Social media practitioners and managers know it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of managing multiple social media accounts, especially with a constant flow of new content, news and ideas. That’s why utilizing a well-planned, organized social media calendar template is so essential.
In this article, we’ll break down the basics of using a social media calendar, along with key benefits and strategies to help manage your social content.
What is a social media calendar?
A social media calendar is a strategic, hyper-detailed plan of upcoming posts for all of your social channels organized by publish date and time. Along with the publish date and time for posts, your social media calendar can also include links, tags, @-mentions, copy and media, such as images and video.
You can use a digital calendar, spreadsheet or a social media management platform like Sprout that offers an interactive dashboard and the ability to schedule posts.
Benefits of using a social media calendar
A content calendar is the key to a successful social media plan because there are so many benefits to using one from saving time to streamlining collaboration.
Here are a few:
1: Saves time and widens team bandwidth
A social media calendar saves time by staying organized, especially when managing multiple accounts. As a social media manager, planning out a social calendar months in advance saves you from scouring trending topics and news stories every day looking for ideas. It will also give you more bandwidth to track and test different strategies to see what resonates most with your audience. Your team will also have more time to focus on creating high-quality content.
2: Maintain a consistent posting schedule
Of course, there’s no hard rule for how much you should post, but it’s important to post frequently to maintain an active presence. A social media content calendar allows teams to prioritize quality, not quantity. Plus, planning will also build greater consistency in terms of your brand voice and style, rather than posting in a reactive or unplanned way.
3: Quality assurance and brand safety
Proactive scheduling allows social teams to check their work and protect their brand’s reputation. It’s easier to catch a typo or prevent a potential public relations crisis when you aren’t rushing and a workflow approval process is in place. Using a social media calendar will help catch these mistakes sooner rather than later.
4: Streamline cross-functional collaboration
A well-crafted social media calendar improves visibility because it provides an overview of all upcoming content. A content calendar streamlines communication and cross-functional collaboration because everyone can look at the calendar and know what lies ahead. It also promotes alignment for department or organizational-wide initiatives because it provides a set posting schedule. Having a posting schedule is important because your social media should support your overall organizational marketing efforts.
For example, your team can ensure social posts sync up with larger campaigns. Stakeholders in the campaign can easily view what you have planned and provide feedback, if necessary.
How to create a social media content calendar
1. Conduct a social media audit
Before creating your social media content calendar, you need to conduct a social media audit of past content to evaluate your current online presence.
Consider the following during your audit:
- Important metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each account by platform to define success
- Your brand’s goals for each account by platform
- Your target audience
- Highest and lowest performing posts and campaigns
- Opportunities for improvement or experimenting
- Publishing frequency
Pull together native analytics from sources like Twitter Analytics or Facebook Insights. If you’re using Sprout Social, you will find metrics across multiple social networks in one place: Sprout’s Report Builder.
Pay attention to your brand’s analytics to pin down what could be contributing to your highest and lowest performing posts. If you want even more ideas for your calendar, consider doing a competitive analysis during your audit. Auditing a competitor in your industry can help you identify gaps.
Completing an audit will help you identify how to curate posts for your social media calendar template and what content you should create for your audience. The goal is to give you a strategy to fill each day of your content calendar. If you’re able to identify what’s going well and opportunities for improvement, you’ll be better positioned to meet your brand’s goals.
2. Use a social media calendar template
Create a social media content calendar template to stay organized, streamline workflows, improve collaboration and track metrics. Your social media calendar template should include the following:
- Social media networks and accounts
- Date and time
- Social copy including hashtags and links
- Media (GIFs, images, video, etc.)
- Approval steps
- Space for collaboration and feedback notes
- Key (a color-coordinated key with labels to organize your content)
Level up your social media content calendar template with these advanced additions:
- Published post links
- UTM tracking links
- Network-specific format (Story, feed post, short-form video like Reels or TikTok, etc.)
- Associated campaigns, like a new product launch
- Approval status
- Paid or organic post (include budget details for paid posts)
These additions provide more context, especially if you want to dig deeper into tracking performance. For example, UTM tracking links enable you to measure traffic from a platform, traffic type (referral, paid or organic) and the specific campaign that brought the traffic in.
Use a digital calendar or spreadsheet for your template, or automate your calendar building with tool like Sprout’s social media calendar to lower the lift on your end.
3. Select your social media channels and content types
Now that you’ve completed an audit and created a social media content calendar template, you’re ready choose the channels and type of content you want to post.
Which channels does your audience engage with the most? And what types of content resonate with them? Lean on your analytics while brainstorming your social media post ideas and identify themes and/or categories to determine the type of content your will schedule in the content calendar.
Once you have a few basic topics in mind, go deeper with a research tool like social listening to learn more about what your audience wants to see. By using listening for competitive research, you’ll see a comprehensive view of the hashtags, keywords, brands and topics that engage with your audience across different social channels. Use this information to plan posts that are highly relevant to your audience and expand your reach to others who may be interested in your content.
Overall, make sure that the majority of the content you work into your social media calendar is intended to help your audience. While the exact mix will vary depending on your brand, niche and the types of content your audience responds to the most, a good rule of thumb is to make two-thirds of the content informational and one-third or less promotional.
While promotional content tends to be sales-focused, a constant stream can alienate followers, making it essential to prioritize engagement over selling in your social media calendar. For example, on Instagram we feature Sprouters talking about their favorite emojis:
4. Define a social media calendar posting schedule
Once you have an idea of the types of content you’re going to post, you’ll need to create a posting schedule to help keep track of ideal times for publishing.
You should aim for a sweet spot based on your audience’s preference, because social moves fast—posting too much, too little or too late can result in dropped engagement. Posting frequently is important, but don’t emphasize quantity over quality. Be wary of sharing content that is irrelevant or redundant for the sake of meeting a posting quota.
Consider the patterns that arose from your audit and competitive analysis. Take a look at publish dates and times for each platform and make a note of any specific themes. This information will help you organize and plan your posts to get the most visibility.
There’s a lot of competing information on publishing cadences. Some professionals recommend posting as regularly as possible to stay top of mind. Others suggest only posting if you have high quality and valuable information to add to the conversation.
There are also best practices around the best times to post on social media, on each platform, broken down by specific industries and niches. Check out our guide on how often to post on social media per channel to learn more. Sprout’s data science team analyzed posting frequencies for more than 30,000 Sprout Social customers to determine the industry average for some of the most popular social media networks.
Sprout also takes the guesswork out of posting cadences by analyzing the best times for you. Using a tool like Sprout’s ViralPost® feature helps you target posting times based on your individual audience data. ViralPost reviews this data and suggests Optimal Send Times for each platform you use.
5. Track and analyze your social media content calendar
Your social media calendar isn’t just a planning tool. It’s also a way to track and measure metrics across every platform you use. Analyze the information you collect from your social media campaigns and continue to optimize your social media calendar.
If you tag posts to specific campaigns, you can keep track of content that may need to be optimized or repurposed. When content performs well, save it or make a note to reintroduce it again in the future when it’s time to reevaluate your strategy again or brainstorm more upcoming posts.
For example, Sprout’s Asset Library lets you store videos, text and images in an easy-to-access library so you can re-incorporate high-performers into your social media strategy. Storing everything in a pre-approved library also ensures that all creative assets are on point in terms of quality and brand style guidelines.
Account for specific campaigns across different social platforms. Different social media platforms serve different purposes, so you should plan strategically when looking to increase the reach of a given post on other platforms. It’s important to remember that just because a post is popular on one platform, doesn’t mean it will perform well on others.
6. Improve your social media calendar by sharing across teams
You probably work frequently with other teams within your organization since social is a key pillar for many brands’ marketing strategies. Social media collaboration can strengthen your content and help your brand reach organizational goals. Seek feedback from your team and marketing stakeholders to improve your social media calendar. The goal here is to iterate your social media calendar as your marketing strategy and business evolves.
Including teams outside marketing will give you fresh ideas for things to post, while also supporting priorities across the organization. The product team can let you know when new features, services or products will be launching. Human resources and public relations can remind you of important dates and company milestones worth posting about.
Modern social teams work with a variety of teams and stakeholders, so you need an easy and reliable way to make sure that everyone involved can access the right tools, accounts and organize their deliverables. When your calendar is integrated into a social media management platform like Sprout Social, you increase the visibility of what needs to be created and approved across contributors.
Sprout’s content calendar include tools like approval workflows that emphasize collaboration so you can grant people in different departments access to relevant parts of the social media calendar.
Social media calendar apps
There are many social media management tools and social media scheduling tools out there to choose from. Here’s a quick overview of our top three favorite tools:
Google Calendar and Sheets are free and fairly intuitive to use. There are a bounty of social media calendar templates you can use from Google Sheets and Calendar. Both apps can be used to allow users to easily view upcoming posts and add comments for feedback and other collaboration.
Notion is a powerful note taking app, but it’s also a tool for marketers. The app has a database feature that can be used to create templates, including social media calendars. Notion is highly customizable and collaborative so users can easily view the status of content and give feedback via comments all within one platform.
Okay, so yes, we’re definitely tooting our own horn here, but Sprout’s tools will truly help your social media team.
Our interactive content calendar’s publishing and scheduling tools are designed to increase visibility, improve team efficiency and boost customer loyalty, so social teams have more bandwidth for creative efforts, like participating in relevant trends. For instance, you can follow up on your scheduled posts by establishing a process for responding and engaging with your audience.
With Sprout, you can assign replies to different members of the team, which ensures that your followers always get a timely response when they tag you or comment on a post. Sprout’s Asset Library can also be used to create Auto-Responses and Saved Replies to frequently asked questions on social media. If your company handles support through a separate social media team your marketing team can always control the messaging, no matter who is posting.
Essentially, Sprout’s interactive content calendar allows you to manage the social experience, end to end.
Level up with a social media calendar
Your time is too valuable to spend deciding what to post every single day. A well-planned social media content calendar lets you use your time to plan for the future and focus on other aspects of your marketing strategy. Take your content planning to the next level with Sprout’s social media calendar features.