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How to Build an Efficient Social Media Approval Process

When we officially upgraded our approval workflow possibilities in the Planable app, I thought it was a good time to tackle this topic. Review and approval processes are not a sexy topic, except for organizational geeks like me. People tend to focus on innovation, creativity, and strategic thinking. Which I agree with — it’s just that unclear processes usually get in the way of that. And a solid social media approval process is the foundation of great content teams. It simplifies and empowers collaboration. It helps involve more people with various points of view, backgrounds, product knowledge, and audience insights.

We’re here to discuss two things: why you could benefit from a social media approval process and how you can make that easy and actually enjoyable.

So let’s break down the steps of creating an efficient social media content approval process and talk about its direct impact on your team’s results.

Who actually needs a social media approval process

In my experience, many more teams than we’d imagine need approval processes. I could point out that everyone needs a social media approval process. That even a one-person team reviews their own work. But as much as I love collaboration, I’m not a fan of far-fetched arguments.

As a rule of thumb, the bigger the team, the bigger the need for a clear and multi-leveled approval process. There’s a more granular way to assess this by answering the following questions. “Yes” to any of the questions means you need an approval process. “No” to all questions means you can skip it.

  1. Do you publish content regularly? Meaning: not sporadically whenever something post-worthy happens.
  2. Is there more than one person involved in creating and scheduling content? Meaning: do you have someone on the frontline who sends you assets like photography, news articles, or quotes?
  3. Is there someone else approving your posts besides yourself?
  4. Does anyone else pitch social content to be published? Like content about the company from the branding team or new job openings from the HR department.
  5. Are there team members who localize social content and post it with audience targetting?
  6. Do you manage more than one brand and have at least two stakeholders?
  7. Does pushing the publish button give you anxiety?

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For bigger teams, the social media approval process is a must. Yes, “we trust each other”, but we still review our work.

As a general rule, our industry has to internalize that reviewing and approving content are important. They are not about control. Nor are they about a lack of trust. They help because more brains add up to better results, more pairs of eyes add up to flawless content, and more types of expertise add up to progress.

We’re all guilty of trying to avoid the approval process sometimes because we want to get things done faster, check that task off our list or publish that post we’re psyched about. It’s only normal that tedious processes make us want to escape rather than embrace collaboration.

This isn’t really valid anymore, though. If you still need a meeting, a phone call, or a thread of emails to collaborate on content, you could save valuable time by using the right social media management tools for you.

screenshot of the planable app where social media experts collaborate and approve content for facebook

example of social media approval and collaboration for a Facebook post in Planable

Think social media approval tools that empower collaboration for today’s day and age. With live previews, real-time collaboration, comments, approvals, and everything you need to streamline your social media approval process.

Our Content Industry Report shows that 45% of the marketers surveyed are losing 5.4 days on creating over five pieces of content per week.

If you’re creating at least 3 posts per week, you’re losing up to 3 days to create, review, and approve, plus the time it takes to publish content. This isn’t scalable. A social media content approval process will boost your team’s efficiency, make your life easier whether you create content for a single or multiple social media channels.

Just imagine how many extra pieces of quality content you can create with this much free time on your hands.

Let’s put it this way, inefficient approval processes look like this:

  1. Create content for social in your spreadsheet
  2. Add in the copy and visual (optional: reach out to your graphic designers or video editors if you need anything special)
  3. Send your manager the weekly/monthly content spreadsheet
  4. Gather feedback from your manager(s) via email, chat, or in the spreadsheet
  5. Implement the feedback
  6. Check again if it’s good now
  7. Get final approval from your manager
  8. Send the post drat to all the other stakeholders
  9. Receive feedback from the same few who always reply
  10. Wait a bit longer before sending a kind reminder
  11. Schedule the post without a final green light.

Describing this process alone exhausted me. It’s daunting for any social media manager. But it can look so much better and cleaner. So let’s explore what an efficient social media approval process could look like.

What does an ideal social media approval process look like?

Using multiple channels to get social media approvals is a no-go.

Now that you’ve left dozens of chats and emails behind, it’s time to focus on the backbone of crafting the ideal content approval process.

It’s really just a matter of who, where, and how.

The second myth I want to debunk about social media processes is that you must be selective with the people you involve. That’s not only false but also damaging.

Every person you involve can add a bit of value to the content you produce. Take, for example, the HR team. They might not be the closest friends of marketers, but they can have content ideas that would help with employee branding or recruiting.

example of the approval layers for a Facebook post in Planable

Who should be involved in your approval process?

Before outlining your approval process, you should think about who should be involved in it. At this point it’s very tempting to quickly list the people who actively give you feedback now.

Try to avoid that shortcut and really think about who could provide any added value to what you’re doing. Think about it like this: people who are directly involved in content creation and people in the second line of approval:

Directly involved

Who is directly involved in content creation and also reviews content? It’s usually the higher-ups: the Team Manager, the Brand Manager, Marketing Consultant, or Account Manager.

In smaller teams, it can be the Head of Marketing or CEO. This category often sees content after it’s been proofread by the person who created it. Social media processes differ from team to team, so this is a case-by-case kind of thing.

Second line of approval

This second line usually comprises people who should see content once it’s polished, checked, typo-free, and almost ready to go. That’s either because they’re very high-up or because their feedback is only relevant if the content is 100% done.

Think of legal. A few tweaks in the copy can fully change their feedback. Involving them in the process too soon would waste their time and make their feedback irrelevant.

Most often, the people involved in the second line of social media approval are the client if you’re an agency or the internal stakeholders if you’re in-house. Upper management, product managers, or line of business stakeholders. It should look something like this:

Don’t be afraid to include every team member.

It’s ok to have a few people whose approval is only needed every now and then. You can have more layers to your social media approval workflow, so feel free to go crazy when mapping your team out.

Although literally everyone is involved in the social media approval process, nobody will feel the pressure of deadlines, missed feedback, or  ‘oops, I did it again’ posts. With a content approval and content review process, nothing gets lost in translation.

Having your team members, stakeholders, clients, or whoever you can think of in the process will not only save your time but will help you really focus on the quality of every piece of content. Every epic piece of content.

How to build your social media approval workflow?

Who is involved in the approval workflow? Who is in charge of creating posts? Who should review the content internally? Here are just a few questions to kick-start your brainstorming. Grab a pen and paper and start writing these down while you’re at it. At least that’s what I’d do.

Your approval workflow is the path your content walks down before going live. From ideation to creation, review and approval, to publishing. Mapping out your social media approval process should include:

1. Steps

Start by pinpointing the steps each piece of content has to go through before going live:

  • ideation
  • copywriting
  • design
  • review
  • approval
  • publication

Each content journey can look slightly different, so feel free to make them your own. Also, some of them should include intermediary steps.

Reviewing, for example, is probably a matter of proofreading, checking the design, timeline audit, and so on. Break them into smaller steps to ensure nothing is left out.

2. People

Now grab the people you’ve mapped out earlier and assign them to each step. Who’s involved when and why?

Let’s take graphic designers, for example. They can’t do anything without a brief or guidelines from the Social Media Manager.

Or take the Social Media Director, who can’t review the content without knowing the social media strategy and idea behind it. Be sure that the people involved match the steps of the social media approval process.

3. Go-sign

You’re almost done!

All you have to do now is just make sure it’s clear how the social content travels from one step to the next. What’s the go-sign for each? Basically, you have to avoid situations in which content is delayed because of multiple people due to a lack of clarity.

The goal is to build a seamless social media process, so don’t skip this part. No matter how “d’ooh” it might feel.

Think about whose approval is required and whose is optional.

Think about boxes rather than people. You can have multiple stakeholders on the same level from which you need only one approval.

If you want to build a seamless content marketing workflow, enroll in our free academy. It’s got 20 experts from all over sharing their best insights on social media marketing.

As to where your marketing approval process should happen, this is an important one. The right environment can make managing and approving easy.

A social media approval tool has the power to give you flexibility and efficiency at the same time. And that’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it?

Build the perfect social media approval process with Planable

Planable is great. How humble can one be?

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In all seriousness, if there’s one thing we really do great, that’s social media collaboration processes. We’ve built this tool with teams in mind. It’s not an add-on, it’s not a feature, it’s an entire tool built for the sole sake of making social media approval and collaboration seamless.

When it comes to approvals, we’ve just upgraded the way we facilitate them. We’ve redesigned it to make it suitable for any kind of team or setup. We now offer four different set-ups for approvals:

Approval type #1: None

This one is for the one-man shows. And I know I just ranted about how you should never ever not have an approval process. I stand by it. But we welcome any process on our platform. So I stand by that too.

The “None” option makes it easy for those who don’t have approval processes to navigate our platform by switching the option off and keeping a minimalistic look.

Approval type #2: Optional

This is for the open social media approval workflow. It’s suitable for teams and Social Media Managers who love to invite people in but don’t want to impose approvals.

You can have dedicated approvers in your workflow, but if they don’t get the chance to approve content in time, you have the flexibility to push the content live.

Approval type #3: Required

For safety and security, the required option means that no one can hit that publishing button until one of the approvers has given their OK.

Once the stakeholders approve the post drafts, scheduling content is automatic. This option helps agencies keep a trust-based and safe-centered relationship with their clients.

Approval type #4: Multi-level

Or what I like to call it, the golden one. This has been making our customers happy The multi-level approval process means you can set up multiple approval layers and add stakeholders in each layer.

You can have more than one stakeholder per level, meaning any one approval will move the status of the post forward, making your life easier.

the four types of approval processes Planable offers: None, Optional, Required and Multi-level

Planable is a social media approval tool that facilitates approvals in many more ways than adjusting to each workflow. We ensure safety, efficient collaboration, and visibility.

Safety or the holiness of a social media approval structure

An ideal approval workflow doesn’t only have to be well-structured. It also has to be safe.

The entire idea is to take the pressure off your team’s shoulders to check everything dozens of times and leave the worrying to the social media approval tools you’re using.

Because humans are amazing, but they make mistakes. Flawlessness is not our species’ strongest point.

Safety means transparency, and transparency means trust. Having an overview of the version history of the post, permissions and approvals leaves no space for questions like ‘Who did this?’ or ‘Has the client seen my post?’

  • Version control. One of the great things about our tool is that we save each and every version of your post for you. And the details surrounding each action regarding the post. For each piece of content created in Planable, you can see a log like this one:
social media post activity history in planable app

That creates accountability and removes the “whodunnit” discussions. Also, it once again saves time as you can restore any previous version of the post if you changed your mind or made a mistake.

  • Permissions. To avoid any accidental publishing or edits, you have full control over the level of access your marketing team has in your workspace. You can grant approval access only to the ones involved in your review workflow and avoid unintended greenlights.

social media content approval process permissions planable users

  • Locking content. This third better-safe-than-sorry feature allows you to prevent further edits of your posts after they have been approved. After the copy and image of a certain post get the final get-go, it only makes sense to lock the post in its current form.

social media content approval process lock content planable

Want to see how we stack up against the competition? Check out why Planable is the best free Sprout Social alternative!

Efficient collaboration or how to scale marketing efforts with social media approval process

Ensured safety helps in itself by making it all efficient.

But social teams have a lot more time wasters than quadruple-checking everything. One major time-waster is scattered communication. Discussing posts on emails, chats, phone calls, meetings, and extra columns in your excels is… you guessed it, inefficient.

  • Comments. In our platform, your entire social media team can discuss posts in context, right next to those posts. This means there’s no need to explain what you’re talking about or to reference the row and column in your spreadsheet. Our commenting feature allows for everything you’d hope for — tagging people, attaching files, creating threads, and resolving comments.
  • Internal notes & posts. Because not everybody should see everything, we allow for internal conversations as well. You can tag your workspace members as “team” or “client”, which will allow you to have internal posts and notes hidden from the client’s or stakeholder’s sight.
  • Request approval. Consider this feature the “Buzz” or “Nudge” of today’s age. Basically, if a team member or stakeholder forgets to give you that approval, you can “Poke” them through this feature.

Visibility or how to say goodbye to social media posts templates

This is the true gem at the heart of Planable.

We love showing marketers just how beautiful their content will be once it’s live. And we show them in all sorts of ways and scenarios. With 100% accuracy.

Why so obsessed with this, you ask?

Firstly because we wanted to make a tool for design-geeks like us. We wanted each and every detail-obsessed perfectionist to feel at home in Planable.

Secondly, accuracy matters, and being labeled as unprofessional is not great.

Lastly, we’re tired of seeing conversations based on imagination. People have to be on the same page about what the content will look like in the end. Not sketches, not print screens, not photoshopped mockups.

  • Live previews. We have a beautiful feed view that allows users to simply scroll through content as they would in the native platform. We made it a mission to avoid any unnecessary extra clicks. There’s no “preview” button in Planable. Because everything is a preview.
  • WYSIWYG. Not only can you see exactly what your content will look like when you’re reviewing it, but you can preview it while creating it. Copied a link? The thumbnail is generated in seconds. Added a video? You can play it. Absolutely any change you make, you make it while seeing how it will look like in the end.
  • Calendar view. This is about visibility across your social media accounts and campaigns. Our social media calendar offers the chance to simply see everything at a glance. Distribution, balance, and strategic times. And if something’s off, the dragging & dropping feature makes it easy to rearrange content.
  • Grid view. Instagram is special, and we love it for that. This is why it needs its own view to ensure that your entire grid looks as beautiful as the feed. And exactly as above, if something’s off, you can play with your posts by dragging & dropping them.
  • Direct publishing. Talking of Instagram, publishing on the most visual platform can be painful if you have to do it manually. Or via push notifications in the middle of the night. On your phone. While you sleep. Because that’s when your audience is the most engaging. This is why Planable has direct publishing features no matter what your favorite social media platform is. Instagram included. Say goodbye to using your mobile phone for publishing. Start enjoying your life again. The way you deserve.

That’s that.

I sincerely hope that if I’ve managed to get you this far in my article, at least I convinced you to design and apply an approval workflow in your team.

Miruna Dragomir
Miruna Dragomir

Miruna Dragomir, Marketing Manager @Planable. Social media fanatic, tech geek & a sucker for learning. Past experience? Social Media Comms Manager @Oracle & Marketing Coordinator @Uber

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