How To Build A Social Media Editorial Calendar The Easy Way (Free Template)
Imagine you’re about to give a speech in front of a large audience.
You feel like you know your material. You understand your message. You’re passionate about your topic. There’s just one problem: you didn’t actually prepare any specific messaging first.
Why would anyone book a speaking engagement without prepping slides or notes? That’s a good question. Someone trusted you to come prepared so you could offer actual value to their audience. Time is valuable and no one likes having it wasted.
The same principle applies to your social media messaging. Every day on social media is essentially a public speaking engagement. Your audience is there and they’re waiting to hear what you have to say. “Just winging it” isn’t going to work, and it’s not an effective social media strategy. If your boss says otherwise, you have our permission to slap them (disclaimer: please do not actually slap your boss).
However, too many brands continue to operate with this mentality. The inevitable failure caused by lack of planning is also what leads too many brands to decide social media is a waste time. The truth is it’s only a waste of time if you treat it like one, and success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a product of proper planning and consistent execution, and it helps to have the right tools for the right job.
This is where your social media editorial calendar comes into the picture.
What Is A Social Media Editorial Calendar, Anyway?
A social media editorial calendar can be anything you use to plan your social media messaging. It can be a printed template or a calendar app.
4 Good Reasons To Use A Social Media Editorial Calendar
Managing multiple social media accounts can turn into a mess extremely fast. That kind of disorganization will kill your efficiency. It can also diminish the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts. Knowing what you’ll say and when you’ll say it saves time so you can get other important things done.
Calendars are great for setting deadlines. It’s easy to procrastinate when deadlines are flexible (or nonexistent). Laying out a clear plan eliminates excuses for not knowing what content to publish on your social channels.
No one ever has enough time. However, planning your social media outreach with a calendar lets you make the most of the time you have.
This is the benefit that supersedes all other benefits. After all, efficiency without effectiveness really just means doing things poorly, quickly. Using a calendar allows you to schedule your messages for optimal times, increasing the odds they’ll get seen.
How Can I Build A Social Media Editorial Calendar?
If you’re budget-strapped, there are a couple ways to build a calendar yourself. These will not be as efficient or effective as using an app (such as CoSchedule, although we may be biased). However, they’re infinitely better than using nothing at all.
How To Build A Social Media Calendar In A Spreadsheet
This is perhaps the most common method of building an editorial calendar. You can find a completed template here, or build and customize one yourself following the steps below. If you’ll be using this calendar with a team, we recommend using a cloud-based spreadsheet for this (such as Google Sheets).
Step 1: Create A Fresh Google Sheets File
Step 2: Create Tabs For Each Month
Step 3: Add Fields For Month, Days, Weeks, & Channels
Step 4: Come Up With A Consistent Color-Coding Scheme
Step 5: Copy & Paste This Completed Template Into Each Tab
How to Use Your Calendar Template:
- Enter your social media messages in each cell.
- Remember you can always add or delete rows for social messages as needed.
- While this is intended to be a social media-specific calendar, we’ve included a space for blog posts. This is in order to coordinate your social media promotion with your blog publishing dates. However, you don’t need to maintain a blog to make use of this calendar.
Using A Paper Calendar
We’re big fans of digital tools here at CoSchedule. This is partly because, well, we build a digital product. However, there’s something to be said for writing things out by hand. In fact, studies show handwriting notes improves memory retention.
Step 1: Print Out A Paper Template
You can find a printable calendar template inside the content bundle included in this post.
Step 2: Get Writing
Writing out your messaging verbatim on paper may be tedious. However, it can be a useful way to mark off which networks you’ll be on, and when. Plus, it’ll only cost you some printer paper. Using multi-color markers can help clearly differentiate between social networks.
This solution works well if you strongly prefer handwriting your notes and planning documents. If that’s not you, though, it may be better to choose a digital solution (like a spreadsheet or an app).
Know Your Post Frequency Targets
There’s a lot of discussion around how often you should post on each social network. Here is what we recommend as a starting point:
Don’t take these numbers as gospel. If these numbers aren’t getting you results, then mix it up. Test until you find out what works best for you.
Know The Best Times To Post On Each Network
There is some debate about the best times to post on various social media networks. Fortunately, we’ve crunched the data from tons of different studies, and here’s what we found:
Build A Social Media Content Strategy
No one likes people who talk only about themselves. Nor does anyone want to be around someone only interested in talking about one topic.
The same goes for brands. If you’re only pushing your own content, you’re unlikely to drive much engagement. The same is true if you’re only publishing one type of content. This is why you need a social media content strategy to ensure you’re sending a balanced content mix.
If “content strategy” makes you think “really big document,” then don’t worry. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You just need to define how much of which types of content you’re going to share.
Here’s an example of what your messaging mix might look like:
Now It’s Time To Fill Your Calendar
Once you’ve built your calendar, you’ll need content. This means creating fresh content, as well as mixing in curated content.
Let’s start by using the template we built earlier. Just type in your message:
Hmm. It looks like this message is hogging space. Take care of this by adjusting the text wrap settings in the cell:
That looks better. This is a simple way to keep your calendar looking clean.
Continue until you’ve filled your calendar (at least a couple weeks in advance).
Adding Images & Video To Your Calendar
You’re not always going to want just plain text or link posts. However, adding images to cells in Google Sheets is much more difficult than you might think. If you’re using a spreadsheet, the easiest method is to save your images in the cloud service of your choice. Then, paste a link to the image in a spreadsheet cell. You can paste original videos or YouTube links the same way.
4 Tips For Keeping Your Social Media Calendar Full
You’ll likely discover that keeping your calendar full can be difficult. However, there are some tips you can follow to make it easier:
- Reuse messages (sparingly). Space out similar messaging on different days and post at different times. Just be careful not to overdo it.
- Curate content. Add useful links to posts from other blogs and sites your audience will enjoy. You can pre-select these in advance, or simply leave a note to find something that’s trending on a given day (which may be difficult to predict).
- Write multiple messages promoting one article or link. Do you have an awesome blog post or web page to promote? Consider writing multiple messages for that one page. This can cut down on the sheer number of links you need to share.
- Remember, not every post may even need a link. This is especially true on Facebook. If you have a compelling image or video, that may be enough to gain shares and engagement (even if it won’t drive traffic back to your site).
Optimize Your Calendar By Measuring Your Results
When it comes to art and design, taste is often subjective. Data, however, isn’t (although your interpretation of it might be). The key to getting the best results from your social media content is to bring the head (data) and heart (visual and verbal creative) together. This means testing, tweaking, and adjusting to get the best results.
Test Posting Times & Frequency
Some types of messaging may resonate better at different times of the week. Your audience might be more active at different times of the day. Use the post frequency recommendations outlined earlier in this post as a starting point.
Test Different Types Of Messaging
As our own Nathan Ellering recently said on our blog:
Think of each message as a call to action:
- Sell your followers on the value they’ll get if they just click through to read your blog post.
- Or make them question a current belief with the promise of a better solution to a problem.
- Or make them feel like they’re missing out on something amazing.
You’ll learn how to write social messages that’ll have the potential to draw 31.8% more clickthroughs than typical messages. That’s just from the message itself!
In short, words have power. Wield them intentionally to invoke the emotional response you want. Getting this right is key to driving engagement and traffic.
So, what are some of the specific types of messaging that you can try out?
- Questions. Close-ended questions drive more clickthroughs. However, open-ended questions may drive more engagement (since you’re asking for a response).
- Benefits. Hint at what’s in it for your audience to click through on your link.
- FOMO. Otherwise known as “the fear of missing out.” This angle can work well if you’re giving your audience a deadline to act.
- Stats. Numbers that seem hard-to-believe (but are accurate) can be a great way to stoke interest.
- Facts. Again, the harder to believe, the better.
- Controversy. This doesn’t mean to be offensive. It means don’t be afraid of questioning status quo. If you have a contrary opinion on a topic, put it out there. You just might spark a discussion that changes what folks consider common wisdom (which isn’t always wise).
Test Different Image/Copy Combinations
Color and design in your social media images can impact click-throughs. Furthermore, different types of images may pair well with different types of messaging. Try mixing things up and see what works best with your audience. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. Adjust your calendar accordingly.
Is There A Better Way To Do This?
Free calendar options can be useful. However, they do have limitations.
- They don’t allow you to automate the scheduling process.
- They’re not ideal for storing images and videos for social posts. This makes them difficult to use for visually-oriented networks (like Pinterest or Instagram).
- You’ll still need to copy and paste each message into each social platform individually.
CoSchedule Solves These Problems (And More)
Managing multiple social media accounts can feel like herding cats. You have a lot to say, and a lot of places to say it. However, you don’t have a lot of time.
This is the exact problem CoSchedule was built to solve. It’s also why we use our own product for our own content marketing. If you’re ready to move on from free options, you can try CoSchedule free for 14 days. Here’s a quick video introduction on how it works:
It’s Time To Get Your Social Media Calendar In Order
No matter which solution you choose, it’s important to get your social media efforts organized. Your calendar is a key part of that equation. Let’s recap what we’ve covered:
- You now understand the benefits of using a social media editorial calendar. It’s a key tool for keeping organized, staying efficient, and maximizing your effectiveness.
- You now know how to build a social media calendar. It’s easy to put one together with a spreadsheet (or use the downloadable template we’ve included in the download).
- You also know how to fill in your calendar. Not only that, but you now know when to post at optimal times.
- You get the importance of mixing up your messages. Use the right type of message to get the right kind of response you want.
- Finally, you understand how to test your results (and adjust your approach accordingly). Data doesn’t lie, and it’s vital to driving maximum traffic and engagement.
You don’t have time to waste. Start your calendar now and share your success stories below!