Content marketing is more than just a buzzword: it’s a system designed to bring value to your customers and customers to your business. But like all relationships, it’s based on time and effort, and you can’t expect a useful content marketing system without putting a little polish and elbow grease in first.

Content is often the first impression a potential customer has of your brand, so you really want to be presenting your brand in its best and most useful light all times.

Today’s post breaks down some ways you can create a social media content system that looks great and showcases your brand without too much effort on your end.

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Step #1 – Identify Your Brand Colors and Logo

Right off the bat, you need to establish what your brand is going to look and feel like. There’s no sense creating a content system to represent your brand if you’re not sure what your brand is in the first place.

Think about businesses you like: they probably have a specific style of writing, a cohesive color palette, and a polished and visually representative logo. Now you get to develop the same visual language for your own brand.

The good news is that you probably already have a sense of what your brand is, and you may already have a logo or word mark and there may be a few colors you feel drawn to. Now’s a great time to look at what you already have and take it to the next level.

Get a logo if you don’t already have one. I’d suggest starting off with a site like Fiverr if you want to just hit the ground running on a shoestring, but you can also ask in a Facebook group and find a freelancer for a reasonable price.

Now pick your brand’s colors. Sites like Coolors.co that auto-generate pleasing color schemes will help you out with this. If you’re not sure what colors to use, take a glance through some of your competitors. What colors do they use? You may want to start with one common color and an accent color to distinguish yourself. Or you may want to fit in with the crowd. Whatever you do, pick something you like that isn’t too out there. Include one dark color and one light one in the same scheme as your primary color.

Save the exact HEX color numbers onto a word document and use those exact ones every time. Details matter, guys.

Here’s an example of what my branding looks like:

While this is an important step, I don’t want you to get hung up here! Be intentional. Make a plan. And stick with it! Don’t fiddle with the details for weeks without moving forward.

Step #2 – Create a Canva.com Account

Creating custom graphics to represent your content on social gives your posts a polish and impact that cannot be replicated with just a generic preview image. Custom graphics showcase your logo, colors, and the titles of whatever you’re sharing. They speak to the care you’ve put into creating or curating your content.

Think of custom graphics as the difference between buying off-the-rack department store clothes and having your own clothes custom made for your body: department store clothes are better than no clothes, but custom is always going to look better.

Also, it’s not even hard to make custom graphics.

Canva lets people with no design background make beautiful images without the hours and hours of learning that you’d need to navigate the Adobe Creative Suite. The site has templates and pre-made designs that you can tweak with your own colors, fonts, and images, so don’t be nervous. If you need a crash course in Canva, check out Visually Savvy, A Canva Course

Step #3 – Image Sizes

After you’ve gotten the feel of the program, you’ll want to actually start making the graphics. There are tons of online guides to best sizing practices across social platforms, and you can get really deep into finding the “best” size for any type of imaginable content.

My recommendation? Don’t overthink it.

I mostly stick to the little black dress of image sizes: the square. It looks great across platforms, it’s easy to remember the dimensions, and you don’t have to worry about finding image backgrounds that work in rectangular sizes.

Hint: Try 1080 x 1080 px which is also the Instagram size on Canva.com. 

Step #4 – Identify 5 Pillars of Content

Now it’s time to think about what you’re actually going to be sharing with your audience.

Content pillars are the areas of interest that you want to source and develop content in. There are 5 pillars that use to categorize social media content: promotional, educational, community, entertainment, and engagement. 

These are the verticals you should source your external content from and develop your own content within, and they should be tailored to appeal your specific audience.

For example, if you own a shoe store you might want to share things about shoe care (educational), shoe news (community), or introduce a new product (promotional). 

You don’t want to just throw content out in the universe and expect your followers to care about it. Be selective and thoughtful. What do your followers care about? What’s useful for them? What’s fun?

Step #5 – Create Different but Compatible Designs

Next, you’ll want to create a few different graphics that work across your content areas to be reused for different posts.

Make a few designs that work for sharing quoteables (from your own content and from external sources), a few for title images, a few Instagram posts, a few Facebook posts, and so on. You don’t necessarily have to sit down and create these all ahead of time, but keep an eye on the ones you like and the ones that work well and add them to a rotation of designs that you can use.

By the way, it’s okay to reuse styles and images. If you found a template that works for you or an image that seems to convert really well, nobody will get mad at you if you reuse it another time as long all the designs are speaking the same visual language and you change up one or two other elements.

Here’s an example of a template gallery I created for a past client:

Step #6 – Assign Each Design + Content Pillar a Day

With the basics of content sourcing and style under your belt, the final hurdle to look to is scheduling: when are you going to post all your fabulous new content?

The best way to do it is to stick to a posting schedule that assigns one content pillar for each day you plan on posting. This is easy to remember, consistent, and makes sure you don’t end up posting too much of one thing. Unless you enjoy a thousand loose ends flailing around in your head, I’d strongly suggest you write this down somewhere.

Here’s an example of what a schedule could look like: 

There isn’t really a wrong way to schedule your content. Focus on providing value to your target demographic. And don’t forget to use the 80/20 Rule. 

Step #7 – Plug + Play + Repeat!

I like to relate social media content to dating because I found the cadence to be very similar. In the date world, some people fall in love on the first date and some need to be woo’d. The same goes for your target audience online. While some of them may fall in love with your brand after seeing one post, often times, your potential clients and buyers need to be romanced first. Take the time to build the trust with your content and you’ll see the rewards. 

Once you have a system in place, using social sharing schedulers (like Hootsuite or Tailwind) will save you even more time. I also like automated content republishers like Recurpost that use systems to continually re-share some of your best content. 

If you dedicate time to a monthly or weekly routine, your social media content system will be easy to follow. Simply figure out what you can commit to and stick with it! With your visual language established and your design powers enhanced, you can make custom graphics for the content you’ve sourced or created in the areas most interesting to your audience. Then you’ve just got to schedule it out and focus on growing your audience. 

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Andréa Jones is a social media strategist who works with lifestyle brands to build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions. She’s also the founder of SavvySocialSchool.com – a membership community with everything you need to achieve visibility, growth, and engagement on social media.

Learn how to create a social media content system that looks great and showcases your brand without too much effort on your end.