What do cross country road trips, wedding speeches and social media marketing have in common? Planning.
You could improvise all three, but it’s better to have a plan of which direction you’re going – especially when developing your social media content strategy.
By now, most marketers are realizing that social media plays an essential role in an effective inbound marketing strategy. With so many social networks to manage and publish, it’s important to stay organized and have a plan for when and what to share on these platforms.
The benefits of using a social media content calendar
We are all busy. And when we’re busy with no plan for the tasks we need to do, things inevitably slip through the cracks. Social media content is no exception.
Just like blogging, a successful social media strategy requires regular posting and working with followers to produce positive results – be it in terms of SEO, brand awareness, lead generation, or all three.
If you’re not already using a social media content calendar, listen to me:
- Calendars help you organize yourself to avoid the dreaded mess when something comes up. With a social media calendar, marketers can schedule posts for entire weeks or months in advance. This saves working time developing strategies for the future – and removing posts about breaking news in your industry. Otherwise, you will be spending precious time every day searching the internet for that day’s content to share. This is a well known productivity killer.
- A calendar allows you to schedule each social network to adjust posts instead of spamming all platforms with the same message. Social media marketers should take the time to create custom messages for each network. Doing this ahead of time will save you time all week and make sure you are thoughtful and deliberate when posting.
- You can use calendars to track performance and schedule future posts. Without a calendar, social media marketers post content in the air and are unable to keep track of the bigger picture and past performance. With a calendar, marketers can look back and analyze what content is performing best in order to tailor their strategy accordingly.
- With the help of a calendar, marketers can schedule holidays and observance daysB. National Cat Day, when they can customize their content and appeal to a wider audience.
After you understand the benefits of having a social media content calendar, check out our list of top tools to stay organized and keep track of your game.
Social media content calendar tools to help you schedule your messages
1. HubSpots downloadable template for Excel
Marketers may already be using Excel for various types of reports and data analysis in their roles, but it’s also an extremely useful tool for organizing social media content calendars. Excel can be customized based on the priorities or metrics a team is focusing on. Hence, it is an excellent tool for planning ahead.
The good news? We’ve already done the heavy lifting for you by using Microsoft Excel to create a free, downloadable calendar template for social media content. Marketers can use this template to easily schedule individual social media posts – monthly or yearly – while keeping an eye on events, holidays, publications, and partnerships.
- Use the Monthly planning calendar tab above for a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in the content pipeline in any given month.
- By doing Content Repository tabUsers can record the content they post on this tab to keep track of which articles have been promoted and to easily retrieve older content that can be re-promoted on social media.
- On the Social Network Update Tabs allow users to create and schedule social media posts in advance. These tabs are for organizational purposes and the content of the posts themselves must be uploaded to a social media publisher.
Further information on using the templates can be found in these detailed instructions from my colleague Lindsay Kolowich.
This free resource can be used to create social media posts or uploaded in bulk to a publishing app for maximum efficiency. (HubSpot customers: Use this table to organize content and upload it directly to your social inbox. For instructions, see the template cover sheet here.)
2. Google Drive
Content calendar and asset organization
Google Drive has several helpful features that social media marketers can use to easily create an effective content calendar.
Here’s an example of how a team can use Google Calendar to keep track of both their editorial and social media calendars, and make sure posts are aligned with new blog content. These calendars can easily be shared among multiple teams to avoid planning conflicts and to ensure that the campaigns are aligned.
Marketers can also use shared Google Sheets to schedule social media posts, track the status of various content, and assign tasks to team members – all on the same platform as their calendar.
Using Google Docs, users can keep comments in one place and collaborate on different projects without having to email back and forth or schedule a meeting. This is a particularly useful feature when editing social media content that may need to be created and approved quickly.
(HubSpot customers: You can link your Google Drive account to your HubSpot portal to easily upload files from Drive to your HubSpot software.)
Content planning, creation, publishing and calendaring
If you want to get more miles out of a content calendar than posting dates, you can turn to an all-in-one content planning and posting platform like Loomly.
Loomly offers tools that go beyond managing content and even provide inspiration and ideas for creating content. You can also manage your content items, schedule posts, manage them in both a list view and a calendar view, and analyze what works.
However, its most robust features include a collaboration and approval environment where teams can submit models, make comments, view version logs, and mark up for approval. This can help you optimize efficiency when it otherwise looks like there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” on a given project.
Task management and content calendar
Trello is another organizational tool that is very effective for team collaboration. Trello also offers a full calendar view (see above) that makes it easy to visualize what content is running out and when. In particular, social media managers can use Trello’s flexible assignment cards and customizable boards and lists to create to-do lists, manage a content calendar, plan a campaign, and brainstorm ideas.
They’re not limited to just one structure, however: users can customize boards to suit their needs. For example, a team could create a forum to organize social media posts for a specific week on a specific platform, or to post ideas on a topic like a campaign or awareness day.
Trello cards allow a ton of customization too. You can follow the progress of completing a checklist. This can be helpful for social media marketers who want to track campaign progress.
In addition, Trello cards can be assigned to different team members, marked with due dates and commented on. Users can even customize labels with different posting statuses so the entire team can see the progress of their social media posts and when they are due on the calendar. The labels can also refer to various social networks on which content is published.
Social publishing and content calendar
Sprout Social’s social media calendaring and posting tool makes it easy for teams or individuals to plan and schedule all of their social posts. You can schedule content to be automatically published to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more.
You can also tag each social post and add notes to better track and report on your posting strategy and campaigns. In addition, the publishing suite includes a tool called Optimal Send Times that analyzes your social media data and automatically publishes it at a time when your audience is most engaged.
Content calendar, task management and asset organization
Evernote is a note taking app that marketers can use to keep track of all of the moving parts of a social media campaign.
The tool also provides annual, monthly, weekly, and hourly logs that make it easy to keep track of when you post content on social media, when you blog, and other team-wide priorities. (Evernote has customizable templates for each of these templates that can be downloaded into the app.)
Another useful feature? Evernotes Web Clipper Extension for Chrome. This tool makes it easy for marketers to save links to their Evernote notebook for later sharing.
The Evernote mobile app also has some great features that marketers can use to clarify their social content ideas. For example, you can easily take a photo and save it to your Evernote files for review later.
This feature is especially useful for social content creators who want to keep a backlog of photos to post on Instagram.
Social publishing and content calendar
Hootsuite has a built-in scheduler tool that you can use to create campaigns, identify publication gaps, and collaborate with your team on content creation. The main functions are in social publishing, so you can share content with your networks in advance. However, it also has extensive post-publication collaboration and approval features. You can even curate content from other sources without logging into your account. Once your content has been created, you can preview it using the composer tool, which will be displayed according to each social network’s unique format.
Social publishing and content calendar
Similar to Hootsuite, Agorapulse offers social publishing tools and a content calendar that make it easy to manage your social media accounts. This includes scheduling (or rescheduling), queuing, and uploading posts in bulk. This is incredibly helpful for those who create quarterly or monthly content plans. What Agorapulse does differently, however, is its social inbox, which allows you to manage all interactions from different platforms in a single place. After all, content isn’t just a one-time activity. It’s also about creating awareness and engagement with your readers.
Content planning and distribution
If you want to get more out of your content calendar than just knowing when posts go online, StoryChief is a great option. With StoryChief’s intelligent calendar, you can better strategize and plan your content strategy across channels. It doesn’t just show your schedule; You can also assign tasks to employees and filter them by campaign. StoryChief describes its tool as a “content distribution platform” that unifies analysis and publication across multiple channels to simplify content creation. Best of all, it syncs with both your favorite calendar apps and HubSpot.
Content creation and management
So what about planning and creating content? ClearVoice offers tools for creating content that fits into your workflow. While they are well known for Talent Network Search, which allows you to find content creators and connect with them to work on your projects, ClearVoice also provides task management capabilities for internal and external employees. You can create, edit and approve projects in an interface that simplifies editorial management. They also have a dashboard and dynamic editorial calendar with lots of interactive features and there are integrations with other popular software.
Content creation and management
Zerys is another platform that will match you with your ideal content creation freelancers. However, it markets itself as a platform for content success, offering capabilities for planning, producing, publishing, promoting, converting, and analyzing content. You can manage an unlimited number of content projects, schedule keywords and titles for blog content, hire authors and view all deadlines in an integrated calendar. Your in-house authors can also use the platform with the project management functions offered by Zerys. It also integrates with HubSpot, making it a breeze to publish.
Social media templates
HubSpots Social Media Calendar Template
If you’re new to setting up social media calendars, HubSpot has a pre-made, free, and downloadable template that you can use to schedule weeks of posts.
HubSpot’s social media content calendar template for startups
This template is very similar to the one shown above, but it also has tabs that act as a repository for content ideas. The template also provides helpful tips for posting on specific social networks.
If you want to capture all of your ideas to create an overall plan for your social wealth, we recommend starting with this template.
Get started with your social media schedule
Now that we’ve reviewed some helpful tools to get your social media strategy into gear, experiment with them. Every social media team is different. It can be a combination of these tools that can help you efficiently execute your strategy to increase ROI.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for completeness.