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Karen Buck

Communications planning

Editorial calendars for social media: beyond the basics

October 26, 2015   //   Karen Buck

Editorial calendars are a much-lauded and useful tool in keeping social media properties tended. At their most basic, calendars outline frequency, guide topic choice and assign responsibility for posts.

Many resources already exist for getting started with editorial calendars, including:

But often these calendars get lost in the shuffle of shifting priorities within an advancement, admissions or development office.

Some tips from our experience working with higher education on social media:

  • Can you piggy back on an existing marketing or editorial planning process? In education organizations, sometimes web and other marketing communications responsibilities can be split across offices or departments. Reach out to others who create content (think magazines and newsletters) and see if they already have a calendar or beat system in place.
  • Don’t do a calendar without the participation of the person or people who will be your boots on the ground in tending your social media properties. If you don’t have that person identified yet, forget about a calendar. It’s just an exercise in futility.
  • Look at your approved calendar as an iterative document. Enhance and update your plans as you learn about what’s most effective for your audiences.
  • In addition to your planned content, you’ll want to scan and engage with your social media ecosystem at least once a day. Spend 10 minutes reviewing feeds on Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or your tool of choice.
  • See something of interest? Then say something of interest. Re-post content of interest to your audience.
  • Then spend another 5-10 minutes scanning your school’s news sources. We promise there will be tons going on that no one told you about.
  • Experiment with the best time of day for posting. Keep in mind that most users of social media consume content in their timelines or feeds, and so a story becomes virtually invisible after a few hours. Consider re-posting.
  • If you have great success on Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m., don’t abandon other time slots. Otherwise, you’ll only be reaching the same people over and over again.
  • If you have something important to share, help focus followers by not overwhelming them with posts other than the most important one.
  • Remember that paid opportunities exist for boosting content exposure. Could a sponsored story on Facebook be the extra push your content needs?
  • Quantity does not equal quality. Enough said.

We also asked some experts in marketing communications for educational organizations to provide their tips on leveraging their editorial calendars.

“We saw a lot more success when the students themselves took ownership. They created a handbook, which is essentially their editorial calendar. We have one student in charge of content editing, one in charge of helping with image selection and one in charge of editing video. The peer-to-peer editing seems to be a good solution to making sure the posts are authentic but still appropriate. Before the handbook, the main complaint was that it was too wide open — now they have help with topics.”
— Liz Zapata, director of marketing and communications, Nazareth College, commenting on her work with

“In addition to looking to the future, your content team should sit down at the end of each week or month and debrief on what happened this week or month that we didn’t post about, or that we found out about through sheer luck. Add those things to your social media calendar so you can capture them for next year.”
— Knud Berthelsen, founder of Connect + Trade, which partners with Zehno on social media efforts

“We’re trying to build awareness and engagement with students about what philanthropy means for the university and for them. We need to be relevant and timely to grab their attention. So we keep our editorial calendar loose and let our contributors have fun with it. Tuesdays are profile days, Thursdays are contest days, etc. The content team then comes up with posts that connect with something going on in the news or on campus.”
— Eric Hodgson, former client at University of Iowa Foundation, discussing the social media campaign “Phil Was Here”

The approach you take with content strategy will largely depend on what kind of campaign or effort you’re aiming to produce. However you pursue editorial planning at your institution, our best recommendation is to set measurable objectives so that you know if you’re meeting your goals.

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