On Monday Mark Evans and Sysomos posted a blog asking “How Scripted Should Social Media Be?

I felt compelled to respond to Mr. Evans because he came to the conclusion that scripting social media content is “the wrong way to go.” He also added that “companies that insist on a scripted approach is they are either scared of social media, they feel an obligation to use social media but they’re not passionate about it, or they see a scripted approach as an effective way to manage resources.”

I completely disagree with Mr. Evans’ conclusion and approach to answering the question. In his opinion, scripting content may remove “the fun from social media.” Should social media be fun? As social media channels continue to mature, they should be treated as any other channel and have proper planning applied to them.

If you are a social media strategist, or community manager, be prepared for some pretty stern looks and questions about ROI from your clients if you mention fun as a component of their social media program. The industry is focused on metrics, return and growth – social media is now about providing proof that the investment is working for your clients and brands. Social media is no longer the new kid on the block. Your clients will not be impressed with how many conversations you had today, but instead how many of those conversations generated new business or retained market share.

To be fair, Mr. Evans does say that scripting “does provide a consistent foundation for a social media program.

And he is right, there are benefits to scripting your social media content on a weekly or monthly basis. Here are just a few of the most important reasons to develop content in advance for your social channels:

  • Content Evaluation. It is much easier to understand what content resonates with your community when you are able to develop (or script) monthly content calendars. Doing so will allow you to develop content categories, prepare for seasonality, anticipate conversations around holidays, and create opportunities to partner with other brands or community influencers.
    • Example: Suppose you have a travel related brand that wants to measure the value of adventure based content vs. family friendly travel recommendations. With a content calendar you can visualize and schedule posts to more effectively measure their succes or failure than writing content in real time.
  • Conversation. Consumers are already talking about your client or brand. One objective of social media should be to control, maintain and listen to those conversations. By scripting content you are able to control conversations about your brand and prepare your community for new product launches.
    • Example: The goal of developing an editorial calendar should be to drive conversations that are valuable for your brand. By owning the conversation topics you have a greater opportunity to do so and avoid writers block when being reactive.
  • Consistency. Tied very closely to  my first two points is the measure of consistency. Social media programs are always-on channels, even more so than your website. Through the use of content calendars, pre-approved (or canned) responses, and and a community management team that values reputation management you will find that your clients or brands have a very consistent voice, tone and message. This should be very important for established brands, while you may have a bit more flexibility with a new brand.
    • Example: With a large community and multiple team members who may be active in it you want your voice and tone to be consistent. Much like scripting responses in a call center, there is value in knowing that your associates tell the same brand story.
  • Repetition. Through the use of content calendars and scripting you can avoid the possibility of multiple community managers posting the same or similar content over time. You also have the added benefit of looking backwards at what content posts worked best and use previous calendars to brainstorm ideas a year from now.
    • Example: While communities are always growing, and if they are doing so quickly there is value in sharing similar messages, you also don’t want to fatigue your community or have them alienate you because they saw the same post three times in the past month.
  • Timing. It is very important to understand when your community is most active. A content calendar should experiment with publishing content at different times of the day and you can adjust your schedule appropriately. By scripting your content and publishing times you can begin to see patterns in engagement with your most active community members.
  • Segmentation. An often untold story of social media content development if the opportunity to write content that is geo-targeted to your community. Being prepared for these opportunities is much easier when you script your content and are not under the pressure of other daily responsibilities.
    • Example: Delivering the same message with regional language or messaging should further personalize your content to community members driving higher engagement and response rates. It also gives you the opportunity to do A/B or multivariate testing with offers.
  • Measurement. In developing a social media program, it is essential to measure success. Have you reduced the cost of a brand’s customer service program? Are you able to more effectively track the sentiment of a product through social media monitoring? How many of your Facebook fans have made a purchase? Is the average order size from social media channels larger or smaller than other digital channels? Answering these types of questions and understanding the post-click behavior of your consumers is essentially in measuring ROI of your social media program.
  • Cost-Effectiveness. Lets face it, as marketing budgets continue to tighten and your client wants to establish an ROI on social media programs it is even more important to be effective with your time and development costs. By developing a content calendar you should see a decrease in costs as you community manager(s) can more accurately project their daily involvement without the complications of content development.

In short, I believe the community manager that doesn’t script content will be stuck in a world where they are only reacting. Planning is required if you want to establish your client or brand as a thought leader.

Scripting social media content simply means that you are prepared and have a program with a strong foundation in measurement and consistency.

I do want to say being reactive is a good thing for the community manager. It is essential to be able to adjust your content and conversations based on consumer questions, trending topics, useful hashtags or recent news. The goal of social media is to be social, and you can still accomplish that by establishing a flexible content calendar.

Do you develop content calendars for your social media programs? What are your thoughts on scripting content? Are you more proactive or reactive with your social media program(s)? Share you thoughts below or find me on Twitter (@djenders).