Would you like to save 2-12 hours per week to spend on your business as you see fit? Thought so! Read on...

Content Planning is a schedule you prepare to forward plan what and when you will post on social media.

Planning your content for Social Media might sound time consuming but in fact it will save you countless hours. Actually, not countless...

...the average small business spends between 10 and 20 hours per week on social media for their business! For added pressure, this typically falls to one person within the business too. If small businesses were to allocate one full day to content planning (8 hours) for the month ahead you could be saving approximately 2-12 hours per week!

Aside from the massive time saving there are other benefits to pre-planning your content:

- you have less "what the hell am I going to post today" moments!

- your social strategy will be better structured and more balanced giving your audience a better experience

- your images will appear less thrown together and more on brand

- and you'll have less social media fatigue!

Convinced?! Great! Now just before we jump into my 7 steps to save you time and sanity I have to advise that even though we are saving a lot of time by forward planning our social media content, it does not mean you can now completely ignore social media! You still need to be social on social :-) Use some of the time you save to build relationships with people and other businesses online, engage with your customers, and listen to them.

Ok, here it is...

My 7 Steps to Content Planning for Small Businesses (plus free template!):

1. Start with a calendar

It needs to be pre-populated with public holidays, national events, awareness days, and so on. Within Excel, make a note of these special days and start to plan out things you might want to say on each of them.

Be careful! Only choose the most relevant days for your business – you don’t need to say something for all them. Some are quite obscure and you need to keep aiming for quality content.

2. Create theme days

These are days of the week that feel most natural for you to discuss a particular topic or subject. Popular days of the week might be enough (e.g. throwback Thursday or Friyay), or you might want to make your own up. For example, a hairdresser might want to have Friday or Saturday as their “going out-out hair inspiration day”, or introduce a “new trend Tuesday".

These days give you direction for the week, ensure you have a variety of content being posted, and your followers come to know what to expect from you.

Don't set too many each week (1 or 2 is fine) as you want to leave some room for creative freedom.

3. Apply an 80/20 rule to your content

On the remaining days promote your own content 20% of the time and create other content 80% of the time. This is to avoid you constantly selling to your audience and putting them off following you. You want to post content you think your followers will find interesting and relevant to them.

Sharing other people's content is a really good way to support local businesses, build relationships and provide your audience with a variety of content keeping them engaged.

Top tip: It can be time consuming finding a list of articles you want to share so stockpile them throughout the month so you have a prepared list of inspiration to choose from come planning day!

4. Don't forget your images

Regardless of which social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, etc) you are planning for, imagery is very important.

It captures the attention and says a lot about a business in an instant.

If you’re sharing someone else’s content they will usually have an image attached to it already – however often you can use your own instead if preferred.

If you’re sharing your own content you may want to create your own images so that it is branded for your business.

Save time again and have these images ready in advance. Either stockpile images you like throughout the month in a dedicated folder so you can find them easily, or use apps like Canva to create your own images and resize them for each channel you use.

5. Hone your schedules per social media channel

Each channel has their own guidelines so stick to these or you’ll be posting the same thing across them all (and get it wrong with at least one of them) wasting your precious time and effort.

Think about:

–How often you should post on each channel (e.g. more frequent on Twitter, less frequent on Facebook)

–Who your target audience is on each channel – each will vary slightly and will find different things interesting

–Character length restrictions on your posts (e.g. Twitter allows only 140 characters)

–How and when to use hashtags (e.g. 20+ on Instagram, max 2 on Facebook)

–The size of your images to avoid them being cropped and lessening their impact

–Where you you want to drive traffic to (from your own content)

6. Pre-schedule your content

Use a scheduling tool to automate your posts across your social media channels. This is a large time saving opportunity you should take advantage of. By setting your posts to go out automatically you can concentrate on other aspects of your business in the comfort of knowing it's been taken care of already.

Some social media channels have their own scheduling tool, e.g. Facebook, while others don’t, e.g. Twitter.

Dedicated scheduling tools let you set up all your posts in one platform, share/tweak them across all your social media channels, and plan when to send them out.

Tools such as Buffer, Hootsuite and SproutSocial have various plans to get you started (some free!).

If you're worried that you'll change your mind after you have created your posts, you can still change details or timings, or even delete them, after you’ve set them up.

If a scheduling tool doesn’t interest you you could use an online calendar, such a google calendar, to remind you what to post each day.

7. Look at your results

The final step is to keep an eye on how your posts are performing so you can make informed decisions for next month.

Most small businesses post and forget but this simple step is very beneficial to learning what your followers want.

All social Media channels have some form of analytics you can look at, or if you choose to use a scheduling tool they often collate all your social media channel insights into one place.

I hope you find this saves you a lot of time and helps make social media a little bit easier to manage!

If you want to save even more time you can get a copy of the template I use for my business absolutely free! Easy to use and tailored to each social media channel...

Get your free template!

Good luck!!