Every social media team of more than one person needs a social media approval process.
Content approval processes are not unique to social media. For example, you probably already have an approval process in place for your blog or your website. But the immediacy and reach of social channels make an approval workflow all the more important for your social posts.
Here, we’ll explain how to set up a social media approval workflow that allows your team to collaborate efficiently while ensuring your content is clean, correct, and on-brand.
Bonus: Get a free, customizable social media style guide template to easily ensure a consistent look, feel, voice, and tone across all your social channels.
A social media approval process is a workflow in which content moves from one stakeholder to another until it is finally posted.
A well-designed approval process defines all the steps involved in your social media activity, from content creation to posting on a social media platform. It also creates a clear pathway for your content from person to person through your organization. It documents which stakeholders get involved and when. Finally, it specifies who has the final authority to approve content to go live on your brand’s social media channels.
Before you can write up your policy, you need to do some prep. Here are all the tools and details you’ll need to have in place to get going:
Step 1: Define your social media strategy
If you’re a regular reader of the Hootsuite blog, you’ll know that we talk about strategy a lot. We’re firm believers in planning and goal-setting. Without knowing where you want to go, you’re unlikely to get there.
Why do you need a social strategy before you can set up your approval process?
A clear strategy makes it easier for content creators (graphic designers and content marketers) to produce content that aligns with what senior stakeholders expect to see. It gets everyone on the same page and saves time, reducing the amount of back and forth required at the individual post level.
A clear social media strategy also allows you to understand if your approval process is aligned with your goals. For example, if your strategy involves being on the leading edge of trending topics, you’ll need to set the number of stakeholders and their timelines appropriately.
Step 2: Define team and stakeholder roles and responsibilities
More than 20% of mid-market Hootsuite customers have multiple teams using social media. To create an effective social media process, you need to clarify all the people and teams who are using social, and who’s involved in approvals for each.
How this looks is up to you. Maybe each team has its own channels and its own approval processes. Or maybe a couple of senior stakeholders are the gatekeepers for all social content for your brand.
The important thing is to get this all on record.
For example, you should record:
- Who creates and schedules social media content?
- Who edits content to maintain quality?
- Who approves and publishes content?
In a mid-sized company, the social media content approval process might include the following roles:
- Content creators: Writers, designers, video editors, and anyone else involved in producing and scheduling content.
- Content editors who edit the content for language, style, and consistency across social media accounts.
- Social media managers who approve content and ensure the publishing schedule aligns with the brand’s overall strategy and best times to post.
In this setup, you’d likely want the editor and social media manager to have greater access than content creators in your social media approval process and tools.
For example, in Hootsuite, you can control and restrict permission settings. You can limit content creators’ access so only editors and managers can publish content. This eliminates content accidentally going live before it’s been approved.
Step 3: Create a social media style guide
What kind of content does your brand post? Do you use British spelling or American? Or another language entirely? Is your brand’s tone playful and fun? Or informative and serious? What’s your stance on hashtags and emojis?
These are all things to consider to ensure your brand’s social media content is consistent, high quality and always on-brand.
Make sure your company has created a style guide. This is a detailed document outlining how your social media should look and feel. It could include everything from tone and writing style to branding colors, photo usage and font.
When everyone on the marketing team is working from a solid style guide, approvals are much easier. Content creators use the document to guide their work. Meanwhile, editors and managers can refer to the document to ensure brand standards and guidelines are met.
Step 4: Build a content library
A content library is an existing pool of approved social assets. This can include graphics, templates, and other resources for your content developers to use when they’re creating new posts.
Starting with assets from a pre-approved library makes your approval process significantly easier. Senior stakeholders can be confident that many elements were approved before the post was even created.
Step 5: Set timelines and deadlines
Your social media approval process should be tied to a timeline that allows everyone enough time to complete their part of the process.
Start by determining how long, on average, it takes your content creators to produce a certain number of posts. Next, determine how long it takes to edit that content, schedule it and have it approved.
Then, work backwards to set up a timeline that makes sense for everyone. This will help avoid last-minute panic or content bottlenecking.
Also set regular deadlines and a schedule that keeps everyone accountable for delivering on time.
For example, an ongoing social media approval process might involve:
- Creators delivering drafted content by the 15th of every month.
- Editors delivering finalized content by the 20th of every month.
- Managers scheduling edited, quality content for the following month before the current month’s end.
Of course, this timeline only works for evergreen content, or content that’s not exceptionally timely. You might need to create a second set of deadlines or timelines that allow your brand to respond to social trends as they happen.
Step 6: Define your workflow and notifications
Your social media approval process is a workflow in which content moves from one person to another until it is finally posted. You’ve already defined everyone’s roles and deadlines. Now it’s time to use that information to set up a workflow and notifications.
Ideally, your workflow should automatically bump content from one person to the next, notifying each person when it is their turn to get to work. Keeping everything in one system ensures everyone knows where everything is in the approval process. It also ensures only one person is making changes to content at a time.
So, how do you make sure everyone is notified when it’s their turn? You could use email, Slack notifications, or other project management tools.
But we should probably mention that using Hootsuite as your social media approval tool lets you set up a workflow and alerts so you never miss a message or assigned task.
Hootsuite also lets everyone work in the same platform. Editors and managers can bump content back to content creators for changes, or make minor changes themselves before moving things forward. Employees can track when their input is needed and when their task is completed.
When you’re designing your workflow, it’s a good idea to incorporate tools and apps that can help make content creation easier and identify problems with content.
Some great tools to consider for your workflow are:
- Grammarly for support with spelling, grammar and writing clarity.
- Visme for design support.
- Pictographr for photo editing support.
Hootsuite also has a built-in spell-check and image editing tools.
Step 7: Monitor and revise as needed
Try out your social media approval process for a while and see how it works for your team. Then get everyone together to discuss any hiccups or where there might be room for improvements.
The goal is always to make life easier for the team, not harder. If the process becomes cumbersome, it’s not working. Seek regular feedback from team members so everyone feels valued and involved.
You’ve probably already gathered some of the benefits of creating a social media process. But there are a few we want to call out explicitly.
1. Ensure content is consistent with your brand voice and strategy
We talked earlier about creating a social media style guide to help guide your content and approval process. It’s a good way to help keep your content on-brand.
But nothing beats the combined expertise of your team. Working through a process ensures everyone can contribute their specific expertise, both in their core skills area and in their knowledge of the brand history and style.
Putting a process of checks in place also gives you the best chance to catch any errors before content goes live. Even the best editors sometimes miss a broken link or missing comma. More hands on deck means more chances to get it right.
2. Avoid password sharing and control access
Password sharing, both within teams and with external consultants and contractors, is a security nightmare.
A social media approval process combined with good social media management tools allows everyone to complete their work within the same system without having to share passwords.
The approval process should also let you control the degree of access each team member has. You’ll want multiple people to be able to create content, but probably only a few to have approval permissions.
Approval process tools also allow you to remove someone from the process if they leave your team or your organization, so you are never exposed to unnecessary external risk.
3. Collaborate more efficiently
Constantly looping in your whole team — with multiple stakeholders — can be burdensome. Doing so through email or passing documents around interferes with efficiency, slows down workflow and can affect your social media content calendar. An approval workflow streamlines the process and increases productivity.
For example, a global marketing project manager in the real estate industry told Forrester Consulting about the challenges of working without an approval workflow tool:
“When employees wanted to post, they had to send their assets on email, and it was then a multistep process of someone posting on their behalf or going back to review the posted content afterwards on their behalf.”
Keeping everything in one platform for creation, review, and posting is much more effective. When specific requests arise, employees know who is responsible for each step of the process. This means employees can collaborate directly and efficiently.
Plus, an approval workflow helps employees stay on schedule. It prevents content building up, being forgotten about, or not getting published. Notifications keep everyone aware of what needs their attention.
A Forrester report commissioned by Hootsuite found that improved efficiency in managing social media approval processes could save $495,000 in time and effort over three years. That’s a lot of time and effort.
4. Maintain version control and an editing trail
Sending files around by email can result in feedback from different stakeholders in different versions. Someone might be reviewing a file that’s already outdated. Or, someone might have to gather feedback from multiple stakeholders and compile it into one document.
That’s not a great use of time. And it creates the risk that the wrong version will carry through the approval process, or even get published.
A social media approval process also provides an editing trail, so you can see who changed what and when. This is a good educational resource for everyone involved in creating content.
Here are some of our favorite tools to help you build your social media approval process and workflow.
You’ve already seen some of how Hootsuite can help in the social media approval process.
Using Hootsuite means every part of the workflow process can happen in the same platform. Content can be drafted, edited and approved all in the Hootsuite dashboard.
Here’s how your team’s senior employees can use Hootsuite to approve posts composed by social media creators:
The Team Plan, designed for smaller teams, also includes a lot of functionality that is helpful for maintaining a social media approval workflow.
Senior team members can manage team access and roles, and assign posts and comments to specific team members.
Slack is a powerful messaging platform that helps teams collaborate. The Slack app for Hootsuite allows you to share social media posts directly to Slack, without leaving Hootsuite, to allow for streamlined transfer of messages between teams.
This tool helps keep teams organized. Organize tasks and color-code them into Trello’s cards and boards. Allocate tasks to a team member and mark your task as complete when your task is through. And with the “mention” feature, you’ll know your team member is alerted as the process moves along.
The drag-and-drop feature makes Trello user-friendly. It visualizes the workflow process, and the whole team can be in the know as approvals unfold.
Build a winning social media marketing strategy with less time and effort. Use Hootsuite’s social media approval features to make sure none of your posts fall through the cracks. Assign work to your teammates, get notifications when content needs to be edited, and provide feedback to each other — all from one dashboard. Try it free today.
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