“An hour of planning can save you ten hours of doing.” – Dale Carnegie
The formula for success on social media can seem like trying to pick the lottery’s winning numbers – impossible, with a dash of blind luck. What if you could predict some of the outcomes? The game becomes a lot easier, right?
One of the keys to success on social media is creating a well-thought-out social media content calendar process – another is executing it!
Having worked for a creative marketing agency, I understand the difficulty of creating a well-structured social media content calendar process. Waiting for approvals from your clients feels like rallying against Roger Federer at Wimbledon (his social media game is ace too). While cornering your colleague who still owes you that spellcheck is awkward at best.
So how do you become the Roger Federer of social media?
All it takes is a 3-step process to get the ultimate social media content calendar. But first, let’s see what you’ll learn about in this blog post.
- What is a social media content calendar?
- Why do I need a social media content calendar?
- What social media content calendar tools are out there?
- The 3-step social media content calendar process
Click the headings to jump ahead, or stick with me as we rally for serve.
What is a social media content calendar?
A social media content calendar (or editorial calendar) is a tool that allows you to strategize all your upcoming social media content. It helps you manage the constant struggle to keep up with what content is going where, when, and why in the ever-expanding social media landscape. You don’t want to throw your well-crafted content at the wall and hope it sticks. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, a social media content calendar is your major key to success (cue DJ Khaled saying, “Another one!”).
Furthermore, the social media content calendar allows you to keep track of deadlines, create transparency for the marketing team, and helps you work in unison with the content creation team. Before you start, it’s imperative to nail down your social strategy. At Process Street, we’ve worked hard to create free templates that help you define this strategy and smash your social media goals and objectives.
But what is Process Street? Process Street is the simplest way to manage your teams’ processes and workflows!
Create process templates, run instances as checklists, assign your team, and track their progress from the one-screen dashboard to make all your recurring work fun, fast and faultless!
Examples of templates that we’ve created for social media are our social media content calendar process template and the social media report template checklist. Here are a few more of our 1,000+ free templates. Feel free to jump to a specific one by clicking on the relevant heading below. If not, keep on scrolling.
- Buffers Social Media Etiquette Checklist
- Social Listening Strategy Process Checklist
- Social Media Image Design
- Social Media Influencer Outreach Checklist
- Social Media SLA Management Checklist Template
- Social Media SLA Metric Tracking Process Template
Why do I need a social media content calendar?
The answer comes down to four key components:
Plan for special days
As well as the obvious holidays like Christmas or Halloween, creating a calendar helps you find those niche days that align with your brand or client’s persona. You don’t want to miss posting that sweet Star Wars meme on May the 4th or forget to mention your company’s green initiatives on World Earth Day in April. Having specialized content ahead of time will save you all the stress last-minute rushes create!
A well-structured social media content calendar ensures that you keep a steady and consistent posting cadence. This cadence is especially important as the algorithms that promote your organic content needs to be fed and satisfied with a steady stream of engaging content. Feed the beast!
Higher quality content
An effective social media content calendar will help your content team visualize the content they are producing ahead of time, ensuring that quality remains high. Additionally, it allows you to keep track of performance, see what is working well, and what can be left behind.
Stick to the strategy
Finally, a well-structured content calendar is imperative in helping you to stick to your pre-defined social media strategy. Without a goal, you can not score, so have your strategy at the back of your mind for all decisions when building your weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly content calendar. Get visuals of what your feed will look like and plan now, so you can sit back and watch the engagement roll in later.
What social media content calendar tools are there?
There are so many social media content calendar tools out there. Here are the top 3 tools I’ve used over the years.
Social media content calendar tool #1: Google Sheets
Tried and tested, Google Sheets is the ground floor for any social media content calendar. It’s completely free to use and only requires you to sign in to your Google account.
It’s a cloud-based software so you can pick up from right where you left off from your tablet, laptop, or mobile device. Create your content calendar and begin the process of planning.
I’d suggest using this content calendar in conjunction with Process Street’s social media image design checklist or the social media etiquette checklist. Running these two free checklists as you build your calendar will help you create clear, focused, and engaging content every time.
Social media content calendar tool #2: Trello
Trello is a clear and intuitive editorial calendar planning tool. Visualize your content as the media is presented beautifully on your Trello feed under the corresponding day. Scroll your way through the content calendar and move your content around as you please.
Trello offers an entirely free plan and paid plans that start from $12.50 (US dollars) a month. Additional features on their paid plan include unlimited team board templates, 100+ app integrations, and unlimited scheduled commands. The paid plan is more suited to large teams. However, if you are an SMB or a small agency, the free plan is plenty for what you need.
Social media content calendar tool #3: Airtable
Airtable is a tool that works a lot like a spreadsheet, but a supercharged one! It is powerful enough to act as a database that marketers can use for social media management, task management, campaign planning, and tracking content creation.
Overall, Airtable is the most complete tool that I’d recommend. Much like Trello, it is not entirely free if you want extra features like field and editing permissions. Their paid plan prices range from $10 – $20 (US dollars) a month.
Although, their free plan is quite sufficient and packs a solid punch. One drawback is that if you have clients unfamiliar with the software, the approval process can be challenging to comprehend.
This difficulty is where our 3-step social media content calendar process comes in.
9 social media content calendar templates you can use right now
Content calendar template #1: Google Sheets
This Google Sheets content calendar template created by Medium is a good starting point to begin planning your content. Customize to suit your needs, input your copy, and get planning! Remember the KISS acronym when starting out. Keep it simple, stupid.
Content calendar template #2: Airtable
Airtable is incredibly intuitive to use, and they offer plenty of templates to help you customize your ultimate social media content calendar. I like this tool because it offers multiple views, from a Post Gallery view, which is similar in appearance to the Trello option, to a very helpful Content status kanban view (a Kanban is a status page for each post). With platform views, for example, Facebook, it is easy to see what posts are going out on what platform.
Check out the YouTube video below to understand how to create a content calendar within Airtable.
Content calendar template #3: Excel
Here’s another basic social media content calendar template created for Excel. Excel is a powerful spreadsheet tool built by Mircosoft that is an industry standard. However, it is not a free service and requires a subscription. But fear not, you can take advantage of their 1-month free trial of Microsoft 365, which includes Excel.
Content calendar template #4: Trello
Much like Google Sheets, with Trello, it’s simple to add relevant links or notes to help your team build the ultimate content calendar. Check out this template to get you started. However, Trello does lack when it comes to getting approvals for content from either clients or managers, but we’ll offer up a solution to that later. So stay tuned!
Content calendar template #5: SocialBakers
SocialBakers don’t offer a template, however, you can book in with one of their team members and they will give you a demo tour of their social media content planning tool. However, as mentioned previously their price plan may be a deterring factor for smaller social media managers.
Content calendar template #6: Process Street
Process Street‘s free social media content calendar template is loaded with workflow automation features like conditional logic, role assignments, approvals, and stop tasks to make your checklist work for you. Once you run the template, anyone you assign can access Process Street from their computer or iOS device, where they can conveniently approve or reject the content.
Content calendar template #7: Planoly
Planoly takes a different approach to templates and offers up month specific content calendars with relevant dates already added. It is a visual planning tool that I would highly recommend for management of your Instagram accounts. You can easily see how your feed will look and plan accordingly. Check out their templates for Q1 or Q2 and adjust to suit your needs.
Content calendar template #8: Hubspot
A rather obvious choice, but worth a mention nonetheless. Hubspot gives their version of a social media content calendar with this template. All you need to do is sign up to avail of it. Hubspot also offers a lot of great resources and templates straight from their blog content.
Content calendar template #9: Hootsuite
Finally, we have Hootsuite. Again, much like Hubspot, they offer a lot of great resources to aid any social media manager in their role such as scheduling all the way up to analyzing return on investment. Their customizable social media content calendar template is another solid choice for a basic option. Ideal for anybody just starting out in the social media game.
The 3-step social media content calendar process
Step 1: Fill out your social media content calendar
As outlined in the above section, you should choose the social media content calendar that best suits you and your team’s needs. Carefully construct it to match all your strategy and platform requirements and goals.
The key to a successful social media content calendar is to leave no stone unturned. Provide as much detail as possible, from time of post to all relevant handles, from content links and media links to the well-researched hashtags you plan on using. This highly specific approach will not only save you time when you get onto Steps 2 and 3, but it will also limit the chances of you or a team member to make a mistake, like tagging the wrong person or company in your post.
Step 2: Get approval on your proposed posts
Once you’ve created your calendar, you need to get approval from a superior or a client in a different city, region, or country. Or maybe your copy needs an editor or writer to make sure there are no errors in your copy.
For account managers, social media managers, and social media executives, keeping clients happy is priority number one. The best way to do this is to ensure that their experience is as simple, effortless, and intuitive as possible.
At my previous agency, we managed the social media accounts of many artists, festivals, and events. In one example, we lost a client due to a pricing issue. Although disappointing for the team to lose a client, they were back under contract with us within the month.
Why may you ask? Because our approval system was simple, easy to use, and available to use from mobile. The rival marketing agency was using inefficient spreadsheets to get the approval of the proposed content from their clients, and thus the approval process was confusing, unclear, and ineffective.
This is where Process Street helps you make the approval process as efficient and straightforward as possible for your client or team. And it’s free!
Our free social media content calendar process template is loaded with workflow automation features like conditional logic, role assignments, approvals, and stop tasks to make your checklist work for you. Once you run the template, anyone you assign can access Process Street from their computer or iOS device, where they can conveniently approve or reject the content.
If approved, you are free to schedule your content on your chosen scheduling tool. If rejected, they must leave a comment to explain their reasoning for rejecting the content. You can then go back in, fix the issue, and get approval. Simple, quick, and free to use!
Click here to get the social media content calendar process template!
Check out this video that explains all the fantastic features of Process Street!
Or watch our webinar on advanced automation!
Step 3: Schedule your approved content
After approval of your social media content through Process Street, schedule your content on your chosen social media scheduling tool that works best for you. Here are some examples of what’s out there to use from:
Social Media Scheduling Tool #1: Buffer
Its simplicity allows new team members to become acquainted with the tool and prevent any bottlenecks with your posting cadence. A disadvantage of the tool is that accounts regularly disconnect (sometimes once a week), meaning the account owner needs to enter into Buffer and reconnect it. As a result, your posts won’t leave on time, which creates a backlog.
Overall, Buffer gets a mention because of its low price point and simple UX, but its automations are often unreliable and require manual intervention. Pricing for their Publish service starts at $15 (US dollars) a month and goes up to $99 (US dollars) a month, depending on how many social accounts you need to connect. Additional features like Analyze will cost you extra too!
Social Media Scheduling Tool #2: SproutSocial
With SproutSocial, you can plan your publishing strategy and maintain oversight from a central hub. Organize posts across profiles, networks, and campaigns using a visualized calendar to support long-term strategy.
They offer a super easy-to-use mobile application tool so you can manage your accounts on the go, no matter the location. Collaborate with your team quickly, effectively, and effortlessly.
However, this tool and its features are not free, with thestandard subscription coming in at $99 (US dollars) a month per user, which is at the high end of the pricing, especially if you are an SMB. Their advanced subscription can set you back $249 (US dollars) a month per user, but you would not need the extra features offered here in reality.
Social Media Scheduling Tool #3: SocialBakers
Scheduling posts is simple, and SocialBakers even gives recommended times for posting in your chosen timezones. Rest assured that your organic content is optimized as much as possible.
Additionally, SocialBakers has a powerful analytics tool that is useful if you want to dive deeper into the data and fully understand your content’s performance. All your organic social media efforts, from stories to videos, are displayed on one dashboard. You instantly get a view of the overall performance and can rapidly filter the data or export it.
The main drawback of SocialBakers is that it does not offer a free plan. It’s at the high end of pricing – especially for SMB – at around $200 (US dollars) for the standard plan. This plan allows you to connect 10 social media channels and gives you features from scheduling to a robust analysis section. If you have the budget, I’d highly recommend it!
SocialBakers offer free tools such as an influencer search tool, an influencer hashtag search tool, and a social media benchmarking tool. They’ve many more free tools that are ideal for a social media manager, no matter if you’re starting out or have been in the game a while.
Alternative option to a scheduling tool: Organic scheduling
You may opt to post directly to the apps yourself. This adds a great personal touch to your social media presence, but juggling multiple accounts and posts will consume a considerable chunk of your day.
However, although it may seem like a good idea, juggling multiple accounts and posts takes up a large chunk of your time and the likelihood of forgetting a post or posting the wrong content increases. So the recommendation here is to use a social media scheduling tool. It’ll be a lifesaver in the long run!
In conclusion, the key is to plan using a social media content calendar, get approval for your proposed content, and schedule accordingly. Following this 3-step social media content calendar process will reduce bottlenecks, limit potential errors slipping through the cracks, and ensure that you deliver the highest quality of content for your client, company, or brand!
We’d love to hear from you. What is your process for your social media content calendar? What tools do you prefer? What approval process do you use with your clients?