We’ve all seen ‘em from companies before. Confusing press releases. Offensive tweets. Non-apology apologies on blogs. Facebook posts riddled with mistakes. Horrible, cringeworthy content from brands that made us wonder, “How the hell did this get published?”
Someone, somewhere on that brand’s team failed their content planning process, that’s how. Of course, there are times where you just have to step in it. We’ve all been there. But we are here to help with some tips to avoid those online fails.
Do you have a pre-publishing process?
Let’s talk about what you do before publishing your content. Do you have a process for brainstorming, approving, creating, and scheduling everything?
Your process may vary if you’re working alone, with a boss, or with a team, but you should have some kind of structure for creating content. A process will save you time, and you’ll avoid the stress of figuring out what to publish at the last minute.
If you’re thinking, “Great, one more thing I have to do for my business,” just take a deep breath and chiiiiill. Your content creation process doesn’t have to be expensive, headache-inducing or time-consuming. All you need is a document that’ll keep your content ideas organized. (Psst: we have a free Content Planning Spreadsheet that can help.)
Never used a spreadsheet for content planning before? We explain how in this Instagram post, but in a nutshell, all you have to do is write down all your content topic ideas, then break down each idea into a couple of bullet points. Assign publish dates to each one, plus format/platform and audience, and you’re done.
One final note about planning your content ahead of time. Plan ahead all you want — we like to brainstorm content by quarter — but only work about a month ahead on the actual content. That’ll leave you wiggle room for editing in case something comes up, like, say, a global pandemic or an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Your to-do list for publishing content
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of planning your content, let’s go over what you should be doing before your scheduled content goes live.
Check for accuracy
By accuracy, we mean misspelled words, misused phrases, and terrible grammar. (Here are some of our “favorites.”) We also mean accuracy in your information. If you’re sharing a statistic about something in your industry, double check where that statistic came from. If you’re quoting a person, make sure that they actually said that quote. Find the source if you can.
Anyone can post anything online. As responsible internet users, we should be critical of our sources and fact-check content before believing it. Or before sharing it with others. As a biz owner, it’s also your job to publish accurate content that isn’t misleading, sensational, or straight up dishonest. You’re helping avoid fake news, and you’re also developing a trustworthy reputation for your brand.
Review for unnecessary content
Why are you publishing this social media post, or blog post, or email newsletter? What’s its purpose? Do you have something meaningful to say or an action for your audience to take? Or are you just contributing to online noise?
If you think it’s important, do what Latasha does: Ask your team. If you don’t have a team, ask a biz bestie or peer. “Do you think this is relevant?” or “Is this important to share right now?”
We’ve talked about having a mixed bag of social media content on the blog before because it keeps things interesting. “Mix things up” is a good rule to follow for all of your content, in fact.
You can promote your services, provide value with tips or tutorials, humanize your brand with behind-the-scenes content, or build trust by sharing testimonials.
And occasionally, you can entertain your audience with fluff or filler content. But if you rely on this type of unnecessary content too much, you’re not really taking advantage of what your content can do for your brand.
Make sure it’s on-brand
If you have brand guidelines in place, you should already know what your brand “sounds” like. Your brand guidelines tell you what words, phrases, language, or tone of voice to use… and not use. They should also describe your target audience. Any time you’re preparing content to be published, run a quick check to make sure it’s on-brand.
This goes without saying, but you should also check that your content isn’t offensive. Offensive content often stems from brands trying to be witty or trendy. If you’re unsure whether your content may offend someone, ditch it. It’s not worth the possible online backlash.
And while you’re at it, maybe you should dig deeper and find out why offensive content made it this far in the first place. Is that the type of brand you want to be? We hope not.
Think twice about posting impulsively
News happens fast and changes fast. It makes sense to leave room for impulse posts in your social media strategy, right? Saying something is better than not saying anything at all…right??
Not really. In fact, you can make things worse for your brand. Look at how many brands rushed to share statements on racism and diversity during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. They tried to sound meaningful and supportive, but often came off as inauthentic, uninformed, and even shady instead. Yikes.
It’s hard not to jump into online conversations as they’re happening, but trust us. Letting things sit for a day or two so you can craft a genuine response to current events is a much better idea.
TL;DR? Read, read, and read your content again
If you remember just one piece of advice from this, it’s to read your content before you publish. Read it again, and then one more time. Better yet, have someone else read it a few times, too. You’ll catch mistakes and make sure that your content has a purpose before you send it out into the world.