I was honored this week to guest blog at Writers in the Storm, a popular blog named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer's Digest for the last two years. Since following through on New Year's resolutions seems to be my theme right now (see last week), I figured I would help these writers with their own social media resolutions. The result: A blog about how to develop an Annual Social Media Calendar. While the article is addressing writers, these steps can be used by anyone hoping to put their best social media foot forward in 2016:
For busy authors -- or anyone building a brand or a business -- one of the most daunting tasks we face every day can be sitting down to post to social media.
"What should I say?" we think. "Who's going to care?"
Wouldn't it be phenomenal to sit down every day knowing exactly what you're going to blog, post, and Tweet? And hitting "enter" with the confidence that what you post will reflect your personality and interests, appeal to your fans and move you toward your business goals?
If you're resolving to do better with your social media in 2016, an annual social media calendar is the key to making your New Year's resolution a reality.
Here's how to build one:
Step 1: Make a list of your business goals for 2016.
While writing is a creative endeavor in the search for truth and beauty, and social media is a wonderful forum for giving virtual hugs to your fans, writing is also a job. Social media is the advertisement. So instead of letting social media pull you away from your job, make it work for you. This list will insure that your business goals for that "creative endeavor" are front and center so that you can integrate them into your social media throughout the year.
Step 2: Make a list of your personal and professional events in 2016.
We can forget to post our special events on social media in the midst of a hectic writer's conference or anniversary vacation. And that's the fun stuff -- the stuff our fans love to hear about. Writing these professional and personal dates down now will allow you to remember them later. Sure, you probably won't forget to promote that new book, but seeing it coming up on your social media calendar will remind you to start building a plan for promotion months ahead of time.
Step 3: List holidays/seasonal events that are important to you.
Scroll through the months. What are nationally recognized days that speak to you? Christmas, Hanukkah, spring break, first day of school, National Doughnut Day? Use these days to connect with your fans and to let them know you have the same excitement about Santa, the same relief about the kids going back to school, and the same interest in candied-bacon doughnuts as they do.
Step 4: Write down 4-5 themes that distinguish you.
Themes are the rocket fuel of your social media calendar. Your themes are what distinguish you, your writing and your philosophies from other authors, and they are what will set your social media posts apart from other posts in a fan's stream. Themes -- you're an animal-loving, travel-seeking rock climber who writes sexy small-town contemporaries and loves men in kilts -- give your fans something to hang onto. Staying consistent with your themes gives you a foundation from which you can grow an audience that loves you.
My themes in my annual social media calendar are:
- Social Media/Writing -- Of course.
- Being "In Between" -- Issues of being in my 40s: old enough to have a senior in high school and young enough to still like going to live music shows.
- Ways I Can Help -- How I'm a strategic thinker, storyteller, cheerleader and accountability partner for my clients.
- Fun in D.C. -- Tips on best restaurants, drinks, events and outdoor activities in the D.C. area.
- Community -- Applauding and promoting clients, friends, writers, advice givers and others I admire.
I have a vineyard-owner client whose themes are:
- Evolution of a Vineyard -- Discussing the evolution of this relatively new vineyard.
- The Growing Season -- Tracking the annual cycle of the Pinot Noir vines from pruning to harvest.
- Russian River Valley Winegrowers -- Supporting the winemakers and growers of their area.
- Around the Vineyard -- Celebrating the gophers, family visits, new barn doors and bocce ball games of living on a vineyard.
- To Dos in the Russian River Valley -- Promoting the people, wines, geography and events of Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.
Think big picture when you're developing your themes. Make sure your themes include a mix of professional and personal interests, and -- because social media is "social" -- make sure at least one of your themes focuses on promoting others.
Here are some questions to help you decide your themes:
- What are your books about?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What did you study in school?
- How would your friends describe you?
- Is there a cause or charity that you're passionate about?
- Do you have any hobbies?
- What do you day dream about?
- Are there community or writer organizations that you want to support?
Step 5: Build your template.
Installing these goals at the top will insure that they are top of mind as you're developing your social media plan of attack for each month. Make sure your goals are accomplishable within a month (you are only human and you need to sleep), and break large goals, like "Finish a book", into manageable monthly bites, like "Write 20,000 words."
Step 7: Enter your themes on the side of the template.
I like to include details about the themes that will jog ideas when I'm filling it in later.
Step 8: Enter your "Events" at the bottom.
Step 9: Fill in the blanks.
Now you will use your themes as a guide for coming up with content ideas for the rest of the year. Wha...?! I know, sounds daunting. But it's easier than you think. And a little blood, sweat and tears now will prevent you from having to bleed, sweat and cry EVERY TIME you sit down to post for the REST OF THE YEAR.
1. Keep your ideas general. This is just your annual calendar. Your ideas can get more specific when you work on your monthly calendar (more on that later). For example, if you love to cook and one of your themes is "Eating Healthy," a February idea could be "Cooking with root vegetables." What will be in the pot? Who knows? But seeing it on your calendar will help focus you when the time comes.
2. Connect the holidays/seasonal events you listed with a theme that focuses on you personally. My "In Between" theme allows me to talk about my personal life. So in it I will talk about my New Year's resolutions in January, Mother's Day in May, the fact that this will be the first Father's Day without my Dad in June, and my son going off to college in August. Connecting my life events to the holidays and seasons gives "me" a platform to talk about "us."
3. Find a category and stick with it. A writer who writes stories about sexy ski bums could fill his social media feed with pictures of awesome ski resorts. He could highlight a different ski area -- Colorado, California, Switzerland, Chile -- every month. A writer who loves to objectify the male body -- I know I do -- can focus on a different body part every month. Like I said, this does not have to be difficult.
4. Don't re-invent the wheel. I have a professional organizing client who uses online tools like Dropbox and Evernote to help people eliminate the paper clutter in their lives. So guess what? In January, she spotlights tips on how to use Evernote. In February, she offers tips on Dropbox. In March, it's another tool, then another and another, until July comes around and we start with Evernote again. Offer information that you already have and don't be afraid to repeat yourself.
Step 10: Putting your annual social media calendar to work.
Your annual social media calendar will:
- Insure you're hitting all of your business goals by highlighting a goal every month
- Provide you with blogging ideas that enrich the message of your website
- Guarantee that your day-to-day social media posts communicate a consistent message of who you are as a writer
- Remind you of important events to insure you're posting and promoting them
- Provide an outline for your monthly social media calendar
Pantsers can take a look at their annual social media calendar whenever they're stuck and instantly have a social media idea to get them back on track. Plotters can use their annual social media calendar to fill out their monthly social media calendars, a day-by-day listing of what they're going to blog and post about so they'll never have to wonder. But THAT is for another blog post (or you can contact me for more info).
May your social media posts be easy and fruitful in 2016!