How to Plan, Repurpose, and Schedule Social Content: Automation for Dummies

Creating content is no child’s play. It might be a 15s Reel for the viewer but on the business side, there’s a whole day’s worth of researching, ideating, copywriting, and designing that goes into making the piece come alive.

Regardless of your account’s size, purpose, style, and industry, it’s still mental labor in the end, and only those who have been in this game for more than a year will be able to appreciate the effort.

To make this process more efficient, I always recommend brands (or individuals) to create at least 2-4 weeks’ worth of social media posts and/or blog articles in advance. This may include 15-25 pieces depending on your frequency. I call it “Working in Sprints.”


Advantages of Sprinting

There are 3 advantages to bulk content creation:

  • Saves you when you’re out of ideas, exhausted, or engaged
  • Gives you time to relax and unwind
  • Creates space to prioritize long-form or ad-hoc content

A. You can’t always Work

If you take a day-by-day approach, there will be times when you run out of ideas, get busy with other assignments, or feel too exhausted and demotivated to go up on stage. This is why most creators abandon their accounts after a while. The whole process is random and if you don’t see results after toiling every day, you feel like quitting altogether.

In such dark times, you can lean back on your drafts as you figure out your next moves.

B. You shouldn’t always Work

A sprint may demand extra effort over the weekend, but then you can take the whole week off. Letting your creative muscles rest and recharge is as needed as getting sleep every night.

So make sure you create the space to “un-think” your mind. Binge Netflix, go out and travel, socialize with friends, bake a new recipe, or just watch random cat videos on Reddit – I won’t judge!

C. You can Work on other things

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to go AWOL. There’s always room for ad-hoc content, especially if you do “moment marketing” i.e. jumping on viral internet trends and memes. Furthermore, long-form pieces like YouTube tutorials, research articles, and IGTV videos might take an entire week to execute so you probably can’t afford to produce more than 5 at a time.

But this is precisely where having a pre-built library will come in handy! You can work on big projects in the background while still giving your audience the impression that you’re active on social media every day.

There are free tools to automate your entire strategy, which will be the focus of our discussion. I’ll help you master the main three stages of automation: planning, repurposing, and scheduling.


Step 1: Planning with a Calendar

Everything starts with a plan. So whatever ideas you’ve come up with during the research stage, you can feed them in a Google Sheet. Try not to use Excel because it won’t allow you to make live edits based on your client’s feedback, neither will you be able to collaborate with other team members and delegate different areas.

Here are some columns you can consider making to arrange the data. Granted, it’s a bit comprehensive but trust me, having all the data in one place will make your job easier down the line. Check out the Google Sheet template & copy it for your use!

Alternative: Try Airtable

Do you think Sheets are messy? I suggest trying “Airtable.” It combines the depth and power of a big database with the visually appealing aesthetic that a table offers. There’s even an option to convert your main table view into a Kanban board i.e. sticky boards of “pending, “WIP (Work in Progress), and “Done” tasks.

Mind you, there are many other views, plugins, power-up apps, integrations, filters, sorting, and colorization options available.

I’m not getting paid to say this but I swear it looks so cool and gets more work done. If you’re a neatness freak like me, expect an orgasm!

Reporting in Airtable – Airtable Support

Just like the G-Sheet, I’ve made an Airtable calendar template to give you a headstart! You can thank me by sharing this post!

Now once you’re done with your calendar, you can begin executing the posts one by one. But before we dive in, let’s take a step back to understand why it’s so crucial to repurpose each piece, and how to do it.


Step 2: Repurposing for all Channels

There are more social media apps now than countries on this planet. But if you’re a one-man marketing department or just a lone wolf trying with a dream to go viral, you probably don’t have enough time and energy to focus on all.

In fact, your target demographic may have obvious preferences, so creating different campaigns for each verticle may not even be worth it. If you’re a photographer (young audience), you don’t even have to look beyond Instagram would. On the other hand, a recruiter or HR consultant (mature audience) may get the highest traction on LinkedIn.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have an omnichannel presence. If you want to be in control of your image and the conversations around it, you must have a watchful eye on all corners. Like an octopus, you need to have all your eight tentacles ready to strike on your fans everywhere.

Furthermore, having your content up on various platforms helps you gain more followers on the alpha platform of your choice. Say you’re a YouTuber, then pushing your videos on TikTok and IGTV can help you leverage the fans on those sites and bring them back to your YouTube channel.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you simply pick up the original video and re-upload it everywhere blindly. Each platform as its own language, rules, legalities, and demographics, so you just need to know how to repackage the piece to fit those criteria. Marketers call this “repurposing.”

Repurposing is not Promotion!

The problem with repurposing is that most of us think of it AFTER we’re done creating the main piece. So we either face trouble in translating the value because we don’t know what to pick and leave. Or we make the mistake of passively trying to drive traffic back to the main source without providing any value in the repurposed piece.

What I mean by that is you can’t just write a blog, screenshot it, and promote it on Stories. That’s just “promotion,” and it doesn’t always work. People won’t rush to click the link in your bio unless you’re a powerful celebrity or a news-breaking journalist with juicy stories.

You’d rather break down the blog’s main points into 3 insightful Stories. Then on the fourth and last slide, have a swipe-up link or a simple CTA to hit the link in your bio.

So while you’re still driving traffic to the source, you’re respecting the audience’s time on that platform and letting each of your posts stand independently because of the value it’s delivering, no matter how small.

Route A: Break it Down

Let’s come back to the first and more common problem. If you’re not thinking about omnichannel distribution from the get-go, you’ll get confused later on. To neutralize this risk, check whether your idea can either be broken down or strung together.

Here’s a case study on breaking it down. You start with a broad post, “10 Steps for Losing Weight.” These steps may include:

  • Exercising daily (fitness)
  • Having a good sleep (rest)
  • Eating fruits and vegetables (diet)

Each of these points can be converted into stand-alone carousels on Instagram. And on the last slide, you can have a common CTA that prompts the audience to go read the whole blog for deeper and wholesome insights. Each of the posts can also be stand-alone podcast episodes or short YouTube tutorials, nested under a common playlist.

Either way, you’re slicing up and milking your main idea to its maximum potential. This eliminates the need to come up with new concepts every day.

Route B: String it Up

Flip it over. This time, you start with a series of posts that can stand on their own but also be strung together under one umbrella campaign or huge blog post. So you’re building small pieces and then combining them into the main pillar.

I call this “popcorn content” because it’s consumable in less than 7-10 minutes, sometimes even seconds. But to get the full effect, you can also binge on it like the episodes of TV series. A long-term campaign also reduces your mental effort because instead of searching for new ideas, you can just come up with fresh concepts under a fixed big idea.

For example, I started a weekly series on LinkedIn called “Marketing Terms, Dummified,” in which I defined one marketing term using simple language, analogies, and anecdotes. Over time, people started looking forward to the posts. Once when I forgot to upload the definition, a colleague even messaged me to check the status.

Because of the traction I’ve received from the series, I’ve decided to convert it into a mini ebook titled, “The Marketer’s Dictionary: Concepts explained for Dummies.” Follow my Instagram for more updates on that soon!

The takeaway is that you can string up your posts into a long-form blog article that covers the subject in great detail from start to end, each step listed in brief with a link to the smaller pieces for further reading. The technical term for this is “cornerstone” or “evergreen” content.

Here are some series ideas you can consider:

  • Term of the Week: Take complex concepts from your job and explain them to a dummy
  • Industry Update: Explain any recent happenings or events related to your field
  • Quick Hacks: Share techniques or ideas that might save their time, effort, or money
  • Listicles: Compile a list of resources and recommendations (eg. 10 movies on startups)
  • Tutorials: Make a walk-through guide on how to operate a tool or complete a task
  • Insights: If you achieved something, teach others how they can replicate your success 
  • Collabs: Interviews/podcasts featuring other professionals (check out “HBR Ideacast“)

Playing by the Rules

There’s one last point to consider. You can’t repurpose properly if you don’t know the nuances of each platform. This starts with being clear about the latest image/video dimensions and time duration.

These insights will help you dictate your strategy. Consider how Reels was previously just 15s but now that’s it’s open for the 60s format, you can cross-post the same video on TikTok and Instagram without having to trim or speed it up.

I’ve already put together a cheat sheet of the post dimensions and requirements (as of 2021) for major social media platforms, so do give it a whirl.

But your research should go further than the post requirements. You also need to know what works best where.

For example, one detail not many people know is that you shouldn’t directly post several images on LinkedIn as it doesn’t have a pretty album/carousel creation feature like Facebook or Instagram. So your carousel is going to end up looking like a messy bunch of separate photos in different sizes. In one frame, your text may be cropped here and in the other, half of the page may get cut off on the main feed.

Instead, convert your JPEGs into a PDF using Sejda and upload this as a document to achieve the smooth swipe effect.

To gather an insight like this, you have to spend a lot of time minutely observing how leading brands and influencers distribute their content.

So start thinking along these lines and consider some of the following formats to repackage your piece.

You can also convert the piece into a lead magnet. It’s a free piece of content or resource you offer in exchange for a potential customer’s email ID, phone, or personal info. The idea is to use bait and generate leads via a signup gate. You can then segregate and convert the leads into customers via email or call.

Here’s an example of Appboy using an Ebook to get contact details from prospects.

gated content appboy

A good magnet genuinely solves the target fan’s problem or provides useful but bite-sized insights. It establishes your expertise and creates trust. Some examples are:

  • e-Book, PDF Guide, 7-day Email Course
  • Webinar, Consultation, Coaching Session
  • Customizable Template
  • Industry Report, Case Studies, Research Paper
  • PDF Checklists, Cheatsheets, Toolboxes

Step 3: Using Free Schedulers

Relax, you don’t have to log in to each platform every day and spend an hour just distributing the piece. The last step is to use free scheduling tools to automate the publishing. Here are my personal favorites:

Again, this isn’t as straightforward as it looks.

You should first look into your page insights to check what days and times give you the best performance and when your audience is most active. Note that if you see your fans are active at 9 pm, your post should go out slightly early at 8.30 pm because it can use that half an hour to gain some initial traction. Once you start getting some comments, Instagram will register it as good content and show it to more people, leading to a snowball effect.

Also, different platforms have different hot time slots. Going a level deeper, every industry and audience demographic behaves differently. But Hootsuite has gathered some great general insights on their blog. The basic premise is that you should avoid weekends, early mornings, late afternoons, and midnights because the engagement is lowest at such times across the internet.

On the other end, the best day range is from Monday evening to Friday morning. And the best time slots are when people check their phones at lunch (12 – 1 PM), while commuting back from work (5 – 6.30 PM), and night (8 – 10 PM).


Conclusion

So that’s the end of my 3 core steps on making sure that your content machine is always running even when you choose to take a break, which you should!

  • Planning with a calendar
  • Repurposing the piece for different channels
  • Using free schedulers to automate the posting.

In the end, keep in mind that content creation is a part of brand building, and brand building is a long game in the real world. You don’t always go viral overnight. In fact, it may take you 5-8 years of consistent experimentation to reach your target follower count but that’s not the main goal, is it? It’s just a by-product. The goal is to use the internet to showcase your passion, skills, and opinions. The goal is to share ideas.

Of course, in this arduous journey, you may feel disappointed or exhausted at times. This is why it’s so important to focus on efficiency along with quality. It may be a marathon but you can make it easier by going on many small sprints.

What do you think of my tactics? Share your take on this in the comments below.

Published by Manik Rege

Into Writing | Marketing | Leadership | Animal Rights ... and occassionally, coffee. Tweet to me @manik_rege.

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