In this article, we will look at planning your social media activity, which is an essential part of your content strategy. In a previous article, we explained that your content strategy is the high-level vision that guides your future content development to deliver against a specific business objective. A quick recap: Defining a content strategy consists of three phases: identifying your business objective, identifying your target audience, and identifying the content that your target audience needs. So, the first thing to do is to identify your business objective. What does your law firm stand for, and what do you want to achieve with the content you provide? Be as specific as possible. Then learn as much as possible about your target audience and what you have to offer them that sets you apart from the competition. Analyse what information your clients need, and where they can be found. Researching all of this will provide you with the data that will show you what to write, for whom, how, and where.
Once you have your content strategy, you can start planning your social media activity. In this article, we will look at content plans and content calendars, at tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to help you manage your posting activity, and we will end with some practical tips and reminders.
A social media content plan is an advanced directive on how to manage your content on the evolving platforms in accordance with your content strategy. Once you have set your objectives and identified and located your target audience, you start selecting the appropriate channels where you will post your messages.
Choose your channels: Many people make the mistake of thinking that distributing content on as many platforms as possible is a good thing, but it is not. It does not keep in mind where your target audience resides. So, you are better off first locating where your target audience resides. Also keep in mind that different social media channels have different value propositions, which means you often should use different channels for different purposes: reposting memes, e g., is more appropriate on Twitter or Instagram than it is on LinkedIn or Medium. Posting a bibliography of your articles makes more sense in a LinkedIn profile or business page, or a Facebook business page than it does on Twitter or Instagram.
Choose your messages: Once you identified the channels you plan to use, you can start organizing your content and decide how to distribute it over the different channels. It makes sense to create a content library. If you provide professional content, you can categorize it, and make sure you keep a balance between the different types of topics.
Also keep in mind to not just use social media for self-promotion only. You also want to curate information (i.e., share content from others), as well as interact with other users and their content: like and/or comment on content, etc. The articles listed in the sources mention different ratios you can use for your posts for the ideal blend of content from you, content from others, personal updates, and responses and replies. They all use slightly different ratios. But the only rule everybody agrees on is that number of posts containing your personal content and updates should never exceed the number of posts sharing information from others.
Plan and schedule your posts. For this, you can use a content calendar. You can plan ahead on a daily basis, a weekly basis, a monthly basis, and a yearly basis. After all, some information may be more relevant at specific times. Take, e.g., articles on tax returns, or VAT declarations, or on renting out property during holidays, etc. It makes sense to schedule those well in advance, so you won’t have to start reorganizing your schedule later on. But make sure you also leave room for unscheduled daily updates. Create a workflow where you take out the necessary time for your planning activity as well as for crafting your messages.
It is never a bad idea to get feedback from your team members and/or associates on the content you are planning to post before you post them.
You can create your own content calendar starting from scratch, or you can use existing predefined templates. There are several good, free, templates for content calendars available on the Internet.
Planning and scheduling your posts in this way has many benefits.
- You save time by being organized.
- There is more consistency in your posts.
- Experience shows that when you plan your posts rather than make them up at the spur of the moment, you make fewer typos, and reduce the risk of big
- You can get more ambitious with your social strategies.
- You don’t miss out on relevant moments
- You make higher-quality content
- You can track what works, and improve it
To make planning your social media activity easier, Hootsuite and Buffer are two very useful tools. They both are apps that make managing your social media activity a lot easier, by allowing you to post your content to the different channels in a centralized way. Their offerings are fairly similar, and you’ll only need one of them to meet your needs. Let’s do a quick comparison of what they have to offer.
- Supported Social Networks: both offer access to the main channels, i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hootsuite also offers access to YouTube, which Buffer, at present does not. Hootsuite also can work with other channels, but typically you have to use paid add-ons for that.
- Number of social media accounts available: both work with tiers where you pay a higher fee if you want access to more social media accounts, and if you want access for multiple users within your organization. They both have a limited free offer as well.
- Overall ease-of-use: both programs have been around for several years and by now are both very user-friendly. Most users find Buffer slightly easier to use and get started with.
- Post scheduling functionality: both offer excellent functionality when it comes to scheduling your posts.
- Ad hoc posting options: this is integrated and easy in Buffer. In Hootsuite, you will at present need a browser add-on to do this.
- Conversation management: Buffer has separate tool for this, called Buffer Reply, which costs extra, but it is more intuitive and complete than Hootsuite. Hootsuite has some conversation management functionality built in but is clunky.
- Content approval features, i.e., where one user creates the posts that another user must approve. Both have the feature built in, but it works better in Hootsuite because it has a better management overview.
- Reporting and dashboard views: while Buffer’s dashboard is lean and clean, Hootsuite’s dashboard and reporting are more advanced.
- Content library: Buffer does not have a built-in content library, while Hootsuite does.
- Tracking and Analytics: Hootsuite gives more analytics features away for free, but Buffer is cheaper for large business needs.
- Third-party app integrations: both have many, though Hootsuite has slightly more. You will have to check what functionality you want. Some integrations are free, while others are not. Noteworthy is that Zapier has free predefined zaps for each, which can make automation even easier. As of August 2021, Buffer also can directly fetch graphics you created in Canva from your Canva account.
- Extra products: we already mentioned Buffer Reply higher up, which is a paying app. Buffer also offers Pablo, for graphics, for free, and Analyze, which is a paid app for reporting and web metrics. Hootsuite has its own analysis tool built-in but more advanced features also come at an extra cost. It also has its own -albeit limited – conversation management built-in. It does not offer something similar to Pablo.
- Team Management: Buffer works well for small teams, but for large organizations Hootsuite is the better option.
- Advertising: only Hootsuite can create and manage ads.
- Content Curation: Buffer more easily monitors RSS feeds, but Hootsuite is better at keeping an eye on social trends.
- Pricing: as mentioned above, both work with a freemium tiered model for their prices. Overall, their prices are comparable.
So, what to choose? For smaller law firms, Buffer is probably the better option, while Hootsuite will generally better meet the needs of medium to large law firms.
Last, but not least, some reminders and tips. We are talking about social media, and it is important to not forget the social in social media! Do not use your social media mainly for self-promotion. And remember that you cannot plan everything in advance. Social media are about interaction, about building trust, about people getting to know you as a person they want to work with. It is also about becoming approachable. Use humour. Show aspects of your personal life. Spend time online daily to like posts, to give replies and make comments… Engage in conversations. Retweet posts you like, as you come across them.