Build a Basic Structure in Five Easy Pieces
Social media is no longer the new technology kid on the block, despite which outfit it wears (TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, et al.), so the concept of a social media content calendar isn’t as foreign as it was in social’s early days.
Even after all the years of social swirling around us, the initial creation of a social program can remain daunting and may seem like “just one more thing” to a communication team (or a one-person show) already strapped for time and resources. Developing enough valuable and relevant content for your audience every day can seem unrealistic or unnecessary.
But a content calendar is designed to help keep your company or business organized while you connect with customers and prospects online. Because there’s no one template or format a content calendar must follow, your content calendar can be constructed so that all your team members can follow it if they need to.
Start with five pieces of information, Facebook advises, and include the following information for each post scheduled:
- Date: When will the post be published?
- Theme: What is your post about?
- Visual description: What do you want your post image or video to look like?
- Format: Will your posts contain pictures, video or a combination of the two?
- Social Media: Where do you intend to post the content?
Choose your vehicle, whether it’s a spreadsheet (recommended if you’re juggling multiple calendars), a fillable PDF or a Google document. Remember, use what you will use. If you’d rather be hit by a car than fill and follow an Excel sheet, choose another way to build your calendar. Microsoft even has directions. Or, if you really need the structure of a professional calendar, you can find free social media content calendar templates from any of the following (with info and links to all on influencermarketinghub:
- Small Business Trends
Develop Content Categories (Content Pillars) for Focus
Content pillars (categories or buckets) identify different areas of content that appeal to a company or brand’s target audience. Pillars help guide those creating content to plan and execute their content marketing strategy so that it’s aligned with the mission, goals and overall social media strategy of the brand or business.
Pillars are specific to your company and its marketing goals, but generally the pillars or categories include educational content, content to build awareness, social activity content, statistical/data content and content to encourage engagement. Once your business or marketing team has decided what pillars they want to support, your content sticks to those pillars. (It sounds restrictive, but if you choose wisely, it can be a relief to your content creators to have guardrails.)
Scour Your Web Content
One simple way to gather content for your calendar is to review the key articles and most requested educational content on your website. Do you have a frequently downloaded article about a pain point in your industry and how to address it? Do you have a how-to video on using your product? Pulling highlights from your (already) created content to develop social posts is an effective way to build a loop from your owned media through social media and back to your owned content.
As you add new content to your website, post to your social platforms to keep your customers and prospects informed about new resources and information. Every event, program update or research finding you add to your website should be promoted on social media in a timely manner.
Schedule the web content through a week, or over a quarter—whatever suits your goals and the content. (More on this later.)
Promote Your Events
Events are an excellent use for social calendars. For example, if you have a quarterly board meeting and you publish a board report each quarter on your website, add in a series of social posts each quarter around the meeting.
Your social posts could include a pre-meeting post with the agenda and several image posts (please do not post pics of half-empty boardrooms and people drinking from worn coffee cups—unless that is your point.) During the meeting, highlight the key topics discussed and a post that links to the board report notes after the meeting wraps.
Events tend to have a cycle, so you will know in advance to plan before/during/after social content
Plan for Seasonal and Evergreen Content
You can add to your content calendar by mapping out the primary topics you know will be of interest each year, including seasonal projects, what consumers need for winter home maintenance and on-trend colors for home exteriors.
Some of these topics you can develop in advance and integrate them into a yearly calendar. Some topics will be more time sensitive (we have to wait and see if dark blue will remain a trendy exterior color), while others can be developed with no specific timing in mind, which makes them evergreen.
Having key topics prepared in advance and worked into the schedule throughout the year can help with resourcing and provide a balance of timely relevant content and thought leadership.
Build Your Content Calendar
Once you have content categories (or pillars) identified, start the development of your content calendar with the idea of identifying at least one primary topic each month (12 topics), four supporting pieces of content (one a week) and three to five posts per week highlighting the content pieces. As your audience engages, you can determine the types of information of most interest and benefit to your audience and work to optimize your efforts.
You can start to pull together your calendar with a mix of content by preparing a few articles that can be scheduled anytime, reviewing the content you have available on your website and planning for program updates and events.
For example, we have a whitepaper on branding that’s a popular download from our website. If our primary topic for a month is establishing a brand voice, the content from our whitepaper will be loaded for posts during that month. If you write a news release about your booth at an upcoming tradeshow, put in a placeholder for that content. If you take the time to think through your year in this way, you may be surprised at how much content you already have available to promote in your social channels. You just need to schedule it.
Having an established social media content calendar helps you and your team provide a mix of relevant content appropriate for any time of year while allowing for more flexibility during the year to change topics and add topics that are relevant and timely or of the moment.
Use Your Calendar for Social Content Approvals
A content calendar developed and updated each month with timely information also provides an effective document for approvals. An organized spreadsheet works for both approval submission and program execution. Be sure to include planned posts’ dates, post content, images you plan to use and all links to additional web content.
This is where we’ll add the suggestion of a voice book. A voice book, like a brand book, guides anyone who might post social content on the tone and persona of your brand. What’s your social media engagement style? Gameshow host? Wise professor? Grandpa advice in the garage? You already have a brand voice, whether you’ve identified it or not. A voice book just helps document the details for easy and consistent use. Why document?
- Documenting processes is important to managing any team and lays out what’s required for effective project management.
- Putting the rules in writing ensures consistency from creator to creator, as opposed to explaining it separately and/or differently to each contributor. (It also helps onboard new contributors and makes editing easier.)
- Reflecting for this process can identify areas of your branding you might not have thought about in relation to your content.
For more on why brand voice matters and how to hone it, see what SEMrush advises.
Sharing relevant content with your social audience not only builds awareness, but it also allows your audience the opportunity to share your information with others and gives you direct feedback about the content through the social channel.
Need a hand getting started? Let us help you build a social strategy and plan that aligns with your communication goals and provides thought leadership and educational, relevant, timely content for your target audience.
FAQs About Social Media Content Calendars
A social media content calendar is a tool that helps you plan and organize your social media posts, including details like the date of publication, post theme, visual description, format, and social media platform.
You can create a content calendar using various tools such as a spreadsheet, fillable PDF, or Google document. Choose a format that suits your preferences and needs. There are also free social media content calendar templates available from platforms like Hootsuite, Trello, HubSpot, Small Business Trends, and Backlinko.
Content pillars are categories or buckets that represent different areas of content relevant to your target audience. They help guide your content creation and ensure it aligns with your brand’s mission, goals, and overall social media strategy.
You can review key articles and educational content on your website, extracting highlights and repurposing them for social media posts. Additionally, any new content you add to your website should be promoted on social media to keep your audience informed.
Events can be effectively promoted through social media calendars. Create a series of social posts before, during, and after the event, providing updates, highlights, and relevant information. This helps generate interest and engagement around the event.
Seasonal content focuses on topics that are relevant to specific times of the year, while evergreen content is timeless and can be shared at any time. By mapping out primary topics of interest each year, you can develop a mix of timely and evergreen content to maintain a balance.
Start by identifying content categories or pillars, then develop a calendar with primary topics for each month, supporting content pieces, and regular posts highlighting the content. As you engage with your audience, you can optimize your content based on their interests and preferences.
A content calendar serves as an effective document for content approvals. Use an organized spreadsheet that includes post dates, content details, images, and links to additional web content. This helps maintain consistency and facilitates the approval process.
A voice book guides the tone and persona of your brand’s social media content. It helps document your brand’s voice, ensuring consistency and providing guidance to anyone posting on your social channels. A voice book outlines your engagement style and contributes to effective project management and consistent branding.