What’s a social media content calendar? Only the most helpful tool you could ever add to your social media marketing toolkit.
Picture this: you own an artisanal donut shop and it’s #NationalDonutDay. You had no idea until a customer asked, “Hey, are you guys doing anything for National Donut Day?” Now you look like an idiot. But it’s not your fault. You were just busy running a successful business.
Enter the social media content calendar. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a tool to help you plan and schedule all your social content in advance.
Just like a regular content calendar, you’ll decide what and when to publish—but with the added specificity of social platforms.
Most importantly, you’ll never miss #NationalDonutDay again.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about social media content calendars.
Never miss important dates
Is it important to your brand that you celebrate #NationalDogDay? What about #StarWarsDay? #NationalPizzaDay?
A social media content calendar can help you stay ahead of all these social media holidays (along with “real” holidays like Chrismas and New Year’s Day).
You won’t miss any opportunities to elevate your brand and engage with followers on special dates.
For example, in January 2018, we celebrated #YearOfTheDog by sharing a video, which as a cat-friendly office, was on brand. The video highlighted the fun cat culture of Connec+, which is topical and ontrend (it’s also still one of our favourite videos so check it out - https://bit.ly/2ME4Wsu).
But it took some advanced planning to pull off, something that would not have been possible without a content calendar.
Stick to a consistent posting schedule
Posting consistently is one of the best ways to get more social media followers.
No one will want to follow you if the most recent post on your profile is from two years ago. A consistent posting schedule shows potential followers you are invested in the channel—meaning a follow will be worth their time.
Better yet, consistent posting trains your current followers to expect and engage with your content on a regular basis, cultivating long-lasting relationships that lead to sales.
A social media content calendar will help you post consistently across all platforms by ensuring that content is planned and scheduled in advance.
No more forgetting about your social media account for weeks only to publish 25 posts in one day while playing catch up.
Find your ideal content mix
No one loves friends who only talk about themselves. The same goes for brands on social.
If you only post when you have a sale on, or a new product to offer, you’re not reading the room. And you’re BORING!
Sure, followers will want to know when you’re having a sale, but they also want to see other types of content from you, such as:
- Curated articles, videos, and news stories from your industry
- User-generated content
- Personal interactions and responses to questions
- And more!
Through testing over time, everyone figures out the mix of content that works for them. But the rule of thirds is a good place to start. That means:
- ⅓ of your content promotes your business or generates leads
- ⅓ of your content comes from other sources that align with your business
- ⅓ of your content engages with followers directly, either through answering questions, responding to comments, or reposting user-generated content
Another ratio is the 80/20 rule: 80 percent helpful and interesting content for every 20 percent of content that’s selling your product.
Planning your social content in advance ensures you are publishing a balanced amount of content from each category.
Bonus: you won’t end up alienating customers with too many self-promotional messages.
A social media content calendar shared on a cloud platform like Google Sheets or Dropbox is a collaboration power tool. Whether you’re sharing information with stakeholders or updating your team, this calendar serves as the single source of truth for what’s being published and when.
A common, shareable calendar also makes it easy to divide planning duties among team members. If someone’s out sick for the week, no one is left wondering what to post.
“But isn’t maintaining a detailed calendar of every social media post going to cause me more work?” you may be wondering.
Honestly, the answer is no. Using a social media calendar is going to save you time.
If you have a plan for your future social content, you can schedule your posts in advance (we use Sprout Social to help us schedule, but you can schedule Facebook posts natively). Then, you won’t constantly be watching the clock. You may even be able to take a vacation (hooray!).
Effectively allocate resources
You know what they say: by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.
A great social media post often involves copywriters, designers, and even video editors. It’s a collaborative effort, and quality work takes time.
A few brilliant creatives get their best work done at the very last minute, but generally the opposite is true. Planning ahead puts less strain on you and your team members, as well as company resources. And you’re more likely to publish your best quality work.
Last-minute posts also tend to have a ripple effect throughout the organisation. If you’re pulling people in to work on something without any notice, other teams’ schedules and projects are impacted too—and it’s often a struggle to get everyone back on track.
Procrastination is expensive.
Avoid cross-platform errors
One of the cardinal sins of social media management is posting the exact same message on multiple networks. It’s happened to all of us—asking your Facebook followers to “retweet” you or tagging a brand on Twitter who only has Instagram—but it’s less likely to happen if you plan ahead.
A social media content calendar lets you write out unique captions for each social platform in advance. Then when it comes time to schedule your posts, it’s just a matter of copy-and-pasting the right caption to the right network.
Bonus: you’ll avoid looking foolish and disorganised to your followers.
Ensure fresh content
A social media content calendar is not just a planning tool—it’s a record of everything you’ve ever published. It’ll be the first to let you know if you’re overusing the word “legitimately,” or if you’ve shared that cute dog video too many times in the last week.
While planning new content, look back to make sure you’re not repeating yourself.
Figure out what works
Having a record of what you’ve published makes it easier to measure results. Plus, all the time you’re saving not scrambling to publish last minute posts can now be used to optimise performance.
Compare your publishing schedule to your analytics and see if you can find any patterns. Perhaps posts published on Thursdays perform the best. Maybe your Facebook followers are really into 15-second videos, while your Twitter followers prefer long-from blog posts. Maybe your Instagram followers like to see one post a day, while your LinkedIn followers like four.
Take your findings and continue to test and optimise until you find the perfect publishing schedule that works for your brand.
Bonus: If a post does consistently well, it may be a good idea to “boost” it with some advertising dollars, so even more people get to see it.
So let’s dive into creating a social media calendar!
How to create a social media content calendar
1. Start with a social media audit
Before you can create a social media planning calendar, you need to take stock of your current social media efforts. And luckily you’ve already done that! This will provide you with useful information to include in your social media calendar, especially if you work on a team.
2. Do a content audit, too
Is any of the content you plan to post out-of-date? If so, can it be updated? Or should it be scrapped? Also, what types of content have performed well in the past? And what sorts of things are your competitors posting?
These are all important questions to ask yourself while planning your future social media publishing schedule.
3. Get familiar with network demographics
Each social network speaks to a distinct audience, and these audiences shape the content you will be expected to share. You may have customers who follow you on more than one network, but, for example, your Facebook audience may be older than your Snapchat audience. They may not understand your Game of Thrones GIFs.
Posting content that is tailored to each platform and its unique audience is an important part of any social media marketing strategy.
Check out our up-to-date demographic information on all the major social networks HERE
Get a handle on these distinct demographics before you start inputting content into your social media content calendar to ensure everything you plan to post is appropriate.
4. Determine your posting frequency
If you’ve already done a social media audit, you’ll have a handle on how often you’re currently posting to each social network. Will that be the plan going forward? Or are you going to change things up?
Either way, your posting frequency will determine the shape of your social media planning calendar—a.k.a. how many slots you need to leave open per network.
So it’s best to make a decision now, even if you find you need to tweak it later.
5. Determine your content ratio
Your social media calendar should have some sort of content categorisation system. This will help you track what kind of content your followers seem to enjoy the most.
One suggestion is to label your content self-promotional, curated, or user-generated. Or maybe you want to note the type of content, such as: blog post, video, or announcement.
Ultimately how you label your content is up to you. But whatever you decide, make sure the labels are descriptive and actually helpful (although that may take some time to determine).
Also, decide how much of each type of content you want to post, so that your calendar is aligned (see “Find your ideal content mix” above).
6. Set up a content repository
A content repository is just what it sounds like—a place to store all the pieces of content you may want to choose from when building your social media planning calendar. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet (or a tab on your calendar spreadsheet), or a folder in dropbox or google docs. The most important thing is that it works for you.
7. Determine your calendar’s needs
What level of detail does your calendar require?
Do you need a separate spreadsheet for each network? Or can all of them fit on one?
Do you need to be able to assign people tasks? Or note when something has been posted? Or have it approved by anyone?
We suggest starting out with more detail than you think you need, and then cutting back to what your team finds most useful. Here are some basic items to get you started:
- Seasonal Date (highlight important ones!)
- Promotional activity
- Content Category
- Image (if required)
Input your content (and establish a process)
Now for the fun part: filling up your calendar with awesome content!
But don’t just go at it willy-nilly. Make sure you’ve got a process in place first.
Decide who is responsible for updating the calendar. Will the same person also be responsible for scheduling and publishing the posts? Will you need to assign copy to a copywriter? Is someone else responsible for sourcing images? And do the posts need to be approved by someone before going live? How far in advance will you schedule content?
Speaking of which, what’s the process for coming up with new content? Is there a brainstorm involved?
These are just some of the questions your team will need to answer before you start inputting content in your calendar, to ensure maximum organisation and flow. Even if it’s a lean process, and you’re a social team of one, sticking to a process will help minimize mistakes.
Optional: Invite key stakeholders to view it
Depending on your organisation’s size, there may be value in sharing your social media calendar with a few other teams with whom you share common goals or KPIs, or who would simply benefit from knowing what you’re up to.
These may include (but aren’t limited to): content writers, blog managers, video producers, designers, campaign managers, project managers, and clients.
Make sure to set appropriate permissions for each member you invite. Not everyone needs editing access, for instance.
And remember: there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. Evaluate all requests for access carefully.
So there you have it, a how-to for building a content calendar which connects and converts. Happy planning!