Social media editorial calendars are important tools for busy teams. They make it possible to plan posts ahead of time, avoid last-minute fire drills to create content, and keep your workflow organized. Without one, you’re left scrambling to keep your social posting schedule full.
But, you might have some questions:
- What exactly is a social media editorial calendar?
- How can I build one (or is there an app I can use instead)?
- Where can I find some templates to get started with?
We’ll cover all those questions and more in this post. By the time you’re done, you’ll know:
- How to get started using free templates and basic knowledge of social strategy.
- How to plan everything from one-off posts to entire campaigns on one calendar.
- How to organize effective scheduling workflows around your calendar.
In short, your team will have one version of truth they can reference for all things social media marketing.
So, What Is A Social Media Editorial Calendar?
Here’s the definition we’ll work with:
Social media editorial calendars are spreadsheets or apps used to schedule social posts in advance. They’re also used to plan when and which content will be shared, manage campaigns, and track deadlines.
That sounds simple enough, right? Let’s look at a few different formats you might use:
- Printed calendars. The old-school approach. These can be helpful for mapping out content themes and making note of upcoming content and events needing social media promotion. You might keep something like this on your desk or pinned to your cubicle wall.
- Spreadsheets. Shared spreadsheets are flexible and free. However, they don’t allow for automation quite as well as …
- … dedicated social media calendar apps and scheduling tools. The most efficient solutions. These apps add a level of automation (plus other powerful features) that spreadsheets can’t match.
Spreadsheets are workable solutions at first and are a great option when you’re starting out. When you need more power and automation, though, a holistic marketing management platform like CoSchedule (which brings social into focus alongside all other projects and campaigns) is the best option. As we continue in this post, we’ll show you how to use both.
Three Social Media Calendar Format Examples
So, what do these calendars look like in action? Let’s take a look at some examples.
Printed Calendar Example
Spreadsheet Calendar Example
CoSchedule Calendar Example
Who Can Use a Social Calendar?
Anyone creating social content, whether for a business, media company, or a serious blog, should consider using a calendar.
- Marketing teams: Marketing campaigns often have a lot of moving parts, including social components. Keeping teams organized and making sure everyone involved in a project understands the social promotion schedule is key. Plus, giving all your marketing departments visibility on what’s going out, and when, helps everyone know what’s going on and when things need to be finished.
- Small businesses: Staying organized with a calendar makes it much easier to save time and maintain consistency. This is important for small businesses, where resources are limited.
- Consultants: If you’re managing social media marketing for multiple clients, you probably wish you had an extra set of hands. Unfortunately, medical science hasn’t made that possible (yet). But, getting each client organized on their own calendar can help immensely (especially when you add automation).
- Media companies: If you’re creating editorial content, it’ll need social media promotion. Keep it all together on your calendar.
- Bloggers: If your blog is your business, you don’t have time to waste with dysfunctional tools. Make sure every post gets promoted on your calendar.
What Are The Real Benefits?
Before you invest the time into building out a completed calendar, you probably want to know what the real benefits are. We believe those benefits can be broken down into four areas:
- Turning chaos into harmony. Managing multiple social media accounts can turn messy 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.
- Holding teams accountable. 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.
- Saving time (that you can use to get real work done). 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.
- Measurably improving your results. 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.
So, that all sounds great. But, you probably want to see some hard data supporting these claims.
CoSchedule did too. In the company’s early days, Nathan Ellering, our Head of Demand Generation, gathered data on what happened he used a calendar to schedule multiple social posts promoting a single piece of content. Here are the results:
3,150% increase in clicks. Best of all, there’s no reason you can’t replicate similar success, too.
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Start By Downloading Your Free Social Media Editorial Calendar Template
This template is built to make scheduling social media posts easy. No matter how many networks you’re active on, you’ll be able to keep everything organized, all in one place. It’s a free Excel file that can easily be uploaded to Google Sheets (which we recommend if your calendar will be shared with multiple users).
Get Your Free Social Media Editorial Calendar Template
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Tired of the marketing mess?
Next, let's walk through each section of your template.
1. The Broad And General Calendar
You’ll need an overarching calendar to help you focus on topics that matter to your audience.
For content marketers, it would be perfect to schedule your broad topic calendar four to six months out. That gives you the opportunity to plan new content based your audience’s reactions.
To build your broad and general calendar, start by downloading the social media calendar bundle included in this post. Then, open up the Social Media Calendar Excel file. You’ll find the “Broad and General Calendar” section at the top of the first tab:
Use the Main Theme row to map out your primary content themes for each month. Then, fill in sub-topics for content you’ll want to create and share that support those themes.
You can base your general calendar on the model from traditional magazines. They typically offer these sorts of editorial calendars for an entire year to attract advertisers for specific magazine issues.
For example, check out this editorial calendar example from Forbes.
2. The Content Calendar
The content calendar provides a lot more detail.
Let’s look back at the social media calendar you downloaded from this post. Beneath the Broad and General calendar, you’ll find the Content Calendar. This is where you can map out all the content you’ll create (and later share and promote on social media):
At this point, you assign the specific dates on which each piece will publish. Typically, you can work two to three months out with this calendar.
3. The Promotion Calendar
The promotion calendar is your plan to share all of the content you create.
This is when you’ll schedule your social media messages and plan your emails, newsletters, and other ways you’ll share your content.
Using your Social Media Calendar, click into any of the month tabs along the bottom. Here’s what you’ll see:
This is where you’ll create and store all your social media promotion content. Here’s what you should put in each field:
- Content: This is your social media post copy.
- Image Link: If your post will have an image or video, upload it to a cloud storage service (such as Google Drive or Dropbox). Then, drop a link to the image here. This will give you easy access to your images when you’re ready to create your posts.
- URL: If a post will include a link, drop it in here.
You can then assign the specific dates when you’ll share each of these messages, which usually takes place immediately after you’re done creating the content you’ll share (but you can plan this ahead of schedule with the right tools).
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What Makes Up A Good Social Media Calendar?
It seems like a lot of content marketers create great content, share it when it goes live, and then they call it good. They’re all missing out on their own 3,150% more click-throughs.
Instead of taking this minimalist approach, a great social media calendar maximizes exposure of your content on the social networks your audience uses—without being spammy.
As you plan your content, these eight things can make or break your social media calendar.
1. Understand Why Your Audience Shares Your Content
Once you understand the psychology of why your audience shares, you can create content in ways that are most likely to connect with them. This will help you plan awesome content from the get-go, and help you interact—socialize—with your audience using social media.
A report from The New York Times Customer Insight Group found five major reasons why people share content with their networks:
- 84% share to support a cause.
- 78% share to stay connected with those they know.
- 69% share to feel involved in the world.
- 68% share to define themselves.
- 49% share for entertainment or to provide valuable content to others.
The study also found that 73% of the survey takers shared content to understand the information more thoughtfully.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of lessons to learn from this knowledge. As you plan your social media calendar, keep this in mind:
Help Them Define Themselves
Create content about your different customer types and help them self-identify. That will help you, and help them connect with your content.
Help Them Connect With Others
Imagine the possibilities a forum—or even a larger brand ambassador program—could present for your customers to ask each other questions and learn from one another. You could even start as simple as a Twitter chat.
Value Them—And Let Them Know It
If someone sends you a message, leaves you a comment, responds to a tweet—whatever it is—let them know that you valued their contribution. Listen and respond.
Help Them Believe In Something
Again, let your advocates know you appreciate their respect. They’re your rock stars, and almost nothing is better than social proof.
While some of this is more about creating awesome content in the first place, this is the backbone on which you’ll build your social media calendar. But without sharing good content in the first place, why would anyone want to interact with you?
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Build A Simple 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 "large, boring 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:
Figure Out What Content Works For Specific Social Networks
Some content lends itself better for certain social networks. And—assuming you know your audience—you’re using specific social media to target your customers.
Can you share your same piece of content on multiple networks? Yes. Just make sure your social media messages follow these best practices to get the most traffic.
Use Twitter To Share Business Tips And Show A Little Personality
Twitter has become content marketers’ best friend recently. That’s because one of the best ways to use Twitter is to share helpful business tips.
And after all, that’s exactly what you’re creating in your content, right?
Other content types that work well for sharing are news and things going on behind the scenes to share your business’ passion.
Buffer found that sharing images on Twitter increases retweets by 150%. And when we tested GIFs in tweets recently, we increased clickthroughs by another 166.6% more than static image tweets. So definitely try visuals in your tweets to see if that will make a difference.
Track Social also found data to support that 70–100 characters is the ideal length for tweetsto get retweets. Imagine that: Just enough context to know what you’re sharing with enough room for them to add their own individual thoughts.
Facebook Is For Entertainment
Facebook wants your useful and entertaining content—the kind that people can share with their friends and family no matter their background.
Industry blah content just doesn’t work on Facebook.
Facebook posts with less than 100 characters typically perform the best. Combine this with images and videos, and your posts will be even more likely to increase your engagement.
Here’s a good inspirational example from Ford Motor Company:
Women in Saudi Arabia will soon be free to take the wheel. Welcome to the driver’s seat.
Posted by Ford Motor Company on Thursday, March 8, 2018
Use LinkedIn To Share Your Business And Industry News
I’m not talking cheesy press releases here that are all about you. I’m talking about valuable information like business case studies, how-to posts—examples of how to grow professionally as a person and business in your niche.
Remember that people use social media to define themselves and build relationships? LinkedIn is exactly that for professionals.
Combine those visuals with shorter messages—questions, demands, or helpful takeaways you personally learned—and you’ll get some interaction with your content.
Google+ Combines Personal And Professional Content
Google+ is kind of a grab bag between personal and professional. In your private circle, you can share pics of your kids, and in your public circle, you can share your professional content.
But there are exciting opportunities with Google+ from a business perspective.
Share your helpful content here like you might on LinkedIn. Imagine how-to videos, helpful GIFs to use your product, and other support content.
Early research found that Google+ content is slightly tech-driven, so your straightforward content on doing something better may be your best bet.
For Google+ posts, differentiate your content with longer rich text snippets.
Long-form posts for Google+ help you stand out for your audience—and you’ll capitalize on the network’s natural SEO juice. Pare down your introduction and pick two or three of your big ideas to share.
The Only Way To Use Pinterest Is With Awesome Visuals
The only way to use Pinterest really well is to share extremely awesome visual content. Think of small info-images, infographics, comics, custom photography, and memes.
Pinterest has an audience that’s looking for fun, how-to content that looks… well… awesome.
Here’s an example of one our own boards:
It’s no secret that Pinterest is dominated by women users too—80% of their entire user base—so if that’s your target audience, this may be a great platform for you. Some of the best content on Pinterest involves fashion, recipes, and DIY.
Plan Your Social Media Sharing Schedule
In order to make the most out of your calendar, it helps to have a grasp on basic social media marketing mechanics.
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:
Plan Your Social Media Content Creation Workflow
Now, let's explore how to use the calendar step-by-step. Follow along to plan out an entire social media marketing workflow for your team (or yourself), all based around your calendar.
Step 1: Determine What You'll Be Creating Or Sharing
Let's begin with a hypothetical social media campaign. Maybe you're promoting:
Whatever the case may be, knowing what you'll be promoting, creating, or sharing is likely where your process will start.
Step 2: Write Your Post Copy
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.
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)
If you don't want to write your posts directly into your spreadsheet, use in a word processor (Word, Google Docs, or anything else you prefer will work). Lay out your document like this:
Network: [INSERT NETWORK]
Post 1 Copy: [ENTER POST]
Post 1 Image: [INSERT IMAGE DIRECTION]
Post 1 Link: [INSERT URL]
Post 2 Copy: [ENTER POST]
Post 2 Image: [INSERT IMAGE DIRECTION]
Post 2 Link: [INSERT URL]
Continue until you've completed a full campaign's worth of posts.
To make sure each post is the best it can be before publishing, run your copy through the Social Media Optimizer:
To use the social message optimizer, start by typing in your post copy:
Select Score My Message, and your score for each social channel will appear. For a more detailed breakdown, scroll along the top bar to switch between channels:
Scroll down for more detailed analysis. You'll find tips to improve your post, including recommendations for character counts, hashtags, emotional sentiment, and emojis:
You'll also get guidance on the optimal time to post:
Best of all, it's totally free. Try it yourself here.
Step 3: Hand Off Your Campaign for Design
Next, hand off your image ideas to your designer. You'll likely need to discuss your ideas with them and get their creative input before they begin design. For the sake of example, let's say this is an image we'll use for our campaign:
Now that you've got a graphic, upload them to a folder in a cloud-based storage service of your choice (Google Drive, Dropbox, or any other option). Give the folder a name specific to this campaign:
Then, upload your image:
Do this for each photo in your campaign. That way, you'll have easy access to all your campaign's assets when you're ready to post them.
Step 4: Add All Your Campaign Content Onto Your Calendar
Now, you have all the content for your campaign ready. It's time to place it all on the calendar.
Start by pasting in your post copy:
Then, grab the URL for the image from your image storage service and paste that in, too. If you're using Google Drive, click the Get Shareable Link button below:
Then, paste the link from the popup into your calendar:
Next, add your URL:
Finally, add in the time for your post:
Repeat as necessary until you've entered all your content. Follow this same process for every post you create.
Step 5: Measure Your Results
Once you start using your calendar, you'll want to see results, right? One way to do that is to measure referral traffic to your blog or website using Google Analytics.
On the first tab of the calendar template included in this post, you'll see this link to a Custom Report template for Google Analytics:
Copy and paste this URL into your browser. Next, you'll see a screen that looks like this:
Under Select A View, choose which site associated with a Google Analytics account you'd like to use. Then, you'll see your free social media traffic dashboard:
Next, copy the link to your new Google Analytics dashboard, and paste it over the original link to the template:
Now, you have quick access to your social media performance, direct from your calendar.
Or, Use Social Analytics in CoSchedule
To automate your social media measurement, consider using Social Analytics in CoSchedule. You can track engagement rates, post-level performance metrics, compare campaigns side-by-side, and more (with exportable reports, too):
Use That Data to Optimize Your Calendar
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.
That kind of trial and error can be time-consuming, though. One shortcut CoSchedule offers is Best Time Scheduling. It's an awesome feature that automatically schedules your posts on each channel at the best times for maximum results:
Three Tips to Keep Your Social Media Calendar Full
Keeping your calendar full of content might not seem easy. But, there are some ways to maintain consistency without exhausting your team by exclusively creating fresh posts.
Reshare Your Top-Performing Posts
Space out similar messaging on different days and post at different times. When a particular post does well, consider resharing it on an ongoing basis on your calendar. If you're a CoSchedule customer, ReQueue makes this easy to automate:
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).
If you're using CoSchedule, be sure to grab our free Chrome extension. It makes curating content from anywhere on the web easy:
Write Multiple Posts 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. CoSchedule's Social Helpers make it easy to pair up your copy and images:
Plus, with Social Campaigns, you can create and schedule entire cross-network campaigns easily.
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.
Start with this template. Then upgrade to the industry's best all-in-one social media calendar.
This post was originally published on May 18th, 2016. It was most recently updated and republished on April 26, 2018.