Posted 01.10.2017 by Maggie Martin

How To Start Your Social Media Team on Sprint Planning

Your social media team's success hinges on setting goals and tasks effectively. That's where Sprint Planning comes in.

Effective social media planning requires more than a killer excel template and a suite of scheduling tools. It’s 2017. Your team needs adaptive frameworks and a customer centered focus. Our series on Agile for social media started with standups, and brings us here.

Sprint Planning is a time for your social media team (and Product Owner) to meet together and decide what your collective goals for a sprint will be, and how you will meet them. There are many different flavors of Agile, and therefore many ways to plan your work. First things, first…

What is a social media marketing sprint?

In Agile, everything revolves around a “sprint”, a time-boxed set of activities tracked to a specific set of goals. Think of the activities as individual action items your team needs to complete, like installing a Facebook Pixel, monitoring comments, or crafting a series of tweets. More on those to come. Sprint cycles typically span 1-3 week, though that number will vary based on your team structure, goal targets, complexity of managed channels, business model, and group preference.

What is Sprint Planning?

Sprint Planning is an Agile ceremony (meeting) dedicated to the development, estimation, and prioritization of your sprint’s activities. Your team is likely responsible for all things social; from content and community management, to paid ads and reporting. And it all gets planned here.

Who should be there?

In a traditional Sprint Planning session, the development team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner would be in attendance. Let’s break down those roles a bit further.

Development team (or delivery team): These are your implementers, and they have a direct role in creating the work you share with the world. Agile marketing favors collaboration and cross-functionality, so a variety of disciplines and departments belong here. In a social media marketing context this could mean a community manager, media buyer/analyst, designer, and strategist all participate. In smaller team settings, one generalist marketer could wear all of those hats. In an agency setting, you’d include the client lead and core producers for the account.

Scrum Master: The Scrum Master helps things get done the right way, with no wasted time. Think of them as the team’s facilitator or coach. The scrum master works to identify and remove obstacles throughout the sprint, like scheduling meetings with stakeholders or getting access to tools.

Product Owner: The Product Owner role has a clear sense of business goals, and owns the prioritization of your social media marketing efforts. At a mid-sized organization, this could be a Marketing Manager, Director, or department VP. For smaller businesses, your CEO or another executive may fill this role.

How do you plan a social media sprint?

Once you’ve established a sprint cycle with your team, you’ll have to schedule a time for the sprint planning meeting. Set it for the same time and date each sprint, and make attendance mandatory for the key participants. (We sync the calendar notification to our Slack channel, and notify @everyone 15 minutes before.)

The length of time your sprint planning takes will vary by sprint length and complexity. Generally, we find a cross-disciplinary social media team can plan goals, high-level content requirements, and supporting activities for a single brand in 15-30 minutes. To keep sprint planning efficient and focused, break up the ceremony into three components:

  1. A goal-setting conversation
  2. A task-setting conversation
  3. A task-sizing conversation

Start with Goals

Goals are most effectively set with input from key stakeholders, including the Product Owner and content team. In an ideal case, higher level goals are set in a prior sprint backlog meeting, and broken down into sprint-level objectives. Your objectives should determine the focus of your sprint, and be specific, measurable, attainable, and results-oriented.

A scenario may look like this: With a quarterly goal of 1,500 installs for a brand new app, our first three-week sprint will be spent building out the Facebook ad campaign, designing ad variants, and launching our first experiments. Since the object of the first sprint will be to test and learn, not scale, an appropriate sprint goal might be a) Generate 150 app installs, b) Hit an average CPA of $3, and c) Collect feedback from 10 users that installed but didn’t upgrade to better understand their motivations.

If your quarterly focus was instead tied to audience, appropriate goals may revolve around new followers on a specific channel, or engagement lifts on organic content.

Setting 1 to 2 goals per sprint has worked well for us. Each goal should be documented, written either on a physical card for your Scrum/Kanban Board or in an online equivalent, like Trello.

Set Tasks

Once your goals are planned, you will then focus on the day-to-day tasks that will make up your team’s work for the entire Sprint. Traditionally, tasks are written as user stories (and defined by story points), with each card framed from the perspective of what need you are solving for a customer. “As a __, I want __, so that ___.” To keep it simple, you can write cards as individual action items or tasks that contribute towards your sprint goal.

When writing tasks be as granular as possible, especially if people will be working on multiple aspects of different projects. So, instead of making a card that reads “post content for the week,” you’d make cards that read, “write first draft of blog,” “assign creative header image design,” “header image production,” “post blog to website,” and “share blog on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.” This way, if different people are completing each task, they can be responsible for moving the card accordingly in your standup meeting. Or, if there is a holdup in the process, it is easier to recognize exactly where it is.

Some cards can be permanent if you know you’ll complete them each Sprint. These could be daily maintenance and management tasks like “monitor Twitter” or “interact with three people on Instagram.” Not only will these cards solidify expectations for the account, but you’ll save your hand the pain of rewriting them each Sprint cycle.

Size the Tasks

Another aspect of Sprint Planning that we ourselves are still perfecting is Sizing. Sizing is an estimation of the time, complexity, and interdependencies of each given task in the Sprint Backlog. This process helps us determine our teams’ velocity on both a Sprint and account-level, making it easier to forecast how much bandwidth certain clients will take in the future. We’ll dive more into Sizing in a future post. This guide will get you started.

After you’ve written out all of your cards, they are ready to move into your Sprint Backlog. The Sprint Backlog will serve as the roadmap for your Sprint. As the Sprint progresses, each team member will move their relevant cards along the Scrum Board (or on Trello) during the Daily Standup.

How do you have the most successful Sprint Planning ever?

Agile is all about forecasting your workload for the coming Sprint. But, when it comes to social media, extra tasks and timely requests are bound to pop up. We recommend leaving yourself a small amount of bandwidth for these unexpected tasks so that your team is still successful in completing the already-planned goals and tasks set out at the beginning of the Sprint. We track the addition of any Sprint unplanned tasks by using a different color card than our planned task for our Scrum Board, and size them accordingly, to maintain the accuracy of our velocity. If a timely request pops up that is too resource-intensive or complicated to squeeze into your Sprint, your team may need to have a conversation (internally or with the client) to discuss what tasks to postpone to a future Sprint in exchange for prioritizing the new request.

When you’re setting goals and tasks during the Sprint Planning session, make sure you are consulting all appropriate members of your team to keep the goals attainable. Not finishing everything on your Sprint Backlog is not ideal. If you plan keeping your team’s bandwidth in mind, you’ll have greater success overall.

How does it work for us?

Since we are a social media marketing agency working with many clients at a time, we have three staggered, three-week Sprints. We call them Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie Sprint cycles, and they correlate with a specific Community Manager (team lead) and the brands they work on. We try to keep Graphic Designers and Content Producers (ancillary roles) on as few Sprints as possible at a time so they aren’t in Sprint Planning and Retrospectives every week.

We use both a physical Scrum Board for our Daily Standup and make digital copies of our Sprint Backlog cards on Trello as well. Additionally, we Size any card that comes up unplanned within a Sprint cycle.

Any Questions?

Like all things Agile, adaptation is key. If there are parts of the Sprint Planning process that resonate most with you, use them, and if there are other parts that don’t, don’t. Experiment with what works for your team and don’t be afraid to keep tweaking your process along the way.

This is the second post in our series about the four core Agile ceremonies for social media. Want to see a full overview of Sculpt’s Agile adaptation? This video is for you. Be sure to follow our blog or keep up-to-date on Twitter so you don’t miss our next post.

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Maggie Martin

Maggie Martin combines her love of words and obsession with social media as an Associate Community Manager at Sculpt.

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