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A 7-Step Social Media Plan For Your New Magazine

In the process of launching a new magazine? If so, your hands are probably pretty full and the chances are that fine-tuning your social media strategy is not your top priority. But, warns Amanda MacArthur, don’t leave it too late. The earlier you start planning your activity on Twitter and Facebook, the better.

By Amanda MacArthur

Launching a new magazine requires the hats of a dozen people, even if you're the one wearing them all.

If you've ever started a magazine, then you've been involved in the process of attracting advertisers, pitching investors, and creating or at least soliciting content. And none of this includes the baseline functions of hiring, managing, site development, design, accounting, payroll and all of those necessary titbits.

For this reason, social media isn't the first thing that a publisher thinks about when they're launching a new magazine; all of the above priorities of getting it off the ground come first.

However, the risk of delaying development of a social media plan before the launch is that the moment you begin publishing content online, you're already behind. It's like the tree in the forest that falls but may or may not make a sound, depending on whether anyone’s there to hear it. What's good content, if nobody reads or shares?

And that's not all - if you want your content to survive the long haul in search engines, your success depends on social signals coming from social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The more, the merrier.

To begin your social media plan, start by assigning the duty of social copywriting to your writers.

A good writer should be able to write their own social media, for these three reasons:

* Writers are most familiar with the content they write.

* Writers are more invested in the success of their content.

* Writers are already skilled wordsmiths.

The buck doesn't stop here, however. After writers submit their articles with social media posts included, transform your marketers into copy-editors. In certain cases, your marketing team can punch up calls to action. Writers may be more timid to ask for a click.

If you don't agree, that's OK. Writers often push back on doing their own social media, but if you're a new magazine with a small team, you can't afford writers who nitpick what they think they should and should not write. Pick the ones who are all-in and include it in their contracts.

Additionally, ask freelancers to commit to promoting their published work in social media. Anybody who writes content should be excited to support their own work, so it's an easy bullet point to add to their contracts as well.

1. Create a social media style guide.

After your editors are on board, give them direction. Clarify that any editorial style guide that's in place, also applies to Twitter. Will you capitalize the ‘I’ in ‘Internet’? Do you use Oxford commas?

Decide which social networks are most appropriate, too. Twitter and Facebook are the two baseline networks every publisher can benefit from because they offer the greatest SEO advantages. Every other social media publishing platform can be debated.

Additionally, think about the following questions that apply to social media:

* Will you shout out, tag, @, or promote other businesses or publishers?

* Will those ever be competitors?

* Is there a limit to the number of characters in a tweet (for example, will you leave room for manual retweets)

* Will you include the featured photo from your article in each tweet?

* Do you respond to negative feedback? What is the protocol for this? Will there be a dedicated customer service account you'll direct them to?

Think about the situations that your team may find themselves in, and try to establish an answer before they need to ask the question. The style sheet will always be a work in progress, but a solid foundation will lead to less confusion in the future.

2. Create social media formulas.

Brainstorm a list of twelve or so social media formulas with your editors and marketers. For example, a basic tweet may be just the headline of the article. A more complex one would be a quote from the article, or a question that gets followers more engaged.

Creating this set of guidelines will help editors write their social media posts, and it will give marketers a formal outline with goals they're trying to achieve. For example, posting a quote may aim to get retweets, while a question seeks to get followers to engage.

3. Create an editorial social media calendar.

If you publish evergreen content, or content that doesn't expire after a certain amount of time, create a social media calendar that gives your content longevity.

At my company, for every article that's published, we write twelve unique social media posts, using twelve unique social media formulas. We schedule these posts one per day for twelve days and then once per month for twelve months.

It's hard work, but it gives each article your devoted attention for an entire year. There's no additional work in re-promoting old articles because you're planning ahead.

If your website is built in WordPress — which is becoming a popular platform for publishers — CoSchedule is a WordPress plugin that allows you to schedule all of your social media right within your post page. It comes with a dynamic editorial calendar and analytics which makes this entire process that much easier. Other stand-alone tools that work with any platform include Sprout Social and HootSuite.

4. Create a promotional social media calendar.

Different social networks have different versions of their own netiquette. You can tweet twenty times a day, and your followers may only see one or two because their feed runs in real time. On the other hand, if you post twenty times on Facebook, you will probably get unfollowed, and at the very least, Facebook will reduce your visibility. Every time a Facebook post doesn't get any likes or comments, the visibility of future posts go down.

For this reason, stick to your existing promotional calendar. If you're sending out a promotional email at 4pm every Wednesday, send out a promotional social media post at 4pm on Wednesday too. If you align these calendars, your promotional posts won't fall by the wayside as they often do.

5. Create a series of non-promotional posts.

In between your article promotion and your promotion promotion, you need some there, there. Are you with me?

As publishers, you promote more links than any other type of industry, which means you naturally come off more promotional. It also means it's inherently harder to build relationships with non-promotional social media posts.

Create a series of non-promotional posts that will garner comments and likes. Success with these efforts will get you more retweets and grant you a higher visibility rate on Facebook.

* Design graphics of your favorite industry-specific quotes.

* Develop a series of trivia questions and a hashtag to go with them.

* Start a Tweet Chat and ask your industry leaders who have high followings to guest host.

* Start an AMA on Facebook, letting your fans ask you anything.

* Create a contest every month with a new goal.

* Host caption contests - post a fun photo and ask fans / followers to come up with a caption, or fill in the blank.

* Participate in #FollowFriday, maybe incorporating your sponsors.

These efforts deserve a calendar too because they're worth the effort in order to get a better response on all of your other posts.

6. Decide what to do with premium content.

If you sell member-only access to back issue archives or on-demand content, decide if it's going to be part of your social media strategy.

Member-only content counts toward your promotional mix. In general, if you're giving something away, it's usually editorial. If you're sending people to a place where they need to pay, it's promotional. For this reason, you'd follow a less frequent promotional calendar.

7. Integrate social media into your advertising packages.

One new advertising trend is the incorporation of social media into ad packages. As publishers are just beginning to sell print and digital ad bundles, they've started to incorporate social media as well. For example, an advertiser may get any number of promoted tweets or Facebook posts during the month. Or, they may buy into native ads, where the publisher creates an article on their behalf, which gets the robust twelve month editorial social media treatment mentioned above.

It's worth noting anything you post that has been paid for, needs to be marked as such. In tweets, you can mark it with the #ad or #sponsored hashtags because you have limited characters. On Facebook, you can use your space to promote and then make it clear that the post is sponsored. Look up your local trade commissions to see what their individual guidelines are on how to post ads in social media.

If you've followed every word up until now, you might be considering hiring a social media specialist, or someone that's dedicated to the art of content marketing. I won't dissuade you because it's a lot of worthwhile work to implement well.

However, if you're launching a magazine with a small team or even just yourself, and with no budget to hire outside, you'll do just fine. It's just one more hat to wear, and it makes developing this social media plan ahead of time a ‘do now’ task, rather than a ‘do later’ chore.

When you begin publishing, and hopefully bringing in more subscription sales than you ever thought possible, the truth is that social media may become an afterthought. And if your launch has a less than desirable return, you may be inclined to throw money at ads in order to deliver a faster ROI.

Instead, I recommend starting at the top again before you get any further into your magazine launch.