Social media marketing is all about regularly connecting with your target audience through carefully planned content.
Sometimes this happens through a relatable Instagram Reel, an interactive poll on LinkedIn, one-on-one communication in the comment section or inbox, or a brand awareness Facebook ad. The possibilities for you to reach out to your client's audience through social media channels are so vast that it becomes easy to get lost.
This is why having a social media content calendar is so important.
You see, digital marketing is highly dynamic. Algorithms change, trends come and go, new social media channels keep sprouting up and changing the familiar game (hint: we're not just talking about TikTok, but all the other trending platforms).
But there is one thing that you can consistently rely on: a solid plan.
As Desiree Martinez says: "A social media plan is like Chanel, it never goes out of style."
In this article, we'll dive into:
- What is a social media content calendar, and why do you need one
- What are the benefits of a social media content calendar
- How to go about creating social media calendar for your clients
- Bonus: Access to our free templates
But before we tackle these questions, watch our video with agency owner Desiree Martinez, as she shares the planning process her marketing team uses when creating engaging content calendars for clients.
What is a social media content calendar, and why do you need one?
The social media calendar is a visual workflow that helps a social media marketing team schedule their work daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly.
In fact, this calendar should be the centrepiece of every successful social media strategy!
Because social media calendar is the most effective way to organise content creation and curation processes across multiple social networks. It can also help determine the optimal publishing schedule that corresponds with marketing efforts on other channels.
It represents your very own road map to achieving all those KPIs with as little stress as possible.
A key benefit of having a social media calendar is having a tool that helps me keep track of all content going out to different social channels, which helps me maintain consistency. It also reduces the everyday workload, allowing me to focus on other marketing tasks. Tricia Osazuwa, Social Media Marketing Intern at Sendible
And there are many more benefits that a handy tool like this one can offer, so let's dive deep into them in the next section.
What are the benefits of a social media content calendar?
1. It helps reduce everyday stress
Social media management is one of the most creative positions within a marketing agency, but it comes with some stress. Developing a large amount of engaging content relevant to a particular niche is not an easy task!
This is where a predetermined schedule kicks in!
Consider creating a content calendar instead of stressing out multiple times a week or month about creating social media posts that may or may not bring you closer to your KPIs. Once you've brainstormed the topics when your creative juices are at their high, add them to a Google sheet, Asana calendar board, or schedule them for publishing or approval in a platform like Sendible!
2. It improves task distribution, workflow, and efficiency
Having a planned schedule of posts will also help you organise the workflow in the most efficient way.
With a social media calendar, you can forget about those last-minute assigned tasks! You can also easily coordinate social media posts with other content marketing efforts on different platforms.
Let's put this into practice.
According to your client's editorial calendar, four new blog posts are coming out next month. And you need to promote all of them on various social media platforms. With a social media calendar, you can easily:
- Plan out the publish dates
- Adjust copies to match social platforms' requirements
- Brainstorm different types of posts so you don't seem repetitive
- Schedule tasks for graphic designers to create compelling visuals
- Give a heads-up and coordinate your efforts with the community manager
3. It takes post personalisation to the next level
Publishing identical posts to different social media channels seems like an acceptable solution when you're out of time.
But, if a user is following you on all of your platforms, do you think they would be happy with seeing the same post pop out of every corner?
Didn't think so.
Planning helps you tailor the experience each social media post provides according to where the user sees it.
For example, a LinkedIn user expects different things from an Instagram one. While the first one might expect to see more data and business-related information, the second could look for interesting quotes and compelling videos.
4. It makes measurement, reporting, and optimisation easier
Having a plan means you have clear goals. And clear goals are easy to track and measure.
How will you measure success if you're posting inconsistently and without a clear direction? You'll never be sure why something worked or didn't.
Planning your social media content helps you align your efforts with business goals and other marketing activities. This omnichannel approach, in return, allows you to track the results of campaigns, optimise them, and pinpoint the most successful ones.
5. It helps maintain consistency
Worrying about how often you post won't get you closer to achieving the wanted results.
There is nothing worse than getting your audience used to seeing five posts per week and then giving them the silent treatment for days.
This comes off as sloppy. And with an oversaturated market, they'll easily convert to a different online community where they feel the brand is taking care of their needs.
6. It lowers repetition and improves diversity
You can kiss content fatigue goodbye if you have a content calendar.
When you're in a tight race and have to produce lots of social media content under pressure, you'll likely become repetitive.
You simply won't have time to:
- Perform a content audit
- Come up with fresh ideas
- Explore new content solutions
- Experiment with new formats and channels
A pre-planned and scheduled social media calendar saves you loads of time! In return, you'll have more possibilities to do research, commit to social listening, and develop new ways to engage your audience. As an agency, you can also use this time to explore other services you could offer to your client as well.
7. It leaves extra time to prepare holiday campaigns
There are some things you cannot plan for, but holidays do not fall under this category.
Big holidays, like Valentine's Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, as well as those particular ones, are great opportunities to reward your loyal fans and attract new ones.
To do so, you would have to plan social media campaigns in advance and set measurable goals to track results.
How to go about creating your social media calendar
Now that you've learned why having a social media calendar is essential, it's time to create one for your client (or your own agency):
- Step 1: Revisit the client onboarding questionnaire
- Step 2: Set measurable goals
- Step 3: Decide which holidays, promotions, and engaging activities you'll cover
- Step 4: Choose the social media calendar tool
- Step 5: Plan the calendar
Step 1: Revisit the client onboarding questionnaire
Before committing to creating a content plan for the upcoming year, you and your clients need to revisit the onboarding questionnaire. This will allow you both to get back on the same page, re-evaluate goals and objectives, and consider new content ideas and mediums.
You could use this occasion to look over the client's main call-to-action (CTA):
- Is it still relevant?
- Does it need to be updated?
- Or is a new one in order?
The opt-in allows your clients to build their email list and stay connected with their current and potential customers. Making sure this is something you can market and post about is essential.
If an opt-in isn't available or part of their strategy, review their website together to ensure that everything is working the way it should. You don't want to be sending users to dysfunctional landing pages!
Another thing you should discuss with your client is their video strategy, as this format is the leading social media trend. This could require them to do some work, you two to collaborate, or for you to start creating for them.
Speaking of future planning, this would also be an excellent time to re-evaluate budgets and your offering. A bigger budget means more resources and more outstanding results for your client!
Step 2: Set measurable goals
The next thing on your list should be to set measurable goals for the upcoming period.
When getting started with this, you want to reflect on the previous year's numbers and sales:
- Was there growth?
- What posts and initiatives lead to sales?
- How high was the conversion rate?
- How many new leads did you get?
- And what about the overall engagement rate?
Going further, make sure to evaluate the performance of each social media account:
- How many new and returning visitors did each social platform provide?
- Which platform helped the most with brand awareness?
- What platform had the highest conversion rate?
- Which content format had the highest engagement?
Reviewing the past year will help you develop new solutions and optimisation opportunities and determine which social media channels are the best for your client's marketing goals.
According to these findings, you should also review platform commitments:
- What social media account should you focus on the most?
- Are there any new platforms you would like to test?
- Is there an opportunity to collaborate with other brands and influencers?
- Should you focus creative efforts on short-form videos or building a community with engaging content?
When making plans for the upcoming year, make sure to align them with the newest social media trends.
Once you are solid on the client's numbers, platforms, and objectives, you should set monthly and quarterly goals.
You can track these with a simple Google or Excel spreadsheet organised in a way that makes sense for you. You should also keep monthly and quarterly reports you get from your social media management tool (like Sendible) to enrich your findings and data.
Step 3: Decide which holidays, promotions, and engaging activities you'll cover
As we start heading into the planning phase of your client's content calendar, you will want to outline important holidays, sales points, and initiatives that matter to the client.
You don't want your client's calendar to be all fluff and sales, though. So you must ensure that it is well-balanced and includes a proportionate number of fun holidays, promotions, deals, and valuable tips.
I always advise my clients to remember that it's called social media for a reason. You can't just directly sell and promote your products and services.
To truly connect with your audience, you must offer value. This valuable content can come in the form of advice, actionable tips, celebrating holidays, and sharing relatable stories or experiences. - Jana van Rensburg, Social Media Specialist
The holiday calendar is important for knowing what to post on which days. It wouldn't be a good look to post something promotional or salesy on a Day of Remembrance or encourage people to come into the client's business when they are closed for a bank holiday.
Take time to review local and world holiday calendars and mark them on your master calendar. These days will be a "rest" day or "engagement" day for content.
If you want to pepper your social media content with some fun topics, you can consider including themed days if they tie into the client's voice.
For example, National Bring Your Dog to Work Day could be good if one of your clients really loves their dog or dogs are allowed in their place of business. These opportunities will enable the client to show their more relatable, human side. You can also tie in trends like #TechTuesday or #ThrowbackThursday as a way to offset promotional content.
While holidays are essential for cultural and societal awareness, a sales calendar is vital for your customer's sales strategy. You need to know what sales and promotions they plan to run so you can post accordingly. Sometimes sales align with holidays and seasons, and sometimes they go hand in hand with industry trends and social patterns.
Most of us are familiar with over-the-top 4th of July sales in the United States, where retailers are looking to offload summer items in preparation for fall inventory, but this doesn't apply to most service-based businesses. Additionally, if your client runs an eCommerce business, Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday will likely be their time to shine.
Global holidays are lovely to participate in as a brand. But you need to be mindful that while all celebrate some holidays, that can happen at different times of the year in other countries.
For example, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May in the United States but in March in the United Kingdom. It is important to be aware of these differences for your clients depending on where they do most of their business. This way, they can participate accurately and be sensitive to the local needs and customs of the holiday.
When creating a content schedule for sales dates, make sure to review the previous year's sales numbers to see if any patterns could help maximise sales opportunities for your client.
Now that you have a firm grasp on the stable, unmovable things like holidays and sales, it's time to plan the fun stuff!
These can be trends you'd like to try, experiments with content types, or new mediums. You can also use this time to get customers involved by asking for customer reviews to share on social media and seeing what behind-the-scenes or team involvement you could include in the strategy. Just make sure that while it is fun, it's still aligned with the core objectives and goals of the customer.
Step 4: Choose the social media calendar tool
Before planning your social media content calendar, you must decide which format and tools work best.
Option 1: Google Sheets
Google Sheets make it easy to collaborate as a team and with the client. Desiree Martinez likes to send a new spreadsheet with tabs for each month to her clients annually. Each tab includes:
- Client approval column,
- Content theme
- Any links that are shared, such as links to photos or videos
- Any unique or specific hashtags that her team needs to use for the posts
Option 2: Airtable
If you have a pervasive client with much content shared in different mediums on different platforms, a tool like Airtable could benefit you.
As you can see from the above example, there are separate tabs for the various brand media types. Since the company does many posts per week with multiple licensed brands, they state which licensed brand is being used for each post and what day the post is going out on. They also identify the medium type for the post, which team member is creating what, the ideas and inspiration for the visuals and the post, message base, internal notes, and where these posts will be published.
This tool can come in handy when you need to manage many platforms. Labelling things keeps everything organised, and the team can easily make changes and pivot.
Option 3: Asana
image source: Asana
If you have a big team and prefer to have everything in one place - the Asana calendar is the perfect solution for you.
- Assign a tag to each post to make it visually clear which platform you're creating it for
- Add subtasks for each team member
- Save all materials in one place, making it easy to repurpose or repost
Option 4: Social media management tool
The most advanced option is to use a social media scheduling and management tool like Sendible.
Sendible's calendar allows you to:
- Plan and tailor each post for a different platform
- Assign it to various team members
- Import designed media directly from Canva (if you have a Pro account)
- Share it with your client for approval
- Schedule it for publishing.
This option helps you speed things up as you can create individual posts and batch them by theme and then schedule them all in one place.
Step 5: Plan the calendar
Once you know what method you will use to organise your calendar, it is time to fill it in with your notes and dates.
You'll need to decide how often you're going to post on each of your chosen platforms. There's no right or wrong answer here. What's more important is publishing quality content on a consistent basis. It helps to establish your client’s goals first and then work backwards from there.
For example, if your client wants to get 10 contact enquiries from Facebook every month, you will spend more time creating exciting content on this network rather than pinning inspirational content on Pinterest.
Next, you'll need to consider your content mix. You need a balance of your client's content plus curated content from other reliable and relevant sources. And you'll need to decide what type of content you require for each network. Let's take a look at some of the inputs:
- What sales dates do you need to plan? For example, there are annual and seasonal sales like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas that may be applicable.
- Does your client write blog posts and if so, do you need to factor these in?
- Are they launching a new product or releasing a product update?
- Are there any company, local, or national events to add to the mix?
Once this is done, you can work month-to-month on the messaging and the other content to round out the calendar. This content can be changed quickly while also being mixed and matched.
These posts can be current industry news, engaging questions, tasteful humour, company stories about the service and products, staff highlights, office culture, and behind the scenes content.
Planning is the most critical and time-consuming part. But it makes creativity and messaging easier! If you know what you are doing and the rhythm of the brand, your job will go so much smoother.
And Sendible's integration with GIPHY, Pexels, and Canva will make it even easier.
Bonus: Access to our free templates
We know that creating a social media calendar can be both tricky and very rewarding!
But, to help speed things up, we’ve created a resource library that we're continuously updating with new templates for auditing and managing social media channels, setting KPIs, using AI to plan create content, brainstorm campaigns, and so much more.
So ensure to check it out!