Evanne Schmarder

Evanne Schmarder is the principal at Roadabode Productions, a firm specializing in digital marketing strategy, consulting, and education for the outdoor recreation industry. She is the co-author of “Unconventional Wisdom Works.” She’s also the host and producer of the RV Cooking Show. Evanne gets great satisfaction out of helping business owners maximize their marketing potential and can be reached at evanne@roadabode.com or (702) 460-9863. This column appears in the December issue of Woodall’s Campground Management.

As a park owner/operator, chances are you have an overabundance of items on your daily to-do list. While you may always be on the lookout for effective marketing methods, I think I heard a collective cry of exasperation when you learned that successful social media marketing requires frequent and consistent platform participation. Sorry about that.

Wholesale studies show that the ratio of relationship/information to sales type of content should be around 5:1. This means for every promotional or sales-y post you release, you should have five non-promotional posts. Certainly, the frequency of posts is unique to every business but as a rule, successful Facebook pages post from one to four times a week, parks utilizing Twitter report success with two to three tweets weekly.

Let’s face it, sparks of creativity and insight come and go. One moment you may have a hundred ideas on what you want to post, the next, nothing comes to you. If you’ve chosen to market on these or similar platforms, eventually the question becomes “what the heck am I going to say?”

Developing a Social Media Content Plan

Just like you wouldn’t expect to come up with print ad copy without great consideration, study and forethought, creating frequent social media content on the fly that represents your brand is not only impossible for many of us, it’s stressful. Take the time, upfront, to develop a social media content plan. This process will take the guesswork out of this piece of your marketing plan and help you stay on message.

If you have not already done so, determine the frequency, platforms and days/times of the week you’ll be posting.

Sit down with a monthly calendar and a pad of paper. Begin by jotting down special dates of interest on your notepad. This might be your opening and closing dates or your park’s anniversary. Add your theme or holiday celebration dates to the list. Next, think about industry occasions including Great Outdoors Month happenings – National Trails Day, National Marina Day, Great Backyard Campout, National Park fee-free days, even rallies or RV shows in your area. Lastly, consider any other popular events or happenings that may be of interest to your followers. This might include National S’more Day or other wacky celebrations that fit with our industry and your park’s demographics. Transfer this information onto your calendar. You’ll then have the bones of a social media content strategy.

Using the information penciled on your monthly calendar, create a weekly release schedule for this content. Expand the calendar by adding pre and post content. At this point, you should have a good portion of your content ideas noted on your release schedule.

You’re Getting Close

Using the treasure–trove of information you’ve collected and recorded, take the time to actually write out your Facebook posts and/or Twitter tweets. By doing so, you will have cut and paste content that can be scheduled in advance and will alleviate any day-to-day stress about what to say to your tribe.

Remember, your audience is different on Facebook than it is on Twitter. Adjust your message accordingly.

Filling In the Blanks

Even after completing the exercise above, you’ll still have holes in your content plan. It’s wise to attend to these blanks on a monthly basis to be able to share current news, ideas and goings-on. You can go about filling in the blanks a couple of ways. The first is to set aside an hour or two at the beginning of each month to scour the Internet, searching for hot, timely, interesting topics to post about and filling in your content calendar with the information you find. Or, you might create a running content idea document to record post ideas as you come across them throughout the month, adding them to your calendar on a regular basis.

Either way you choose to go in this step, you’ll want to follow through by again, writing out your post, making it ready to release at a moment’s notice.

Don’t Forget It’s SOCIAL Media

As well planned out and executed as your social media content plan may be, remember, it’s social media. This marketing tool is about conversations and relationships. Unlike outbound marketing, where you place an ad or other creative to push your message out, social media is inbound marketing, requiring your participation if you are privileged enough to have that opportunity with your followers. Schedule not only your posts but time to interact, respond and reply to post comments or questions. Even the best content plan loses its luster if you don’t act like a human being.

So What’s Your Plan?

There’s no question about it, this process requires a sizable chunk of upfront time. You may be tempted to skip developing a thorough plan and instead take an on the fly approach to these digital marketing tools, but I wouldn’t advise it. Instead, I urge you to take a hard look at the costs and benefits of these platforms and go all in or all out. Anything in between and everyone will be disappointed.