Your business’s social media content calendar can be created on a daily, weekly, monthly or even annual basis. It’s helpful to create an advanced, strategic view to set content intentions ahead of time. Having a calendar also helps you avoid last minute content creation issues while keeping you and your team focused on day-to-day operations.
There are apps and services, both free and paid, that offer templates and tools to help you get started. Try some of the free versions so you can get a sense for how the tool works, identify if it suits your needs, and see which skills and team resources are required. This will help you assess whether the paid version might be a valuable fit.
You can simply search “free social media content calendars” for a few solid options, but I’m listing a few below for easy reference:
The ultimate bootstrap method for managing your calendar is to create a Google or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The Hootsuite template is created in Google sheets and provides a good example if you’d like to create your own. The advantage of having a live version online is that multiple people can edit it as a real-time document.
While these free templates are a great place to start, especially if you only have one or two people doing social media, you may find that paid services will better serve your needs as your business grows. Paid content calendar services, for instance, have tabs that enable you to switch back and forth to multiple screens and document your brand’s various content needs.
Paid calendar content services also allow you to track more information about the effectiveness and performance of your social posts. If you have a full team simultaneously working on social media, these capabilities will be highly beneficial.
How to Build Your Own Calendar
If you are planning to use a spreadsheet to plan, here are some best practice tips:
- Create a column to vertically list each platform or channel you want to include, for example: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- Next to that is a column, add another one to itemize the date of the post and a separate column for the time. (For channels where you might post three times a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner — the time will matter.)
- The next column represents the content type. This might be a video, blog, promotion, curated (meaning you are sharing content from another source), or evergreen. Evergreen content will always have a sustained level of interest. While tips and advice usually never go outdated, seasonal trends and news do.
- The next column is the topic of your content. This also might be the headline. So using the examples listed above this might be: “Choosing T-Shirts,” “Five Ways to Save Money” or “School/Team Fundraising.”
- The following column is where you can input the actual copy that will be in the social post.. If it’s long, you might put the file name of the document the copy is on.
- Another column can be added for posts that include a link or notes related to the post.
Before you start adding to your calendar, do some preliminary research on your competitors. Scope out their pages on core platforms to see what has performed best. How frequently are they posting? What type of content do they share? This exercise can help you create a list of potential topics for content creation, as well as formats to prioritize.
Design Your Workflow
Once you finalize your template, you need to develop your workflow. After all, these processes go hand-in-hand with your content plan.
Set up a checklist of what needs to be done and who’s going to do it. Also set deadlines for assignments. This will be especially critical for writers and photographers that need to work more seamlessly together. Deadlines ensure scheduled posts are created in an orderly manner and get published on time.
Another best practice is to create a consolidated folder to store assets that you plan to use for social media marketing. You can add photos, links to content you like, blog posts for other resources, and more. Ensure this library is accessible for the folks posting to your social properties, so they are empowered to execute.
Small businesses can enhance their chance for success with a regular, consistent content cadence. A reliable social media engine requires fuel; and that fuel is engaging, informative posts. Even if you don’t boost your content’s exposure through advertising, your organic content will help build brand awareness and community engagement. Harness the power of a social media content calendar to drive efficiency, quality, and performance.