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Social media is a crowded place with so many influencers, followers, and brands. There is so much competition for creating constant fresh content. Without a planned content calendar, it is almost impossible. Now you may ask, how do I create a social media content calendar?
Yes, this is why I decided to write this definitive guide about creating a content calendar.
A social media content calendar is just like a safeguard for your marketing campaign. You and your team will commit and plan for the long term. It doesn’t seem very easy to follow initially; however, as time goes by, if you stick to it, it will pay off. Just like a University assignment, if you plan, there is no panic attack later.
No worries, you don’t need fancy planning software for this task. Even a simple excel document will do the job. All you need is to stick with the plan no matter what. Otherwise, the most expensive software won’t make any difference.
Now let’s get started.
In this guide, I will walk you through the following topics.
- What is a social media content calendar?
- How can you create one by yourself?
- Some real-world content calendar examples.
- And some free premade content calendar templates for you to get started.
I don’t think you need anything else. So why wasting time? Continue to read on.
It is a written plan for your content that you and your team are about to create and schedule for publication.
The content calendar is just helping you to plan so you won’t have to brainstorm on the critical moment. Besides, an organized team can easily beat the most talented team that has no plan in mind.
So, it is just a written plan.
There are usually three types of it.
- Calendar planning: like a traditional paper pen planning on a calendar by marking it with some notes.
- Spreadsheet planning: use MS Excel to prepare a detailed plan, just like you usually do.
- Software planning: it is a software specially designed for planning, whether it is content or project.
Though the spreadsheet option is best for beginners and a small team who do not plan to make lots of content soon, however, for a large group or organization with a big project, planning software might be a great choice over a spreadsheet.
Social media content calendar templates (Free to download)
No need to search in Google “how do I create a social media content calendar” anymore. If you do not have enough time to read this guide, then you can download the below content calendar and start working right away.
Click here to download the premade template for free.
It is not a defined process to create a content calendar. Instead, think this is a structured approach to make it easy for you to get started.
- Analyze your social media audience interest
- Decide which social media platform work best for you
- Plan what you want to track using the calendar
- Prepare a content library in advance
- Plan a workflow based on your goal
- Create content for your audience
- Collaborate within a team to get the most out of it
- Schedule your content ahead of time
If you don’t want to do all the complex tasks, I suggest you follow the below steps.
- Open a spreadsheet with MS Excel.
- Input some date you want to schedule your future content
- Plan the topics and start creating content
That’s it, nothing complex here.
However, for detail and a structured approach, please continue to read on.
It is the very first step to find out the interest of your audience. You may ask why I need to go through all the trouble to analyze my audience? Why not get started right away?
Well, there is a problem. Not every social media platform is the same, and they do not even work the same way.
For example, Facebook is a place for a casual and young audience who spend most of the time reading funny stories, sharing celebrity’s trending news, and shopping consumer products along the way.
While on LinkedIn, you will find all of them are from a corporate environment. There are no funny pictures, no celebrity news, no movie news, and you cannot find any consumer products to buy here. It is a place where corporate people gather and talk formally to make a business deal and recruit employees.
That’s why you need to find out your audience’s interest first.
Let me help you a bit. Ask the below questions to find out your target audiences and social platform.
- What is your product or service?
- What is your primary purpose in the social platform?
- What is your advertising goal? (traffic, sell or leads)
These are simple questions to identify your target audience. But, don’t think this will work like a charm. It will take a considerable amount of time to find out the exact answer.
Maybe in the first step, you decided to choose Facebook for your marketing campaign. However, that is just an initial analysis based on a theory. Now, you will launch some ad campaigns to test whether it works for you or not.
You will test your theory in a practical scenario before starting a whole campaign. Sometimes what we think is based on theory. In reality, it’s completely different.
For example, my first advertising campaign on Facebook was a total failure. I tried to sell some forex trading software. I spend around $100, but do you know what I get in the end? Only a bunch of likes, comments, and shares. That’s it, not a single sell at all.
That’s why you have to use the A/B testing feature with a minimal ad budget ($10 at best). First, test out which ad works and brings you profit, then expand your campaign.
Here are some tactics you should use to decide:
- Craft at least five ad copy for the same product or service
- Launch them all at the same time
- Allocate only $5 per ad copy (total $25)
- Analyze the result to decide
If none of the ads brings you the desired results, then you should switch the social channel. Test out on other platforms.
For instance, food-related products perform best on the Instagram platform.
Step 3: Plan what you want to track using the calendar
First, you should make it as simple as possible. Don’t follow a complex database template. It will make things worse than any good.
In the beginning, use the below data:
- Date of publish
- Time of the day
- Content idea/topic
That’s it. Simple and easy to remember. Do not focus on multiple social channels at first. It will be easy for you to focus on your work. If you are getting constant success from a platform, choose a second one and add it to your content calendar database.
In this case, here is some complex data structure for you to test out:
- Platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
- Various post formats (story, news feed status, group message/post, contest, event, poll, live stream, etc.)
- Geo-target (USA, UK, Europe, etc.)
- Organic post
- Paid post
The best practice is – test your way as many times as you need.
Step 4: Prepare a content library in advance
It is the real deal, just like you do in your blog. However, social media posts will be much easier to do as it is short and easy to create, unlike a blog post around 1,000 to 2,000 words.
Here in social media, a content library is a database of assets you could use to create a post. For example, if you sell food products on your business page, various food images could be your best asset when creating appealing content.
Just think about it, how many times are you forced to search for an engaging food image for your post just because you don’t have one currently?
It is the reason you need a content library based on your content type. So, next time when you are about to create new content, you don’t have to search for it.
However, most of the time, this content library only works for evergreen content or content that doesn’t require custom assets. For example, you don’t need a new pizza photograph every time you create a post around it. You may need to edit some text, but that’s all to it.
In any case, it is better to store your asset in the cloud. Thus it will be easy for you to get access to it no matter where you are.
You could use your Google drive or one drive. In my experience, both are best for casual and business purposes.
Step 5: Plan a workflow based on your goal
From now on, you are about to stretch your legs and start running. To build a workflow for your social media campaign, you need to follow two steps.
- First, launch some test campaigns to get the data to analyze
- Second, based on that data, plan your workflow
After you have done the first part, I want you to follow the below steps.
- Decide how frequently you need to publish content (daily, weekly, etc.)
- At which time of the day content perform best
- Which type of content work best
- Who is going to approve the post, and how well is the internal communication?
- Prepare a team with editors and content creators.
A written plan is always better than a plan in your head. Especially if you have a team, then a written plan is a must. After you have done outlining the above workflow for your social campaign, try to document it on a separate excel file and name it.
Remember, one member team may not require it. However, you will soon find out overwhelming tasks and stress without this written plan if you have mid to prominent team members. It’s because none of you is organized.
The best practice is – write down an entire guideline for the team along with the content calendar. It will be helpful for your team in an intense moment when the team leader is not present. Or content writer on vacation. If each one of your team members follows this simple guideline, then everything will be organized and will take at least half the time it should be.
Step 6: Create content for your audience
You will start to fill your calendar with lots of exciting content and schedule it from here on. So after a while, when you are on vacation, you won’t have to worry about it. Once you fill the calendar in advance, It will automate everything, and you can enjoy your free time.
That’s the ultimate goal.
But I also want to create content more flexibly and faster than before. How can you do it? Simple, I already told you to create an asset for your content and make it accessible. So next time, no matter where you go, you can use it on the fly.
You have to categorize your content before creating it.
- Evergreen content (you can use it all the time)
- Seasonal content (based on specific events)
- Trendy content (news related post)
If you have evergreen and sessional content, you may use your content asset; however, it may not be possible for trendy content.
For example, if you sell pizza, then it is an evergreen product. You do not need a special event to eat it. In that case, store 20-30 different pizza photographs and use a photo editor every time you publish a new post.
The same goes for seasonal content. You could use a stored photo most of the time, but the problem is a trendy topic. It is entirely new, and you have to use a new picture every time you create a post.
I suggest you size up your option and prepare your content based on it.
Quick Note: not only an image we are talking about but also other resources like the podcast, eBook, research paper, white paper, lead page, etc. In trendy content, you have to create a custom resource every time.
Step 7: Collaboration within a team can bring excellent results
Teamwork is the brightest part of your content production and management. Don’t rely on a single person when making a decision. Even if you have an editor in your team, all of your members should participate in decision-making. It will bring some great results.
For example, which content will perform best? If everyone within a team keeps an eye on the audience’s reaction, it will be easy to find out. Besides, everyone has their viewpoint. Sometimes even the editor might not see while other members may detect it.
However, before you start collaboration within your team, make sure to check the below list:
- Make sure all members have access to the business page
- Enlighten all members with UTM parameters
- Make sure all members are familiar with general rules and guidelines
- Members need to have the basic knowledge to operate (content creation, analysis, etc.)
For best results, prepare a guideline with visual illustrations for your team members. Remember, you have to design it in such a way so even a newbie can digest everything easily without asking you questions.
Step 8: Schedule your content most of the time
Though some content types cannot schedule, do you know which one? That is trendy content or news-related content.
It’s simple, you have no idea what will happen two days later, but you know which evergreen content you should publish even after one month.
So, if your content type is trendy, then you cannot schedule most of it. Instead, you always have to keep focus and get ready whenever needed.
Good news for evergreen and seasonal content types, as you can schedule your content even for two months ahead and keep listening to music, watch a movie and hang out with friends and check your audience reaction in your convenient time.
It is an automated system for your entire team. First, prepare your content, then schedule those for the next two months. Thus, no problem with going on vacation.
Simply unlimited benefits. Ants store their foods for winter. Here on this occasion, you are preparing content for the near future.
Some benefits of content calendar I want you to check:
- Without a content calendar, you and your team are heading into chaos. Especially if you manage multiple social media pages.
- It’s easy to check and fix content that is scheduled ten days ahead. At the same time, it is much harder to improve the content if you only have 10 minutes. Scheduling gives you enough time to prepare and fix content.
It doesn’t matter if you are new or experienced in social media marketing. A content calendar surely will boost your productivity and management efficiency.
Don’t believe me? Why not give it a try?
I have outlined how to schedule your content and build a robust content calendar system within your team.
If you follow these step-by-step guidelines, I guarantee your success.