If you’re not taking the time to plan your social media calendar in advance, you could find yourself scrambling to find something to share. This is a big problem because sharing quality content across your social channels is one of the most important things you can do to engage your audience and attract new followers.
That’s why one of the most critical things marketers can do is take the time to plan out their own social media content calendar. Social content calendars allow you to plan out months of quality social posts ahead of time, and save a ton of time sharing it on social.
This post details how you can create a unique social media editorial calendar, and some of the tools that make it easy to find and share social content.
Why You Need a Social Editorial Calendar
Sometimes companies can churn out social posts very quickly. Oreo, a company known for their strong Twitter presence, was able to send out this tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl mere moments after the power went out:
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
But more often than not, it takes companies more than a few minutes to find or create something to share. In the case of digital agency Huge, it took two entire months to plan and send this tweet on behalf of their client President Cheese:
— Président Cheese (@presidentcheese) April 30, 2014
Planning social media posts in advance will ensure that you always have quality content to share with your social media followers.
How to Create Your Social Media Editorial Calendar
If your company is new to the idea of setting up an editorial calendar for social, or if you want to take a look at a unique way of setting one up, here’s a four-step process for implementing and maintaining an efficient social media calendar for reliable content posting.
1. Figure Out What Content Resonates
Before you start searching for content to share on social you need to figure out what your audience actually likes. A fantastic way to do that is to look at past social media posts to see which were most successful. We’ve written an in-depth article on how to find your successful posts by conducting a social media audit, but the easiest way is to access your social media analytics.
Pull all of your unique social media analytics with a tool like Sprout Social, Twitter or Facebook Insights. Below is an example of how to view your Sent Messages with Sprout (available with a free trial).
Make sure you’re sorting your messages by the metric that is most important to you, whether that’s clicks, responses or total reach. Once you have an idea of what kind of content works best you can move onto the next step.
2. Decide On How Often to Post
This step depends on a handful of different things like the company, your audience, the campaign, and the social networks being used. Always keep your audience in mind and ensure you’re not bombarding them with posts that are irrelevant or inappropriate.
If you’re looking for some basic standards, though, Constant Contact wrote a post containing guidelines on how often to post to social. Here are some of the highlights:
- Facebook: 3-10 times per week
- Twitter: at least 5 times a day
- LinkedIn: 2-5 times per week
- Google+: 3-10 times per week
- Pinterest: 5-10 times per day
There’s a great chance your post frequency will depend on the amount, experience and authority of your social media team, so don’t feel like you have to send out less than stellar content to meet these guidelines.
3. Create or Source Great Content to Share
Once you have an idea of what kind of content your audience enjoys and how much you’ll need to satiate the quantity of posts you need to create, it’s time to find links to share. If you don’t have enough of your own content to fill your calendar, use these tools to curate relevant content.
Buzzsumo allows you to type in any website domain or keyword string and the platform returns the most socially shared content around that subject. For example, if Sprout Social was looking for quality articles to share we might type in a keyword like “Social Media Management.”
Scoop.it is an amazing tool for finding relevant content to share across your social profiles. They have a completely free version that allows you to follow topics relevant to your brand, making it easy to quickly fill up entire months of social media content.
Feedly aggregates all of the publications you care about into one stream, allowing you to easily scale your content discovery process. Feedly also plugs in to various social media platforms, like Sprout Social, which makes the article scheduling process that much easier.
4. Fill Up Your Social Media Editorial Calendar
You’ve got the process in place, now it is time to start filling up your editorial calendar. You’ll want to use a tool that allows you to schedule your social messages and visual your entire content calendar. Sprout Social has built out publishing tools for just this purpose. Check out a completely free trial and schedule a months worth of content today.
Fill in the calendar with links to relevant content, resources and your own posts. These social messages will ensure you’re providing your audiences with smart, useful content and give them a reason to follow you. Additionally, you can find relevant holidays or events–from Thanksgiving to National Ice Cream Day–that you can tie in with your business. In fact, Sprout Social created it’s own hashtag holidays calendar so you can keep track of all the eccentric holidays. These timely events will help populate you calendar and bring personality to your feed.
Think through your must-haves, whether it is a product release or scheduled company announcement, and develop content to promote those initiatives. Additionally, make sure you’re planning out how much promotion each initiative warrants; some large releases should have multiple social posts while others only warrant one.
Lastly, pump up the personality of your editorial calendar by planning out posts that highlight company culture or showcase who you are as a brand.
Other Tools for Building a Social Editorial Calendar
If you’ve made it to step four but need a separate tool for your actual social media scheduling, never fear. Although not specifically created with social media in mind, there are a handful of different calendar apps that can help you out.
Basecamp is a project management app, and it can be used effectively from the content creation part of the process all the way through to scheduling. It’s easy to manage multiple projects at once, and even comes with a free trial.
This plugin is mostly for planning and scheduling content for your blog, not social media. However, if you have your social profiles set to share your blog posts, it will take care of the social portion as well.
This is another editorial calendar tool that works right in WordPress. Edit Flow gives you the ability to view a month-by-month editorial calendar, write customer comments on the content and create segmented teams.
If you want to keep it simple you could always just create a new Google calendar for the process and invite everyone on the team to view it. Those teammates could also add all of their own posts and ideas to the same calendar.
Practice Makes Perfect
It can take even the most socially-savvy companies time to set up an effective workflow for creating and posting social media content. The main idea is to plan far enough ahead and give yourself time to work everything out with your teams so that each post is thought-out and strategically aligned by the time it reaches your audience.
Michael Patterson: Michael enjoys writing about all things social media, and his insights can be found on Adweek's SocialTimes, Social Media Today and Social Media Examiner. When he isn't pouring over blog posts he can usually be found exploring Chicago's unique neighborhoods and breweries.
Good idea.What time frame do you suggest in order to deliver a month's worth of posts for a small business? Thanks in advance for the help!
Hi, I'm about to create a content calendar for my client. I fairly understand the fundamentals on how to develop content marketing strategies for small businesses. But I still lack the experience of putting to work all my knowledge. May I just ask what is the average time it takes to complete Step1 to 4? I understand a good plan/strategy takes time and there are a handful of factors to consider. Yet, how long is "quick" or "slow", from researching to completely filling-up a month of social media calendar? What time frame do you suggest in order to deliver a month's worth of posts for a small business? Thanks in advance for the help!
@RoselieErpelo I am just seeing this, did you find an answer? Please share. For me it depends on if my Client wants to be involved in Content Development or not. Or if we are tweaking a poor Content Strategy or Creating an entirely new Strategy , and again the Client's involvement with that depends as well. In other words,
Nice article. I found some of your points quite helpful. I am off to create my first Content Calendar (Never created one in almost three years of working on Social Media), I hope I get better results.
Hi there SproutSocial! I am just curious if there has been any development towards a master calendar? Also, does SproutSocial have anywhere I can "dump" in ideas for future content & then develop it from within SproutSocial? Thanks! I appreciate your help & look forward to your response. Cheers!
@mason1 Hi! No updates to share right now but the team continues to explore the possibilities. As far as future content, I can personally speak for the Drafts tab under Publishing. It's a great place just to store ideas with the added benefit of saving them specifically for the platform you wish to publish to in the future.
You mean there's no master editorial calendar functionality in SproutSocial? Ok, I'm gonna still give it a 30day trial, but that's odd.
@GemWebb use buffer for scheduling. its amazing
If you guys have a master editorial calendar, I will seriously die of happiness. Copying and pasting from Sprout to Google Sheets is not very client friendly, and is kind of time consuming :(
Seriously though, add a master editorial calendar and save me that extra 30 minutes of copying and pasting, and I will be one happy camper :)
@TaylorAnnBerg We'll be sure to consider it, Taylor! Thanks for the nifty suggestion.
@TaylorAnnBerg Thanks for suggesting this! Great suggestion.
Really like this post. Makes me realise how much work I need to do but still, very helpful. I dont know if I can manage all that social media posting.
@ChaseCarter1 Thanks for the suggestion. I'll be sure to pass yours along to the team – they love feedback!
Great list! Thank you for putting this together!
Here's another Content Calendar Template (2015): http://bit.ly/Social-Media-EditorialCalendar
Great post! Also check out Brightpod (www.brightpod.com) for editorial calendar. Simple and powerful for marketing teams. http://www.brightpod.com/editorial-blogging-calendar.html
Thanks for the great article Michael. I hope that Sproutsocial will also come with a great new visual calendar inside Sproutsocial.
@Wouter Kleinsman Oh my god yes. please.