It’s not enough to show up on social media platforms. In this fast-paced, crowded digital environment, you need a plan. And that starts with a social media content calendar.
Fortunately, creating an engaging, profile-boosting social media content calendar isn’t difficult. You’ll just need a bit of diligence and know-how to get through the billions (yes, billions) of users, groups, and businesses on social networks to get to those interested in your brand—and we can help with the latter.
Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to build a consistent, on-brand social media calendar that boosts engagement and helps you achieve your business goals.
No, this isn’t a hack for going viral or a get-rich-quick scheme. This is a how-to guide for creating an online community and interacting with your audience.
Whether you’re a budding influencer, small business owner, or seasoned marketing professional, this guide will give you the knowledge and tools to thrive in the dynamic realm of social media.
What is a social media content calendar?
A social media content calendar acts as a central hub to help you plan, schedule, and track your social media posts across platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and more. It provides a bird’s-eye view of your content strategy, allowing you to see how your posts align with your overall marketing goals and maintain a cohesive brand presence.
Many marketing professionals make the mistake of treating a social media content calendar as a schedule. They plan the content, use a social media management tool to schedule posts, publish accordingly, and move on with their day.
But that’s far from the purpose of a social media content calendar. Yes, consistency is crucial, but you can do that without any nifty software or strategic plan.
A social media content calendar helps you plan content to align with your business’ goals. It helps you stay focused and not get lost and distracted by the latest and greatest, especially when platforms release dozens of new features and people at your company tap your shoulder (incessantly) to promote their content.
You just can’t say yes to everyone. It’s not the right way forward. You need a plan, and your social media content calendar serves as a guiding compass in the vast realm of social media responsibilities, providing structure, organization, and strategic direction to your content creation and distribution efforts.
Build it. Analyze it. Adapt it.
How to create a social media calendar
Every social media calendar looks different. Some companies focus on witty, bantering messaging rather than promotional content (we’re looking at you, Wendy’s). Others use social media to evangelize their company’s culture and recruit new talent.
Your social media calendar will be unique to your business’ goals, culture, and industry. Sure, you can start with a template, but these can often send you in a direction you don’t want to go. And that often starts with the wrong purpose in mind.
Don’t start with content, dates, publishing frequency, platforms, or any of that. These things are critical but not your priority—these are only means to accomplish your goals.
Instead, start with the goals. The rest of the pieces will follow.
1. Set goals for your social media program
Setting goals for your social media program is like charting a course before embarking on an adventure. It lays the foundation for success and directs your efforts toward achieving meaningful outcomes. Whether striving to expand your brand’s reach, drive website traffic, generate leads, or foster deeper connections with your audience, defining clear and measurable goals is a crucial step in creating an effective social media content calendar.
Without intentional goals, you might end up with a massive social media following that never buys your products or engages with your brand—which doesn’t do anything for your company.
You’ll also want to avoid vanity metrics and focus on business goals that move the needle in your favor. These goals may change with time, and that’s OK—the point is to focus on where you are now and where you plan to go in the near future.
Does your business need to build awareness? Focus on growing your audience and spreading the word—website traffic and sign-ups can follow later.
Here are other goals to consider:
2. Identify content that supports your goals
Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Everything you post on social media should align with a goal you set. If you can’t connect a post back to a goal, reconsider whether you should publish it.
You may also want to consider that different content types serve different purposes. Whether you aim to educate, entertain, inspire, or spark conversations, you need to understand the power behind the medium you choose.
Want to start a conversation? Don’t lead your following off the platform with a link or a video. Instead, post a text-only question.
Need to get your audience’s attention? Use a vibrant image to stand out in the feed and get scrollers to stop and notice.
3. Be present on the right social media channels
You don’t need to be on every social media platform—nor should you. You have finite time and resources to spend on social media, and there’s no point in wasting bandwidth on unproductive channels.
Use the fact that each platform has unique characteristics that cater to different activities, demographics, and user behaviors. For example, someone is probably more likely to shop via Pinterest rather than Twitter, and a group is more likely to form on Facebook than TikTok.
Here are a few high-level characteristics of the most popular platforms:
- Instagram: Visual storytelling
- LinkedIn: Professional networking
- Twitter: Conversational engagement
- Facebook: Expanding audiences
- YouTube: Captivating video content
- TikTok: Short-form, viral video content
- Snapchat: Limited-time video sharing
- Pinterest: Inspirational collections
- Reddit: Community-driven discussions
4. Engage your audience
When planning your content, engagement should be at the heart of all that you do. Don’t just post to post. Post for your audience to take action.
Give them a reason to engage. Tell them what to do. Take them on a journey.
Consider yourself the facilitator. Then, think about how you’ll get your audience’s attention and inspire them to take action.
Remember, they have busy days and dozens of other messages on their screen at once. So why should they stop and listen to you?
Here are a few ways your brand can engage with your audience:
- Two-way conversations: Engage in direct, real-time conversations with your followers. This could be actively responding to comments, liking content, sending messages, and replying to mentions.
- Compelling content: Captivate your audience by creating and sharing compelling content that aligns with their interests and needs. This could be educational content, entertaining videos, behind-the-scenes looks, user-generated content, or thought-provoking discussions. Above all: provide value.
- Irresistible storytelling: Tell your story and connect with your audience on a deeper level. By sharing authentic narratives, brand values, and experiences, you can create an emotional connection with your audience.
- Can’t-miss discounts and deals: Help consumers discover your brand with a healthy discount on a much-wanted item. If you surprise and delight them enough, they’ll probably want to follow your brand for more deals.
- Influencer collaborations: Partner with influencers or brand advocates in your industry to help expand your reach and engage a broader audience. Influencers can create content that showcases your brand, products, or services in an authentic and relatable way, resonating with their followers and driving engagement.
5. Optimize your content
Refine the content you post. You might not know from the get-go what will resonate with your audience the most, and that’s OK.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to start on social media with a perfect plan. Instead, it’s better to dive in with an unfinished plan and polish it as you continue to collect data and learn about your audience.
For example, you might find that your audience engages better with text-only messages rather than fancy images. Learning that early on could prevent you from spending more resources on expensive graphics and videos.
6. Find the best sending times
Type in a quick Google search for the best sending times on any platform, and you’ll likely come across some data-backed studies on when you should publish your messages. This is a great place to start, but don’t think of it as a tried-and-true standard.
Remember, your competition likely read the same study.
Feel free to experiment and try posting at different times. While you might not find an engaged audience at 3 a.m. or the end of the workday, you might find more engagement during lunchtime.
It’ll all depend on your audience, industry, and content. So analyze your engagement and continue to iterate as you learn.
7. Experiment with different content
Embracing experimentation helps your brand uncover fresh ideas, gain insights into audience preferences, and drive higher levels of engagement. Here are a few reasons you should continue to try different content:
- Discover new opportunities: Uncover untapped opportunities to engage with your audience by experimenting with videos, infographics, GIFs, live streams, interactive polls, and user-generated content.
- Adapt to trends: Change your content to reflect your consumers’ changing wants and needs. Social media trends evolve rapidly, and what worked in the past may not be as effective today. By experimenting with different content, your brand can stay relevant and adapt to emerging trends.
- Test preferences: Give your audience an opportunity to vote with their likes, comments, and shares. Experimenting with different content exposes them to new things that they may like more (or less)—but you’ll never know unless you try.
- Spark innovation: Think outside the box. Push the boundaries, take risks, and try new ideas. This is the only way to find your next breakthrough.
A social media calendar serves as a planning and scheduling tool to allocate dedicated slots for experimenting with different content. Use it to organize and track the performance of various content types, ensuring that experimentation is intentional and systematic.
8. Use a social media management platform
While each platform’s native analytics provides a wealth of knowledge, a social media management platform lets you streamline all your channels in a single dashboard. You can use these software programs for the following:
- Content creation
- Cross-platform scheduling
- Social listening
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Need help getting started? Check out some of our resources:
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