The world of social media is constantly in flux with new platforms, new algorithms, and new trends. Staying on top of it all can be mind-boggling even for the most capable social gurus. And that’s why you need a social media calendar, AKA a content calendar. A social media calendar will help you visually plan out your upcoming social posts for the next week, month, or quarter (if you’re really ahead of the game!).
There are lots of other great reasons to keep a social media calendar. Here are a few:
- You can ensure you have a solid mix of content to keep your readers engaged.
- You can make sure you have an aesthetically pleasing feed that appeals to your followers.
- Your team can easily see what's coming up, which posts need to be written, and which assets need to be gathered or created.
- And by prepping and planning your content out in advance, you’ll always have content ready to share. No more last-minute scrambling to get something up.
Need more reasons? Let's dive into some of the big ones.
It can help you show up more consistently on social.
The biggest challenge for most people and businesses on social media is simply showing up consistently. With busy lives and a full plate of tasks, it’s all too easy to forget about social media. A week or more can pass by with no posts. Your absence from your audience’s feeds is a missed opportunity to engage and excite your audience and keep your business front of mind.
Quite simply, a social media calendar will help you ensure that you’re showing up regularly on the platforms your audience uses most.
It can help you stay organized.
Wrangling multiple social media platforms? This can be a big challenge, and if you don’t have a centralized place to put all your information, it's easy to become disorganized. You may end up with captions written in Google Docs, the Notes app on your phone, and random scraps of paper on your desk. And forget about finding images to post—you’ll constantly be scrambling to find them if you don’t have a way to keep them organized.
It can help you make fewer mistakes.
When you’re posting on the fly, it’s all too easy to make a typo, post the wrong image, or post to the wrong account. Planning your content ahead of time with a social media calendar will give you additional time to review your posts and make sure it’s all correct. This can help you avoid some seriously embarrassing mistakes.
It can help you track content performance.
Want to study the posts that have done well on your pages? Without a social media calendar, you’ll have to scroll back on your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account to hunt them down. But with a calendar, all your content is at your fingertips and can be easily referenced. For example, you might notice that since you’ve been posting more behind-the-scenes videos, your following has increased significantly.
It can help you stay on top of important events.
Is part of your strategy showing up for big holidays and events (and the smaller ones, too)?. Without a social media calendar, it’s very easy for these days to sneak up on you. The result: a mad dash to create timely, relevant content.
With a social media calendar, you can plan ahead for holidays like Christmas and New Year’s, as well as tentpole events relevant to your brand (such as the Super Bowl or the Oscars). You can also track smaller holidays that may be relevant for your business, like National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day or National Recycling Week.
A social media calendar can also help you plan out content for your own events or campaigns. You can begin working on content for new product launches or big sales far in advance and have posts ready to go on the big day.
How do I create a social media calendar?
The first step is to figure out which type of calendar you want to use. Here we lay out a few of the most popular options:
Google Calendar or email calendar tools
Some pros like to use Google Calendar or even their Outlook calendar to plan their posts. Posts can be added in as calendar appointments where the description field is used to add captions and links to images.
You might choose this method if you’re already accustomed to using these calendars and would like a simple approach to manage your social media plan. The simplicity of this approach is a big advantage, too, as is the ability to attach reminders to your “appointment” to ensure you’ll never miss a post.
|Want to use the calendar option? Try this. Choose a color to represent each platform and color-code your appointments accordingly.|
Here's the drawback. If you’re posting on multiple social platforms—as many are!—this approach can become a little overwhelming. The constant alerts can be disruptive, and it can be tough to plan your days with numerous “appointments” showing up regularly across the various platforms.
Keep in mind that calendars aren't designed to be a social content management system. There could be another method that’s better suited to your needs.
Lots of owners use a simple spreadsheet to manage their social media calendars. A spreadsheet can be tailored to your needs, with different rows added for each platform you use. All of the necessary information, such as captions and links to images, can be stored in individual cells.
|Color-coding works with this tactic, too. Use it to differentiate the different post categories. Then, you'll be able to ensure—at a glance—that you have a good mix of content.|
Here's the advantage of this method. Spreadsheets are highly customizable and can be tailored to suit your unique needs. They also provide a great overview at a glance, which can be enormously helpful when multiple team members are working on social.
It's simple enough to create your own social calendar spreadsheet in Google Sheets or Excel. But you can also find free, premade templates online. Try searching the web for “free social media calendar template.”
Here’s an example of a social media calendar template you can find online that’s been populated with content ideas:
Apps like Later and Hootsuite
Another option is using a social media management app like Later or Hootsuite. These are two of the biggest names in the industry currently. Still, competitors like Zoho Social and Sprout Social can also help you develop and deliver your social media campaigns.
These powerful social media management tools allow you to manage all of your social media platforms from one central dashboard. Instead of posting content the long way—by logging into each app, writing your content, adding assets, and posting for your audience—these tools allow you to add captions, images, and videos within their platform and schedule them to post to the various platforms. With auto-publishing, you can even set social media content to post while you’re sleeping or tending to other tasks.
These tools provide a huge advantage if you’re posting to multiple platforms and want to streamline the process—and save time. However, what these apps generally lack is the ability to see your content mix at a glance. If you’re planning a large volume of content over a longer time horizon, most social media management tools won’t quite cut it.
For this reason, many teams use both a spreadsheet social media calendar and an app like Later or Hootsuite for posting. This approach may seem complicated, and there’s definitely a learning curve to mastering it. But, if you plan to post often across multiple platforms, combining tools is a great way to manage it all.
We’ve covered the basics on the types of calendars you can use. Now, let’s dive into the information you’ll need to compile to start filling in your social media calendar.
What should I include on my social media calendar?
At a minimum, your calendar should include content pillars, your posting schedule and frequency, and your captions and visual assets.
One of the most important reasons for having a social media calendar is so you can keep a careful eye on your content pillars. Content pillars (also called content buckets, content categories, or even just post types) are the different types of content you cover on your social accounts.
Your content pillars will largely depend on your niche and target audience. Let's say, for example, that you’re a jewelry brand targeting millennials. Your content pillars might be new jewelry launches, customer photos, behind-the-scenes videos, and inspirational quotes. You can have as many content pillars as you want, but four or five is typically a good number to start with.
Pros like to track their content pillars by color-coding them on their social media calendar. Again, this is a great way to ensure that you’re putting out a good mix of content to keep your followers engaged. Let's revisit the jewelry example to see how. If you only post about new jewelry product launches and sales, you probably won’t get great social traction. You need more content pillars. When you add in content that educates or entertains, such as a video on how to clean your jewelry or a post on how to style different necklaces, your followers will come to see you as an enjoyable and useful account to follow.
Posting schedule and frequency
When creating a social media calendar, think about when and how often you want to post on each platform.
Let's talk first about ideal posting times. These largely depend on your audience. Some marketers like to post first thing in the morning to catch the early crowd, while others find that posting in the late afternoon is best. You may need to experiment with various posting times (and frequencies!). Over time, you’ll gain valuable insights on the best strategy for your social accounts by gauging how many people view your videos, comment, “like,” or visit your site as a result of your posts at various times of the day or week.
You can post as much or as little as you like, but pros who have studied the platforms make some recommendations. For instance, Twitter moves very quickly, so you’ll want to tweet multiple times every day for visibility. But on Instagram, where posts have a longer shelf life, posting once a day or five times a week may suffice. On LinkedIn, posts tend to circulate for much longer, so you may only need to post there once a week.
Captions and visual assets
Of course, you’ll also need to consider your actual content, including your captions and multimedia images or videos. This is where using a social media content calendar really comes in handy. Dreaming up a genius caption every day is stressful, and hunting down post-worthy photos or creating video assets can be incredibly time-consuming on a daily basis. With a social calendar, you can plan all of this content ahead and create it in batches, saving you an immense amount of time and improving the quality of your content.
While captions can be pasted directly into your social media calendar spreadsheet, you’ll likely want to host your images somewhere else and then link to them from your spreadsheet. Dropbox, Google Drive, or your company’s file server are all good places to store your social assets.
Once you’ve filled in your social calendar with your content pillars, posting schedule, captions, and visual assets, you’re good to go. Now it’s time to start filling in your calendar for the weeks and months ahead.
The takeaway: Your time is way too precious to waste trying to come up with what to post on social media every day. By creating and utilizing a social media calendar, you’ll be able to get ahead of the game and post high-quality content with less stress. A properly maintained social media calendar will free you up to focus on other aspects of your business and, over time, help you develop a bigger social media following.
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