The best social media marketers keep organized with editorial calendars. They are essential organizational tools for strategically planning all the content you’ll create and share. When you work ahead of schedule, you can avoid last-minute scrambling to keep your social media pipeline full, resulting in less stress and better quality content.
However, you might have some questions. Those likely include:
- What is a social media editorial calendar, exactly?
- How can bloggers and marketers benefit from using one?
- Are there tools and templates available to make creating them easy?
This post will answer all of the above (and more). By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand:
- 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.
Once you create your calendar, your team will have a single version of truth for your entire social media schedule. Plus, with the template included below, you can get started right now.
Download: Social Media Editorial Calendar Template
This post will show you exactly how to use this downloadable template and CoSchedule’s Marketing Calendar for planning and organizing your entire social schedule.
If you’re looking for a convenient way to get started at no cost, snag this simple Excel file now (which you can upload to Google Sheets or Office 365 for team collaboration purposes).
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What is a Social Media Editorial Calendar?
Here’s a working definition this post will use:
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.
They’re typically built using one of three different formats: printed paper, spreadsheets, or software services.
- Paper Calendars: The old-school approach for those who prefer hand-written organization.
- Spreadsheets: A cost-effective route for planning posts ahead of time.
- Software Services: The professional option with powerful automation and time-saving capabilities.
Spreadsheets are workable solutions at first and are a great option when you’re starting out.
When your social media marketing operations mature though, a holistic software suite like CoSchedule (which brings social into focus alongside all other projects and campaigns) is the best option.
The Benefits of Getting Organized and Planning Ahead
There are tons of reasons to use a social media calendar.
Before you invest the time into building one though, you probably want to know what the real benefits are. Here are four key things to consider:
- Turning chaos into harmony. Managing multiple social media accounts can turn messy fast. That kind of disorganization will kill your efficiency.
- 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.
Those are some anecdotal benefits. But what about some hard numbers on the benefits of getting organized in general? Here are two useful stats, according to recent research from CoSchedule:
- Marketers who get organized say they’re 397% more likely to be successful.
- Those who proactively plan projects and campaigns are 356% more likely to succeed.
CoSchedule did too. In the company’s early days, Nathan Ellering, our Head of Marketing, gathered data on what happened when 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.
What does this mean for you? Getting organized and proactively planning your work are shown to improve results, and calendars are one of the best tools available to support both of those aims.
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.
- 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: Getting all of your clients organized with their own calendar can help tame the chaos of managing multiple accounts.
- 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.
An Introduction to Your Basic Calendar Template
If you’ll be using the template included in this post, it’ll be helpful to understand exactly how it works (both this template and CoSchedule will be used as examples throughout the instruction here).
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.
2. The Content Calendar
The content calendar provides a lot more detail.
This is when you look at your topics and plan the actual content types best suited to tell your specific stories—blog posts, e-books, videos, webinars, events, and what-have-you.
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 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 ahead of schedule with the right tools).
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?
Planning Your Content Strategy
Before you can start sharing content, you need to know what you’ll be creating, and why you’ll be creating it. To do this, start with developing a basic content strategy.
Planning a content strategy can get complex, but you can keep it simple when you’re starting out. At a very basic level, this process entails determining a few things:
- Core topical focus areas. What problems does your content solve and which topics will you focus on?
- Channels you’ll use to communicate that message. Where will you create and share content?
- Content types you’ll create. Blog posts, email newsletters, social campaigns, videos, and so forth.
This will be sufficient to get you started.
Brainstorming Editorial Ideas
Everything starts with ideas, and you’ll need a lot of them to fill your calendar. One way to generate tons of ideas quickly is to hold a 30-minute brainstorming meeting. The goal is to get as many solid ideas out of your head and onto the calendar as quickly as possible.
Here’s how it works:
- Spend ten minutes writing down ideas on Post-It notes. As many ideas as you can come up with.
- Spend another ten minutes scoring those ideas on a three-point scale. 3’s are surefire hits, 2’s are maybe’s, and 1’s are duds. You’ll likely have several ideas in all three categories (and that’s normal).
- Finally, wrap up the meeting with ten minutes of sorting through your 3’s. These are your best ideas that are most likely to succeed.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have plenty of ideas to fill up a month or two on your calendar.
Develop a Blog Publishing Cadence
The odds are strong that at least some of your social media content will be sourced from your blog. And if you have a blog at all, integrating your blogging and social strategies is crucial for ensuring the success of each.
So, blogging is core to your overall content strategy, start here.
Next, Figure Out How Often You’ll Share Each Post
For each blog post you create, establish a basic publishing schedule to ensure it gets some social traction. While constraints on organic reach have made sharing blog content more difficult, it isn’t impossible to succeed with some smart strategy and creative messaging. Here’s a sample schedule to start with (that’s proven successful for CoSchedule):
Establishing a Social Media Publishing Cadence
You’ll likely be creating social media posts to promote content other than blog posts too. You’ll probably be creating content exclusively for social media too (with no outbound links; just awareness-driven content).
Now, “How often should I post on social media” is one of the most common questions we here at CoSchedule. It’s a fundamental problem that everyone faces when they’re starting out, and one that has a tendency to nag at even experience marketers and bloggers.
There isn’t a single correct answer to that question either. The best approach, then, is to use some research-backed starting points and then adjust according to your own results from there.
Here’s a quick visual reference to begin with:
Aligning Messaging With Appropriate Social Channels
Different types of messaging and content do better on different social networks. This means you might not need to be everywhere or include every channel possible on your calendar. It also means you’ll need to consider which content to share on which platforms.
What this looks like specifically will depend on what types of content you create, what topics you’re focused on, where your audience is most active, and myriad other factors. As a starting point, consider these strengths and use cases for each popular social network:
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.
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:
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 all your images:
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. Alternately, CoSchedule customers can use the Asset Organizer. It's a digital asset management system built specifically for marketers that makes it easy to keep visual assets organized:
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 that URL into your calendar (this will make the image easily accessible later):
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. Use the text wrap settings in Google Sheets or Excel to control how content fills each cell in your calendar:
Alternately, you can do this all in CoSchedule, too. With the Social Organizer, you can easily create single posts or entire campaigns. Plus, you can keep all your copy and images neatly organized, reshare top-performing posts automatically with ReQueue, and optimize post timing with Best Time Scheduling.
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:
Using 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):
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.
Re-share 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:
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 Sept. 16, 2019.