent resource. Thanks and blog on!

  • Jen

    Great article! That calendar idea is fantastic for us and we will soon start using! Thanks so much!

    Quick off topic question…. Where do you get that share this post “Share the Knowledge!” social media rollover you have towards the end of the page? I have seen that on other sites to and would love to incorporate it on my site but have had no luck finding it. Would greatly appreciate the tip!
    Thanks again!

  • There are many people trying to jump into social media who don’t fully understand their audience. Many business owners who have been operating for a while will have a strong grasp of their customers, but new comers who are just starting a blog to get out there don’t really think about who their ideal customers/visitors are. They just want anyone to read their blog.

    Great to see this as Step One! It is surly a MUST!

    As for us adding content to the MyWants network. We have somewhat of an editorial calendar for the posts. Specific things for specific days as well as specific bloggers posting on certain days of the month in their niche focus. Having a calender really helps

  • Hey Jen,
    The application you are talking about is called “SexyBookmarks”

  • Emily, your article is timely for me, starting a new blog and new business focus. It’s also timely for the small business owners I work with face to face. I need a way to transition them from working with me as trainer and coach to taking responsibility for the execution of their own social media plan. What a great resource you have provided for business coaches working with small business owners. In particular, using the Google calendar option and including keywords on the calendar. Thanks for the specifics.

  • Quality blogging is a lot easier than quantity blogging, it’s easier too. The reason it’s easier is that you have to do much less quality to acheive the same results.

  • Great article! Liked the Mind Mapping and Google Editorial Calendar suggestion. I made my own calendar, but this one looks better.

  • kaziam

    I agree with Angie. The mind mapping and google editorial calendar suggestions are awesome! Know what I’ll be doing with my afternoon.

  • Cat

    Thank God! I have been creating that template (or a version of it at least) for my social media clients for months but could never get it quite right. Thank you – Genius!

  • I love #4 – creating the plan. Good intentions + the right tools = Execution! Thanks for the great suggestions!

  • Devin Kani

    Hi Emily,

    I really liked your post, and I agree with your philosophy. I think the more people think about the implementation of their social media plans, the better focused they can be in the midst of their campaign.

    I want to add another option for a social media editorial calendar, which I think would fit what you have said well. The company I work for, Social Agency, makes a great social media campaign manager called Spredfast, which has a social media calendar (we call it Events) built-in, so you can plan posts in advance and see them in calendar form. It’s also color-coded by what step of the writing process you’re in: whether it is just scheduled (needs content), written (draft), or approved (ready/published). You can even assign posts to different people involved in your initiative. And like many others, you can automate posting to the various social media channels. We really think the ability to plan and see things in a calendar format within our social media management system helps us plan our content. I’d love to know what you think of our implementation.


  • Excellent post Emily!

    Thanks for reminding people about the use of automatic double-ups of posts and content from apps like HootSuite and Tweetdeck. To be honest, I get tired of receiving the same posts from companies through Twitter and Facebook. Even though it’s great from a management point of view, from a customer perspective it does show a lack of originality sometimes.

  • Easily the best and most comprehensive “how to” I’ve seen to date on how to bring together all the elements of a basic social media plan. I’d love to see an article like this on using bookmarking as part of a larger plan. That’s an area we haven’t ventured into yet, simply because of time constraints.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this! We’ll be sharing it on our members’ only Support Forum!

    Michelle Quillin for New England Multimedia

  • Marty Stanley

    This is great. I have a summer intern working with me who just graduated with a degree in PR and advertising. This is a great tool for her to help me launch a more purposeful social media strategy. Thanks!
    Marty Stanley

  • Thanks for this article. I found it very useful. I can relate to the planning and scheduling sections because I love to plan everything. I will defiantly check out the tools mentioned in the keywords section. One thing I will remind myself throughout this internship is quality over quantity. I know that at times there is pressure to produce more, but content is key to get your message across. No matter how much you produce, if you don’t get your message across then your goal has not been met.

    -CKR Interactive Intern

  • Great article Emily! Quality over Quantity is definitely the best point you made

  • Daniel

    This is a great point. Its funny it reminds me of the recent episode of the show “THE OFFICE” where Ryan makes a site called woof. When he woofs his computer goes crazy because the woof is sent to every social networking site. He also gets a phone call from it.

  • Love it – as always!

  • I particularly liked the caution about auto posting from social media sites. I have had one of my blog posts posted several times on Facebook simply because I didn’t realize I had it set up from to post to Facebook from several different places. This interlinking of these social sites can be a maze. So your advice to start manually and add one at a time is worth heading.

  • Great post, I’m sharing this with everyone who can benefit from these easy to follow guidelines.

  • Delicious

    Quality article, will definitely share this with colleagues!

  • Thanks, Delaney! Those automated options are super handy, until they start stepping on each other’s toes!

  • Thanks, Billy! Glad you liked.

  • Sounds like you’ve got a great, well-organized plan there! Good work. Have you found that readers respond to a certain kind of content over others?

  • Thanks, John. Very true and well said!

  • Thanks, Denise! I’m a big fan of the excellent information you consistently provide and I appreciate your feedback.

  • Thanks, Jen! I think you’ll enjoy the strategy and control the calendar gives you. I love those “SexyBookMarks” too!

  • Thanks, Kelsi!

  • Emily, I have many small business owners in my classes who have trouble just taking that first step. Do you have any recommendations for where I should focus them to get started? Something very simple where they can likely see some results and then expand?
    Love the calendar stuff and cautions for scheduling. Thanks.

  • Thanks, Kelsi! It’s true–as tempting as throwing content at your readers to see what will stick can be when you’re new to social media, you don’t have to–and shouldn’t–fly blind. Ideally, a business’ social media is part of a larger marketing plan that knows who it’s targeting. If it doesn’t, taking the time back at the drawing board will save a lot of time, energy and resources. Fine-tuning can be done along the way via polls and a host of other metrics.

  • Thanks for your great feedback, Kate! I’m glad to hear that you got some hand-on help from this piece. Hopefully it will give your clients the confidence to fly on their own!

  • Thanks, Angie! Glad it was helpful.

  • Great, Kazia! Sometimes the planning is as much fun as producing the content!

  • SirScrapalot

    Actually, yeah…there are definitely certain types of posts or series that I do that my readers respond to more. In fact, I often find that it’s not the ones that I think they’ll respond too.

  • I know exactly what you mean, Cat! I struggled with my own too and can’t take credit for this template, which I happily discovered on Google. It’s easy to program, with no annoying bells and whistles, and was posted by a Google user named Vaughn Parker.

  • Excellent! Glad you found it useful.

  • Thanks, Devin! The manager sounds interesting and I’ll check it out.

  • I appreciate your feedback, Jason! I’m so with you. Though many marketers have success with strategic repeats, it’s often hard to tell if the repetition is strategic or due to an automated burp! I’m not a fan, personally, and feel mortified when I accidentally do it to my readers.

  • Thanks, Michelle! That is high praise indeed. I’m so glad you found the piece helpful. Thanks, also, for sharing this information with others. I think many of us could use more information on bookmarking as a strategic tool, and I’m nosing around in that direction too.

  • Thanks, Marty! Good luck with your summer’s work.

  • Thanks for your comments, Kimberly. You are so right that the speed of social media can make us all feel like we need to be content-producing machines. Certainly, steady output is important, but I think users are still feeling their way through what is a realistic volume for significant returns. Ultimately, of course, that question comes down to what the producer can comfortably manage. For each of us, though, putting thought and enjoyment into the process is key and when we start to lose either of those elements, it’s time to slow down!

  • Thanks for your feedback, Briana!

  • Thanks, Toni!

  • Thanks so much, Jacqueline. For those of us who’ve had the embarrassment of double or triple posts, we’ve learned the lesson the hard way, right?

  • Excellent, Sue! Thanks.

  • Wonderful, Delicious. Thank you!

  • Great question! I remember I was nervous about the first time I tweeted and my first blog post, so I know how your business owners feel. I personally think blogging is a great first step. Having to sit down and develop a long-form idea is a great exercise and a confidence builder too. Whether or not people comment on the post, it feels great to share something of yourself and your expertise in that way. Plus, your blog (especially if it IS your site) is the center of your social media operations. Best to start building it out as soon as possible. Thanks!

  • Thanks Emily. For those without a blog (or even a web site), I’ve been trying to get them started with LinkedIn or a Facebook Fan page, something I can use to link to them in my blog:-)

  • Great useful article, Emily. Although I KNOW I should be planning it I don’t do it myself. I will make a point to take note and really give this a go.

    Thank you.

  • Mindmaps are fantastic and I had not thought about using it for a new project I am planning! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  • Well thought out and delivered article. Identifying the audience and solving problems is a good reminder for me. Maintaining the research and writing of content however, does feel overwhelming at times.

  • Those are both good approaches. LinkedIn offers a kind of pre-fab universe of connectedness too, where people can practice sharing their expertise by asking and answering questions. There’s great infomation on that subject (and more atricles about LinkedIn) here at SME:

  • Awesome, Heike! It does take some discipline to get started but gets easier as you go.

  • Excellent, Pat! Mindmaps are indeed amazing tools for any and all kinds of projects.

  • Thanks, Chip. I totally agree–sometimes it does feel overwhelming, and we will all have varying cycles with our content output. For those of us business owners who are doing it all themselves, it’s hard to run the business, do the work AND create content about what we do. I’m a firm believe in bite-size chunks, though. Program your calendar modestly to start and increase as your comfort level with the platforms AND your number of resources for information increases. You can also look for ways to aggregate those sources into quicker reads. I’m a massive fan of Google Reader!

  • great post – love the idea of an organized calendar. We do have some automation but I use a spreadsheet to make sure we are not double posting. That can get so annoying! Thanks for the tips!

  • Hey Emily,

    Great post, especially the calendering it out. How do you usually fill it out? I do some similar things but I love the calendar idea. Awesome!

  • I’m definitely eager to try the mind mapping. While looking at Google Adwords I also decided to sign up for Google Analytics and insalled the script on our website. Thank you!

  • debbiehemley

    Hi Emily,
    I read lots of blog posts about social media and have found this to be one of the most informative and original pieces I’ve come across in a long time. Looking forward to reading more!

    Debbie Hemley

  • Glad the article helped, Kristina! Having to track duplicates by spreadsheet would be a headache, and I admire your determination! Hopefully those days will soon be over!

  • Thanks, Eric.There’s a ton of flexibility with this template. If you’re working off a weekly theme tied to a larger campaign, that can help guide the content for each platform. If social media is the main part of your marketing, consider themes around the projects you’re already working on. Then program each day with content ideas for the various platforms. Placing keywords in the calendar can be a great way to remind yourself what your target is for each post.

  • Excellent, Mentorlynx! Thanks for your feedback!

  • Thanks so much, Debbie! I appreciate the feedback and I’m so glad the information is useful to you!

  • I love those kinds of surprises!

  • Cheryl

    Hi Emily,
    This is an excellent article as your steps and tips help people understand and organize this social media world that can feel like an untamed, overwhelming jungle. Thanks for the tip about Google’s Social Media Calendar. I’ll be using it and sharing it with my clients as well.
    Cheryl McLaughlin

  • Thank you very much, Cheryl. That was exactly the hoped-for outcome, as I think we all feel a little overhwhelmed by it at times and feel pressure to empire-build overnight. Approaching in manageable steps with reasonable expectations can refocus what social media is for each of us–a part of an ongoing process.

  • Another great article! I think #4 is the most valuable bit though – having a plan will help you stay on track and on point!

  • Bruce Bixler

    I liked all five of your ideas. I will have to look into Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Socialoomph. I am just starting to look into Social Media Managing.

    Thank You.

  • Thanks for your comment, Stacy. And don’t be afraid to change your plan! We are all learning as we go and as social media changes before our eyes, so being flexible is key.

  • Thanks, Bruce! There are so many great tools to explore. I suggest trying several, along with their mobile versions, to see which one you consistently go to.

  • Guest

    Great Article! I am in the process of building my social media presence and this article really helps to steer me in the right direction. Thanks for posting this, it really helps a lot.

  • Laurademeo

    Emily, this is a great, well thought out article. Thanks for providing resources as well. This was very helpful, thank you. Laura

  • Great, simple yet understandable, determining your social media through step by step process can make the users to be more interested.

  • Pingback: Social Media and a Winning Plan « Media in the Social()

  • Kidando

    Great Post

  • Pingback: 7 Must-Have Tools for Small Business Owners :A Touch of Business Blog()

  • This is an excellent article! Social Media can become overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Thank you for putting this information in a direct, step by step user friendly way! 

  • I am a stained glass artist who has been working today at putting together a Social Media Plan.  This article and others on the site have been very valuable to me.  I especially want to be able to systematize efforts and measure results.  Thanks for the tips.

  • Have a look at,
    it’s new mind mapping software with features to help your mind mapping better for
    project management and solving problems !!

  • Alessandra Ceresa

    Hey! I saw your comment, and wanted to share with you a recent blog post on establishing the foundation for a winning social media strategy. Although many of the same concepts are present as in this post, you might find this helpful. You can find it here:

  • Chari of CIC

    Great tips and suggestions! I really need to discipline myself concerning my social media plan. I am a bit addicted! Pray for me! lol


  • Thanks! The editorial calendar is going to be especially helpful. 

  • Pingback: social media plan - ONLINE TRENDS – ONLINE TRENDS()

  • Pingback: A strategy of Social Media Implementation within organizations « sultanalbalwy()

  • Pingback: 7 Must-Read Social Media Articles | Weekend reading list – Week 26 – 2010()

  • Pingback: 8 Must-Read Social Media Articles | Weekend reading list – Week 27 – 2010()

  • Pingback: Creating a social media plan | Rebecca Vaughan Communications()

  • Pingback: Steps For a Successful Social Media Strategy | Digital Wizard()

  • Pingback: Outsourcing Your Socia Media Does’nt Have To Be All or Nothing()

  • Pingback: Tips For Creating A Good Social Media Plan (for Museums) « The Digital Frontier()

  • Jason Melo Hall

    Almost forgot about using the tools like the calendar and HootSuite, thanks for the article! 

  • Pingback: Is your Social Media Marketing ready for 2012? | Social Media Marketing Company | Training, Consultant, Services()

  • betsy & iya

    I have had my micro business for almost 4 years and I’m just now getting into putting structure to everything that already exists.  This is so helpful. Thank you!

  • Very in depth article.  Thanks for the Google doc’s calendar.

  • Does anyone know of any other free online calendar planning tools for social media? I love the look of Spredfasts tools, but you can’t find out costs without going through a whole sales pitch. This gives me the impression that pricing will be prohibitive for small business. Any other suggestions welcome!

  • Ponching_me

    Very helpful and practical! Thank you!

  • Pingback: 5 Easy Steps to a Winning Social Media Plan | Social Media Examiner « Electronic Communication @ NDSU()