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.

Are you creating social posts without a content 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.

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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.

Spreadsheets are an awesome place to start building your first social media calendar. What happens when you need more power and automation, though? Move up to CoSchedule. In this post, we’ll show not only how to use the free template included in this post, but also how to take your social scheduling to the next level with our all-in-in platform.

Get the Industry's Best Social Media Calendar

Four Good Reasons To Use A Social Media Editorial Calendar to Promote Your Content

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 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.

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.

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How to Use Your Social Media Content Calendar Template

When you open up your calendar template, here’s what you’ll see:

Social media calendar

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:

A dog on the beach

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:

A folder for your dog safety campaign

Then, upload your image:

uploaded-dog-photo

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:

Example post copy on the social media calendar

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:

Where do you find the Get Shareable Link button?

Then, paste the link from the popup into your calendar:

Paste the image link into Google Drive

Next, add your URL:

Insert URL

Finally, add in the time for your post:

Completed post on the calendar

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:

Link to custom report

Copy and paste this URL into your browser. Next, you’ll see a screen that looks like this:

Example custom report setup

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:

Social media traffic dashboard

Next, copy the link to your new Google Analytics dashboard, and paste it over the original link to the template:

Link to social media traffic report in Google Analytics

Now, you have quick access to your social media performance, direct from your calendar.

Bonus Tip: Try 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, and more (with exportable .CSV and PDF reports, too):

 

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:

Here Are The Best Times To Post On Each Social Media Network

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. 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:

 

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).

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.

 

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). Consider investing time in awesome social media content that can stand on its own.

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.

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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:

 

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)

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If you want to create social messages easily and optimize them for each network, check out our Social Media Optimizer:

Try the Social Message Optimizer

To use the social message optimizer, start by typing in your post copy:

Example post in the Social Message Optimizer

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:

Score for a social post in the Social Message Optimizer

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.

Test Different Image/Copy Combinations

Color and design 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.

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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 Oct. 11, 2017.