We live our lives by our personal and work calendars, so why not take that organizing principle and apply it to our marketing strategies too? Enter: the 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 with, 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. 

The complexity of a social media calendar depends on the scope and size of your social strategy. If you’re posting on a lot of platforms and/or multiple times a day, your calendar will likely be pretty complex and require a super-organized structure. 

You might be wondering why you should bother planning out your posts a month in advance — after all, isn’t social media supposed to be spontaneous? Well, yes and no. Ideally, your engagement will be spontaneous, but when it comes to offering value to your followers, fortune favors the planner. 

Benefits of Using a Social Media Calendar

  • It keeps your campaign on track. Whether you plan to post daily, weekly, or on a different cadence, scheduling your posts ahead of time will ensure you stay consistent.
  • It limits the chances of repeat posts or typos. It’s easy to make errors when you’re typing on the fly or to accidentally repeat the exact same phrase three times in as many days. Seeing all your posts laid out in front of you will give you a better opportunity to proofread.
  • It gives you time to create compelling content and try new angles. When you have a week or longer to think about what you want to say, you’ll have a better chance of saying something worthwhile, and when you do not have to churn out a new post every day, you’ll have more bandwidth to create off-the-cuff posts to align with current events and trending topics. 

So now that you understand the importance of a social media calendar, how do you create one of your own? We have a handy step-by-step guide for you, plus some examples of different ways successful organizations have built their calendars so you can get a feel for the real-world application.

How to Create Your Monthly Social Media Calendar

1. Audit Your Existing Strategy 

Before you can implement a new strategy, you need to understand what’s working (and what’s not) about your current one. How have you been handling your social media accounts so far? Who’s responsible for writing posts? Are you scheduling at all, or simply writing and publishing right away?

If there are elements of your existing strategy that have been performing well for you, think about incorporating those into your calendar. For example, if one person’s content performs better than the others, maybe they write all the copy and their teammates handle the images.

2. Understand Your Audience 

In any marketing strategy, understanding your audience is key. Analyze the performance data from your previous posts to see if you can nail down what kinds of content resonates most with your followers. Do they engage with social posts that prompt questions, or do they seem to prefer humor over earnestness?

Once you know what kind of content is resonating with your audience, you can plan to increase your focus on that kind of content and think about what similar, previously-untried types of posts might also capture their attention.

3. Optimize Content for Each Specific Social Platform 

Take your analysis of your previous posts’ performance and divide that data by platform. Assess what kind of content gains the most traction in each context, and, if you haven’t done so already, narrow your focus to the platforms that are likely to work best for you. 

Do Tweets with polls do better than pure text? Are Reels better than static images? Make a note of what performs best on each platform, so you can replicate your success as you build out your calendar.

4. Establish Goals and Benchmarks 

Like any strategic tool, your social media calendar should be moving you toward various smaller goals on the way to your ultimate objective. Work with your team to define those goals: maybe you want to gain a certain amount of followers every week, increase your social presence or have every post get a minimum number of likes, shares, or comments.

Whatever you choose, make sure you write out your benchmarks and designate metrics for measuring your progress so you can track your success and redirect where necessary along the way.

5. List the Kind of Content You Want to Publish on Your Channels

What aspect of your brand personality do you want to showcase with your content? If you’re hoping to position yourself as an expert, you probably want to stick with educational content and stray away from silliness. If you want followers to see you as more of a clever peer, however, you might want to plan some irreverent commentary on current events or on-topic humor to keep things light and engaging. 

Maybe you want to be educational on LinkedIn and more silly on Twitter, based on your earlier analysis of what works best on different platforms. And either way, you’ll want to make sure you follow guidelines about how often to post promotional content.

Whatever kind of content you decide on for each platform, stick with it — consistency is the key to building a unique voice on social media.

6. Plan Out Your Add-Ons 

Your calendar should include more than just the copy for each post; you should also gather the additional assets ahead of time. Images, infographics, charts, links, and anything else you’re planning to add to your posts should be ready to go when you finalize your calendar.

Similarly, if you’re going to do themed days or posts that will be part of a series, now’s a great time to set that up as well. You wouldn’t want your next #tbt post to go out without the throwback photo of your business on opening day!

7. Establish a Workflow

Once you have all your content brainstormed and your goals defined, you can establish the workflow you’ll use to implement your strategy. 

Decide how often you want to post to each channel, and select the optimum time of day based on your own data analysis or general best practices. Then designate different team members to be responsible for different steps: who will write the content, who’ll proofread it, and who gets final approval?

Once you’ve decided on your workflow, write it down in a shared document, so your team can revisit or edit it as you go.

8. Map Out Your Calendar 

Now you can start honing and finalizing your posts for the month! Turn your brainstormed content into tightly written captions and pair them with compelling images that beg to be shared.

As you plot out which posts to publish on which days, take note of any holidays you might want to craft special content and images for, and solicit feedback from everyone on your team to make sure your calendar is intuitive to anyone who might use it.

Different Kinds of Social Media Calendars

There’s no one right way to create your social media calendar — it’s all about what works best for your team and what programs you’re most likely to use.

For example, if you use Monday or Asana at your organization, you have access to premade templates for social media content planning (or any kind of content planning, really).

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Or maybe you use Google Suite instead, in which case you can easily build your own template in Google Sheets or Google Calendar, inputting columns or using color tags to delineate important information such as publication date, channel, and subject matter. 

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Alternately, you can design your own template, maybe something like this National Geographic editorial calendar, which includes brief descriptions for the cover stories and a couple of key feature articles for each month:

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Putting together a social media calendar may seem like a lot of work, and the first time you do it, it’s definitely a lift — but it’s worth the effort upfront to reap the benefits all month. Plus, it frees up your team to be more flexible when time-sensitive posts need to be created.