Mabus Agency’s Guide to Getting Ahead While Remaining Relevant Online

Let’s set the scene. You walk into your bank on Monday morning, and suddenly you remember you have to coordinate all the social media posts for the upcoming week.

If your plan is to create one social post for every workday of the year, that’s 260 posts (5 posts/week x 52 weeks). And, quite honestly, that isn’t enough. At Mabus, we have a quota of 15 (gasp!) posts per day. The reason? I think we do at least that many noteworthy things. Between multiple offices and several dozen ridiculously talented coworkers and clients, we have plenty to talk about.

I know what you’re thinking: “Easy for an agency to say! What about my bank?!”

Ok, so you might not have 15 things to talk about in a single day, and right now, 260 posts a year just sounds outrageous. This is probably true, especially if you treat your social accounts like most do—by starting the day with a blank slate and a few vague ideas of what to post about.

Speaking of vague ideas, poor planning is the most common denominator in subpar social media management. Don’t get me wrong: Planning is tough. In the creative world, a blank canvas is the most intimidating thing we face … and a social media calendar feels like 260 blank canvases.

But wait—there is good news! You don’t have to (and you shouldn’t) start with a blank canvas. You actually have a third of your content already planned (and you probably didn’t even realize it.)

Now I have you asking the important questions— “Where?” and “How?” Let’s answer “How?”  first:

We’ve adopted a three-column approach to planning.  To follow this approach, simply create a planning document with three columns and give them these headings:

  1. The World
  2. The Bank
  3. The Day

Odd titles? Maybe, but they’ll make sense in a bit.

The World

The World has already dictated a ton of your content. This portion primarily addresses official holidays and other noteworthy days. It’s everything from Christmas to Veterans Day to International Sandwich Day. One of the biggest pitfalls is letting these days sneak up on you. We’ve all forgotten an obvious holiday, but it’s avoidable with our three-column system.

None of these World events move more than a few days year-to-year, so you already know when they’re going to happen. The first step is filling out this column.  Start with the days your bank will be closed. Craft those messages in advance, build the posts, and save them. If you don’t have time to do the whole year now, set calendar alerts two or three weeks ahead to allow yourself time to build the posts.

Next, list all the other non-bank holidays and “national” days you want to commemorate. Not all of these events will resonate with your brand and its culture. We recommend paying close attention to the following:

  • Community Banking Month
  • National Savings Day
  • National Retirement Security Week
  • National Financial Awareness Day
  • International Women’s Day
  • Small Business Saturday
  • National Computer Security Day

In addition to the more relevant holidays, there are several fun days, like Pi Day (March 14), named after the number used in circular equations (3.14). There’s Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You) and a ton of other fun days that can help anchor your calendar with ready-made ideas.

Whether or not you can create all of the content to support these days, there’s a day for everyone. Go ahead and mark these on your calendar.

The Bank

The second pitfall we see is only using these noteworthy World days. It’s a tempting pitfall because it’s so easy—but all this approach accomplishes is adding another drop into the sea of sameness. Change your questioning from, “How can my bank participate?” to “What can my bank add to the conversation?”

Our bank-focused social media feed was inundated with this image or images like it during the holidays. When we looked at popular stock-art sites, lo and behold, this was one of the first images on the page. This is what we mean by “the sea of sameness.”

To fill out your calendar less blandly, we must look at the items your bank creates—specifically, those you know about in advance. We know a lot of things seem last-minute when it comes to bank marketing, but more often than not, this happens because you’re busy and planned events creep up on you.

I’m talking:

  • Shred-a-Thon
  • Habitat for Humanity build day
  • Bank-sponsored 5K
  • Fall festival fundraiser
  • Community chili cook-off

You know about these events in advance, and it’s vital to maintaining your sanity that you pre-plan social media for them. Since most of you will be pulling double (or triple) duty in promoting and running these events, do yourself a favor and have some of the social media work done before each big day.

Be diligent about adding these to your schedule, or they’ll sneak up on you like President’s Day.

Go ahead and work out the copy and graphics to have these ready. Pre-promote these events in advance. And be sure to follow up afterwards, reporting such results as turnout numbers, funds raised, and total volunteer hours.

And, of course, post pictures from the day of the event—which brings us to our last column.

The Day

As you might’ve surmised, the other two columns are about freeing up time for reporting the news—your news—as it happens. All of your postings cannot be conceived, produced, written, designed, proofed, and reviewed by compliance in one day.

There are plenty of fun and/or interesting things that happen at your bank each day. But they’re easy to miss when you’re researching the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day for what seems like the 60th time to make sure Monday’s post is correct.

Preplanning posts around official holidays and bank-created events is the only way to free up the time necessary to find the interesting things in day-to-day life. But these day-to-day stories are the ones that set your bank apart, because they’re what actually make your bank different—the people, the relationships, and the level of service.

Maybe it’s Mr. Jones, who always visits the drive-thru with his loyal golden retriever, or the kids showing up from Mrs. Smith’s second-grade class to learn about money. Maybe it’s Darryl from IT who volunteers every weekend, or Tammy, who’s been bringing donuts on Fridays since she started at the bank in 2003.

A lot of people struggle to post these details because they seem mundane—but really, they only seem that way to you because they represent your daily experience. Just because you’ve seen Mr. Jones’ dog 100 times doesn’t mean your social followers have.

To plan well and free up the time you need to create these day-of stories, you’re going to need some tools.

The Where

After filling out your three planning columns, what do you do with all of this information? Whether you want to stick to planning the work or make the content in advance and automate the posting, you’ll need some tools.

If you’re going the pure planning route, I suggest Airtable. It’s a great platform with a ton of flexibility that lets you look at the same information in many views. You can convert your content list to a calendar view with a click of a button. For all you project managers, you can also use a Kanban view to push a project through stages, such as design, proofing, and compliance review. The best part: Airtable is free for the core functionality, and the free version should cover almost all your needs.

Airtable is especially handy for collaborating with people across multiple locations. You could use Excel, but emailing one file around gets cumbersome and dangerous, as it can change with each hand through which it passes.

When you’re ready to start scheduling posts, we recommend starting with HootSuite because it’s the gold standard for starting out in this activity and also offers a free plan (i.e., three accounts and 30 scheduled messages with one user, as of the publication of this column). This approach lets you get your feet wet without too much of a commitment. If you don’t like HootSuite, Buffer also has a free plan, and Sendible has affordable plans that include some more robust features we enjoy.

Or, if all of this is totally overwhelming, you can jump into a truly managed experience with Social Assurance. It’s a fantastic company that specializes in helping banks run their social media at many levels.

Plan, Plan, Plan

While the need to plan might not be a groundbreaking insight, we have seen the three-column categorization really help planners put their calendars into perspective. Not being overwhelmed or missing opportunities is all about breaking down the year into smaller bites.

Start with big holidays. Then overlay your bank’s event calendar. Once your social calendar is two-thirds full, you will find it much easier to identify and post the interesting day-to-day activities that set your bank apart.