Ever realized that it’s been a week since you posted something on your business’ Facebook page? When did you last share something on Instagram? Got caught up in a day of meetings and didn’t engage on LinkedIn? This is why you need a social media content calendar.
There are many reasons to want to get your brand on social media: maybe you want to advertise your latest products or new events, give interested parties a behind-the-scenes look at your culture, or simply have a direct channel to casually communicate with your audience. Social media can be seen as a sort of wild west, where everything is intended to be organic and off-the-cuff, but the lack of results begotten by inconsistent behaviour have led more than one company to decide social media is a waste of time. In contrast to outward appearances, careful planning and consistent execution can win the day on social media, and there are few better places to start than with the creation of a social media editorial content calendar.
4 Reasons to Use a Social Media Content Calendar
Preparing your content in advance will ensure that you stay organized, and doing it in one chunk instead of day to day will be more efficient. We recommend creating at minimum a week of content at a time, up to a month at a time. If you prepare in advance, you won’t be stuck with nothing when things get busy.
Plan Your Content Strategy
Before you start filling out spreadsheets or writing content, think of what you want to say. Building your calendar is a great time to think about your brand’s content strategy. Sometimes it helps to start with a theme for the week or month. Decide what type of content you’re going to share on what day. Perhaps the theme for March is spring and you’ve decided you’re going to post three pieces of original content (one link, one video, one photo) and two curated pieces (other people’s content) each week relating back to that theme. You, my friends, have a content calendar.
As your social accounts mature, you’ll find what type of content resonates with your audience and you can start to fine tune your strategy to include more of what works.
Decide How Often to Post
Before you start creating content, you need to know how much you’re going to need. This can vary based on your industry, audience, and social networks being used. Some platforms like Twitter require more posts, while if you were to post on LinkedIn as much, you’re be bombarding your audience.
We recommend 1-2x day for Facebook, 1-5x day for Twitter, 1x day for Instagram, and 1-3x week for LinkedIn. Don’t take this as gospel though. Test it out and see what gets results for you and adjust accordingly.
Being consistent with your post times is another key factor for social media success, as you’re going to want to gather a significant amount of data on which times work for your audience and which don’t. To get you started, consider sticking to the times proposed by the Burrito principle – 8:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 5:30 PM and 10 PM. These are the times when people are most likely to be on social media, and therefore most likely to see your posts.
Decide on Your Content Mix
Ensure that you have a good mix of content types and messages. No one wants to follow an account that’s always selling so be sure to balance your marketing messages with other topics like brand culture, education, and entertainment. You may also want to include what we call OPC – other people’s content. If you found a valuable article that your audience would love, don’t be afraid to include it in your own social content. You can use tools such as Crate or Buzzsumo to help you find relevant content.
Be willing to repost and repurpose your content in order to maximize its lifetime value. Someone who liked your page or just started following you yesterday probably hasn’t seen a piece of content perfect for them that you posted six months ago. Don’t be afraid of repeating your posts, but don’t do it too often, either. Twitter is most forgiving of repeat content, Facebook less so. If you want to post a new piece of content, consider writing several versions of the associated update. This will not only draw more people to your content, it also allows you to identify what sort of language your audience will engage with and refine your brand’s voice.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
At this point you know what type of content you’re going to post to which channels and when. All that’s left is to organize and create. There are as many different ways to organize your calendar as there are stars in the sky. There are tools like HeyOrca, HubSpot, and SproutSocial that will let you plan and schedule all in one go, but they can sometimes be more than you need starting out. A simple, basic way to start is a spreadsheet that has a column each for date, time, content type, the content itself, and media to be included. Using Google Drive means that you can have one document that can be shared amongst a team for collaboration and also shared with a client for approvals. As your accounts and process gets more sophisticated your methods may evolve as well.
Execution Made Simple
Not only can a content calendar help get your social media efforts organized, it’s also a great tool for setting deadlines and executing on your social media strategy; you no longer have to scramble to figure out what you’re going to post, even though you should have two hours ago. You can choose to write out your updates in advance and then schedule them for when you’d like them to go out, either through the built-in functionality offered by social networks, or through a third-party tool such as Buffer or HootSuite.
Now that you’ve learned what it takes to make an effective and time-saving content calendar, you too can run your social media accounts like the pros. One last piece of advice: never rest on your laurels. Keep experimenting, because even if you find something that works for you, you’ll never be sure if there isn’t a better thing out there, and if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and move your focus elsewhere.