I love the little traditions at this time of year – adding the finishing touches to the Halloween costume, lighting the fire at home and putting the Christmas cake in to soak.
Perhaps my favourite work tradition over the autumn and winter months is researching next year’s social media calendar. What could be better than grabbing a big mug of coffee (or some other hot beverage), block booking out an afternoon and spending some quality time researching obscure cultural and historical events?
And there is so much good content out there. Take this week in space travel. Not only is it the 55th anniversary of the first Saturn 1 launch (part of the Saturn rocket family which would eventually take humans to the moon), it’s also the 70th anniversary of the first motion pictures being taken of Earth.
All of this information is simple to find and can easily form the basis for blogs, infographics and other content. That’s why I find it infuriating when brands lean on national awareness days for their planned content.
Why national awareness days?
To be clear, I have nothing against (most) national awareness days. They are a well-established means of bringing issues to the public’s attention.
There are also lots of good reasons for brands to get involved:
- It’s a chance to support a cause and engage with followers affected by the issue.
- Hashtags are pre-established and actively supported by the organisation/s responsible for the day. As a result, national days often trend on twitter.
- The dates are easy to find, either via media calendar services, or a quick internet search. As such, pulling them together takes very little time.
The problem is, many brands seem to base their entire social content plans around these events (with liberal sprinkles of Monday motivation, hump day and TGIF). It makes for a dull, repetitive timeline, and it makes me reach for the unfollow button.
A well planned content calendar should combine awareness days and religious holidays with more niche content that followers can’t get elsewhere. One of the best examples of this is the Google Doodle which will happily switch between national holidays and obscure historical events (358th Anniversary of Tea in the UK, anyone?). This content can help you to stand out on social media and, not only attract followers, but keep them interested and engaged too.
So, let’s make a deal. For every post about a national awareness day or holiday you talk about on social media, you have to find at least one piece of unusual content to post about.
A master plan
We start our planning process by creating a master spreadsheet and adding the most obvious content – cultural & sporting events, holidays and major anniversary events (i.e. next year is the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop flight from New York to Paris).
Next we dig into our target audience’s interests and search for more unusual content which may interest them. To do this we first identify any key anniversaries within the target audience’s sphere of interest (Wikipedia and Ian Visits are good starting points for this). We also identify a few interesting individuals and topics then look to identify any relevant dates. Don’t get too hung up on major anniversaries, the 353rd anniversary can be just as fun as the 50th.
As ever, remember to observe best practice. Every post should have an image which has been properly optimised and keep an eye out for news events which may compromise your scheduled posts. Also keep in mind this long-term scheduled content should just form one part of your social media plan. Relevance is key, and you should always be on the lookout for topical issues and events to discuss.
More than anything, remember social media is about engagement. Embrace the process, dig around for fascinating stories and obscure facts then reap the rewards.