How to Create a Social Media Calendar: Tips and Templates
A social media calendar is like the Marie Kondo of your entire social media strategy. It sounds like a big commitment at first, but you can be sure that this time will pay off in the future. (Not to mention preventing minor panic attacks.)
Whether it's a simple grid with a few links or a bespoke dashboard that can schedule dozens of feeds, your social media content calendar can be as simple or complex as your brand needs.
Read on and we'll walk you through the steps necessary to make your own and take a look at some real-world examples. We'll also list our most popular social media content calendar apps.
Oh, and we built some free social media calendar templates to help you get started!
But first, let's look at the compelling reasons to invest in this tool.
Bonus: Download our free, customizable social media calendar template to plan and schedule all of your content in advance.
A social media calendar is an overview of your upcoming social media posts. It can be organized in the form of a spreadsheet, google calendar, or interactive dashboard (if you are using a social media management app).
Each entry on a social media calendar usually contains a combination of these elements:
- The exact date and time the post goes live
- The social network and account where the post will be published
- The text and creative assets of the post (i.e. photos or videos)
- Links and tags to include in the post
- Additional relevant information (e.g. is this an Instagram feed post or story?)
Depending on the scope of your social media strategy, your social media calendar can include one or more social networks.
1. Save time by being organized
Your social media marketing goals have one important point in common with many other goals on your daily planner: They require effort and attention every day. Not just when you're feeling inspired (or at 11pm when everything else is done).
With a social media calendar, you can plan ahead, stack your work, avoid multitasking, and write down all of your creative brainwaves for later.
Basically, this is the best way to make sure you never again frantically scroll through generic inspirational quotes in hopes of ever finding something to post again.
And while you will be posting every day, maybe several times a day, that doesn't mean you have to watch your feeds all the time. Certain social media calendar tools allow you to plan social media posts in advance and, just as importantly, manage audience engagement from one place.
The Hootsuite planning tool does all of this if you want to try it out.
2. Post consistently
Regardless of whether you are trying to increase your Instagram likes, your YouTube subscribers or have implemented social media KPIs, the first tip from experts is always “post consistently”. There is just no shortcut around it.
Consistently appearing on your audience's feed is key to getting them engaged on social media. Impressive engagement increases your organic reach via the platform's algorithm, so your posts get new eyes and new people follow your brand. And making real connections with a growing audience is the only real way to increase your conversions.
Posting your social media calendar ahead of time will help you post consistently whether it's a slow week of news or your biggest promotion of the year.
3. Make fewer typing errors and also reduce the risk of big mistakes
By planning your posts in advance, you can incorporate fail safes into your workflow. Copying the text, fact-checking, or even checking with the organization's stakeholders like the legal department or the C-suite are much easier when you work days or weeks in advance.
Having a social media calendar – especially one with built-in approvals from team members – is the best way to prevent an inconspicuous embarrassment like posting the same message on all channels or a high-level social media crisis.
4. Be more ambitious with your social strategies
The world's largest social media brands often run multiple campaigns at the same time – long, medium and short term, paid and organic. And that's just the daily posts.
Once you've nailed your schedule, your glorious brain will be free to tackle even bigger questions. Should you have an Instagram contest? Are you starting to find influencer partners? Perhaps it is time to get your brand on LinkedIn or implement a social media advocacy program for employees.
Whether you're running a five-person content team or posting your story while mixing bleach for your client's pastel ombre long bob at 3 p.m., taking your social game to the next level means getting organized.
5. Don't miss any relevant moments
Never forget the Super Bowl again. (Or, you know, make sure to ignore it on purpose.)
A social media calendar enables you to strategically observe global moments around the world that are relevant to your brand's audience.
Like on Star Wars Day, for example.
Chewbacca walnut. # MayThe4th pic.twitter.com/ca8BFrD7xr
– Presenting & Correcting (@presentcorrect) May 4, 2019
Party words. Excellent. Https://t.co/rNfbq3ZPAN
– Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) December 31, 2019
When your daily routine is covered, you also have the creative and logistical bandwidth to deal with the brand-appropriate moment when something current comes up – like maybe Jennifer Aniston becomes Instagram or an egg becomes bigger than before.
6. Create higher quality content
Social media manufacturing values have skyrocketed from the very beginning, and the idea of a lone millennial wolf tweeting memes from his beanbag chair has hit the road of jegging. (Okay, ok, except whoever is behind Moonpie.)
Today it is not uncommon for a whole team of creative people to be behind a single social media post: copywriters, designers, video editors, photographers. And asking your team of hard-working artists to drop everything on an emergency Instagram story won't win your heart or mind. (And you're not even guaranteed to get involved if it feels careless or intrusive.)
A social media calendar will help you effectively allocate your resources – both human and digital – so your team has the opportunity to do their best work.
And a long-term vision means you are promoting a consistent brand voice and content that supports your marketing goals.
7. Track what is working and improve it
What is planned is done and what is measured is improved.
Your social media analysis has a lot of insights for you. A social media content calendar offers the opportunity to plan your experiments for improvement. Schedule your A / B tests until you find the right recipe for the type of content, format, post frequency, and best time of day to post for each social platform.
There are 8 steps to creating an effective social media calendar:
- Monitor your social networks and content
- Choose your social channels
- Decide what your calendar needs to keep track of
- Create a content library for your assets
- Establish a workflow
- Start creating your posts
- Invite your team to review and use their feedback to improve
- Start publication / planning
Pro Tip: If this is your first time creating a social media calendar, you might want to open up our guide on creating a social media marketing strategy first. Your calendar will be all the better if you have clear goals to back it up.
1. Check your social networks and content
Developing a clear picture of your current social media endeavors can help you identify areas for improvement and opportunities for new endeavors. An audit is key to fine-tuning your content strategy and maximizing your ROI.
Start with our social media audit template. This leads to precise and up-to-date data on:
- Fraudulent accounts and outdated profiles
- Account security and passwords
- Goals and KPIs for each brand account, by platform
- Your audience, demographics, and personalities
- Who is responsible for what work on your team?
- Your most successful posts, campaigns and tactics
- Gaps, disappointing results and opportunities for improvement
- Key metrics to measure future success on any platform
Allow some time to go through all of your social assets. Then you can be sure that you are tackling your updated social media strategy with the best information. That is the information that is unique to your audience, accounts, and brand.
2. Choose your social channels
It seems like every social media manager we know received the same Slack message last year. Some random higher go Hey there! (Sunglasses Emoji) Why aren't we on TikTok?
(Pro Tip: Have an impartial third party send your boss a link on 6 things you should never tell your social media manager)
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it takes joint efforts to find the time to stay up to date on new developments. For example, should your brand care about Instagram threads? And is your audience on TikTok at all?
This is why you should take a minute to make sure you are clear about the user demographics of each social media platform. And also review business marketing strategy best practices. Of course, we've put together the most comprehensive guides here at Hootsuite:
We're not saying you have to go into Freshman Organic Chemistry exam mode and take it all in at once. During the break after lunch, just take a few reading breaks for professional development and you'll be gushing with new insights and ideas in no time.
3. Decide what dates your social media content calendar needs to track
When you're figuring out what this beautiful beast will look like (and where it will live, aka a permanently open Chrome tab between Gmail and Slack), you want to see the information and functionality that this tool will bring you.
Maybe you're starting over to, say, your sideline by doing social for local indie rappers. In this case, a simple spreadsheet might do the trick.
But when you're running a team of seven with a dozen different consumer-centric brands, you want something that tells you who's doing what, when, when it's approved, when it's released – and then how successful it has been.
(Spoiler: Sometimes a spreadsheet isn't enough, so there's a list of all of our favorite tools at the end of this article.)
So we recommend that you start with basic details:
- Time (and time zone)
- Visuals (e.g. photo, video, illustration, infographic, GIF, etc.)
- Link to assets
- Link to the published article
Also add advanced details that you may find helpful. (You can always delete them later if they are redundant.) Details such as:
- Platform-specific format (e.g. feed post, IGTV, story, survey, live stream, ads, shoppable posts, etc.)
- The industry or campaign it is associated with (e.g. product launch, event, contests, annual donations, general brand awareness, customer service, etc.)
- Geo-targeting (i.e. global, North American, etc.)
- Value (i.e. is it a short-lived current post or a big budget evergreen showpiece that could be recycled or cannibalized for parts across the board?)
- Paid or Organic? (If paid, additional budget details can be helpful)
- Has it been approved?
- Has it been posted? (If so, would you like to add the link to his UTM?)
- Analysis and Results (In general, with this level of complexity, you will likely rely on your analysis reports to include and explain this information.)
4. Create a content library for your assets
Some people call these content repositories or media resource databases or digital asset banks.
Regardless of what you call it, your range of visual content shouldn't be stored on your iPhone or in a series of desktop folders labeled “Misc Social”. (Ok, ok, at least don't keep them there permanently.)
You can use Dropbox, Google Drive, your company's internal network, or bespoke database software. A social media content library has a few important functions:
- It's roomy enough for large files;
- It's accessible from both your phone and your computer (trust me in that case);
- It can be easily shared with team members, but you can trust its privacy features.
- It provides links to individual files so you can add them to your calendar (or possibly natively linked to your calendar).
The way you set up your content library is almost as important as your social media calendar. The less you have to search for assets, the better.
For example, the Hootsuite content library feature is seamlessly integrated with the calendar feature, so you barely notice that they are two different tools. See how it works in the video below.
5. Establish a workflow
Ok, now that you've gathered all sorts of information, it's time to outline the bones of your daily, weekly, and monthly social media cadence.
You want to think about:
Pro Tip: Once you've outlined a social media workflow, be sure to document it in an easily accessible place (e.g., on a separate tab in your social media calendar table). The more complex your team is, the more helpful it is to break down definitions and processes so that you don't reply to texts from colleagues when you want to sniff beignets in the French Quarter or perform a root canal treatment.
This example from the NGO Digital Opportunity Trust for Social Innovation shows how their communications team has a Policies tab on their calendar with helpful resources like branding and official graphics.
Source: Digital Opportunity Trust
6. Start creating your posts
At this point, you're probably raging with ideas, right? Take some time to go through that old misc social folder and put together some discreet posts.
As you work, evaluate how your calendar feels. If it is tedious and delicate, you may want to call back some details. Or maybe it's not detailed enough and you need to add a few columns. (Or maybe it's just … kind of ugly, in which case check out our lovely free templates in the next section.)
Source: the author
On the other hand, if you're at a loss for posts beyond next Tuesday, here's a cheat sheet for social media content ideas.
7. Invite your team to review and use their feedback to improve
Now that you've laid the foundations of your corporate empire, it's time to showcase your work to the world, or at least your colleagues.
You want your calendar to be moderately intuitive, so send an invitation out to the people who need to use it every day (or every day you're on vacation).
Ask them to put it through its paces and schedule a meeting so everyone can share the results. You will likely find some loopholes.
- Does everyone have the passwords they need?
- Do people understand UTM parameters?
- Do you have an unrepentant hashtag abuser on your team?
- Anyone know how to find, download, and upload the high resolution infographic the designer created for the Jan 18 Thought Leadership article for LinkedIn? If not, can you easily find out?
By the end of this step, you should have an airtight document that even the newest team member can understand.
8.Start publishing (or planning)
As Rafiki says to Simba, it's time. Your social media calendar is set up and ready to go.
As you start posting consistently, you may find that it still takes time to sit down and manually publish your posts. This is especially true if you are working with some high volume feeds.
In this case, it is best to use a calendar that also has a scheduling function.
Examples of social media calendars
You may be wondering: what do these calendars really look like at the end of the day? Well, we have some real-world social media content calendar examples for you.
1. National Geographic editorial calendar
First, let's take a look at how senior editorial eyes view long-term content planning.
This is not a social media content calendar, but magazine editorial calendars are usually created with potential advertisers in mind. Its purpose is to give advertisers an idea of what's going to happen, issue by issue.
These calendars look great, are succinct, and just describe the biggest snag. They usually also contain demographic characteristics of the audience and mission statements. If you're showcasing your boss – or you're an influencer looking to showcase your talents to potential brand partners – an editorial calendar might be the thing.
Source: National Geographic
2. Digital Opportunity Trust internal social media content calendar
One of the hardest things to find on the internet – believe us, we checked – is what an actual working social media calendar looks like. Fortunately, Anne Patterson, Director of Communications and Digital Engagement at DOT, sent us a few screenshots of what her team looks like every day.
DOT's social media content calendar is clean and concise, so all of their channels can be seen at a glance – including their proprietary Innojo platform.
Meanwhile, DOT's Content Library tab acts as a self-explanatory pen for inspiration, evergreen content, and unplanned future posts.
3. Hootsuite internal social media calendar
Our third and final example is where we put our money, where our mouth is. See what Hootsuite's internal social media team is up to in Google Sheets.
The Hootsuite social media team uses both Google Sheets and the Hootsuite Planner. This Google Sheets calendar (above) serves many channels with multiple posts per day.
Users scroll horizontally to view different platforms and vertically to view future or past data. And when posts go live, the text is struck through. (It's very satisfying.)
In the meantime, the column "Content / Topic" has become so important that it has its own key in a separate tab:
The team also maintains an “evergreen” tab sorted by platform so that high-quality resources are readily available at any time of year.
According to social media manager Amanda Wood, due to the large amount of content that Hootsuite publishes, Sheets is helpful for sketching content across all channels, often well in advance. The team can enter placeholder posts (i.e. posts with no finished copy, links, or assets) to understand the state of the country and ensure a healthy mix of topics.
In the Hootsuite Planner, however, the completed social media posts from Hootsuite with their attached assets are mapped in preparation for planning and publication.
When you're ready to get started, we have two Google Sheets templates for you to check out. Just open the link, make a copy, and start planning.
Social media calendar template
This calendar template makes room for the big four big platforms and focuses on a weekly scale. But it's highly customizable, and you can make it your own.
Like the editorial calendar above, only open the file and make your own copy. Make sure you create a new tab for each month and plan your editorial content week after week.
Bonus: Download our free, customizable social media calendar template to plan and schedule all of your content in advance.
Among the many helpful items on this calendar, don't miss the tab for evergreen content. This is a content repository for blog posts that always work well on social networks despite seasonality. It contains:
- Type of content
- Original release date (keep track of this so you know when it is time for an update)
- Best performing social copy
- Best performing image
Social media editorial calendar template
This template is for Planning of individual content assets. Think blog posts, polished videos, new research, etc. In other words, this is where you plan the content that your social media activities will promote.
Create a new tab for each month and plan your editorial content week by week.
Click here to use our editorial calendar template in Google Sheets.
Calendar apps and tools for social media content
In all honesty, there are probably as many different social media content calendar tools out there as there are social media managers. (Fire department wall calendar? Microsoft Outlook? Do what you want!)
Do we even have to list that? Yes. Google Sheets is your social media kitchen's microwave oven: you won't brag about it to your foodie friends, but life without it would be unnecessarily complicated.
And while it can take a little longer to get started with pivot tables (or just make things look decent), our handy social media calendar templates at least take care of that second point.
Our most popular social media content calendar tool (you knew it was coming) is, of course, the Hootsuite Planner.
It even dwarfs our trusted Google Sheets because you can Draft, preview, plan and publish all of your social media posts straight from the calendar.
The Hootsuite Planner works for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.
The social media calendar, which you can create using the Hootsuite planner, is interactive. You get your visual overview, all your assets (text, visuals, links) in one place. From there, you can easily publish, schedule, or edit your posts.
If you're part of a larger social media team, this is easy to do Share the calendar with your colleagues and supervisors, and even Create custom approval workflows this will help you to keep an eye on your full content calendar.
Hootsuite can even help you with that Find the best time to post for each of your social media accounts. Using the Best Time To Post feature will help you prepare all of your upcoming content for success.
To learn more about scheduling and publishing content with Hootsuite, watch this video:
Once you have your social media content calendar planned, use Hootsuite Planner to plan all of your social media posts, interact with your followers, and track the success of your efforts. Sign up for a free trial today.
Easily manage all of your social media in one place and Save time with Hootsuite.