A social media calendar is the unsung hero of Social Media Marketers. Plan, collaborate, organize and see everything at a glance. Use a calendar and you’ll never again be taken by surprise by that obscure international holiday you wanted to tweet about. This article will teach you everything you need to know about creating, using and leveraging a social media calendar.
- What is a social media calendar?
- Reasons for using a social media calendar
- Pros and cons of using a social media calendar
- Who can benefit from a social media calendar?
- What should a social media content calendar include?
- What kinds of social media content can you include in a calendar?
- Tips & tricks to make the best out of your social media calendar
What is a social media calendar?
Let’s start with the basics – what exactly is a social media calendar?
Put simply, a social media calendar is a spreadsheet or an app used to plan and organize social media posts in advance. Social media marketers rely on calendars to keep track of when and where to post content. A social media calendar is an editorial tool that lets you create an agenda of upcoming posts, schedule posts, track important events and deadlines, and keep an overview of all your campaigns and projects.
Types of social media calendar
Social media marketing calendars come in many shapes and forms.
Spreadsheets – The most common one is ye old spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are a cost-effective way to plan posts ahead of time. Well, they actually seem to be cost-effective at first but when you add up the wasted time, it probably covers most subscriptions.
As the campaign progresses and grows in complexity, spreadsheets can become cumbersome. Kind of like keeping track of the stock market with an abacus. Or driving the train as the tracks are laid out in front of it. Or… anyway, you get it.
Paper calendars – Yes, people still use them – and yes, they can be useful in some situations. While having a social media posting calendar physically laid out in front of you can help in planning and logistics, things get a bit more complicated when it comes to collaboration and tracking deadlines.
Application or software. – Probably the most versatile type of social media calendar, an app or software gives you the autonomy and flexibility you need to track multiple campaigns or projects across different platforms.
Social media calendar template
A social media content calendar template helps you hit the ground running. It gives you a framework to help you get started and on your way to organizing, scheduling and planning your upcoming social media posts. There’s no size fits all approach to this, so you’ll most likely have to tailor it to the particularities of your campaign.
Once your social media campaign grows roots, the best way to manage it is via a planning and collaboration app such as Planable. We created a dynamic calendar template to accommodate your team’s workflow. This is what it looks like. Give it a spin for free and take advantage of free scheduling and mockup features (creating a new account only takes 30 seconds).
Reasons for using a social media calendar
Everybody does. Including your competitors.
For real, though, the importance of using a social media planning calendar in today’s age can’t be overstated enough. Here are just a few reasons why you should use a social media calendar:
Hold your team accountable. Like it or not, our industry lives and dies by the deadline. By having all plans laid out in advance, the team can more easily and efficiently work towards a common goal.
Make sense out of the chaos. Managing multiple social media accounts, each with its own quirks and specificities can get messy.
Ensure brand consistency. We always talk about brand pillars, content pillars, and brand guidelines but in the real-life and spur-of-the-moment posts, that can be hard. Using a well-organized social media calendar can give you that much-needed overview of how you distribute your content.
Pros and cons of using a social media calendar
Now, let’s assume for a second that the benefits listed above are not enough to sell you on social media content calendars, and you need some extra convincing. With that in mind, here are a few pros and cons of social media calendars:
PRO: Saves time, allowing you to focus on the important things
Planning, creating, and executing social media campaigns can be a considerable time sink even for the savviest of specialists.
The thing about social media is that it requires effort and attention every single day. The days of posting whatever pops into your mind whenever you’re hit by inspiration are long gone. Social media calendar to the rescue!
Using a content calendar for social media allows you to plan ahead, create content in batches and avoid multitasking. Coupled with good freelance management software, it can even help you distribute and delegate work effectively to outsourced talent if you want to give your in-house team additional support. Basically, it’s the best way to prevent that whole rummaging-through-the-internet-like-a-raccoon-desperately-trying-to-find-stuff-to-post scenario that I’ve mentioned in the intro.
And even though you’ll be required to attend to your social media needs each day, that doesn’t mean you have to constantly babysit your feed. That’s what scheduling is for.
PRO: Create and post consistently
No matter which area of social media you specialize in, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, consistency is key to achieving your goals. There’s no way around it.
“It’s important that you’re remaining consistent with your marketing strategy when creating a social media calendar. Because it’s easy to lose sight of your strategies and goals when you’re not actively focusing on it.”, Bry’Ana Gage, Product Marketer at 500apps.
The reason is simple: showing up in your audience’s feed consistently is a surefire way to increase engagement. Engagement, in turn, increases your organic reach, which will get more eyeballs on your posts, and so on and so forth. It’s a great way to make that pesky algorithm that everybody loves to hate notice your content.
Using a social media calendar will help you do just that – post consistently. Now, let’s make one thing clear: you won’t “hack” the algorithm, and far from me to suggest that such a thing could be possible. But posting consistently, at regular intervals, will definitely help.
PRO: The big mistakes – gone
Have you ever experienced second-hand embarrassment at someone’s social media mistakes? Imagine that, but amplified by thousands. Here are some examples of social media faux pas that social media teams regularly commit:
Brands being oblivious to important events. Like that time Adidas learned the importance of phrasing.
Not double and triple-checking before posting. Like that time when a BBC journalist announced the death of the Queen.
Trying to cash in on memes and trends without a proper strategy. Like that time LG threw shade at Apple on Twitter when customers grew worried that the then brand new iPhone 6 will bend and break. The Tweet was sent from an iPhone.
Accidentally plugging your indie-folk band on your employer’s social media channels (it can happen).
By planning your posts ahead of time, you can build failsafes into your workflow. It gives your team and collaborators enough time to edit the copy and fact check the information. Planning ahead with a social media calendar also means you can insert an additional layer of protection by having organizational stakeholders vet the content. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
Of course, that applies if your workflow and solution allow for easy approvals and review. I’ll take this time to say: spreadsheets don’t do that. Spreadsheets are amazing for formulas. Not for social media content approval. For this, you can use the social media calendar, in Planable.
PRO: Great incentive to up your content creation game
Social media production values have gone up since the wild west of the late noughties and early 2010s. The image of the flannel-shirt wearing Millennial tweeting from the confines of the nearest Starbucks is not only outdated, but also kind of tacky. Just like the chain-smoking, whiskey-guzzling adverting executive pitching his ad in a suited-up, men-dominated room. Or something like that.
“A social media calendar will help to keep track of content consistency, quality, and how well you’re performing. Feedback gained through this will help you make the necessary changes to improve your social campaigns.”, Rhi Storer, Marketing Analyst at Shopper.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that in a world where basically anyone can create content, you have to work extra hard to stand out.
Today, it’s not unusual for a single social media post to have had an entire team analyzing and finetuning its every syllable. Usually, you’ll see graphic designers, copywriters, account managers, PR and brand specialists all working together on a single piece of content. That measly 30-word copy you absent-mindedly scrolled past by yesterday? 500 people worked on that. I’m only half-joking.
However, more often than not, creatives find themselves bogged down by the logistics of content creation – asset allocation, content distribution, and so on and so forth. This, in turn, affects the quality of the finished product.
A social media calendar takes that logistical burden off your shoulders and allows you to focus on what’s truly important – which is the content itself. And by taking those pesky logistical conundrums out of the equation, the quality of your content can only go up.
PRO: Track your weak spots and improve them
A social media calendar can offer you invaluable insight into what works and what doesn’t. Why? For one, by organizing your content neatly in a trackable and predictable format, you can lay the groundwork for future experimentation.
On top of that, you can plan out A/B tests around your social media calendar. This will help you identify valuable content-related “intelligence,” such as the right post frequency and the best time of day to post for any given social platform:
“Your posting frequency will shape your social media planning calendar. Be sure to take into consideration internal resources when you do this. For example, don’t commit to posting daily when you don’t really have the time to develop original content and research relevant material to support this.”, Prafull Sharma, Founder at LeadsPanda.
CON: You might miss opportunities
There’s a flip side to all of this. A few (of variable degrees of “bad”) things can happen if you schedule too much in advance:
You can miss opportunities (more on that later).
You run the risk of seeming oblivious or uncaring about what’s going on around you.
Many trends, jokes, memes, and “what have you” have a very short life-span. You don’t want to be one of those people.
I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t babysitting your feed kind of defeat the purpose of a social media calendar? Yes, but here’s the thing: will people laugh at brand-related #WashYourLyrics meme if that goes live right now?
CON: A social media calendar can make your brand seem less personal
Nowadays, people are social media savvy enough to differentiate between scheduled and spur-of-the-moment content and to know when they’re being targeted. People like to throw around the word “personality” a lot, but the truth is, this is probably the most valuable currency to have on social media. And having a social media calendar would probably decrease its value, some may say.
Scheduling content ahead of time can deprive your brand of that oft-sought degree of personality. In the current social media climate, it could mean the difference between standing out in a sea of brands trying to do the same thing and fading into obscurity.
CON: Could be considered spammy
This one is pretty straightforward. Hitting that sweet spot between posting just frequently enough to gain a “foothold” in people’s feeds and, well, not being annoying, takes a lot of trial and error. It’s one of those “you know it when you see it” types of things. So if someone calls you out for spamming or posting the same inspirational quote three times a month, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Who can benefit from a social media calendar?
Everybody directly or indirectly involved in the social media creation process should consider using a social media calendar:
Bloggers. Gone are the days when you could safely rely on word of mouth – blogging and social media are in an (often) beneficial, symbiotic relationship. Building a calendar around your blog posts is a great way to insert your pieces into the social media ecosystem.
Small businesses. It’s safe to assume that small businesses don’t have the resources to hire an agency to handle their social media, so a content calendar seems like a no-brainer.
Marketing teams. I mean, obviously, right? Marketing campaigns are complex machines with lots of moving parts. Social media is just one of many cogs, and planning content ahead of time can allow teams to focus on the behind the scenes.
Consultants/stakeholders. It’s not a stretch to assume that agencies have multiple clients. Getting all clients categorized by calendar is a great way to keep up with their unique social media requirements.
Enterprises. It’s important to have an overview over the entire campaign, and a calendar is great for this.
What should a social media content calendar include?
Now that we’ve established that using a social media calendar is important and all that, it’s time to move on to the fun part. The making a social media calendar, uhm, part.
Planning in advance
Coming up with a year’s worth of social media content can seem intimidating. So start out by filling up your social media editorial calendar with recurring events that will always take place. Unless we’ll all succumb to a zombie apocalypse, in which case you’ll have more important problems to deal with than which meme to post on Cinque de Mayo. Anyway, here are a few content ideas you can plan ahead in your social media calendar:
Holidays. Using a social media event calendar is a great way to ensure that you won’t miss anything important. Using a calendar to fill up a calendar. So meta, right?
Events. These can come in many forms – Star Wars Day (May 4th), 4/20 (yes, even that one), International Cat Day (August 8), and anything that you think is relevant to your brand on a national, local and internal level. If you want to score some extra points with the pop-culture nerds, make sure you make some space in your calendar for Towel Day. Trust me on that one.
Feature/product launches. If your team is hard at work on a new feature or product, it’s always a great idea to build excitement around the launch on social media.
Sales. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, I-Could-Have-Bought-This-Stuff-in-literally-any-other-day Tuesday, you name it – add them to your calendar now.
Social media calendar templates
Here’s the thing: I had this whole section written up about social media calendar templates (I didn’t), and then I thought: why use a template when you have Planable? So here’s how Planable can help you plan and schedule your social media campaigns.
If labels are the unsung heroes of social media content scheduling, then Planable is the bard (sorry).
Labels help you organize and categorize your posts with a few clicks. Your posts can sport different context-specific labels and can be sorted by filters.
So, why are labels so important? The short answer is that having your content categorized helps with content iteration.
For example, let’s say you run a donut shop. Now, we all know donuts (and specifically yours) are delicious. But there’s only so much content you can squeeze based on their deliciousness factor. So you label those bad boys under “delicious,” plan a couple of posts and forget about them for a while.
Then you move on to business/brand-related content. When’s the last time you held a donut eating contest? Maybe it’s time for a #TBT type of post. Bam, filter by “contest label”. Move on. And so on and so forth.
If you want to explore the whole brand & content pillars, this is for you.
Repurposing successful content
Repurposing content can be as much of an art-form as the act of creating it itself. Besides the obvious benefit of not having to pump out fresh content on a regular basis, repurposing your old stuff for social media has several other perks:
Your content gets a much-needed SEO boost.
You reach audiences who might have missed a piece of content the first time around.
It increases your online presence.
Diversifies your content; sprinkling old pieces of content between new initiatives is a great way to spice up your page.
It raises brand awareness.
You drive organic traffic back to your website.
Less successful content gets a second chance at “redemption.”
You can present your content from multiple angles. Over time, this can help you reach a wider audience and, by extension, increase the chances of conversions by 400%.
However, not every piece of content lends itself to this strategy. Evergreen content is the best fit for repurposing, for obvious reasons. Topical or time-constrained content requires a different system unless you put a creative twist on it or run the quirkiest social media page this side of the Internet. And let’s be honest, you probably don’t – that distinction goes to Moonpie.
But before you get to populating your Twitter feed, you’ll need to do some planning. With Planable.
Our sleek calendar feature will help you not only plan your social media posts in advance but also get a birds-eye view of your entire campaign with a single glance.
The only thing worse than unrepurposed content is rerepurposed content (and your audience will call you out on that one). So with our calendar view, you can figure out what content is truly deserving of ye olde’ repurpasaroo or should be put in the backburner. Simply create your posts and move them around to whatever time slot strikes your fancy via dragging & dropping.
Collaboration on media files
One of the biggest logistical challenges of running social media campaigns is asset management. If you’re active on social media, chances are you use a lot of branded assets on a day to day basis – pictures, banners, videos, and what have you. There’s also just as big a chance that some of them are either underutilized or gather dust in some forgotten folder. Which begs the question: what’s the point in painstakingly planning an entire calendar worth’s of content if you keep rotating the same 4-5 assets?
So what’s the solution, apart from the obvious “well, get better at organizing stuff”? Storing your stuff in a media library. Our media library, to be more specific. Store your assets in our intuitive Media Library, and your entire team will have ready access to all of them. All you have to do is create a post, open the Media Library, and simply drag and drop the file to your post.
Quick approval process
As I’ve mentioned earlier, social media campaigns have a lot of moving parts. One of the biggest logistical conundrums relates to approval. Who gets to approve what? What type of social media content is important enough to warrant additional layers of approval? On that same note, should clients get a say when it comes to this particular piece of content?
If you’ve experienced these three dilemmas, that’s three more dilemmas than you should ever have. Lucky for you, Planable has a very transparent and intuitive approval process that will prevent you from making those big mistakes. You know what I’m talking about – double posting, accidental publishing, and other unspeakable social media faux pas.
For that, Planable has multiple approval workflows and settings to accommodate each team’s needs.
None. Yes, paradoxically, even have no approval workflow is an approval workflow in and of itself. This option makes it easy for those without approval processes to navigate the platform and keep things simple.
Optional. Suitable for open workflows – basically, to teams who love to invite people but don’t want to impose approvals. Example: if you have dedicated approvers in your workflow but they don’t get the chance to veto your content in time, you have the flexibility to post the content.
Required. No one can publish content until one of the approvers hasn’t approved the content. Once the content is approved by stakeholders, you can schedule your posts automatically for the set date.
Multi-level. Set up multiple approval layers and add stakeholders in each layer. Having multiple stakeholders per level memes that any of their approval moves the status of the post forward.
What kinds of social media content can you include in a social media calendar?
Oh gosh, so many. Where do I even start? Here are a few social media calendar ideas to get you started:
Comparisons and “versus content.” This is a very sought-after type of content, and you should never shy away from comparing your product or service to the competitors. Put the right spin on it, and this storytelling tactic can do wonders for your conversion.
Company news. This is pretty straightforward – it’s always a good idea to keep your audience in the loop.
Lists. An easy, if overly-used digestible type of content. It’s the older cousin of the “how-to” school of blog articles.
Q&As. Very easy to put together and schedule and also a great way to engage your audience.
Roundups. These work especially well with Twitter threads. Many people won’t have the time to consume all your content, so a small, weekly, newsletterish initiative on social media will be very much appreciated.
Case studies. These are high-quality, resource-intensive pieces of content that can confer a big boost of credibility to your brand/business if they gain momentum on social media. Make sure to include them in the rotation.
Tips & tricks to make the best out of your social media calendar
Now that we’ve established what a social media calendar is, why you should use and how, let’s talk some tips and best practices:
Formalize your publishing process. In order to have an efficient social media marketing strategy, your team needs some sort of Standard Operation Procedure (or SOP). This will help you figure out who is responsible for specific aspects related to your social media calendar and campaign.
Track the status of each piece of content. At the very least, you should establish a timeline and track how much each process took.
Revisit your calendar quarterly. What worked? What didn’t? Does the calendar require a little fiddling or a total revamp?
Write down additional details for each piece of content. Every piece of content should include details regarding the topic, keywords, available resources, and so on and so forth. Don’t overdo it, though – you don’t want to over bureaucratize what should be a creative process.
Don’t forget about engagement. ROI, time-invested, you know the drill.
Set up an “idea bin” for your team. This is an optional yet crucial step. Make sure to set up an idea bin where your team can brainstorm content ideas. Who knows, maybe a sudden spark of creativity will be all it takes to make you rethink the entire strategy.
If you want to take your social media game to the next level, a calendar is the way to go. An online social media calendar will help you post consistently and save you from those nasty, creativity-killing technicalities. So buckle up and get to creating. Also, don’t forget to try out Planable. It’s free.
Content marketer and aspiring YouTuber, in no particular order. Expertise in content writing, SEO, copywriting, and neo-noir graphic novels. Used to run a music webzine in the 2 seconds in the early 2010s when blogs were hot. I tweet very badly on Twitter.