Before you get into the nitty-gritty of social media calendar planning, it pays to revisit your overarching plan. If your Twitter account’s getting fewer tweets and more crickets, it may be wise to refocus your marketing strategy and ensure you’re targeting the right networks.

Once you’re clear on your goals for using social networks as part of your marketing plan, the next step is to create a social media calendar.

What’s a Social Media Calendar?

A social media calendar is an internal tool where you can plan, assign, create, and schedule content that will ultimately be posted to different social networks.

Some businesses use something basic like a spreadsheet or an Airtable base to track this information, while others shell out for purpose-built software such as CoSchedule. Whatever you use, it should be easy for your whole team to access and collaborate in, and it should be customizable to fit your needs.

The bottom line? A social media calendar can help you save time, create content more efficiently and methodically, and streamline workflows for your team members. Here are our seven tips for planning your monthly social calendar.

#1: Plan your social media content process.

If you don’t have a reliable, repeatable social media management process established, now’s the time to get one in place. From brainstorming and ideation to content production and promotion, social media management is complex and a lot can fall through the cracks when your processes aren’t reliable.

Use a flowchart maker to determine each step – no matter how trivial it may seem – and ensure that someone on your team is accountable for each of them. Will you need the support of an admin to post your content? Would a freelance graphic designer be able to save you time creating custom images? Identify gaps and bottlenecks in your processes and plan for them long before you start planning your content.

#2: Structure your planning software to meet your needs.

Although everyone uses different tools, most businesses have individual records of each social post with the following information:

  1. Title: Even if the title won’t be published in the post itself, this is some kind of unique identifier. It could involve the month and year, it could be a short description, or it could be a number.
  2. Copy: This is the written or supplemental content that’ll go with the main social post.
  3. Image: This would link to the post’s final image.
  4. Target platform: Where will the post be published?
  5. Key dates: You might want to have different due dates for content creation, final approval, and posting. You might include an expiration date for a post, if it’s timely.

You might also have a section where you can include the name of the writers, designers, and other team members involved in creating the post. You may want to get really specific with these identifiers, which brings us to the next tip…

#3: Create meaningful categories for your posts.

Some people like to categorize their posts by the source – whether it’s created, curated, or user-generated content. Others may get even more granular with it, documenting whether it’s a meme, an image, a gif, a video, or a link. Categorizing or labelling your different types of content can help you see where you might be oversaturated, and can also help you garner ideas for new ways to spin similar concepts you’ve used before.

If your calendar software can visually group your content by type, this is especially useful when you assign content creation to team members. In an instant, you’ll be able to see (for example) how many videos are on the docket for this month – and you can instantly assign all of these to your video team.

#4: Choose posting frequency.

Every business is different, but if there’s one hard-and-fast rule about social media scheduling it’s this: you should stick to a regular posting schedule.

This might mean as many as five posts a day, or as few as five posts a week. But once you’ve set your ideal posting frequency, create empty slots in your calendar that you can fill in with content ideas as you and your team come up with them. This makes it easy for team members to contribute ideas while still keeping all content within the big-picture scope and plan.

#5: Brainstorm ideas well in advance.

Social media moves quickly, but you don’t have to. Set aside dedicated time every day to work toward the bigger goal of getting your social content planned a month or more in advance. Although there may be some newsy items that you won’t be able to anticipate, you can always plan and schedule evergreen content far before it goes live.

Study past hashtag trends to anticipate online trends for this year. Looking at hashtags is a great way to get fresh ideas for social content, as well.

#6: Study the popularity of previous posts.

Your previous social media content can clue you into where you should focus your efforts over the next month (or more). Big-picture management tools like Buffer and Hootsuite have features built-in that show you which posts got the most likes, comments, and shares. If you can pin down what really resonates with your audience, you can hone your future content to better fit their interests.

#7: Establish themes.

Your creative well can often feel like it’s running dry when you’re pressured to create a specific amount of social content every month. If you feel like you’re always scrambling to come up with ideas at the last minute, take the same approach that the editors of the glossies take: use themes.

If you plan your editorial calendar a quarter or more in advance, center each month on a theme. These can relate back to your owned content and your site’s keyword strategy, or your themes could simply be concepts that your target audience enjoys following. If your business is extremely niche or unsuited to monthly themes, try daily themes (think #ThrowbackThursday or #FollowFriday).