The Difference Between Content Planning and Social Media Orchestration

Brian Powers
Brian Powers
The Difference Between Content Planning and Social Media Orchestration

Over the past several months, we've made a big push to bring social media orchestration to our users and to the world of social media management. I realize that it can sometimes feel like a vague or complex concept, so I'd like to try to break it down a bit further than before and explain why it's not just another unsubstantial buzzword.

While they may seem similar at first glance, understanding the differences between social media orchestration and content planning can transform your social media strategy into something more holistic, collaborative, and powerful. But first...



  • Social media content planning is about developing, creating, and organizing content to tell a compelling story.
  • Social media orchestration is about executing your stories on a grander level, efficiently distributing them across platforms to achieve business objectives at scale.

What is Social Media Orchestration?

Social media orchestration (SMO) is the term we've coined to define our vision for the way businesses approach social media as an organizational communications centerpiece. Unlike the more traditional concept of social media management, SMO is a comprehensive approach that goes beyond simply making social media posts and managing a community and is not just about marketing.

Instead, it involves aligning and integrating your social media activities more closely with your overall business strategy, ensuring brand consistency, improving collaborative workflows, and adopting a new mindset toward your socials as powerful business assets. We want social media orchestration to take your socials beyond marketing and be the baton you use to conduct your social symphony.

What is Content Planning?

Content planning, on the other hand, is the process of deciding what content to create, when to publish it, and on which platforms. It involves brainstorming ideas, creating an editorial calendar, and scheduling posts. Content planning focuses on the what and when of social media, ensuring that you have a steady stream of content ready to go.

Social media orchestration would be dead without content planning - without a plan, a strategy is just a wish. In this article, when I say "content planning", I am referring to social media content, but the approach generally remains similar across content types.

Let's get into what sets these two things apart:

The Key Differences

Content Planning

  • Scope and focus: Content planning is about managing individual pieces of content and content campaigns. Social media orchestration encompasses the entire social media strategy, integrating all activities to align with broader business goals. It also involves the upkeep and maintenance of content across its lifecycle, so unlike content planning, SMO does not end with the "publish" button.
  • Strategy: involves short—or long-term planning to align content with business goals, audience interests, and seasonal trends. 
  • Tools used: Typically involves content calendars, collaboration tools for brainstorming and drafting, and project management software to track progress and deadlines. This often means planner boards or even spreadsheets.
  • Personnel: Content planning is generally the domain of a social media manager or content manager - perhaps a team of content creators and strategists at larger companies. 
  • Output: Results in a detailed content calendar outlining what content will be published, where, and when. 

Social Media Orchestration

  • Focus: Centers on the execution and management of all social media activities throughout an organization. It ensures that content is planned, developed, scheduled, and distributed effectively and that engagement is optimized. It also focuses on maintaining content throughout its lifecycle and implementing feedback.
  • Scope: Encompasses scheduling posts, monitoring performance, managing campaigns, and coordinating across multiple social media platforms. It also means coordinating the different roles that may be involved in creating a unified brand front on social. 
  • Strategy: Involves tactical execution to maximize reach, engagement, and conversion. It requires real-time adjustments based on analytics and feedback.
  • Tools used: Social media orchestration utilizes holistic platforms, like Facelift's Orchestrate, for content ideation, campaign planning, scheduling, and publishing in one place. It also requires strong internal communications tools that develop an effective flow of information at scale and that foster a robust knowledge management (KM) system.
  • Output: This leads to a cohesive and synchronized social media presence that affects organizational departments ranging from sales, to HR, to customer support, and more. Large amounts of content are created at scale for a multitude of business goals across numerous channels, and they play a key role in corporate communications.

Your journey in Social Media Orchestration

Don't get me wrong, social media content planning is essential, and social media orchestration is not an "improved version" of it. It's also not an evolution of content planning: content planning is simply the beginning of SMO.

So, when does SMO start to feel different from what you're already doing? I think it really starts to feel different when your social media efforts transcend marketing and start to include a larger number of people throughout your organization collaborating.

Social media orchestration comes together when the desire and need to enhance external (and even internal) communication grows within an organization such that marketing alone is no longer seen as the only, or maybe even the primary, application for it. 

It's also not the same as just scaling. While scalability is a pillar of social media orchestration, scaling can be done by hiring more social media managers and increasing their budget. Orchestration may be led by your social media managers, who conduct your social symphony with the power of their expertise in the subject, but they are conductors.

A symphony greatly benefits from an excellent conductor, but that conductor doesn't play all the instruments in the band.

Start your social media orchestration with Facelift

Facelift's Publisher, one of our flagship products and the campaign management tool at the heart of our platform is taking the next step on its own evolutionary journey. Publisher will soon become Orchestrate, a more holistic, collaborative solution that combines some of Facelift's existing capabilities into something more comprehensive and powerful. And don't worry, the Publisher you've gotten used to won't look very different, so you won't have to get used to anything all over again. Orchestrate will simply make it faster, more efficient, and more contained within a single space.

Orchestrate is designed to facilitate social media orchestration to its full extent, providing you with the tools to streamline, automate, and elevate your social media strategy across your organization. Read our latest product update on what has changed so far and how you can opt into the beta version of our upgraded Planner, one of Orchestrate's central components.

Brian Powers
Brian Powers

More about the author

A New Yorker in Germany, Brian is Facelift's content marketing manager. With over a decade of experience in content and social, he is responsible for managing Facelift's content, which includes the blog, guides and downloads
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