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Streamlining #DigiLab

Sarah Dick at the Royal Institution talks about streamlining her content plans with the help of the Digital Lab

At the Royal Institution (Ri) we were entering our busiest time of year, with our Christmas Lectures at the centre of a number of fundraising and PR campaigns. Alongside this we want to extend the theme of the Christmas Lectures to our digital audiences by creating content and engaging in conversations on the theme of the lectures, ‘Who am I?’.

In managing our social media I always try to bear in mind the 80/20 rule – that 20% of your content should be about your ‘brand’, and the other 80% should be content that is created and curated to entertain and interest your audience. I roughly divide the content we post in to two categories: marketing content, and science engagement content.

With the uptick in the number of posts around the Christmas Lectures period, it’s tricky to balance our business-as-usual posts with various messages, calls to action and original content, all whilst maintaining our tone of voice and not overwhelming our audiences.

Organisation is key. Last year (my first year on the job) I made a content calendar mega-spreadsheet. Everything went into it, with just a few words describing the content and a colour code to indicate which campaign it belonged to.

It was so bloated and convoluted that by the time I was done feeding in the science engagement content and the marketing content for the multiple campaigns, it only made sense to me in my colour code-dazzled state. It was a little impenetrable to anyone else at the Ri who wanted to quickly check the schedule to make sure their message was getting out. “It’s a simple colour code you see” I told them. “Yes…” they nodded.

A few weeks later and I had lost the context for why I had arbitrarily assigned a certain post to a certain date, and it wasn’t a simple process to quickly re-jig the dates of posts.

Starting the Digital Lab, I knew I wanted one of our experiments to focus on streamlining the various Christmas-time campaigns.

“I said ‘streamlining’ so much that the word lost all meaning…”

Our first phone call with our mentor Daniel was very helpful. We spoke about our backgrounds, what we wanted to get out of the programme and what experiment ideas we had. I think I said ‘streamlining’ so much that the word lost all meaning.

Daniel made lots of suggestions and right after our call emailed us a handful of links to articles and resources, my favourite being this social media content calendar template.

Looking at the way Daniel has structured his template made me realise that in my ‘streamlining’ obsession, I’d been focusing too much on making sure all the messages from our various campaigns, and all the content types, were all in the same place.

“I’d been thinking of my content calendar too much like a scheduling platform (we use Hootsuite), and not giving the content enough space to be fully worked through and developed before locking it in to a calendar date”.

Daniel’s content calendar is structured to make you think about your posts in 2-week themed chunks, which makes it much more practical to manage content production and make adjustments than the 2-month timeline I used last year. The calendar also gives space for you to input the platforms you will share the content on and the influencers and advocates you will contact to amplify the reach of your message. This is especially useful to help get the most out of your content and build relationships. I’m careful of not bombarding our advocates and reciprocal partners with request after request in the run up to Christmas (when their social media schedules are no doubt equally busy!)

With all this extra information for each post I think it will help me keep track of the message, purpose and audience, as well as aiding the actual content production. This structure has also made me realise that at this point in my workflow, the science engagement content and the marketing campaign content don’t necessarily need to be in the same content calendar and I over-fill the spreadsheet by trying to force it. This year, I’m going to split them between two separate content calendars and then streamline the posts by feeding them in to Hootsuite, where you can easily drag and drop posts to reschedule them.

I hope that having a separate marketing campaign content calendar will be clearer and more focused for other teams across the Ri to quickly check to see when their Christmas campaign messages are scheduled.

Finally, the calendars will also be hugely helpful when it comes to analysing how the science engagement content and marketing messages have performed with our audience, as there is space in the calendar to add your trackable URL. That’s the next big experiment we’re working on, something that’s been a long time coming – revitalising our social media analytics dashboards.

Header image credit: Paul Wilkinson, The Royal Institution