Planning content that can’t be planned

ContentEd speaker, Daniel Marrable, gives us a snippet of what we can expect at his ContentEd 2018 session on embedding reactive approaches into content strategies.


Ever spend months planning a campaign, storyboarding, filming, hunched over your computer editing, putting your blood sweat and tears into a piece of content that you nervously post up and nobody seems to care? So you blame Facebook’s algorithm (it is ridiculous though… seriously), put some money into boosting it and try to ignore the fact that all the reach is paid and any engagement stats are just manufactured? Then the next day you quickly post up a user-generated snap of your campus in the sun with a caption something like ‘Who’s enjoying the sun on campus today? Thanks to @amazingstudent for this great pic! #blessed’ and it organically demolishes your previous post and you question why you even tried in the first place?

Yeah, me too.

So if ‘reactive’ content garners so much engagement, why don’t we give it the same attention and time as we would a slick piece of labour intensive content that takes up massive amounts of resource and doesn’t reach half as many people? I mean don’t get me wrong, there are occasions when we’ve created content that took time and it has been engaged with positively by a specific audience, but it is disheartening when something you just flippantly stick up gets a ton of attention and something you plan just bombs.

Here are 5 tips of what we do at the University of Glasgow to make sure we’re ready for those reactive content moments.


1. Time and importance

Everything takes time, and it’s easier to justify allocating more time to a task if it’s important. So if you understand how important reactive content is and you place a higher priority on creating that content, when the time comes to drop everything and grab a quick video or snap, you can assure yourself that you’re prioritising an important task… guilt free. It’s about adjusting your mindset.

In the middle of doing something I thought was ‘important’ it started to snow on campus so after some internal debate I stopped what I was doing quickly popped out and filmed what ended up being our second highest engaged with video of all time.

The funny thing is I can’t remember what I was doing that was so ‘important’ but I do remember this video.


2. Give the people what they want

Your audience initially followed your page because they are interested in your organisation and believe they will find value in the content you post. They already like what you do; if all you’re putting out is promotional (one-dimensional) content they will quickly switch off. Have a look at previous posts that your audience have already liked and commenting on across your channels and do more of that! You don’t always need to push the envelope (though experimenting with different formats and technology is good and still important) but sometimes you just need to give the people what they want: tours of your city, favourite student hang out spots, blue skies, Quidditch, dogs,

Unicorns and the like. Content that only has the motive to entertain and inform while connecting with your audience on a human level. I mentioned Unicorns right? 


3. Listen

We often get so caught up planning, strategising and churning out content that we forget to take a breath and listen to our audience. We use a listening programme called Talkwalker (but there are lots of others available out there too), and we find it useful to see what the community is engaging with day to day. Putting aside time in the morning to have a quick scan of what people are saying about our organisation helps to prioritise what goes out on our channels.

Often we’ll see stories that are already doing well on social media that pertain to UofG and decide to dig a little deeper and create content to ‘own’ that topic; or merely respond to someone directly who happened to mention the University of Glasgow in a post. Taking the time to respond to your community one person at a time goes a long way to building trust and letting them know you actually care about them… though we do have a bit of fun with it once and a while. Did you know we have a secret teleporter at UofG?


4. Forecast and Prioritise

Working in higher education, each day can sometimes feel like ‘Ground Hog Day’, this can sometimes be a good thing. We often know when our busiest times will be. Grad, exams, national holidays, fresher’s week, open days, various on boarding/offer holder activities; these dates come around every year, and often they’re the perfect time to listen and create reactive content. So make it a top priority to know your university’s key dates.

Taking freshers’ week as an example: This past year we blocked off the entire week and dedicated it to being reactive (though we did the same for Grad too). Sometimes you just need to get out there and see what you can find and construct the story when you get back. This culminated in some of our most fun and engaging videos to date. 

Just by getting involved and creating one short video each day we ended up reaching almost half a million people, with 220K video views, 8K engagements, and had a lot of fun doing it too.


5. Rough and Ready

Sometimes you just need to grab your phone, film something and stick it straight up. Usually if you find it entertaining, your audience might too. The key to reactive content is striking when the iron is hot… our most successful video to date was filmed by my colleague Tasha (and I’ve been trying to top it ever since; getting close only once… refer to earlier snow video). These guys are called Saltire Beat and perform at all our Open Days. The video was filmed on Tash’s phone as she was passing by (no fancy equipment at all) and it has reached over 1.5 million people, viewed almost 700K times with 57K engagements!


So that’s it, follow these 5 tips and you’ll be churning out amazing, creative and engaging content in no time… or at the very least bump up the importance of being reactive and try to prioritise certain days on your calendar that you know will produce quality content!

You can also join myself (@TERRIBLEm86) and the Head of UofG Social Media, Emma Gilmartin (@embrooksy8), on day one of ContentEd this year for more insight into how we plan for unplanned content.


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