Planning out your business’s content in advance is a key part of building a social media marketing strategy that actually works. Unfortunately, for many business owners, content planning often gets pushed to the backburner.
However, if you dedicate just a few hours at the start of every month to creating a social media calendar for your business in advance, you’ll be able to grow your social presence without having to constantly worry about what to share next.
To get you organized, we’ve put together a guide to building a content calendar that engages, delights, and grows your audience.
What is a social media calendar?
A social media calendar is a schedule planning your upcoming social media posts.
For many business owners, the idea of planning out an entire month of content might seem unnecessary. Maybe you only occasionally find yourself rushing to find an article to share on Facebook or trying to think up a clever holiday greeting to tweet out. So, is planning far in advance really worth it?
A content calendar is more than an agenda or day planner for your social profiles. If you aren’t planning your social media strategy ahead of time, then you’re doing things at random with no sense of the bigger picture. Content calendars help you take a strategic approach to your social media presence, so you get a better idea of how your actions fit into your overarching business goals.
How to create a social media calendar
Building a social media calendar for an entire month in one shot sounds daunting, but it’s much easier if you know which steps to take to effectively promote your brand and make money on social media.
- Audit your social channels and content
- Set long- and short-term goals
- Decide on content posts and categories for each channel
- Create your social media content calendar using a template
- Fill in your content calendar with post ideas
- Create and schedule your posts across all your social media platforms
1. Audit your social channels and content
An audit of your existing social media platforms and accounts helps you understand where you currently stand. Pay attention to content that performs—meaning it earns lots of engagement in the form of likes, comments, saves, views, shares, and/or clicks—as well as to under-performing posts. This gives you insight into your social media marketing efforts.
After your data analysis of each of your platforms, determine which types of content are most popular with your audience. Look for posts with the highest levels of engagement and the most click-throughs.
Take note of commonalities and themes. For example, maybe your Instagram video posts earn tons of engagement while photo-based posts don’t garner the same results. As such, you’d plan for more video-based posts in your social media calendar over text-based ones.
Once you’ve identified your best pieces of content, segment your calendar to create a diverse output of content.
2. Set long- and short-term goals
Everything you post should support a business goal, even indirectly. It’s helpful to think of your business goals and then develop social media marketing goals to support them. These goals give you landmarks against which to measure progress and success.
As with most marketing, social media requires a lot of trial and error. But if every post has a goal in mind, you’ll always learn something—even if the post doesn’t perform well.
Here are some goals you might consider for your social media calendar:
- Drive brand awareness. Measure this with impressions/reach, likes, shares, mentions, or any signal that shows a person has seen your content.
- Create demand for your products. Analyze click-throughs to your site, products added to cart, and comments or messages from interested buyers.
- Acquire leads and customers. These are paying customers, who you can nurture into sales.
- Form partnerships. Engage with influencers or like-minded brands for collaborations or co-marketing campaigns.
- Build a loyal following. Measure this by followers gained or lost in a certain time frame, or by your engagement rate (total engagement divided by number of followers).
- Establish social proof. Source positive testimonials or user-generated content (UGC) that casts your products in a positive light.
- Provide customer service. Social media is a common support channel. One of your goals may be to provide this support to customers through social media, or to direct it to another preferred channel. Measure this through your response time for direct messages. (This is displayed as a badge on your Facebook page, for example.)
- Become a thought leader to your target audience. Measure this with post views, audience following, and impressions.
Keep these broad objectives in mind as you build your calendar. Every post should support at least one of these goals in some way. You could even include a section on your calendar template to note which goals are relevant for each post, to make sure it stays top of mind.
3. Decide on content posts and categories for each channel
It’s also important to remember that every social media platform is unique. Each caters to different audiences, has different content formats, and offers different ways to interact with content and users. So when you plan your social media calendar, take into account the nuances of each channel.
For example, your TikTok audience will engage with short-form videos while your YouTube subscribers may want to watch longer, more in-depth videos. TikTok might be more appropriate for sharing influencer unboxing videos, while YouTube would be a great channel to publish a tutorial video on how to use your product.
You’ll also want to diversify your content. If unboxing videos perform well, you’ll still want to mix in some other topics and content formats. Your audience is likely to get bored if you only post unboxing videos.
An easy way to make sure your calendar contains an appropriate mix of content is by bucketing your posts into your own categories. For instance, if you’re an athletics company, maybe you share motivational quotes, workout tips, and healthy recipes in your content mix. Get creative and don’t be afraid to test and refine your ideas!
4. Create your social media content calendar using a template
To build a social media planning calendar, it’s a good idea to create a blank template to help visualize what your monthly content output will look like. Templates also ensure consistency, making it easier to work with others.
Go with options that allow for collaboration and sharing with your social media team, as well as the inclusion of details like the timing of posts and labels for content categories. There are some templates you can use below.
5. Fill in your calendar with content ideas
When brainstorming social media content ideas, it’s helpful to think of your posts in two ways: timely and evergreen. Timely posts are about events, holidays, and other temporary occurrences. Evergreen posts are relevant year-round. If you sell cleaning products, for example, an evergreen post could offer tips to clean kitchen counters anytime, while a seasonal post about spring cleaning tips is only appropriate once a year.
During a brainstorm, every idea is a good idea. You’ll refine them later, evaluating each to see if it supports your long- and/or short-term goals.
Once you have your approved posts, you can slot them into your calendar. Start with your timely ideas and fill in the rest with your evergreen posts. Ensure you space out your categories—you don’t want to post five recipes back to back if you also have influencer posts, behind-the-scenes content, and event recaps to share.
6. Create and schedule your posts across all your social media platforms
Once you have your post ideas, you’ll need to build the creative. This means copy and visuals. Each channel has its own parameters, so you’ll need to ensure your content meets those requirements. While you can use the same content on different channels, you’ll still need to make some tweaks to optimize it for each use case.
Then it’s time to upload the content to your respective channels and get ready to publish posts. Scheduling ahead of time, rather than logging in each day to post manually, is a more efficient way of doing this. Many social media channels offer native post scheduling features, and you can also use a variety of social media scheduling tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, or Later to assist with this.
Why use a social media calendar?
A content calendar is the foundation of every successful social media marketing strategy. Beyond strategic benefits, a posting calendar actually helps you optimize your time and stay authentic to your brand.
Social media calendars save time
If you run your own business, you probably already know there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of everything you need to.
By working in advance with a content calendar, you can clear one more thing off your daily to-do list and focus your energy on the many other aspects of running your business. Think of it as a time-management technique.
Trying to find something to post on social media at the last minute can be a time-consuming process, but if you’ve already collected a batch of high-quality articles that align with your brand, you’re covered.
Social media calendars build an identity for your brand
Not only do content calendars free up your schedule, they also help you build an identity and community around your brand.
Sharing a constant stream of content can capture the attention of new audiences who hadn’t previously heard of your online store, but might share common interests with your ideal customers. By blending curated content from third-party sources with your own original content, you can create a larger identity and lifestyle for your brand that extends beyond your products and services.
Building a content calendar ahead of time will help you make sure you always have content to post and, more importantly, content that your community will enjoy and identify with.
Free social media calendar templates
It can be intimidating to build your own social media calendar template from scratch. Luckily, there are free options available online that you can use or customize to suit your own needs. Here are some free templates to check out:
- Hootsuite social media content calendar template, available for free download, as well as its Google Sheets editorial calendar template
- HubSpot social media content calendar template, also available for free download
- Asana social media calendar template, ideal for use on the project management platform
Plan for tomorrow, today with your social media calendar
For your online store to be successful, you constantly need to look forward and think about the future. As you now know, that doesn’t just mean planning for the next five or 10 years. Sometimes thinking about the future means just considering what you’re going to do next month. With these free resources and templates, you can build a social media calendar on your own.
Social media calendar FAQ
How do I create a social media calendar?
- Audit your social channels and content.
- Set long- and short-term goals.
- Decide on content posts and categories for each channel.
- Create your social media content calendar using a template.
- Fill in your content calendar with post ideas.
- Create and schedule your posts across all your social media platforms.
What’s the best social media calendar?
What should be on a social media content calendar?
- Content category
- Content format
- Post copy
- Image files
- Post date/time
What is the purpose of a social media calendar?
- Help you remain strategic in your social media marketing
- Save time
- Maintain a consistent brand
- Create community