How to Create a Social Media Content Calendar

Published: Apr 27, 2020
Last Updated:
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Social media audiences are greatly impacted by your content. In fact, research from Curalate shows that 76% of consumers claim to have purchased a product they viewed in a social media post. Maintaining a consistent and thoughtful posting schedule is crucial in promoting your brand—and a social media content calendar is key to accomplishing this goal.

A social media content calendar is a visual outline of each piece of content you plan to publish on your social platforms over a period of time.

Planning your content ahead of time is essential if you want to gain traction with followers, create a consistent message, and anticipate large-scale strategies. Here’s how to create a social media content calendar for more organized and efficient posting that yields results.

1. Create a content strategy.

To create an effective content calendar, you need to have a detailed content strategy first. Create a strategy by:

  • Setting goals for your content. What do you hope to accomplish with a content calendar? Define key metrics around online engagement, customer retention, and sales.
  • Establish your target channels. Which social media platforms are your target customers using? Choose 1-2 platforms to focus on first so you can make a greater impact.
  • Develop a process for measuring your efforts. Which analytics tools will you use to measure success? Create benchmarks around when you’d like your goals to be accomplished—plus how you’ll make changes to optimize your efforts.

It'll be much easier to create a social media content calendar if you already have guidelines for what you plan to do and why.

2. Research social media content calendar templates.

Next, gather inspiration by researching social media content calendar examples. While there are countless free templates and robust software solutions to explore, choosing one of the following three formats can make the process easier.

Simple Spreadsheet

The simplest content calendar approach is using a Microsoft Excel or Google Drive spreadsheet that you create yourself. This is a useful option when you know exactly what you're looking for in a content calendar, prefer a simplified system, and don't have resources to fully explore other options.

Excel provides a quick-start social media content calendar template that includes descriptions of each field and lists various channels across one sheet.

Another design choice for a basic spreadsheet is to dedicate a separate tab to each one of your social media channels. As seen above, fields remain brief in an outline style.

Complex Template

This content calendar option provides a more detailed approach when planning. This requires you to spend more time maintaining the calendar; however, you'll also create most of the content directly in the template.

Calendar fields will contain the exact language for each post. The spreadsheet will also include a repository of miscellaneous content—also known as evergreen content—that can be used at any time.

HubSpot's social media content template is an example of a more comprehensive approach to planning updates. For example, the Twitter tab outlines the exact message, link, image, character count, and campaign designation for each post.

Hootsuite's free template also captures format, topic, and copy for each post, with an additional tab for evergreen content creation.

Paid Platform

The last category of social media content calendars includes paid platforms. These templates allow you to plan out your content, schedule posts, monitor performance, and engage with audiences from one convenient platform.

Paid programs also give access to a set number of users for each account. With customizable permissions and collaboration, paid programs are optimized for helping teams streamline content scheduling workflows.

This is seen in Sprout Social's calendar tool. It shows scheduled posts from various channels at a week's or month's glance. The left panel also contains workflow capabilities, an asset library, and drafting functionality.

Additional paid platforms that can streamline your content calendar include Edgar, Trello, SmarterQueue, and ContentCal.

3. Schedule consistently and strategically.

You've chosen a template that works for your organization. Now it's time to populate it.

This will be time-consuming in the beginning. You'll want to plan a posting schedule for at least two weeks in advance. This minimum two-week buffer gives you time to look ahead to new campaigns—and the resources you'll need for them. It will also provide time to analyze your overall content strategy to see what's working and what needs to be tweaked.

How do you plan for two weeks of content in one fell swoop? Here are some tips:

  • Use evergreen content until you’ve streamlined your social media content calendar workflow.
  • Post to each channel once per day. It's OK to start with a light schedule and increase the workload over time.
  • Repurpose old—but still relevant—content into new posts to conserve resources.
  • Use a social media scheduler to automate the actual process of posting.

For more inspiration when scheduling your calendar, check out these social media content ideas for inspiration.

Create Your Social Media Content Calendar

The first step in creating a social media content calendar is choosing the right template. This will help you deliver compelling content to your audience consistently and efficiently. Check out this guide to social media content creation for more tips on succeeding on social media.

This article was written by writer Andrea Tharp.


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