Planable is a creative workflow tool that enables social media teams to visually collaborate with clients, co-workers and other stakeholders interactively. In this interview, I sat down to talk with Planable CEO Xenia Muntean to find out just what Planable is all about, and how it can be leveraged to improve results on Social Media.
Please describe the background behind Planable – what sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
Before Planable, about four years ago, I was leading a social media marketing agency in eastern Europe. I was in my second year at university when I built the agency, which was my first business venture. One of the biggest challenges in my day to day work was how frustrating it was to collaborate and share projects with team members and clients.
I started the agency because I loved being creative and building content, but I was doing so many tedious tasks. There was so much back and forth; formatting spreadsheets, building excels, and, instead of focusing on what I was meant to be doing as a marketer, I was doing all those tedious tasks, doing work about work rather than actual work.
I was looking for something to enhance our productivity as a team, and improve the way we work on content with our clients. We were building these editorial calendars on spreadsheet files. It was a terrible way of collaborating and gathering feedback and approval from clients. Many clients were struggling to understand what the content was actually going to look like. Because an excel file is not visual at all. I made a fake Facebook page, and used it to create mockup posts, which I could then capture and send to my clients. I thought that we, as marketers, deserve better than that. Together with my co-founders we built Planable to do just that.
My co-founder, Nick, came up with an idea of an environment where you can create posts for Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram that look exactly like the final version. You don’t have to rely on your imagination or guess what the content is going to look like in the end; you can actually see it. This very collaborative space was designed with teams in mind. 10 years ago, social media was something that you were giving your intern to do, but nowadays, you have the head of PR, product managers, HR, everyone is involved in social and everyone has their own piece in the puzzle. It’s an extremely collaborative process. The tools that appeared at the beginning of social media, like Hootsuite and Buffer, were not designed with teams in mind. We’re changing that. We’re making the work of marketers more collaborative and more productive.
It seems that we’re not the only ones that care about this problem that we’re solving. We went through a prestigious accelerator in London called Techstars. We are VC-backed, myself and my founders were included in Forbes 30 under 30 list in Europe last year. And we’re working with amazing companies, from Fortune Global 500 to small startups all across the world.
How does Planable work, and what makes it unique?
Let’s imagine you’re a social media team working in-house for a brand. You’re planning your work for the next week, creating all the posts and scheduling them in your editorial calendar.
Before Planable, you would build them all in a spreadsheet, send it via email to all your colleagues to get their feedback and see if you’re not missing anything.
You’d send that same spreadsheet to designers, video producers, and everyone who is creating visual content so that they can add the visuals into the spreadsheet; And you would send that spreadsheet to the manager to give you their approval on the content.
You might also send it to other departments to contribute ideas. Maybe your company is recruiting at the moment, or launching a new product. You want to get input from the HR department or from the product department. Or perhaps your company is in a very regulated space like pharma, and you need legal or medical approval before you publish your content.
You have a lot of stakeholders that need to check the content, review it, and give their feedback. Without Planable, that results in a lot of back and forth, missed feedback, misinterpretation, and a huge lack of clarity and visibility on what’s happening on the social side. It’s really hard to centralize all that feedback.
Having one central place where you can visually create the content, and then invite feedback, contribution, and approval from your collaborators means that you can plan all that in a speedy and efficient way. In the end, once everyone is happy with the final plan, it can be distributed, deployed and scheduled to social media channels.
If you don’t have a team and you’re promoting your own brand, Planable will still help you visualize, plan and schedule your content, and see your efforts at a glance for the next week or month.
Here a sneak preview of what Planable looks like from the inside:
What are your top tips for getting social marketing right?
The essence of social media (and not that many companies are doing it), is being human as a brand. It’s hard but it really goes back to the beginning of social media: people coming together in one environment of communities. As a brand, it’s extremely important to not be a faceless corporation on social media. Don’t be a robot! You need to come off as a human being, which you are. The person who is creating the content and everyone behind the company is human. I think that in this modern age of social media, Millennials, and transparency, people want to interact with your company on a more personal level.
The second part that I would add is consistency. If you’re just starting out, it’s extremely important to plan and be consistent. Post on a recurring basis that builds a voice, and keeps the reputational line going. In the beginning, it’s hard, because you don’t have the end results, you’re just starting out. But it’s important to keep doing it.
Planning ahead of time helps you to be more productive and maintain the same tone of voice. You can see how everything aligns, and design the way your entire brand looks on social media, you can be more careful with the storyline you’re trying to build.
But if you create content day-by-day, you lose that clear overview and zoomed-out perspective.
When you don’t have a proper workflow, mistakes are more likely to happen. It’s not uncommon to see posts, especially on Twitter, that were published by mistake.
For example, about 2 years ago McDonald’s published a post during Black Friday that was obviously a draft because it said something like “Black Friday, need to add a click”. Obviously, it was supposed to be edited, but because (I assume) there was no approval process, that post fell through the cracks of an inefficient workflow and got published.
Those are the types of mistakes and small PR crisis that can happen if you don’t have the right operation in place. You have very incohesive messages sent by your brand. But if your team is 100% aligned then your brand will have a unified image on social media because everything is approved in advance.
How would you advise social media professionals to stay up to date with technology and market trends?
I think there are a few ways to stay up to date with everything that happens in the industry. Attending industry events and conferences are a great option. There are local meetups everywhere, but also bigger regional and international conferences that are really great. I recently attended Social Media Week, which has chapters everywhere in the EU and the USA and was really great. I’m also planning to attend Social Marketing World by Social Media Examiner, which is great, from what I’ve heard.
The second way of staying ahead of the trends is obviously reading news. I recommend following Adweek, Campaign, Social Media Examiner, MarTech Today, and others. There are a lot of publishers that you can follow and read to keep up to date with everything.
The third way, which I personally like a lot, is Facebook groups. They are amazing because they are so dynamic. No matter what kind of niche or specialty you’re in, there’s a Facebook group out there for you. As opposed to conferences and news, Facebook groups are interactive, so you can ask anything and discuss any kind of trend you’re interested in. If you’re more into following than publishing your own content, that’s fine as well. Facebook groups are an amazing way of doing that.
At Planable, we also launched our own Facebook group, called “People of Marketing”, where we discuss people, teams, and collaboration in the marketing space. If that’s something that you’re looking to learn about, feel free to join us.
How do you see the future of social media marketing in 5 years from now?
There are three components I’m following that are already huge, and I think in the next 5 years they will be even bigger: video, mobile, and niches.
- Video content gives interactiveness, which is what makes it so big. It’s the richest form of content you can think of.
- Mobile is just an obvious one. It’s an extremely big component of why Social Media has become so significant.
- Niches. I think social media is going to be more about niches and small communities, both from an interest perspective and a geographic proximity perspective. We see communities based on geography but we also see communities based on interests and industries. I think this niche aspect of social media is going to be even bigger in 5 years from now.
In terms of technology, I’m a big geek of productivity. I love this wave of new productivity that I’m seeing, and I follow it very closely. I see a lot of companies that are doing collaboration at the next level. We see companies like frame.io, for example, that enable collaboration for video, and Notion, which do collaborative documents and files. I think the future of technology in our industry is going to be a lot about new productivity, unbundling generic tools into specific use cases for the web.