I usually start these articles by poking fun at the very field I’m working in. This time, though, I’m going to level with you – social media mistakes happen. You know it, and I know it. The higher the number of platforms and people managing them, the bigger the chance of errors occurring.
But they don’t have to. The key to preventing any publishing errors or copy disasters is setting up the best social media workflow. This article will explain what a social media workflow is, what it entails, and what steps you need to take to apply it effectively. I promise that by the end of this article, those “accidental” tweets sent out from your employer’s account about your roommates’ cousin fledgling indie folk band will be a thing of the past.
What exactly does a “social media workflow” entail?
In short, a social media workflow is a process (or methodology, if you want to get really fancy) teams use to manage campaigns, from their inception all the way to the final stages. This includes setting up social media management pricing, planning, creating mockups, launching, and measuring marketing efforts on social media platforms.
In other words, every piece of brand content you see on social media has had tens of tours of labour poured into them across multiple departments – from creative to technical to legal. And that’s just one, simple facet of the whole process – there’s more to it than this.
Benefits of having a social media workflow
Now you might be asking yourself: sure, social media workflows are useful, but why would anyone over-bureaucratize an inherently creative process such as content creation?
Yes, it’s true. It should be all about creative, but let’s face it, it’s most often not. And that’s because all the creative and strategic marketers get stuck and bored by the spreadsheets, the copy-pasting, and the chaotic processes. The whole idea of setting up a social media workflow is that it’ll save you the time and headspace to get back to what you enjoy doing: social media.
So here are some of the benefits of having a clearly-defined content workflow:
Identify what works, what doesn’t and improve on those areas
Having a social media content workflow in place makes examining your process and figuring out the logistical hiccups a whole lot easier.
Your team works efficiently
Here’s an example: say you need a visual for a piece of content, and you ask Bob from graphic design or whatever to whip up a quick visual in Photoshop. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Wrong. Here’s how it should have happened:
you need a visual, like you always do for your posts -> you notify Bob, the designer, that it’s time for visuals -> Bob looks into his magic templates & assets folder -> if there’s something available, he adapts it to the specificities of your piece of content -> if not, well, it’s time for Bob’s magic mind to whip up a cool design, Bob’s your uncle, etc. (sorry for that).
Avoid errors and big picture mistakes
Social media is all about being in the moment, which, naturally, increases the risk of mistakes, “For us, it would be staying on balance[sic] between being ahead of the trend and providing valuable posts for our followers – at the same time. You’ve seen it happen: brands that capsized overnight because of a social media backlash. That’s a sure way to harm your team’s morale and overall well being.
How you deliver that is a matter of process and strategy. Our challenge is always to deliver things that matter, things that people want to hear.” according to Katy Roberts, founder of Fresh Brew Marketing.
When tight deadlines are involved, that in-depth proofreading we all aspire to do is replaced with skim-reading. We’ve all been there.
A clearly defined social media workflow process gives your team enough breathing space to proofread each piece of content, as well as some wiggle room to deal with unexpected surprises.
What should be included in my social media workflow?
Now that we’ve established the hows and the whys, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of social media workflows and talk specifics. Buckle up, ‘cause we got a lot to talk about:
First things first: define roles and responsibilities in your creative team
If this first step seems simple at first glance, I don’t blame you.
But don’t let its deceptive simplicity fool you. This process is so much more than, say, designating one person to create content and another to post it.
On a very basic level, you should establish each step of the process and who’s responsible for it:
- Creates and schedules social media content
- Edits content to maintain quality and editorial standards
- Approves and publishes content
So here’s how your team layout should look like according to the social media marketing workflow school of thought:
- Content creators. Pretty self-explanatory. They should be the first line in the approval process.
- Social media content creators. Not the same as the above. They should be responsible for researching new content ideas, setting up content calendars, and identifying gaps in them.
- Designers and video editors. Designers design, video editors edit. In an ideal scenario, they should collaborate directly with the content creators.
- Content editors. Often, the unsung heroes of social media teams. Content editors are the “brand gatekeepers” who make sure that the content is error-free and on-brand.
- Social media manager. Makes sure everything is on track, outlines and manages the workflow calendar. In some organizations, a social media manager might also approve content and ensure that it’s ready to go live.
If you want to see how the ideal social media team looks like – stakeholders included – check this Planable guide on marketing roles.
Outline a social media strategy
Now comes the tricky part: outlining your social media strategy – and, by extension, your content strategy overall. Thankfully, that’s what a social media workflow is all about.
The simplest way to go about this is by structuring it as a series of questions. So, let’s get into it:
What’s the ideal posting frequency?
It depends on the platform and audience:
- Facebook. Best practices recommend no more than three posts per week, especially for pages with smaller followings. According to Hubspot, pages under 10,000 followers that posted more than once per day experienced a 50% (FIFTY!) drop in engagement per post.
- Twitter is a tricky beast because it is designed with the economy of language in mind (hence the character limit). Five tweets per day are the consensus, but you can get away with 20.
- Instagram. The key here is to be consistent if you want to increase your followers and retain engagement – so avoid dumping a truckload of posts in quick succession or disappearing for weeks. Best case scenario: 3 posts per week.
In terms of what to post, Tabitha Naylor recommends a three-step approach:
- Sit down and figure out how many days per week you want to post and what days.
- Identify which platforms you want to post on.
- Create themes for each day you want to post.
Continuing on the same idea, Rebekah Radice, CMO and Co-founder at BRIL.LA, says about social media strategy: “To do well on social media and get your fans and followers interested, you’re going to need to create and share a mix of different content. Let’s use a fishing analogy: The two type [sic] of content you should be sharing are chum and baited hooks.”
Are posting guidelines really that necessary?
What your social media guidelines should include is a discussion for another article. But on a very basic level, it should contain:
- Official accounts
- Disclosure and transparency policies
- Privacy policies
- Do’s and don’ts
- Helpful resources and brand-appropriate assets
Social media teams should make sure to triple-check if the content is in line with the guidelines – things like hashtag and emoji policies, tone, message, and so on and so forth.
Other things to consider:
- How often should you create/update your content calendar? On a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis?
- What’s the MO when it comes to spontaneous content? Say, when an unexpected event happens, and you want to address it on social media? Do you have any templates or guidelines?
- Who needs to approve what type of content?
- How much time should each step take?
Let’s define the steps included in your social media workflow
Here comes the tricky part… Wait, I already said that…
Here comes the uhm, exciting part: outlining and establishing the process behind your social media workflow. Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as you might think – and it pays off in the long term in terms of social media management.
Oh, I almost forgot: in case you haven’t noticed, we have this little tool that helps teams plan, schedule, and collaborate on their social media content. It’s called Planable. Because it helps you plan stuff. Hence the name…
So, here’s what’s going to happen in this section: each step will be accompanied by a (short) addendum explaining how Planable can help you accomplish it swiftly and hassle-free.
For an in-depth explanation of these features, feel free to skip to the next section.
Before getting into things, please keep in mind that what follows is not set in stone, rather a template that you can expand upon. Finding the best social media marketing workflow comes down to identifying your team’s specificities and quirks and working around them.
With that being said, here’s a step-by-step social media workflow.
Brainstorming – flexing the muscle
There are many ways you can go about this – it mainly depends on your team’s composition and chemistry. There are also a plethora of equally viable brainstorming strategies, like reviewing your top-performing content, investigating trending hashtags, and so on and so forth.
But let’s assume, for the sake of simplicity, that you got your brainstorming strategy all figured out. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is the workflow itself *, which should look something like this (please excuse my crude schematic):
Social media team brainstorms content ideas -> Copywriter creates posts –> Designer takes a look at the posts and creates visuals –> Manager steps in and gives feedback –> [DISASTER SCENARIO: copywriter realizes that the manager didn’t understand how the post is going to look like / offered feedback for the wrong post ]-> Posts are passed over to stakeholders, brand, PR, legal, etc. to make sure everything’s kosher.
Here’s how Planable can make your brainstorming session go smoother:
- A shared workspace where teams can share and collaborate on posts.
- Posts can be made visible to the core team at first and hidden for stakeholders while in draft mode.
Drafting and adding the finishing touches
The next step is drafting your posts*. This is both the most fun and frustrating part of content creation. Mainly because this is when one sometimes realizes that that fantastic idea they had in the middle of the night was not so awesome after all. Happens to the best of us.
Again, there are many ways to go about this, so here’s a rough guide that you can expand on according to your needs:
1. Research. Figure out your target audience and their needs, and develop your content with this in mind.
2. Speak their language. For this to work, you need to find out your demographic. Is your audience composed of millennials? Zoomers who know all the memes before they’re even created?
3. Develop your voice. This is the trickiest part – you have to speak your audience’s language but using your own unique voice.
4. Use images and videos. Two lines of text are not gonna cut it, not in this day and age. Make sure to spice up your copy with compelling visuals and perfectly edited videos.
Optimize your images according to the platform. Remember that size and dimensions matter. Use social media meta tags to make sure they always appear as you want them to even when your followers start sharing them on their feeds.
5. Always add a call to action. Without this, you might as well not have posted. Engage with your audience. Encourage them to interact with your brand, direct them to a landing page, anything to make them go beyond just passively reading your post and moving on with their lives.
Now that you got your clever and witty copy and visuals done and ready to go, it’s time to add the finishing touches. And by “finishing touches,” I mean all the fail-safe stuff that everybody pretends to enjoy doing:
- Doublechecking your copy for any typos and errors.
- Doing another round of fact-checking – reevaluate all the sources you’ve used. There’s nothing more embarrassing than releasing content into the wild to find out it was based on bogus information.
- Even if your content is technically ready to go, try drafting two or three alternative versions of your copy. Better yet, invite your whole team to join. In this day and age, every syllable counts – one redundant word can mean the difference between capturing someone’s attention and them moving on to the next big thing.
Did you know…
- Planable’s shared workspace helps social media teams draft and collaborate on posts in real-time.
- You can attach notes to posts in draft mode where you leave alternative copy ideas or even attach alternative visuals.
- Planable is all real-time so if you find a typo, you correct it and everyone invited will see the new and improved version.
Don’t forget about feedback and approval
Congratulations! The copy’s ready, the visuals are all drawn together, now it’s time to hit that post bu–––
Aren’t you forgetting something?
I’m talking about feedback*, of course. Social media production values have risen tremendously over the past decade. You can’t just release anything that strikes your fancy into the wild.
More importantly, social media is an inherently collaborative effort, so giving and receiving feedback is just as important as the process of creating content. Whether we’re talking about team members, clients, or stakeholders, feedback is an essential part of creating content suitable to your audience. As for approval, establishing that process and making it as clear as possible will save you a lot of time. Not to mention the anxiety surrounding the publishing button. When you know who is supposed to give greenlight where and for each post you’re 100% sure it was reviewed and approved, you’ll get peace of mind.
Did you know…
Managers, team members, stakeholders, and clients can leave feedback right next to the posts via Planable’s intuitive feedback system. It also comes with a flexible approval system – from none whatsoever to multi-level approval. Because Planable is built as an approval software, you can let the right people have the final say in the right posts.
Scheduling – going live during prime time
Time for the final and, arguably, the most time-consuming step – scheduling. I think you already know by now that we here at Planable are all for zero tedious tasks and auto-scheduling* social media posts. That’s one of the things our solution does, after all.
But why is scheduling so important? Here’s why:
- You can fill in gaps in your calendar.
- It’s great for consistency, retention, and building customer loyalty.
- Helps you outline and develop the brand story – which is nigh on impossible by posting on the fly.
- It’s good for the ol’ noggin – no more pulling your hair out about what to post.
Did you know…
Planable allows you to directly schedule your social media posts across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Google my Business and TikTok. Outlining and executing long-term social media campaigns is just a few clicks away. Oh, and it can be automated so posts are scheduled once approved.
Find one single home to accommodate all those steps
Oh, hey there, I didn’t see you come in! (I did). Thanks for coming. So, you might have noticed that, throughout this piece, I kept mentioning this thing called Planable. It’s a social media collaboration tool that allows teams to schedule and collaborate on content across multiple platforms. We’re super proud of it.
Earlier in the article, I promised that I’ll elaborate upon the features that I briefly mentioned in the addendums, and I’m here to oblige:
Shared workspace for your teams to collaborate in real-time
Our workspaces are the heart and soul of your social media campaign. This is where all the magic happens – where teams, clients, and stakeholders can collaborate to make the best content possible.
In our workspace, you can create, review, collaborate and publish posts. Think of the workspace as your HQ, or mothership, if I may be allowed some geekiness. They can be used to separate between the different brands, sub-brands, or local brands. All while keeping content organized and in one single place.
Here’s what you can do with our workspace:
- Group the pages of each brand you manage.
- Organize and categorize your posts with trusty labels.
- Invite the team members who are involved in the content of each brand.
- Set up your timetable. Instead of picking a date and time for each post by hand, you can plan ahead and stay on top.
- Set up workflows according to each team. One size does not fit all in Planable.
A smooth and intuitive feedback system
If our workspaces are the heart and soul of your social media campaign, then feedback is… Wait, I already made this joke.
So: feedback. It’s an essential part of any creative endeavor, whether you’re writing the next big American novel or painting the Sistine Chapel (you can bet even Michelangelo got feedback for literally one of the greatest pieces of art in the history of mankind).
Here’s how it works:
- Feedback is left and displayed right next to the post in the form of comments. Team members can tag each other and choose who receives notifications for particular pieces of content.
- Reply to comments and resolve feedback with just a few clicks.
- Add attachments and other important assets in your comments to smooth out the collaboration process.
- Differentiate between your core team, and your stakeholders or clients. You can have internal notes for those directly involved, and visible comments for all the stakeholders who help with feedback.
Release your content in the wild safely with our comprehensive approval system
Approval is probably one of the most underrated aspects of social media campaigns.
And yet, an approval system is essential if you want to avoid those big faux pas that keep social media managers awake at night. You know what I’m talking about. Double-posting. Accidental publishing. Typos. *shivers*
So how can Planable help you? With our multiple approval workflows and settings, of course!
- None. Yes, you heard that right. This makes it easier for teams with no approval workflows to use our solution.
- Optional. If a post needs to be approved but the approvers are unavailable, you have the flexibility to go ahead and publish it.
- Required. Content can’t be published unless one of the approvers has approved it.
- Multi-level. Set up multiple approval layers and add stakeholders to each layer. Once one of the parties gives their OK, the post is pushed forward in the approval workflow.
Internal posts – perfect for your work in progress
Another useful feature involves internal posts. If you work with a client but want to keep posts that are still work in progress secret, you can do so by making your posts “internal only”.
Schedule your posts and forget about posting on the fly
Oh boy, where do I even start?
Scheduling posts ahead of time is an essential part of a healthy social media workflow. It’s good practice, in general, to plan ahead, but it will encourage you to focus more on the content itself rather than the logistics.
Plus, it’s one of those features that make your life so much easier even if you don’t realize it. So, you know, here it goes:
- Plan and schedule social media posts across multiple platforms, from Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin to Google my Business and Twitter.
- Visualize your campaign in all its logistical beauty. Changed your mind? Scheduling your posts for another date and time is as simple as moving the post from one slot to another via drag & drop.
- View your posts as they would appear in the wild with the feed view; select list view for a quick glance at your campaign; take your Instagram grids to the next level with our Grid view.
- Share and collaborate on media files quickly and smoothly with our reliable media library. Forget about folders that gather dust in some corner of a forgotten partition – everything’s in one place to make everyone’s job easier.
- Label your posts by type, theme, mood, and whatever strikes your fancy.
Creating a reliable social media workflow is one of the wisest things to do in the current competitive social media climate. And if you’re having trouble with that, hey, there’s always Planable. You can try it out for free here.
And if you’re looking for a way to integrate social media into a wider marketing process, read this article about marketing workflow software to set your tool stack.