Social Media Calendar: The Definitive Guide (2018)

We can all agree that maintaining a consistent publishing schedule of high-quality content on social media is challenging, time-consuming and potentially costly.

Or is it?

Well, it turns out that you can make the process — and your life — incredibly easier by organizing your publishing schedule in a social media calendar.

But you are probably wondering:

“How do I create a social media calendar?”

In this guide, we are telling you everything you need to know to get up and running with your social media calendar today:


What Is a Social Media Calendar?

A social media calendar (which you might refer to as an editorial calendar) is designed to make social media content planning and posting easy, so you can keep your collaborators, clients and target audience happy, with high-quality and consistent content.

It can come in a variety of shapes and forms:

No matter which method you choose, for each post, you’ll generally want to keep track of (at least) five key elements:

  1. Which social networks you’re posting on.
  2. The date and time each post goes live.
  3. Any pictures, videos, or audio clips it uses.
  4. Comments, notes & approval from team members as the post is being created.
  5. Post-publishing metrics (such as likes, comments & shares) to track the success of each post.

We know this can feel like a lot, because it is!

But here is the deal:

Keeping track of this data is important to make sure that you’re planning ahead while analyzing and improving on the content that resonates most with your audience.

Unlike traditional marketing, where you bombard prospects with sales messages – social media is a two-way process. You need to listen, engage, show empathy, become involved, and provide value if you want to create a seamless relationship with your prospects that can eventually lead to sales

— Jeff Bullas, JeffBullas.com.

So, the real question is:


Who Needs a Social Media Calendar?

The short answer: probably every brand — from startups and SMBs to agencies and larger organizations.

A social media calendar can help you achieve your goals, whether you’re trying to expand your social media presence onto new platforms, boost followers and audience engagement, or provide structure and accountability to your creation process.

A few of our favorite benefits include:

  • For Freelancers & Agencies: collaborate efficiently with your clients, maintaining their brand identity & ensuring consistency in their brand storytelling.
  • For Startups: track important audience metrics to analyze and improve upon the success of your posts.
  • For Small & Medium Businesses: save time by planning posts at the beginning of the month and working in batch.
  • For Larger Companies: improve editorial workflow and accountability by connecting with your team at multiple stages of the publishing process.
  • For Everyone: keep your readers happy with consistent, high-quality content by optimizing your editorial workflow, tracking data on successful (and unsuccessful) posts, and moving onto the next month with new insights and new goals.

Want in?

Read on:


How To Create Your Social Media Calendar in Five Easy Steps

Here at Loomly, we’ve created this simple step-by-step guide to break down the process of organizing your social media calendar and help you manage each part of your editorial and publishing process efficiently.


Step 1 | Define Your Publishing Guidelines

Creating your social media calendar is all about producing and publishing (always) better content for your audience.

But here is the kicker:

For maximum efficiency and results, setting up an editorial calendar actually requires some groundwork before creating your first posts, in the form of defining publishing guidelines.

Those publishing guidelines are like a brief that you will be able to refer to down the line to make sure you are still in line with your strategy.

Now:

Below are the 5 essential building blocks of a strong social media calendar brief, which you can put together by making a series of very simple decisions.

Note: if you are already all set up with your social media strategy, you can jump to Step 2 | Fill Your Social Media Calendar with Post Ideas.

Step 1. 1 | Craft Your Editorial Line

Simply put, your editorial line is a set of rules that determine how you communicate.

Crafting your editorial line does not have to be a complicated process.

In fact, it can be as simple as answering a few simple questions on a one-pager:

  • Personas: who are you publishing for? (demographic, social & occupational groups.)
  • Themes: what do you want to publish about? (topics to be tackled and topics to be avoided.)
  • Hashtags: are there hashtags you want to emphasize on? (brand, product, campaign, season, “coined” term, etc.)
  • Angle: how do you want to approach the subject you publish about? (being educative, informative, entertaining, etc.)
  • Voice: who is “speaking” in your posts? (who is virtually or literally “signing” your posts.)
  • Tone: how do you talk to your audience? (with assertiveness, pedagogy, complicity, etc.)
Note: you will find a free, downloadable Social Media Publishing Guidelines template, including a section dedicated to editorial line, at the end of Step 1.5

Next:

Step 1. 2 | Choose Your Social Channels

You may already have an idea of the social networks you want to establish your brand on.

If you don’t — or if you are having second thoughts — we have put together this simple social media cheat sheet, providing you with the most synthetic definition of each platform’s unique value proposition (namely: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr, Medium, Reddit, Quora, VKontakte, Sina Weibo, & Steem.io) :

Loomly Social Media Cheat Sheet

Made your decision?

Perfect, then:

Step 1.3 | Decide How Frequently You Are Going to Publish

There are several studies around how to optimize the number of posts you publish daily so you can maximize your reach on each social media platform.

In general, more posts are better to keep your audience engaged, but we highly recommend keeping an eye out on how many high-quality posts you are able to commit to posting every week (or every month).

Quality vs. quantity. It’s the age-old battle between marketers. Is less really more or is more the new black? Less is more. But only when that content is: relevant, valuable, and personalized.

— Rebekah Radice, RebekahRadice.com

Keep in mind:

Building a brand and a community is more like running a marathon than a sprint, and consistency is the most important key success factor in the long run. (Tweet this social media word of wisdom by clicking here.)

And:

Step 1.4 | Determine Your Editorial Cadence

Editorial calendars are typically set up on either a monthly or weekly cycle:

  • Monthly calendars can help batch content work together to get a lot done faster.
  • Weekly calendars can help you pivot and adjust quickly as you adapt to new data more frequently.

The right cycle length for your team depends on how often you want to sit down, analyze the previous cycle, and prep for the next one.

Last but not least:

Step 1.5 | Define Your Approval Workflow

Your approval workflow corresponds to the process of reviewing content before it goes live, to make sure the right post gets published at the right time, in the right place, by the right person.

This helps create a layer of accountability in case a post does make it onto Facebook with a typo, or an Instagram Story goes unfortunately viral.

Depending on the size of your team and the level of accountability you need, your review and approval workflow may vary:

  • If you work on your own: a simple checklist for yourself reminding you to check your posts for potential typos, broken links and incorrect visuals will keep you on track.
  • If you need approval from one collaborator: share a similar checklist with the person in charge of approving posts, with clear approval deadlines, making sure to include some buffer to allow for some back-and-forth.
  • If you need approval from multiple collaborators: go with a more comprehensive team-wide, sign-off process to collect approval from your legal, marketing, and editorial departments before posting.
Free Bonus: click here to download your free Social Media Calendar Brief Template that shows you how to define your publishing guidelines, as defined above, in a simple and actionable way.

That’s it:

Once you have defined your editorial line, social channels, publishing frequency, editorial cadence and approval, you are in great shape to start creating content.

Let the fun begin:


Step 2 | Fill Your Calendar with Post Ideas

Going straight from a blank page to a whole bunch of fully-fledged social media posts may seem overwhelming.

Because (again) it is!

Just like with any big task, the secret is to break it down into smaller pieces.

This is where the magic happens:

At this stage, you do not need to create actual posts: all you need are post ideas.

When you start planning your ideas, you can get inspired.  It’s often easier to come up with ten ideas in one go than ten ideas individually when you’re on a deadline!

— Ian Cleary, RazorSocial.com.

And it gets better:

As you have already defined how many posts you want to publish, you now have a very clear goal to achieve.

Want to know the best part?

There is actually a simple method to hit that number, whichever it is, and that’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

This method actually works very similarly to the Rocks, Pebbles & Sand Story:

Step 2.1 | Mark Down Important Dates for Your Brand

First things first, let’s start with what you know best: your brand.

Simply list events that matter to your brand and your audience, such as:

  • Product releases, sales and special events.
  • Brand or company milestones such as anniversaries, achievements & awards.
  • Major holidays & events in your field.

You want to start with this type of post ideas, as they tend to be date-related and offer limited flexibility as to when you can publish about them.

Just like that, you should get between 30% and 50% of the post ideas you need for your next publishing cycle:

Social Media Calendar Post Ideas Important Dates

(These are your “rocks”: now, on to the “pebbles”.)

Step 2.2 | Strategize Publishes Based on Days of the Week

Planning content for your major events and holidays has probably left you with several empty dates, and you now need to try and find other inspiration to keep your publishing tempo consistent.

Before actually getting out there and finding those fresh post ideas, you want to plan carefully the days you will be publishing your remaining posts at.

As certain days are better than others for publishing, you can strategize the best dates depending on each particular social media platform you use.

Here is a brief summary of the best days to post on social media, based on proprietary research & third-party studies:

Best Days To Publish On Social Media

Now:

You can hunt for post ideas inspired by those days of the week:

  • Relative dates: leverage internet codes that everyone is familiar with, such as #TBT or #TGIF. Louise Myer’s list of 50 hashtags for each day of the week is a great place to look at for such post ideas.
  • Absolute dates: celebrations, “international days of …”, sporting events, major movie releases and season changes are all good candidates for particular dates narrowed down by those days of the week during your next publishing cycle. Check out Days of the Year, This Day in History, Topend Sports and Movie Insider for those post ideas.

This should provide you with another 20% of the posts ideas you need:

Social Media Calendar Post Ideas Days Of The Week

(These are your “pebbles”: time to take care of your “sand”.)

Step 2.3 | Fill in the Gaps with Evergreen Ideas

You are probably left with several empty dates in your social media calendar and need to find additional inspiration to keep your publishing tempo consistent.

Here are some efficient ways to source additional post ideas:

  • Feature user-generated content, such as a follower mentioning your brand or your product in one of their posts.
  • Curate content with tools such as Feedly, Pocket or Flipboard and find an insightful or interesting third-party piece.
  • Look at some of your older posts that performed outstandingly well and replicate your thought process.
  • Take a look at what competitors are doing and repurpose an idea for your brand and your audience.
  • Check out social media trends, breaking news and weather forecasts to get hot, contextual ideas.

The above should provide you with the last 30% to 50% post ideas you need for your publishing cycle:

Social Media Calendar Post Ideas Evergreen Content

(You just got yourself some “sand”: your jar is now full, great job!)

Loomly Tip: you can leverage Loomly’s built-in Post Ideas feature to fill your social media calendar. From Twitter Trends, to RSS feeds, date-based events and evergreen advice, you will never run out of inspiration.

To sum up:

At this stage, you should have a clear scheduling roadmap of what you are going to publish about, on what dates and on which social networks.

Very well done: that’s a huge achievement!


Step 3 | Create & Customize Posts for Every Social Network

It’s (finally?) time to transform your ideas into actual posts.

Note: depending on the configuration of your team and the approval workflow you defined in Step 1, your next task may vary:

  • If you are a one-person team in charge of your own brand, it’s a good time to create full & final versions of your posts.
  • If you need at least one collaborator to review and approve posts, you may want to have them review your post ideas before proceeding.

Essentially, a social media post is made of 3 elements:

  • Publishing date & time
  • Text
  • Asset

Anatomy of a Social Media Post

Let’s take a look at each element one by one.

Step 3.1 | Publishing date & time

At this stage, you should be all set in terms of publishing dates (see Step 2.2).

So, for each post, you now need to determine the best publishing time for each social network.

Here is a brief summary of the best times to post on social networks, based on proprietary research & third-party studies:

Best Times To Publish On Social Media 2018

Keep in mind:

Each audience is unique and the only sure way to find the best time to publish for yours is to experiment with different times (starting with the ones suggested above), measure your posts’ engagement rate, learn from that and start again.

Step 3.2 | Text

A social media post tends to be quite short — compared to a blog post for instance — and crafting the copy of such a post generally comes down to making a series of small decisions about a few core components:

  • Plain text: this is the core message of your post and you want it to be aligned with your editorial line and within the limitations enforced by each social network (i.e. 280 characters on Twitter).
  • Punctuation: introducing question marks and exclamation points may help liven up your post and make it more engaging for your audience.
  • Links: including a link in a post is a great way to point your audience into a direction and invite them to take action. On Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn, you will be able to decide whether you want to include link metadata in your post as well and generate a link preview (called a Twitter Card on Twitter) — or not.
  • Hashtags: using hashtags in your posts allows you to both add meaning to your message and make your post more viral, letting users find it when searching for a hashtag it includes.
  • @mentions: tagging another account in a post, be it a brand or an individual, provides you with an opportunity to ping them publicly, potentially establishing a connection between your audience and theirs.

When you publish the same post on multiple social networks, you can publish the exact same text on all platforms — there is no rule against that — but it is usually better to customize your post for each service, complying with technical limitations, community best practices and audience expectations.

For instance, if you publish the same post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn, you may want to have a base version of your post for Facebook, a shorter version for Twitter, sprinkle in hashtags for Instagram and make it a bit more formal on LinkedIn.

Loomly Tip: when you create a post in Loomly for multiple social networks, you can define some generic content that will be applied by default to all channels, and then customize that generic content for each platform.

Last but not least:

Step 3.3 | Assets

Social media posts tend to include more and more multimedia assets, such as:

  • Photos: static images & animated .GIFs are great to convey a sharp message in a snap.
  • Videos: uploaded files, live recording & stories share more information in a playful format, optimizing for the attention span of your audience.
  • A combination of the above: slideshows, albums, carousels encourage your audience to interact with your content to consume it.

While there is virtually an infinite number of ways to come up with great visuals for your social media posts, here are three you may want to consider first:

  • Original visuals: if you have some basic design or photography skills, putting together some custom assets for your brand and your audience, with tools like Adobe Photoshop, Canva or Easel.ly will generally be the best option.
  • User-generated content (UGC): another very popular option is to feature content published by your audience (with their written consent) about your brand, such as a quote, a product review or a nice picture including your product.
  • Stock photo banks: in any case, you can source nice assets from online image banks, from iStock (Getty Images), to Unsplash (free, high-resolution photos) and Giphy (animated .GIFs).

However you decide to source your assets for social media, a good idea is to create a content pool: this is a fancy word to represent a Dropbox or a Google Drive folder where you save all your visuals, both from posts already published and with future posts in mind.

Loomly Tip: you can store, organize and use photos, videos, notes, links and post templates in Loomly’s built-in intuitive Library.

Here again, if you publish the same post on multiple social networks, you will ideally want to optimize your assets for each platform in terms of file format, aspect ratio and size, to achieve the best quality possible within each service’s technical limitations.

Here you are:

You just transformed your list of post ideas into an actual content plan.

On to the next step:


Step 4 | Review, Approve & Schedule Posts

At this stage, you may be tempted to take your freshly created posts and simply put them online: that seems pretty natural.

But, what if there was a better way to proceed, allowing you to boost both the quality of your posts and the efficiency of the process to publish them?

There actually is a way:

Reviewing, approving and scheduling your posts is one of the most underrated yet crucial steps of the publishing process.

Step 4.1 | Review your posts

If you use a spreadsheet — be it Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, Google Spreadsheet or any other open source format — chances are your social media posts will look something like this at this stage:

Social Media Calendar Post Preview Spreadsheet Mockup

While that is certainly fine, such a document may not provide you with the best context to review (or preview) your posts, figure out how they will render once published and therefore how good they are.

One option is to generate mockups of your posts, for instance creating some templates with Adobe Photoshop:

Social Media Calendar Post Preview Custom Mockup

You may be thinking:

How is that additional work supposed to streamline my publishing process?

When you need to publish many posts, or when you work under tight deadlines, a clear review process makes you less prone to errors, hence meaning less work further down the road.

Step 4.2 | Approve your posts

Indeed, the number one reason why you want to generate mockups and preview your posts it to be able to approve them efficiently, i.e. in a fast and reliable manner.

Loomly Tip: Loomly automatically generates Posts Mockups for you and your team before you hit publish. No pain, all gain.

That stands true, whoever is involved in your approval workflow:

  • If you approve your own posts: this will provide you with peace of mind, making sure that WYSIWYG.
  • If you need approval from one person: sending a mockup to your manager, client or partner will make it incredibly easier for them to get back to you with a clear GO or NO GO, as well as feedback.
  • If you need approval from multiple persons: sharing a mockup will allow everyone to be on the same page, minimizing room for interpretation between your legal, marketing, product team members for instance.

As a rule of thumb, you want to proofread your posts for:

  1. Consistency with brand values (message).
  2. Compliance with brand guidelines (format).
  3. Alignment with brand strategy (goals).
  4. Any potential contextual risk (trending news).
  5. Residual typos.

Ideally, you want to implement an approval system allowing you to keep track of team feedback, save post changes and make collaborators accountable for their actions (you know, in case something goes wrong).

You can usually bet on one of the following three solutions :

  • A DIY kit: think spreadsheets, Dropbox, email & Slack.
  • A generic project management & creative suite combo: Basecamp, Asana or Monday combined with Adobe Photoshop or Canva, to name a few.
  • A dedicated social media calendar tool: Loomly offers an end-to-end collaborative review workflow including post mockups, approval statuses, commenting system & version history.

Regardless of the approach you choose, at this stage, you should have a beautiful (list of) post(s) ready to go live.

It’s (finally) showtime!

Step 4.3 | Schedule your posts

To take your carefully crafted and thoroughly approved posts from your social media calendar in front of your audience’s eyeballs, you basically have three options:

  1. Check out your social media calendar every day and manually publish your posts accordingly: this is relevant if you publish sensitive content and you want to review each post one last time right before publishing it.
  2. Create reminders in your “regular” calendar and get alerted when a post needs to get published: this is more practical if you tend to have a fluctuent schedule and you are not able to check your social media calendar every day.
  3. Schedule your posts in advance for automated publishing: this is the best option to optimize productivity and minimize publishing mistakes.

Let’s focus on Option 3, which tends to be the norm in the industry, as it provides significant upsides:

  • Never fall behind schedule: stuck in traffic? Running late for a meeting? Not a problem, your posts will still get published exactly on time.
  • Work in batch: schedule all your posts at once, for your entire publishing cycle.
  • Focus on what matters: save time on publishing and spend it on creating better content for your audience.

However:

Besides Facebook, very few social networks allow you to schedule posts ahead of time: that means you need a tool called a social media scheduler to achieve the desired results.

A quick Google Search should return plenty of options.

Assuming you have found your weapon of choice, if you have been creating your social media calendar in a spreadsheet, all you need to do at this point for each post is:

  • Select the date and time you want your scheduler to publish for you, according to what has been decided in your social media calendar.
  • Paste in the copy from your calendar to your scheduler.
  • Upload any asset from your computer or your content pool to your scheduler.
  • Schedule!

Repeat the process for each post that has been approved, look at your posts getting published automatically and relax.

Loomly Tip: as a social media calendar including a built-in scheduler, Loomly allows you to automatically schedule your posts upon approval. No more copy/paste.

Step 5 | Measure & Improve on Your Audience Engagement

Okay:

A couple of days (or even weeks) have gone by and you have published awesome posts to your social media accounts.

Now is the time to review how those posts performed and get a better understanding of what your audience really wants.

Tracking performance metrics can help you identify what went well and what went wrong for every post, helping you better connect with your audience with each new post.

As you can imagine by now, you have a couple of options to proceed:

  • Native social network analytics: most social networks provide native analytics features which help you track how well (or not so well) each post did. These tools can be convenient because they don’t require additional charges or applications, but mean that you’ll need to go to each social media platform to collect data and save everything manually into your social media calendar (or a standalone report).
  • Dedicated social media analytics tools: premium analytics features from social media management tools, or even standalone analytics tools, can provide insights across multiple social media platforms and streamline your analytics, reporting and optimization process.
Loomly Tip: Loomly’s Advanced Analytics features provide you with account, post & link metrics and let you compare performance over time.

Regardless of the approach you choose, you’ll want to keep an eye out for at least a few data points:

  • Impressions & reach are solid indicators of brand visibility, showing you respectively how many times, and by how many people, a post has been seen,
  • Likes, reactions, comments, clicks & shares are absolute measures of engagement, which tell you how, and how many times, users have interacted with a piece of content.
  • Engagement rate is the king of metrics, defined as the ratio of engagements / reach (or, sometimes, as engagements / impressions), providing you with a strong foundation to normalize and compare post performances accurately.

Keeping track of the above metrics at the end of each publishing cycle (weekly, monthly or otherwise), will give you pointers about:

  • Where to post: are there social networks where your content performs significantly better than others?
  • When to post: is there a pattern in terms of days of the week and times of the day when posts significantly perform better than others?
  • What to post about: are there topics, themes, subjects that your audience visibly enjoys and engage with more than others?
  • How to post: does your audience tend to interact more with certain types of content, such as photos, videos, slideshows or links?
  • Who to post for: looking at your audience’s demographics, are you able to identify patterns between fans & followers who consistently engage with your posts?

The bottom line:

Keep tabs of what your audience likes (literally) in your social media calendar and leverage those takeaways when creating new posts in your next publishing cycle.


How To Manage Your Social Media Calendar

Creating your social media calendar means finding or building the right tools to make it easy to organize your editorial workflow and track data to improve on your creation process.

Once you’ve set-up your initial social media calendar and publishing schedule, you’ll find that each post will have a simple life-cycle: from inspiration and first mockups, to creation and approval, and finally publishing and evaluation.

Social Media Calendar Content Publishing Process

It’s entirely possible to build out these tools and tracking methods yourself using templates, either through Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, or printing them out and writing them by hand (that is perfectly valid).

However, depending on how much information you’re tracking, you can quickly outgrow these free options and end up spending more time figuring out the best template rather than creating extraordinary content and building your brand.

If you have made it this far into this guide, you are probably very serious about creating and managing your social media calendar.

This is exactly the reason we created Loomly for.

To assist you with the entire content publishing process, with all the features you need in one tool:

Loomly Social Media Calendar Features

Want to know the best part?

You can try Loomly for free for 15-days: no credit card required, no obligation, unlimited features. Start your 15-day free trial now.
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