How To Build A Social Media Editorial Calendar The Easy Way (Free Template)
We’re big believers in using social media editorial calendars. If you’re doing social media marketing, we think you should be, too. They’re indispensable for keeping organized and maintaining a high volume of quality social media content without losing your mind.
Working without a calendar right now? You can probably relate to these statements:
- “I’m constantly stressed out trying to keep up with all my social networks.”
- “We’re never prepared for anything on social media.”
- “This sucks.”
It’s time to turn chaos into cohesion with a comprehensive social media calendar. Here’s how:
- Download the template below. It’s a free Excel-based spreadsheet, pre-built with everything you’ll need.
- Learn to use it by following the advice in this post. We’ll walk through an entire calendar-based workflow that will help you get more done in less time.
Let’s get started.
Download 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).
What Is A Social Media Editorial Calendar?
A social media editorial calendar can be anything you use to plan your social media messaging. There are three types of social media calendars you can choose from:
- Printed calendars. The old-school approach. These can be helpful for mapping out content themes and making note of important upcoming events needing social media promotion.
- Spreadsheets. Shared spreadsheets are free and make collaboration easy.
- Dedicated social media calendar apps and scheduling tools. This is the most efficient and effective solution. They aren’t free, but these apps add a level of automation (plus other powerful features) that spreadsheets can’t match.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on using a spreadsheet to maintain your calendar. Then, we’ll talk a little bit about what CoSchedule can do for planning, creating, and scheduling social media posts.
Four Good Reasons To Use A Social Media Editorial Calendar
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:
Organization. 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.
Accountability. 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.
Efficiency. 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.
Effectiveness. 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 to Use Your Social Media Calendar Template
When you open up your calendar template, here’s what you’ll see:
Here’s a quick breakdown of each field:
- Network fields. Enter each social network you’ll be using here.
- Month header and day fields. Add the numerical days accordingly, if desired.
- Month tabs. There’s one tab for each month at the bottom.
- Post/Image/Link cells. You’ll place your post text, image links (to Google Drive, Dropbox, or similar service), and URLs each post should link to here.
How to Build Your Workflow Around Your Calendar
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
Let’s begin with a hypothetical social media campaign. Maybe you’re promoting:
- A blog post or article
- A landing page
- An event
- A contest
- A brand or product, in general
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
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.
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.
Understand the Mechanics of Social Media Scheduling
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:
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 “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:
Four 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. 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).
Use 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.
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.
Here’s How to Do All This With CoSchedule
Free calendar options can be useful. However, they do have limitations. Here are a few examples:
- 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.
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.
Social Helpers + Social Campaigns Make Creating Posts Easy
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.
Automate Your Social Scheduling
CoSchedule is designed to make scheduling social media posts easy. Once your content is created, you can schedule posts to automatically publish when you’d like. Or, you can use Best Time Scheduling to make sure every post publishes at the most optimal time.
Measure Your Results With Social Engagement Reports
Your boss and clients want to know how your work is performing. With Social Engagement Reports, you can easily track your social media performance:
See All Your Social Media Content In One Place
CoSchedule’s interface lets you see all your social media posts in one place. It also makes it easy to see all your posts alongside your other content, giving your entire team full visibility on what’s getting published, and when:
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.
This post was originally published on May 18th, 2016. It was updated and republished on April 28th, 2017.