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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Social Media Content Management

Earlier I started the discussion about social media networks and how they benefit business. This post extends that discussion but from the new angle of social media management, which is an ongoing process of managing your business’ presence on social media networks. This process involves several facets that include considering the expectations of your target market on their preferred platform, strategically creating appropriate content, publishing and monitoring your presence across multiple social media platforms. This post offers a strategic step-by-step guide (using a target customer profile aka TCPcustomizable business goals - related content strategies, content pillars, forms of content regardless of theme or format and skills in content calendar scheduling). 

Since that is quite a mouthful, consider starting with the step-by-step guide if you already have basic knowledge knowledge of the other component areas. Otherwise, tackle each component part beforehand.

 

Keep in mind your target audience

Before really deep diving into the discussion on content creation, I will deviate to mention the preliminary step that a good marketer must take, ie with the greatest possible specificity, defining the audience for whom the content is targeted, After all, as already suggested, your content must meet content-related needs of that target audience to motivate the response you desire from that audience.

 

1. I start by qualifying customers based on whether they have the problem for which my product is a solution. Whenever possible, I like to segment based on customer problems (thereby leaving other attributes like demographics as secondary). Afterall, if I had a brick-and-mortar clothing store, I would physically segment the floor plan based on the problem of needing clothes for particular types of contexts … versus the city or eye color of customers.  

 

2. Other audience definition considerations come from your target customer profile (TCP), aka customer avatar. As illustrated below, the TCP should include surveyable psychographics, especially those related to their content consumption; like goals (related to solving their problem), personal motivation factors like their preferred social media for information about solution options (for their problem) or entertainment, favorite influencers and buying personality regarding the sales methods to which they best respond. 

3. However, although they may seem extraneous, some other personal variables like family life, hobbies and so on are sometimes useful in understanding props with which they will resonate. For instance, if your product is an alarm system or computer program and ostensibly unrelated to the fact customers have children. Your messaging could consider the safety of loved ones or offer child-appropriate software that teaches children to use a computer. Maybe there could be child proofing and so on.

  

4. Finally, each avatar can potentially advance through some or all of the buying process, a set of points at which customers progressively advance how much they know, like and trust brand enough to buy. You will therefore need to produce content to meet consumer content-related needs at every stage within an avatar's buying process. See below the focus of your content for each stage. Read the FULL ARTICAL on the buying process.

 

Buying Process Stages (your content objectives)

  1. To discuss the consumer PROBLEM
  2. to give INFORMATION
  3. to COMPARE competitively
  4. to facilitate PURCHASE (of a solution for a known problem)
  5. to encourage positive post-sale EVALUATION.

    z. to ENTERTAIN, INSPIRE (via indirectly related / unrelated / viral content). 


Step-by-step guide: Content planning  |  top



Content Pillars are a Must for Content Management  #pillars

A key aspect of this process (of social media management) is content management.  

 

Content management refers to strategically planning, sourcing, creating, scheduling and delivering digital content. Since content planning can be overwhelming and lead to time wasting, the best approach is to create ‘content pillars’, aka content buckets or content categories that can add customer value and, in turn, motivate your target market appropriately. Content pillars establish a customized and streamlined system for planning content to better achieve content-related business goals (like your current mission statement). In short, pillars prevent you from publishing content that is random and irrelevant. 

 

To date, the best online discussion on content pillars has been presented in Fastnet Agency's (Sarah's) YouTube video named 'The best strategy for your brand' (for Instagram). (Other types of good strategic pillars include MDALatam Cursos Marketing Digital in Spanish. See below)

At 1:30 minutes, Fastnet Agency suggests 9 pillars that exist within 3 broader pillars. The 3 broad pillars define the current strategic mission of your business. They can therefore change. However, the 9 subordinate pillars are standard groupings into which any business online publications (on different content themes and formats) can be categorized. These 9 subordinates are therefore tactical and can be re-arranged according to the current strategy they serve. In short, there are 9 standard tactical pillars that fit into current strategic pillars, usually 3. 

While i will eventually explain how to customize these pillars for the best strategic outcomes, I have begun with an illustrative model that may not necessarily apply perfectly to your brand. This illustrative model features 9 standard tactical pillars within 3 generic strategic pillars (that will likely apply to a more established brand).


Sell (content pillar)

  •          Solution
  •          Authority *
  •          Results *

Brand (content pillar)

  •          Authority *
  •          Results *
  •          Life Style
  •          Transparency
  •          Beliefs *
  •          Values *

Grow (content pillar)

  •          Beliefs *
  •          Values *
  •          Ask / Participate
  •          Traction

 

* Overlapping subordinate pillars

 

 

The name of each strategic pillar suggests the objective that its content should meet to deliver value to the audience. NB. This list is only an illustration, a very good one. I am therefore using it in this article for illustration purposes. However, customize it with your own renamed pillars once you are clear about your strategic goals.

 

Despite there being 3 broad pillars, notice that there are overlapping zones. In such cases, subordinate pillars (*) within these overlapping zones must meet the objectives of both broader categories. In contrast with purist pillars like the Sell via Solution pillar that belongs only to the Sell broad pillar, the Sell & Brand Promotion via ‘Results’ pillar sells more subtly than its ‘Solutions’ counterpart. This is because the ‘Results’ pillar must meet 2 sets of objectives. The target audience (to whom you want to 'Sell' and promote the 'Brand' via content on 'Results') is not yet ready to buy (at least that particular product). Your aim will be to gain trust with content illustrating the 'Results' of your product along with only a soft 'Sell' approach. To do otherwise with pricing information or other hard sell content will be jarring to this audience. 

 

For instance, In the Sell & Brand Awareness via ‘Results’ (content pillar); the target audience already acknowledges a pain point or problem X like headache that can be solved with your product, pain killer Y. However, they do not know you very well and therefore cannot yet trust your claims of resolving their problem. Just pushing for a sale will be a sure turn off. Having said this, they have your attention and may be moved closer to the buying decision. Trust in a product can be developed in several ways that include positive testimonials, especially if there are several to portray reliability / consistently good product performance. Before and after images, graphs, description of transformation are ideal. A soft sell CTA may offer free evaluations of their problem (just enough to help you with customer qualification for a product or a segment.

 

When subordinate pillars can exist in multiple places, decide where they need to be based on your business’ current goals. Create brand style guidelines that define each pillar. Such a systematic approach to placing content in one pillar or the other ensures that your approach is strategic and that you ensure that your content includes all of the elements necessary for meeting your business objectives.

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SELL (content pillar)

 SELL: Solution. Create this content for the purpose of selling. This content type is the one most likely to look and feel like an advertisement. However, its best execution involves selling the idea that your product or service resolves your target's pain point. (Read more about solutions-focused aka value content). This audience is ready to buy and has already gone through the other stages of the buying process. This content is useful for targeting new leads who are ready to buy (because this content is posted on a tentpole, like a product launch, for which you have already posted lead up content touch points). I like this idea for referral marketing that involves a special promotional price for new customer acquisition where the buying customer buys extra to share the excess with someone else like at Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, weddings for guests or bridal party, organizational anniversaries for staff members and so on. If applicable, mention when the product is a best seller as that suggests social proof that can influence buyers. 

  • Editorial product image, showing the result. At this stage, the target audience is ready to buy because they are well aware of the problem and the brand's solutions. The audience also already knows, likes and trusts the seller. There is no need to meet any needs associated with earlier stages of the buyer process. The only objective is to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy. This is hard sell content, featuring elements like the price, list of what the product or service includes (without any explanation), contact details and list of payment facilities, the CTA is implied by the list of telephone numbers and everything else that makes a purchase as easy as possible. . (Instagram / IG)
  • Tentpole-related image for special offer (mother's day, IG). Marketers can even invite customers to highlight if the product is on their wishlist, so as to signal to others in their personal circle. 
  • Video advertisement (for Botox treatment) with very simple lead generation (IG). This very simple albeit effective CTA instructs leads to enter a keyword in a WhatsApp message. This allows this brand to easily collect telephone numbers without much effort on the part of the target audience. This brand remains consistently compliant with its brand style guidelines (color palette, logo presentation and so on). To pre-empt the common question whether all skin types and races can benefit, the brand features women of different races. 
  • Editorial product image, like a hero image (ie within some context that appeals to the customers versus with a white background). There are individual product tags for each product that appears in the image. (These tags allow customers to tap the tags for product names and to go directly to individual product pages). Additionally, a CTA 'view shop' button appears at the bottom of the image. The accompanying message overcommunicates the sale CTA, this time to "Order ..... to enjoy". These CTA may also incorporate selling techniques like urgency, scarcity and exclusivity, psychological pricing and so on. (Instagram / IG) 
  • Back in stock notifications (IG). This image can be stronger with brand assets.
  • A brand reaches for one-on-one online contact. Your brand may join an interest group (on Facebook for instance) that your TCP indicated would host members of your target market. When someone expresses your TCP's pain point, your brand can reach out.
    • "I can help you with ___. If you are interested, please text your telephone number via WhatsApp".
  • A brand's individualized responses to publicly posted queries. Prepare for different scenarios. Regardless of the pillar type, customers may ask about prices, ask questions specific to case study / model used in the the ad, show interest (like 'I need that product'), about the type of treatment given to the model and so on. When collecting images, also collect the back stories and any other details that may be requested. Other good individual responses include asking customers who show interest in the comments to send private messages with their contact details.

    • In IG, brands usually publicly tag the customer with the @customer and send a private message, aka direct messages (DMs). The following appeared in the comments section of a 'Sell' and 'Brand' via 'Results' post (IG). Notice how the customer advanced herself through the buying process by requesting other elements of hard sell communication. It may be best to also include other sale-related details like payment methods and so on.


  • acustomer I'm interested. What are your prices? / Me interesa. Me gustaría saber precios
    service.provider @acustomer We sent details to your inbox / le enviamos más información al inbox

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  •  SELL/BRAND: Results .This content typically includes elements like case studies with before & after images (for physical transformational products), graphs (for services) and so on to honor its other strategic pillar of brand promotion. Additionally, at this stage, the audience is already well aware of the problem and might even feel a sense of urgency to buy. However, the barrier to the sale is an ongoing need to build trust in the brand's expertise. Consequently, only a soft sale pitch is required. (A hard sell may be too jarring). Soft sell may: explain that the brand has the solution; invite customers to get a free consultation to evaluate your personal needs (if variations will apply); send a private message with specific types of details to get a quote and so on.
    • A single composite image of a client before and after cosmetic surgery (IG). The accompanying message opens with a brief problem statement, ie 'pronounced gesture-related wrinkles'. In keeping with this content's other pillar objective (ie to showcase the expertise of brand), it showcases expertise with a medical explanation of what has happened to the skin and causes, but in relatable / layman terms. The soft sell occurs in the closing lines 'We have good news for you: there are solutions to treat frown lines. If you want more information, you can contact us: Tel number ###'. NB This creator consistently uses this recognizable format featuring color palette, image format of the logo against ample white space (versus the easily missed tag name or text logo). All other content within this pillar (other examples 1, 2, 3, 4) follow this formatting formula. This brand has likely invested in brand style guidelines.
    • Video reel with images transitioning from before to after treatments (IG). A single brand may use multiple formats for showcasing 'before & after' imagery.
    • Testimonials.

 S SELL/BRAND: Authority  *. This content honors its 2 strategic pillar objectives. The customer is not yet full ready to buy because she still needs to develop trust in the brand. Consequently, the 'Brand' promotional objectives seek to competitively position your brand as a leader in some way with the use of features that engender trust in the brand's expertise like accolades, information that showcases expertise, special certification, technology or other tools, staff receiving important training and so on. CTAs can include asking your TCP for questions or topic ideas.  

  • A carousal with an image as a cover slide followed by other slides (IG). 
    • Slide 1. customer problem in an eye catching image and is easily recognized for quick customer self-qualification. Embedded captions are a question, like CTA 'can you identify with this image?' The accompanying message (which is fixed to all slides) reiterates this question and prompts the audience to swipe further for more information about possible reasons. NB. This case is interesting because the root cause of the stated recognizable problem is not the true problem. However, the brand communicates the problem in the way that the market perceives it (however false). The message also uses urgency selling techniques "If the answer is yes, swipe to learn the reasons why you should request an appointment ASAP". For discoverability, it includes problem-specific hashtags ('weak finger nails') in addition to its regular hashtags. FYI, this brand clearly uses brand style guidelines because its format is consistent with the use visual brand assets (across all other content within this pillar using this post format): its palette, filters, logo in a high contrast and image format that helps with brand awareness (recognition).
    • Although all subsequent slides differ from the first, they all consistently follow the brand color palette and other style rules (like the neutral background palette color and logo presentation, text rules and so on).
    • Slide 2 and 3. In concise layman terms, this slide educates customers about their perceived problem with progressively deeper detail. In this case, slide 2 explains that the perceived problem is really a sign of 'underlying health problems' and in slide 3 that 'changes in the finger nails can be due to deficiencies associated from anything from protein to lung disease.' Furthermore, despite the fact that urgency sales technique can often seem jarring, this case likely motivates trust in the brand and amps up the otherwise very soft sell pitch.
  • Video illustration of how new technology works (IG), along with educational diagram-based video illustrations to explain the science in layman terms. Explanatory captions appear on the screen. As usual, the brand style guidelines are followed throughout. A list of uses or benefits for the customer (like skin tightening, scar reduction, etc).
  • Posts may simply showcase the completion of new certifications, acquisition of new technology or other tools that improve the offering (IG).Instagram. Image with brand name, embedded image of the result (like a beautiful woman if the product is surgery), bullet points of benefits, applications, price highlighted in bold print (perhaps encircled with a caption like 'special price' while outside of that circle in smaller print is a line with a higher 'regular price', contact details and small fine print (like the expiration of the offer) at the bottom.
  • This content explains why your offering is the best in some noteworthy attribute as per your UVP that indicates your special expertise. 
    • This is useful for specialty brands that compete based on an attribute. In such case, brands like these mention their unique patents, specialist formulas and so on.
    • Specialize type of production like vegan certified, ISO certified, dealing with only a certain breed of dog. 

BRAND  (content pillar)

This pillar is concerned with motivating the target to know, like and trust the brand. 

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·S BRAND / SELL: Results  * (Also see 'Sell via Results' above). The audience may have not yet identified the problem and is therefore at the problem buying stage. Otherwise, the audience has already identified the problem but only needs to be convinced of your brand’s trustworthiness and likeability. You also want to build rapport. There are several approaches to creating this content. Since this tactical pillar is also concerned with selling, its content commonly presents as infomercials that focus on the problem while promoting the brand. It also commonly appears in the form of product reviews, testimonials and case studies. CTAs can include asking your TCP for questions or topic ideas (especially if you already have a lot of possible results content in the pipeline).  

  • Before & after images with caption that there is a solution (IG). A surgeon may show before and after images with an embedded statement that "anomaly X has a solution". The attached message will demonstrate expert understanding of the pain point by explaining its causes and presentation in relatable language. Especially regarding conditions that are discomforts that are not life threatening and so the customer may have learned to live with the inconvenience without considering seeking a solution. In other words. the customer's stage in the buying decision is at the problem stage and certainly not the buying stage. Consequently, this message encourages customers to recognize the problem. It includes a short list of bullet points that itemize ways customers can identify the problem in themselves. The message ends with a line like 'The good news is that this condition has a solution. Contact us at telephone number ...' In addition to the usual broad hashtags, the name of the pain point is specifically named in a hashtag.
  • Testimonials
 BRAND / SELL: Authority  * (Also see above). This content usually exists as infographic images, short / concise educational videos (like IG video reels or YouTube shorts) that demonstrate the creator's ability to resolve the problem. They are like very short infomercials. While selling is a consideration, this content is primarily interested in demonstrating authority through education. CTAs can include asking your TCP for questions or topic ideas.  
  • A social media manager (SMM) tutors others who are becoming SMM. She uses this 25-second clip to explain one of her market's unsolved problems, ie their trouble retaining clients. The video’s heading is ’Why you aren’t retaining social media management clients’. It includes her market's problem statement (poor client retention) and an implied promise to solve it (an explanation and guidance). Her clip delivers. She gives the reason that defecting clients do not see a return on investment / ROI. She then briefly discusses what is required to resolve the issue; ie to set clearer expectations in the onboarding and daily processes (which by the way is what she teaches in a course). She then invites leads to read the description box for more information. That information explains that her agency also helps clients to set up data that they can also show to clients. This apparent bonus is a useful tool that will also help the otherwise defecting clients to track their ROI. This might also have been a short excerpt from a long form video. This is a useful way of using the YouTube clip feature which allows you to extract clips from a long form video.
  • Carousal of educational slides about key inputs (IG) 
  • Infographics. These can be further leveraged by with questions to motivate audience participation. Common questions include: "Of these problems, which do you have?' 'What additional problems do you experience?". 
  • Image with a hook that is a tip in the caption. 
    • (IG) This content can also introduce new hashtags for upcoming tips. 
 BRAND / SELL: Lifestyle . This content promotes the (aspirational) lifestyle that corresponds with the brand personality. This helps brands to cast their net further through tentpoles and alternative product for instance. This content provides brands with opportunities to reach new customers using hashtags that are ordinarily irrelevant to the brand but made relevant because of their association with the specific post. CTAs can include asking your TCP for questions or topic ideas.  
  • The Cheetos snacks brand often posts short reels for alternative uses of their product in cooking recipes. This provides an opportunity to reach more people with hashtags that are associated with the unique recipes like #friendchiecksandwish #snackhack #recipevideo, #restockasmr (for crunchy friend foods) and so on. (1, 2, 3)
  • Cheetos. In keeping with the fun personality of Cheetos, its content includes inside tribe jokes (1) about having an almost additive obsession with the product that others can not understand. These are wildly popular.
  • Red Bull. As usual, posts (IG 1) by Red Bull showcase extreme sports. Red Bull might ask consumers to share images of their participation in a specific tentpole extreme sporting event that occurs every year..
  • A luxury brand may show someone living in a modern, clearly expensive environment or doing things that are related to luxury, like fine dining, receiving first class service and so on.
  • Image portraying personal / after-hours lifestyle of key brand personnel with whom the target customer interacts.
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·   BRAND / SELL: Transparency . This content is very good for encouraging customers to trust you and feel they know you. This content can be used to educate customers of a brand's processes and decisions, to showcase how the brand commits to core values and so on. Even though this content is not geared towards selling, it is likely to leave a mark on the minds of your TCP who may be motivated to buy when or if they are ready in the future. This content should appeal to customers emotionally. Examples typically include topics like behind the scenes (how I make a-b-c, workspace tour, product development process, etc...), day in the life of a ___, funny blooper experiences I face, etc

  • Behind the scenes long form YouTube videos about how the brand did market research and product development. 
  • Behind the scenes short form IG reel. These could be excerpts from a long form video. For instance, if you bake cake, one reel may show a few seconds of mixing ingredients, another pouring, decorating and so on.
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  BRAND / SELL: Beliefs aka Visions *. Beliefs are ideal for creating viral content. This content commonly appears as quotes, tips, advice, the promotion of your brand's core values and so on. For clarify sake, this content is based on visionary thinking, even if the vision is not yet attainable. It is principled and heavily reliant on imagination and wisdom. It should not be confused with core values as core values are more closely related to currently attainable missions like to use vegan ingredients as a contribution towards the vision in which all industries are kind to animals. Think of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech which speaks of principled ideals he hopes occurs in the future. This pillar is unlikely to be represented at all in some brands, especially as the public becomes more distrustful of their lofty principles that are only PR stunts that hide contradictory behavior behind the scenes.  

  • Posts about principled visions like 'world peace', 'quality formal education for everyone', a clean physical environment and so on.
  • Visions of how the brand's industry works.
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BRAND / GROW: Values ·* Honoring 2 strategic pillars, this 'Values' content should be concerned connecting emotionally with the audience based on shared values and, to a lesser extent, some elements of virality. This content commonly appears as quotes, tips, advice and so on and virality elements (like CTAs to 'share' the content, funny memes that ride on the coat tails of that meme's success, deliver an 'Aha!' effect, deliver a 'wow' effect especially within the first 5 seconds, trigger powerful human emotions, include music, allow the audience to feel that sharing the content will make him or her feel and look good).

  • Reel with powerful imagery and music (IG). A clean skin care brand shows aerial video of a powerful waterfall with instrumental music that suggests grandeur. The attached message speaks of the ecofriendly product qualities. As the reel advances, high contrast letters appear across the screen to explain production qualities. This content has no selling message. 


GROW (content pillar). This content is primarily concerned with growth through virality and, when pillars overlap, brand promotion to a lesser extent. This type of content generally seeks to entertain, to generate new leads. Common elements will include virality elements (like CTAs to 'share' the content, funny memes that ride on the coat tails of that meme's success, deliver an 'Aha!' effect, deliver a 'wow' effect especially within the first 5 seconds, trigger powerful human emotions, include music, allow the audience to feel that sharing the content will make him or her feel and look good, trending topics which can be verified by sites like Google trends, removal of heavy branding so that content is enjoyed for its own sake). This content is often collaboratively produced with other brands who have the same or similar audiences. More subtle growth content CTAs include subscription requests (for mailing lists and platform accounts).

 GROW / BRAND: Beliefs aka Visions * (also see above)



 GROW / BRAND: Values *

 GROW / BRAND: Ask / Participate . As the name suggests, this content seeks customer engagement / participation. When successful, this type of content can also help your ranking by social media algorithms.

  • Ask customers to vote
    • YouTube channels with very similar target audiences collaborate to have a fun competitions. During the pandemic, two very large family channels Tribe of Many and the Miller Family posted their version on a cooking competition for under USD 25 on their respective channel. Each posted their own behind-the-scenes meal prep video which followed the same format; they spoke of knowing the other family and wanting to have a competition, then held a split screen video call that helped audiences to see the other family. They used the call to discuss the competition rules and (re)introduce family members. The rest of each video showed each family shopping to remain within the $25 budget, the cooking while still introducing remaining family members and then the eating. They posted their videos on the same date and asked their audiences to visit each other's channels and to vote for a winner in the comment sections. Ultimately, even though the competition was not a serious one with prizes, they were intentional in encouraging their audiences to know the other channel. Subsequently, they met in person. (Get an idea below on how curated content might open doors to this type of brand collaboration).
  • Ask for audience participation
    • Live content encourages customers to interact directly with content creators real time.
  • A question seeks audience comments.
    • Attached to an infographic (IG) about a problem, the question asks "How do you experience this problem?" This can help to qualify customers into segments before the brand retargets the customer. Attached messages can have a short article, maybe a link to a long form podcast or video. Consider using GIFs for graphics for more interest.
    • The brand can use polls (IG) to survey customer opinions during the MVP development process.
    • The responses may help to qualify customers (into segments) for subsequent re-targeting.
  • Communication during the post-conversion stage of the buying process
    • Thank you cards.
    • Small unexpected gifts that often motivate more generosity from customers, like dinner mints given to diners with the bill.
  • Requests for customer / user generated content (UGC), often with incentives, like competitions. 
    • The brand requests photos of the product in use, comments and so on.  
    • Brands often create unique campaign hashtags to allow tracking the public's use of the hashtag. In such cases, brands even seek out and incentivize persons who freely mentioned their product with hopes of getting permission to use the fan's content.
    • Chester the Cheetos cheetah published an IG reel in which a customer build a 3000 lb sarcophagus for Chester to be found by future generations.

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 GROW / BRAND: Traction . Of all the pillars, this content is most purely focused on virality as discussed above and likely to involves pop culture trends. Common CTAs include the popular practice of requesting users to post hashtags (1).
  • Brands insert memes (like popularized sayings, music and dances) into their content. The sky is the limit with memes like this. At the very least, they make memorable content to re-enact anything from target audience frustrations.
  • Content on how-to complete tasks or tips.
    • Carousal of images on 'how-to' do something (IG)
  • Influencer marketing. Influencers can use your product.

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Customize design content pillars

This stage of content pillar customization should be done only after you have understood the basics of strategic and tactical content pillars

As mentioned previously, customize the strategic level pillars according to your current marketing campaigns and mission statements. This therefore involves changing strategic pillars accordingly, as well re-allocating standard subordinate / tactical pillars under the new strategic pillars. 

Brands can consider how their sales funnel stages align with the TCP's buying process stages. Afterall, the 2 sets of stages do not always align perfectly. For instance, a new TCP lead may enter into a brand's 1st 'awareness' stage of the sales funnel when, he, as a potential buyer, is psychologically at the 3rd  'competition comparison' stage of his buying process (because he is already very well aware of his problem and has done a lot research to also know types of solutions he can use). New brands should therefore have different strategic goals to very well established brands.

  • If your TCP has a strong awareness of the problem and has already gotten sufficient information about the problem and solutions, you can assume they are already in stages 2 or 3 of the buying process. However, if your brand is new and therefore entirely unknown, the TCP will certainly enter  and remain for a longer period than usual in your sales funnel at the top of the funnel (or T.o.F). Consequently, regarding its strategy; your brand may decide on missions to 1) build brand awareness (regarding basic knowledge; recognition and recall), 2) encourage TCP engagement with the brand and 3) close product sales (that are not only transactional one-time events but based on relationships and therefore repeated, even to the point of being evangelical). On that basis, the content strategy will be as follows. The awareness pillar will have a heavy reliance on searchability via hashtags and keywords.
    1. to build BRAND AWARENESS @ top sales funnel (regarding i. basic knowledge; ii. recognition and iii. recall) @ middle buying process (information, competitive analysis)
      • Brand basic knowledge of existence, i
        • Traction (entertainment via brand collaboration)
        • Transparency (relatable to R&D process that is competitive)
        • Lifestyle (aspect of brand that is relatable to TCP lifestyle that makes it competitive)
        • Value (brand's core values that relate to TCP's strongest problem via UVP)
      • Brand recognition, ii
        • Ask (re self qualification on simple broad criteria like product line, for opinions on brand differentiation assets like colors, symbols, etc)
        • Authority
      • Brand recall, iii

    2. to ENGAGE TCP @ Middle Sales Funnel (as the TCP's ability grows to know, like and trust the brand).
      • Know
        • Value (brand's core values that relate to TCP's emotional convictions)
      • Like
        • Ask (deeper self-qualification questions re niche, 4P preferences)
      • Trust 
        • Authority (tackle sales objections)
        • Results
        • Transparency (R&D process)
    3. To GROW THE BRAND @ bottom sales funnel (through repeated sales / loyalty, market growth)
      • (Repeat) sales 
        • Transparency (R&D of new products for bundling & tentpoles, value regarding core values)
        • Solution
        • Ask (contact details, opinions on how to improve any part of the marketing mix)
      • Market growth
        • Ask (for positive reviews about brand & product, on how to improve)

  • Fastnet Agency's YouTube video illustrates how 3 strategic pillars can vary from the original set that had presented in their earlier video. As per usual, this considers the sale funnel. 
    • Discovery. to build the audience (top of funnel / ToF)
      • Ask / Participate
      • Lifestyle
      • Traction
      • Value *
    • Sell. to secure a sale. (middle of funnel / MoF)
      • Value *
      • Solution
      • Results
      • Transparency *
    • Brand advocacy. To establish brand loyalty. (bottom of funnel / BoF)
      • Transparency *
      • Authority
      • Beliefs

            

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ehSfsMstRw
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Forms of content  

Regardless of content pillar, all content occurs in one of 3 forms; 1) original, 2) repurposed and 3) curated. 

1. Original aka long form or macro content refers to comprehensive content because it offers a lot of in-depth information. It is generally considered to be the single most valuable type of content long term for several reasons.

The first key benefit is efficiency to the content creation process. Strategic content creation usually starts with long form content, intentionally made to be in-depth so that that one piece can be subsequently broken down aka "re-purposed" to generate multiple other pieces of content called "short form" content (which I will discuss shortly). 

Beware however, its name has unfortunately given rise to the misconception that this content must be time consuming. The single most important defining factor is its level of consumer perceived value. Furthermore, it is a win-win form of content because in addition to being valuable to consumers, it is also very valuable to the brand. This is because long form content is evergreen. In other words, it has a long-life span and can be easily found by search engines well into the future. 

Here are some example(s) of long form content topic in long form formats. 

  • Detailed YouTube videos, blog post or podcasts: 
    • 10 reasons your doctor wants you to reduce stress.
    • Interview with expert about different techniques in his field. 

Here are some third party YouTube videos on this point of how long form content can be re-purposed. 


2Re-purposed aka micro content refers to relatively short stand-alone content that derives from more in-depth long form content. (See my discussion about long form content immediately above). 

Here is an example of how a single long form piece of content may be re-purposed into multiple pieces of short form content. Naturally, the same applies for campaigns.

  • 1 long form detailed YouTube video, blog post or podcast "7 reasons your doctor wants you to reduce stress" generate 7 Short form repurposed 
    • video excerpts on YouTube shorts, IG reels and TikTok
    • quote cards on IG
    • advertisements
    • question prompts
      • Post 1: Reason 1 re 'mental health'
      • Post 2: Reason 2 re 'chronic physical disease' 
      • Post 3: Reason 3
      • etc
    • Infographics on IG
    • Slideshow on IG
      • Reasons 1-10 
  • 1 long form detailed slideshow deep dive "how to reverse damage caused by stress"
    • IG carousel
    • Post 1: Reason 1 - mental health expert interview 
    • Post 2: Reason 2 - dietician interview interview
    • Post 3: Reason 3
    • etc
Third party YouTuber (J Palmer) speaks about her content repurposing journey.

             

Rest assured of 2 things that worry most new content creators: 

  1. for the most part, people are committed to single platforms and are therefore not likely to become bored with some repetition across platforms and; 
  2. re-posting good content with minor updates after some time has past is common, even on the same platform. 



3Curated content involves gathering content that is relevant to a particular topic or area of interest (as per the allowed topics, aka topic pillars for your social media strategy) and then sharing it with your audience. Content curation saves time and money because your community of related industries may have already created a lot of content that you can easily share on your own platform. Curation also helps to build industry connections because you are essentially showing approval for the original content producer. Duly credited original content creators are thankful for the increased exposure and potential virality of their work. Furthermore, these new connections can potentially extend your social reach and influence to the followers of the original content producer. Content curation also helps you to provide a greater variety of content, especially in areas in which your business has some deficiency. Furthermore, curation of diverse (albeit relevant) content showcases your diverse knowledge as a thought leader. Your target market can be encouraged to perceive your brand as posting not only goods and features but true value. As a final side note; the tacit nod of approval between your brand and the next inherent in curated content might open doors for brand collaborations.


Content Formats #cformats

Most common formats appear in the list immediately below. Since formats can be very platform-specific, knowing your format options, where they belong and their performance within specific strategic or tactical content pillar will advance your process of content planning.

  • Branded Graphics.
    • Purpose: building trust in the brand's expertise.
    • Provide: tips and appear.
    • Platform(s): visual platforms; IG; PInterest.
  • Infographics.
    • Purpose: building authority & trust; virality (because they are among the most shared content formats).
    • Provide: concise graphical / statistical results that condense large volumes of data; solution-centric segment symbols to represent numerous products.
  • Videos.
    • Purpose: to a) advertise existing or new products (short form videos); b) to boost engagement / participation, to get the target to like your brand.
    • Provide: a) testimonials, slideshow of images that has been converted into video format; b) live streams for B2C; webinars for B2B.
    • Platform(s): a) YouTube shorts of 60-second videos for entertaining advertisements; b) YouTube live streams.
  • GIFs. GIFs can be incorporated into many other formats like infographics. They create just a little animation transform otherwise less exciting still images and text. If GIF is working for you, they can also be used drastically to minimize long form video to better resemble still images.
    • Provide: animated testimonials and reviews, quotes in image format
  • Blog Content.
    • Purpose: to build authority and trust
    • Provide: long form content; branded images with embedded text messages and quotes that are repurposed from other platforms and SEO-ready.
  • Text. When applicable, consider repurposing this format into others like GIFs and infographics.
    • Provide: brand-specific quotes; hashtags like #dailyquotes or quote of the day / #qotd (to reach broader audiences)
    • Platform(s): Instagram stories; Product packaging thank-you notes;
  • Presentations.
    • Purpose: to teach; to instruct; to demonstrate
    • Provide: multiple slides with complex information (usually without sound)
    • Platform(s): Instagram carousels 
  • E-books.
    • Purpose: lead generation.
    • Provide: long-form content; short-form content
    • Platform(s): ....
  • Apps (gaming, functional, etc)


Online templates include the following options.

Online tools include the following.

Step-by-step guide: Content planning  |  top



Steps for planning content          

1. TCP    |    2. Pillars (Strategic & Tactical)     |    3. PIllars (thematic)    |    4. Platforms, Formats, Guidelines     |    5.    |    6.    |    7.    


For your sanity sake, complete this process for only one target customer profile (or TCP) at a time.


1. Create a target customer profile / TCP (aka customer avatar). To this end, you may need to conduct survey to find out details like the following. Subsequently and otherwise (not covered in this post), also use these TCP details to formulate the voice & tone 'brand personality' section of your brand style guidelines before preparing your first social media post.
  • platform preferences. (an ordered list).
    • While this likely predicts content format preferences, you may survey content format preferences as a type of reliability testing. 
    • purpose(s) and perceived value for consuming product on the platform, such as: entertainment; connection personal contacts; connect with like-minded people  
    • consumption rate and frequency of posts. You may get this information from observing industry standards, ie from observing your competition. If you can, establish your frequency to match that of your competitor with the most engaged audience. 
  • your target's buying personality as it relates to the communication style your brand's voice & tone must use in response to advance your target to the next stage of the funnel (like the buying decision process). 
    • what will be considered 'enough', too much or too little information to convert this target to the next level of the current funnel?
    • what are the linguistic and grammatical preferences?
    • what elements of information does the target need? (For instance, in addition to stating the UVP and clues for TCP self-qualification, does your target also need expert scientific evidence, case studies, etc)
    • What keywords and hashtags will attract and appeal to your target?
    • frequently asked questions. These will tie in with thematic pillars, etc under ‘information’)
  • Responding to as many questions (who, why, where, etc), establish 2 descriptive key thematic pillars, based on 1) the solution that you provide and 2) your TCP's problem. Example: "stressful city lifestyle" (is the TCP's problem) and "your luxury spa" (is your literal product solution) &/ "relaxation" (is your non-literal product solution). You can breakdown these concepts later. For the time being, we only want to establish a reminder of what your TCP is looking for when he or she consumes your content. ... just so that, if you sell cupcakes, you won't find yourself posting about video games. Remember that your solution can be a literal or non-literal concept, as per your unique value proposition (UVP)If Disney World were to participate in this exercise, they would likely include the non-literal concept 'happiest moments' or 'happiest vacation'.  
  • content format preferences. This will likely correlate with platform preferences.
  • demographics
  • Other marketing mix considerations: 
    • Price. If your target is not price sensitive, perhaps price should not be discussed and vice versa.


2. Custom design a strategic plan of pillars according to 1) your TCP's stage within their buying process (summary above), the 2) corresponding stage in your sales funnel and 3) current mission statement(s). I can not stress enough how important it is to customize this step. For instance, if your TCP has deep trust issues around dealing with an unknown brand to resolve high-stakes problems, you should design your pillars accordingly. After all, copying another business' model that caters to different circumstances is likely to render suboptimal results.

Needless to say, as the business evolves, major events occur and trends emerge, you may need to re-shuffle your pillars. Finally, and as a sidenote, since my approach is function before form, do not worry about content formatting for different platforms just yet. We will get to that later. 

Here are details for designing a strategic content pillar plan.


2a. Spend time defining specifically each strategic pillar, tailoring the definitions to the stages of BOTH the buyer and seller funnels. Enter these definitions into the brand style guidelines. 
    • This example assumes that your brand is introducing a new product to a market that knows the problem very well, knows of various solution types and is at the competitive analysis phase of the buying process. The strategic pillars may be like this.
> 'BRAND Top sales funnel' (Purpose: to build brand awareness to buyer at the 3rd competitive analysis stage of the buying process.)
> 'ENGAGE TCP middle sales funnel' (Purpose: To engage TCP to encourage them to know, like and trust the brand.)
> 'Boost & Repeat SALES, GROWTH bottom sales funnel' (Purpose: To promote loyalty and social proof.)
2b. Apply tactical pillars to strategic pillars whose objectives they can serve. Like before, write the definition for each pillar for your brand style guidelines.

These definitions should be motivated by your business goals / current mission statement and your TCP's communication needs as per their buyer personality. This example of  'brand trust' can be defined in a multifaceted way. Consequently, you will need to determine which facets best apply to a single pillar and state it so that you can streamline post topics appropriately. Needless to say, the same pillar could have slightly different meanings if it recurs in different strategic pillars. This is why it is best to label (like 'Authority 1and 'Authority 2') and define your tactical pillars. Otherwise, simply rename your pillars in ways that you understand more readily. For instance, if your purpose is brand trust and your particular need relates to the 'social proof' facet of that construct (of brand trust), that pillar can be called 'Trust: Social Proof". If you want to take that approach, See different facets and definitions for 'brand trust'. The only downside is that you may end up with many more pillars overall. 
 
Example(s)
  • Pillar: "Trust: Expertise"
  • Purpose:  Trustworthiness defined by expertise re science, safety). 
  • Rules:
    • YES: 
    • NO: sales pitch, 'product benefits', etc

As with the illustrations on this page, it is acceptable to repeat tactical pillars in multiple strategic pillars. Additionally, it is a rule of thumb that, regardless of your mission, allow your hardcore sales content in the 'Sell' pillar to appear the least. Since customers consume content from people they know, like and trust, consider making the 'Brand'-related pillars your more frequently occurring to give customers more opportunities to emotionally connect with your brand, especially for new businesses whose mission is ‘brand awareness’.

Example(s)

> 'BRAND Top sales funnel' (Full Definition: to build basic brand awareness - knowledge. Buyer decision at the 3rd competitive analysis stage of the buying process.)

  • Traction
  • Value
  • Authority
  • Value / ask

> 'ENGAGE TCP middle sales funnel' (Full Definition: engage TCP to encourage them to like and trust the brand.)
  • Authority
  • Results
  • Ask
  • Values
  • Solution
  • Transparency & Ask
> 'Boost & Repeat SALES, GROWTH bottom sales funnel' (Full Definition: To promote loyalty and social proof.
  • Results
  • Solution
  • Traction

 

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3. Create post ideas (thematic pillars). 
Before proceeding with this step; be fore-warned! It can be very non-linear. Consult the section in this post that discusses the step more fully, including various post idea formulation tools.

3a. Earlier, in the TCP step (1), you had to create 2 descriptive keyword-based  thematic pillars that directly relate to the 1) TCP's problem and 2) solution you offer to resolve that problem. Notice that some problems are complex and have non-literal, as well as literal facets. In fact, I strongly suggest also stepping above the subset into which your product solution exists and into the broader consumer perspective. This will help you to get results that include your entire competitive landscape. In many cases, this results in the non-literal version of the solution.  However, double check to ensure that that is the case for your brand. Example(s): 
  • 1) stressful city lifestyle (TCP's problem); 2) your luxury spa (your literal  product solution) -& or- relaxation (your non-literal product solution) 
  • 1) physical attributes the consumer deems unattractive (TCP's literal problem) &/ lack of self confidence when dealing with the opposite sex (non-literal problem); 2) surgical procedures (your literal  product solution) -& or- opportunity to feel more confident (your non-literal product solution) 

3b. Use primary industry surveys and social listening tools to brainstorm ideas for post titles that derive from each single keyword-based pillar. Even type in competitor brand names and indirectly competing products like "relaxing musicor "pets" are indirect competing products for a spa. Notice how each single keyword is a broad starting point can generate useful ideas. 

Deep dive into rabbit holes like reading Amazon reviews, reading articles that answer social listening questions and watching real people who fit your TCP vlog about their good and bad experiences. You may get even deeper insight into your TCP's mind, discover new UVP ideas and advantages that your solution offers (often because your deep dive reveals previously unconsidered competitor weaknesses and TCP problems). Sometimes, your product already offers sellable advantages that you had not yet considered. The converse also applies; you may discover sales objections and figure workarounds. Needless to say, some of these findings should be worked into your post ideas and included in your list of keywords (for further searches and marketing).

Here are some ways to generate ideas.
  • Primary research with your TCP.
    • Ask your TCP. Needless to say, doing so can be converted into a social media post that encouraged engagement. I also like the idea of using this question as a regular CTA.
    • Product reviews
  • Monitor the posts of your competition.
  • Join interest groups on Facebook and otherwise.
  • Social listening tools. These tools show the questions that real people  asked search engines. You could not ask for better pull marketing ideas because you know that your TCP is already looking for answers.
    • By typing in your brand name, a competitor’s name or a product, etc on AnswerThePublic.com, you will see the questions that the public asks to search engines about the keyword. These questions can inspire several pieces of content around the single keyword. This is ideal for creating bingeable content for persons who are genuinely interested in the topic.
    • AnswerSocrates is similar to AnswerThePublic
    • UberSuggest also offers keyword information. It also provides information about search volume.
    • Buzzsumo shows the platforms with the most engagement for certain types of content, among other things. 
    • NeilPatel UberSuggest is a site that offers keywords
  • Trends
    • Google Trends
    • AnswerSocrates has a trends section that requires you to filter for country and language. The accompanying graph also gives a quick visual as to whether the trend is rising or falling.
    • Google Trends Hot trends
    • YouTube Trends

Here is an example of generating single post topics from social listening questions (*) as they are and how other questions (*) can be tweaked slightly to meet your needs. For instance, if the question asked about location, a detail that appears naturally (in your auto-signature and therefore does not require a post), you might see other aspects of the question that interest you, like the fact the TCP is defining itself differently (as groups of friends, romantic partners and not only individuals). Notice how you can start allocating these ideas to your tactical pillars.
  • For the search "go to a spa" answersocrates.com 
    • while pregnant*, while menstruating*, where to find one in a-b-c town (to go with a group of friends)*, what to expect*, would going be a good date*
    • "how do spas work" [can be a post under the 'Transparency' tactical pillar]
    • day passes  [can be a post under the 'Sell / Solution' tactical pillar]
    Here is a third party YouTuber's video on ways of gathering topic ideas: 



      Wildcard topics by transforming variable variants into open wildcard options.
      Here is an example of how to create wildcard topic ideas that are loosely inspired by social listening questions or other sources. Wildcards keep options open. Figure out the categorical name for variables within which elements of your individual post ideas it. Those categorical names will create wildcards and the element you identified will be one of many variants of the same variable. Do not worry about repeating old messages. That is the nature of content from most brands. 
      • If you get a question specifically about "Swedish massages" for the search "go to a spaanswersocrates.com, you can generate post ideas based on wildcards like the following.
        • Benefits of a [specialty type of massage (the wildcard variable name)]. You can therefore create a post about swedish massages, deep tissue massages, etc ...

      You can spot wildcards by spotting the recurrence of variants of a single variable, even if their associated questions are precisely the same as in the case below.  
      • One question wants to know where to go while the other wants to know if it is a good idea. You will remember above that, for the search "go to a spaanswersocrates.com, your results included the following. The new variable can be 'spa partners'. This means that, if you offer such spa packages, you can have posts about carrying pets, co-worker groups, therapy groups, etc.  
        • where to find one in a-b-c town (to go with a group of friends)*, would going be a good date

      After creating wildcards as in the example immediately above, you can now pivot around a wildcard variable to create another wildcard variable.  
        • Using the same example of the 'spa partners' wildcard variable from immediately above, you can now pivot around that spa partners variable with other new wildcard variables, like '
          • photos of best moments'
          • 'package deals' [for the 'sales / solution' pillar]
          • reviews 
          • how spa day transformed the relationship(s)

        These social listening tools can generate hundreds of options that feel overwhelming, especially since the same ideas are repeated numerous times within any single downloadable CSV file. However, you can prepare the data files in MS Excel that make the data more manageable.



        3c. The earlier step illustrates how to gather single-post ideas. When discussing different forms of content (see in this post), I mentioned the valuable evergreen nature of long form content and the fact that it is best prepared before the short form (single post) content. To create long form content, you will need to group all of your ideas about any single topic to establish all of the talking points to be combined for that one long form content.

        Whether you started with long form content ideas (or eventually got to it), see how you can break it down into shorter form for multiple individual posts. Needless to say, do not worry if you re-use / re-purpose some parts of other posts. Here is an example. 

        Use wildcard variables above to generate long form posts like 'Top 5', 'top 10' ... so that you can subsequently break them down. Needless to say, this will give you the opportunity to reach new groups using relevant hashtags. The extra research required to write a little more in depth to really appeal to the problems of the wider market is worth it.  

        Long form: 
        • 5 ways you can transform your life. (by transforming your relationships)
        Short form: (featuring 5 relationships)
        • Post 1: Co-worker relationship transformation at spa day. 
        • Post 2:Slow down to focus on significant other 
        • etc ...  
        See another, more extensive example above.


        4. Establish your publication a) platforms, b) formats and respective c) brand style guidelines.

        Study each of your platforms carefully. The algorithmic differences have been known to sometimes create testing opportunities. For instance, since some platforms (like TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn) ranked creators' content purely on a video basis, while IG and YouTube ranks creators on their historical performance, creators observe the performance of content pieces on platforms like TikTok before deciding which pieces are sufficiently good to be uploaded to YouTube or IG. This video speaks of other noteworthy tricks which are 1) to produce content that is visually very entertaining (with transitions, colors and so on) and 2) tailor content formatting to each platform. He gives the simple yet surprisingly effective idea of re-shooting the same content with his phone camera oriented in landscape and then portrait to appeal to platform requirements. This creator claims that this alone attributed to his converting new clients. Hmm!
         
         
        Needless to say, algorithms change and therefore need constant observation for appropriate adaptation.

        4a. As a rule of thumb and to avoid becoming overwhelmed if you are a beginner, it is customary to select only one primary long form platform and one short form platform. For many brands, the decision is as follows when primary TCP research or sufficient analytics are not yet possible.
        • YouTube (primary platform for long form content) and Instagram or Facebook (primary platform for short form content)



        4b.  Consider the best use of each type of format. (See discussion about formats above). Also consider the format with which your TCP can really engage. 

        Example(s).
        • Long form: A video featured all the types of spa guests patrons brought along on their spa day. 
          • Short form. : 5 posts, each featuring an IMAGES WITH A QUOTE about transformative experiences in the relationship during the spa day.

        4c. Guidelines entries should include the following. 
        • Brand asset rules. Avoid the common mistake of creating infographics, quotes and other such content without adequately promoting brand recognizability. 
          • color palette
          • fonts
          • scenarios for presentation variations
          • templates (and sources of templates)
        • Posting rules 
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        5. Establish your schedule (read more about content scheduling on this page). This should help you to know how many posts you need leading up to certain tentpole events. Establish the percentage for each strategic pillar according to your brand's current mission. Here are some examples. Subsequently, plan your scheduling accordingly (as discussed below). 
        • Brand awareness mission: 80% brand promotion; 5% sales; 15% growth
        • Business as usual mission: 60% brand promotion; 10% sales; 30% growth


        6. Fill out the content pillars in the following steps.

        a.    Create a list of platforms that best reaches your target market.

        b.   For each pillar, list messages you want to share. If you need inspiration, use the most popular hashtags to observe activity from your competition and target. Remember to include Calls-to-Action (CTAs).

        c.    Visualize how you will present each message.

                                                  i.    Decide where you will produce the long form, original format from which parts may be re-purposed. Long forms often derive from YouTube videos that last longer than other formats. A rule of thumb is to have one main long form content platform on which you focus. You can also have a secondary platform to which you can repurpose content without expending much effort.

                                                ii.    Decide on how you can repurpose each long form message. Here are some tips.

        1.YouTuber, Veed Studio's '10 ways to repurpose content using Garyvee's Content Model'. (ie transforming long form YouTube video content into shorter formats

        2.    YouTuber Rachel Pederson's '11 repurposing hacks' (ie transforming long form YouTube videos into shorter forms recognizing that the same content can not always make sense on different platforms. However, she also discusses possible cases where the same content can be reused over sufficiently similar / 'sister platforms')

        3.    YTer Stephanie Kase's 'How to repurpose long form using the program Descript' (Descript can be used to extract and combine clips from within a long form video) 

                                               iii.    For each message, decide on the presentation. For instance, if your message is that you sell mugs, also note the platforms along with the most suitable corresponding platform-specific presentation option for each message. This should specify graphic and other needs. For instance, you need to explain if you will use a carousal of 2 or 3 slides; the first with before and after images, the 2nd with a-b-c, etc …

        d.    If necessary, describe the types of content to be curated. …

        7. Decide whether you need to hire a social media manager. Either way, be sure to have voice & tone 'brand personality' section of your brand style guidelines ready. It should have been formulated as an appropriate response to the TCP step (above).