Benefits of Using a Social Media Calendar
Engaging with social media audiences can is a key part of online marketing for any business. It can also be time-consuming and fuel your stress levels if you’re trying to generate effective content on a daily basis. Using a social media calendar can keep your campaigns organized across multiple networks, improve planning for important events and holidays, ensure a mix of content types and posting times, and take your anxiety down a notch.
Besides the obvious organization that a calendar provides for managing your social media posts, it also allows you to schedule your posts in advance, supports accountability by helping team members keep track of deadlines, responsibilities, and assigned tasks. In the same vein, a detailed calendar provides clear communication for all stakeholders involved in a campaign. Organizing all of your content in a weekly, monthly, or even yearly view allows you to visualize the frequency of posts, and helps plan what content will be posted on each social media platform. Lastly, a calendar can lead to more consistent results since you are less likely to post too little or too much on any network. If you’re tracking metrics, measuring performance, and adjusting your social media approach accordingly, a calendar can help you boost the effectiveness of your posts even further. Additional benefits include the following:
- Keep track of key posting dates, including holidays, internet holidays (Pi Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day), sales, events, product launches, and themes.
- A regular posting schedule helps get more followers by showing that you are invested and training customers to expect and engage with new content.
- Social media is effective: 78 percent of Americans say their purchasing decisions are influenced by what they see on their social media networks, and 92 percent of content marketers use it. A calendar will help you stay on top of work that can bring in business.
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Creating a Social Media Schedule
Whether you use a printed calendar, a spreadsheet template, or an online tool for scheduling your social media calendar, you will likely be aiming to achieve both high-level objectives and immediate goals. You may have long-term performance objectives related to audience engagement and increasing traffic as well as specific events or product releases you want to promote. Once you have developed your social media strategy, you can organize your workflow around your calendar. For each campaign, determine what type of social media messaging is appropriate, and then get into the details of actually creating posts that you’ll share. For small businesses, this may be a relatively simple task involving few people. Content creation at larger companies may require coordination with designers and multiple teams to ensure that scheduling is in alignment with goals and that you are taking into account realistic deadlines.
There are many messaging types to choose from when crafting social media posts. The type you choose will depend on the purpose of the post, the intended social network, and your target audience. Here are a few examples to consider:
- Asking a Question: This is a good conversation starter to encourage user engagement. You can use a question to pique curiosity so that readers are more likely to click through for answers.
- Offering Rewards: This could be a literal reward, as in the case of a promotion or contest, or it could be informing your audience about how products and services may benefit them: What’s in it for users? If you are offering a time-limited promotion, you can use that time limit to create a sense of pressure and encourage your audience to find out more. Consumers often don’t want to miss out on great deals.
- Sharing Helpful Information: You can share tips, links to informative blog posts on your site, eye-opening statistics, or facts that are relevant to your audience and message.
- Taking a Risk: Sometimes a controversial post can start an engaging discussion — just be careful not to offend anyone. The idea is to get people thinking and to invite opinions, not to turn people away.
- Posting Quotes: These may be inspirational, thought-provoking, humorous, or educational. It all depends on your brand, the appropriate tone for your audience, the intention behind sharing it, and the social network.
- Making an Announcement: Providing information about upcoming events, product launches, business successes, and other announcements is an easy way of keeping your audience informed.
For any social network, it’s a good idea to use a mix of messaging types and to include multimedia posts for visual interest and variety. Sometimes a simple image can attract audience engagement while delivering a message about company values. It’s also wise to experiment with messaging to see what works well on particular sites and with your audience. Different social media networks call for distinct types of content and specific publishing times to be most effective. To find out more about planning content for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, and the best times of day to post on each, see this article on social media planning. You’ll also find tips there for crafting your social media strategy.
Planning a calendar will help ensure that you have an adequate amount of content prepared that is aligned with your strategy, but it won’t completely get you off the hook from having to improvise content on short notice. During a given day, you may need to respond to something on your social media feeds or create content related to breaking news or other events. Having your other content already scheduled will help free up time for creating unplanned content when needed.
To create a social media calendar, you simply need to record the details of your posts and any relevant information, such as publishing dates and times, URLs, who is responsible for the content, deadlines, SEO data or other metrics, and any other details you want. You can also create a storage space, either connected to your calendar or in a separate location, for keeping content ideas and sources that might be helpful in the future.
15 Social Media Calendar Tips
To help boost your efficiency and success rates, here are a few things to keep in mind as you develop your content and plan a calendar:
Share Content Multiple Times: You can make your content go further by posting about an article or blog post more than once, or by creating new posts that reuse similar messages. Just be sure to space out the posts over the course of a day, week, or month, depending on which social networks you are using. You want to save time and make the most of your evergreen content, not bore your audience with redundancy. Track the top performing posts for each social media network, and include those on the list of repeated posts.
Watch for Useful Content: Create a list of relevant sites and blog posts you can link to regularly. Curating content will help ensure that you have resources to draw on and a mix of content that is valuable to your audience. Make sure your posts align with the overall business strategy.
Experiment: Try mixing up your publishing schedule and types of messaging to see what works best. Trying different combinations of images, other media, and copy in your posts can also yield differing results.
Customize Your Calendar: When it comes to content calendars, one size doesn’t fit all. Tailor your calendar to meet your business and campaign needs so that it can truly be an effective tool for managing social media.
Start Slowly, and Gradually Increase Content: With multiple social networks to juggle, managing a publishing schedule can become overwhelming if you’re new to the process or unfamiliar with a specific platform. Build up your content slowly so that planning posts, maintaining a schedule, and tracking progress are manageable.
Delegate: Use your calendar to assign responsibilities to avoid overlooking tasks. If possible, consider automating some activities to reduce your workload.
Track Completion: Include status information on your calendar to track posts through each stage of creation and publishing. This type of monitoring can help coordinate your workflow with scheduling and avoid missing deadlines.
Save Image Files: Just as you can create a repository for collecting content ideas, saving images for potential use can save time in the long run. Have a copy of each image for each network, as they have different size and format requirements.
Encourage Sharing: This applies to both your social media audience and co-workers. When individuals share content, their social networks are likely to view it through a more personal (and trusting) lens, rather than only associating it with a specific brand. You can even provide employees with an incentive by rewarding small prizes for sharing a certain number of social posts.
Practice Brevity: Focus on streamlining your messages to connect with your audience with few words and compelling images.
Stick to a Posting Schedule: Your followers are more likely to engage with your posts if they come on a regular basis.
But, Add Spontaneous Posts: Non-scheduled posts (in response to news or other events) can help increase engagement and attract new followers.
Track Follower Engagement: Determine when people interact with posts and customize the schedule so your posts go up during those time frames. Peak times may vary by network.
Automate: Social media tools such as Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts in advance across multiple social media networks, which will reduce missed posts and stress.
Tread Lightly: Over-saturation can make it hard for campaigns and posts to stand out in customer feeds.
Social Media Calendar Best Practices
Because social media plays a major role in a company’s inbound marketing strategy, the following rules of thumb can help posts have more impact and attract potential customers, without alienating your followers with too much self-promotion:
- Rule of Thirds: One third of posts should promote the business or generates leads, one third should come from other sources and align with your business needs (e.g., retweets and shares), and one third should directly engage with followers (e.g., answers to their questions, responses to comments, and requests for user-generated content).
- 80/20 Rule: Eighty percent of the content should be interesting (interaction with followers, restweets, and shares), and 20 percent should sell the product.
Vary your content to help keep followers engaged. Below are some examples of posts that you can you include:
- Call to Action Posts: Try to get followers to do something. The posts should do one or more of the following: Sell the value that will be received (e.g., why reading a linked blog post or curated article will be worth the time it will take), ask a question that may change beliefs (i.e., offer a better solution to a problem by providing statistics or facts), or make followers feel like they will be missing out if they don’t act.
- Question Posts: Try to get followers to interact or provide responses. Closed-ended questions have more clickthrough; open-ended questions lead to more engagement through responses and discussion.
- Controversy Posts: Try to drive engagement by challenging common knowledge or questioning the status quo. But tread lightly, as you may alienate some followers.
- User-Generated Posts: These posts are based on content provided by, or interactions with, followers. They help people become fans and interact more.
Social media sites sometimes die out (Friendster, Google+), lose popularity (FourSquare, MySpace, Tumblr), or launch (TikTok, Ello, WT.social). And there are many sites that have niche audiences that might be places to find potential customers (Dribble, BlogHer). Some messaging apps, like Snapchat, may also be a good option for reaching potential customers. And, don’t forget YouTube. Adjust your processes and procedures to adapt to changes in the social media universe.
Creating or Revising a Social Media Strategy or Campaign
If you are already posting on social media but aren’t getting the results you want, a review of your current strategy may be in order. If you are currently not posting on social media, these steps can help you get going. Social media tracing tools (like Sprout Social or monday.com) can also help with many of the steps below.
1. The first step is to ensure that all key stakeholders are included in the process in order to end up with a well-designed strategy. Take stock of your current strategy by doing the following:
- Perform an audit of your current content.
- Review past results for each social media network.
- Analyze your competitors’ presence.
2. Research the demographics of the social media networks you want to use.
3. Research the demographics of the audience you want to reach.
4. Create measurable goals for engagement and results you want.
5. Determine if you want to post from multiple profiles, or from a single profile for each network.
6. Create a content repository (this can be done in Excel, Google Sheets, Evernote, Smartsheet, or any number of tools, but make sure it’s on the cloud or a shared drive).
7. Determine your desired content ratio (check out the best practices for tips).
8. Create your content, and post it in the repository. This can be a one-time process for short campaigns (like for a product launch), or a recurring process for longer campaigns or if you’re posting for general brand awareness.
9. Create a posting schedule, specifying each network, what will be posted, and the time frame for each. An automated tool like Hootsuite will make keeping to the schedule easier. Make sure to add non-scheduled content in response to events for other posts.
10. Measure results and adjust the strategy as needed.
Social Media Calendar Templates
Social Media Content Calendar Template
Social Media Editorial Calendar Template
If you need a comprehensive social media planning calendar, this template provides monthly and quarterly overviews as well as detailed spreadsheets for each month. You can list goals, track important events and holidays, collect measurable metrics, and align your social media campaigns with other marketing efforts. You can use this template for planning and scheduling any editorial project.
Social Media Calendar with Dashboard
Get a visual picture of your social media calendar with this dashboard template. The graphical display makes it easy to see what, when, and where you are posting. Keep track of basic metrics and view your upcoming schedule at a glance.
Annual Content Calendar Template
This annual content calendar includes sheets for planning by month as well as a yearly overview, an archive for tracking previous posts, and a section for brainstorming new content. Collect all of your social media calendar ideas in one place for easy reference. This template is a comprehensive tool for planning, scheduling, and storing content.
Download Annual Content Calendar Template
Blogging Calendar Template
Creating a separate blogging calendar can help keep your workflow organized and allow you to focus strategically on one area of content. This template mimics the annual content calendar but with a focus on blogging. Keep track of former blog posts, brainstorm new ideas, and create a detailed calendar for each month.
Social Media Schedule Template
This template offers a basic social media calendar example for those who want a PDF file for scheduling posts. List publishing dates, the status of each post, content descriptions, and the corresponding social network. You can edit the template to add or change column headings.
Download Social Media Schedule Template
Social Media Strategy Plan Template
Use this strategy plan template to identify your target audience, define your mission and vision, develop your messaging, and create a strategic action plan to meet your objectives. The template includes a section for analyzing your competition and finding potential roadblocks to address. Having a solid social media strategy will give you a foundation to build on and refer to when issues arise.
Social Media Audit Template
This template tracks various metrics across all of your social media channels. Conduct an audit by comparing current results to previous time periods as well as the goals you are working toward. Auditing your social media efforts can help you assess progress and find weak areas that may need attention.
Social Media Report Template - Excel
Compile your key performance indicators into a visually compelling report that is easy to use. This template is a useful tool for social media managers to track important data and communicate with team members. Identify your top posts, engagement numbers, and other data on a weekly basis.
Social Media Image Size Chart
This is a reference chart that shows the maximum image and video sizes for popular social media networks, including Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, as well as the messaging app SnapChat. Refer to this chart to make sure you have the correct sizes for each network.
Download Social Media Image Size Chart
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