The Importance of a Social Media Calendar: Plan for Success

Do you find yourself posting on social media whenever inspiration strikes? While it may seem convenient, it won't bring you much success in the business world. If you want to attract attention and engagement, you...

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Do you find yourself posting on social media whenever inspiration strikes? While it may seem convenient, it won't bring you much success in the business world. If you want to attract attention and engagement, you need to post content regularly. But how do you do this without burning out? The answer lies in creating a social media calendar and scheduling your posts in advance. In this article, we'll outline the steps to plan a functional social media calendar and provide you with real-world examples and our favorite social media calendar tools. We've even included a free social media calendar template to help you get started in no time.

What is a social media calendar?

A social media calendar is a tool used to organize and schedule social media content across multiple platforms ahead of time. It can be a spreadsheet, a calendar, or an interactive dashboard if you're using a social media management platform. A social media calendar helps social media managers juggle campaigns better and keep track of deadlines. It can be created using any platform as long as it outlines all your social media content in one place. Each entry in a social media calendar should include the date and time the post will go live, the social media platform and account where the post will be published, the topic and goals of the post, the post's copy and visual assets, links and hashtags to be included, sales cycles, and any additional information. Your social media calendar can include one or several social networks, depending on the scope of your social media strategy.

Why should you use a social media content calendar?

Imagine starting a new job as a social media manager for a fast food restaurant. Your boss emphasizes the need to go viral on social media, and you're scrambling to come up with mind-blowing content to post on the fly. The stress is overwhelming, and you realize you'll have to repeat this process every day across multiple platforms.

That's where a social media calendar can save the day. It makes your life easier by providing structure and organization to your social media marketing efforts. Here are some key reasons why you should use a social media content calendar:

1. Save time by staying organized

Creating great social media content ideas requires time and effort, even when inspiration doesn't strike. Scribbling potential topics on random notebooks and post-it notes isn't a reliable way to keep track of your social media posts. A social media content calendar allows you to plan and schedule your posts in advance, reducing the risk of forgetting to post and ensuring your content is published when your audience is online. It also helps your team stay organized and saves time on research and last-minute scuffles.

2. Post consistently

Consistency is crucial to reaching your social media audience effectively. Posting content consistently ensures that you stay on your audience's radar and helps increase engagement. By filling your social media content calendar with posts ahead of time, you can deliver content consistently and develop a unified voice across all your social networks.

3. Make fewer mistakes

A social media calendar is an excellent tool to prevent embarrassing typos or posting the same content across all social channels. By planning your posts in advance, you can cross-check workflows, fact-check information, and get your ideas approved by stakeholders, resulting in fewer mistakes.

4. Expand your social media strategy

A well-structured social media calendar allows you to explore new social media channels and diversify your social content mix. Whether you manage a large content team or handle social media marketing for a brand, a social media calendar can help you get more ambitious with your social strategies.

5. Don't miss out on pivotal moments

Observing global events, social media trends, seasons, and holidays that are relevant to your brand's audience is crucial. With a social media content calendar, you can make note of these moments and brainstorm how to engage with them in a creative and on-brand way.

6. Create consistently high-quality content

Creating social media content for brands requires collaboration between various team members, including copywriters, graphic designers, and photographers. A social media calendar helps allocate assets effectively and ensures that your team can create content and develop a brand voice that supports your marketing goals.

7. Track what works and improve it

To measure the effectiveness and success of your social media campaigns, you need to track your metrics. By studying your analytics and making note of the results in your social media calendar, you can identify what works and what doesn't. This allows you to run A/B tests and continuously improve your content strategy.

How to create a social media calendar in 8 steps

Are you ready to create your own social media content calendar? Follow these eight easy steps:

Step 1: Audit your existing content and social profiles

Before you start creating a social media calendar, take an inventory of your current social media marketing efforts. This will help you identify areas for improvement and new opportunities. Use a social media audit template to gather data on your most successful posts, tactics, and campaigns, audience demographics, and goals for each branded account.

Step 2: Identify the best social media channels for your brand

Choose the social media channels that are most relevant for your brand and audience. Select platforms that are necessary for communication, audience engagement, and promotion. Consider demographics, best practices, and marketing strategies for each platform you choose.

Step 3: Decide what details will go into your calendar

Specify the information you want your social media content calendar to track. Basic details include the social platform, date, time, social copy, visuals, and links. Advanced details can include platform-specific format, geo-targeting, campaign or vertical affiliation, paid or organic, and analytics and results.

Step 4: Set up a content library for your assets

Create a content library to store your visual content, including photos, infographics, and videos. Use cloud storage platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox to ensure easy accessibility and sharing with team members.

Step 5: Establish your workflow

Outline your social media workflow, including how often you'll update each channel, the best times to post, your content mix, and the process for creating and approving content. Define team responsibilities and approval processes.

Step 6: Start crafting your posts

Go through your content library and start creating your social media posts. Evaluate your calendar as you go, ensuring it's easy to execute and visually appealing. If you're struggling for content ideas, consult Hootsuite's social media content idea cheat sheet.

Step 7: Invite your team to review the calendar

Share your social media calendar with your team and ask for their feedback. Make sure everyone has the necessary passwords and understands the processes involved. Seek suggestions for improvement and make any necessary adjustments.

Step 8: Start publishing (or scheduling)

With your social media calendar prepped and ready, start publishing your posts or scheduling them for future dates. Use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite Planner to streamline the process and manage your social media accounts effectively.

Social media calendar examples

To get a better understanding of what these calendars look like when populated with content, let's look at some real-life examples.

National Geographic's editorial calendar

National Geographic's editorial calendar is an excellent example of how exceptional editorial managers plan long-term content. These calendars are visually appealing, concise, and outline the biggest hooks in detail. They often include mission statements, audience demographics, and upcoming issues.

Digital Opportunity Trust's internal social media content calendar

Digital Opportunity Trust's social media calendar provides a snapshot of their day-to-day social activities. The calendar is simple and intuitive, allowing viewers to see all their channels in one glance. It includes a content library tab for evergreen content and unscheduled future posts.

Free social media calendar templates

Ready to create your own social media content calendar? Hootsuite offers two Google Sheets templates to get you started. Simply make a copy of the templates and plan your content effortlessly.

Social media calendar template

This template focuses on the four major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn) on a weekly scale. It's highly customizable, allowing you to tailor it to your specific needs. The template includes a tab for evergreen content, which helps you track top-performing content and plan for future updates.

Social media editorial calendar template

Designed for planning individual content assets, this template allows you to plan your content week by week. Make a new tab for each month and fill it with your content ideas. This template helps you stay organized and ensures you have a clear view of your content schedule.

Hootsuite Planner is our favorite social media content calendar tool. It allows you to schedule, preview, and publish all your social media posts directly from the calendar. With features like custom approval workflows and best time to publish suggestions, Hootsuite Planner streamlines your social media management efforts.

Ready to take your social media strategy to the next level? Create a social media content calendar and watch your engagement soar.