How do you determine the ROI of your social media campaigns? 30+ social media marketers weigh in with their expert advice.
| Aug 10
Jessica Malnik on May 7, 2021 (last modified on June 29, 2021) • 20 minute read
If you want to grow your social media following, you need to post consistently. And that’s where social media calendars come in.
The best social media calendars take the guesswork out of figuring out what to post each day, since you’ve mapped out the core themes, analyzed what is and isn’t working, and created a bunch of relevant, evergreen posts in batches. This means that when you are on social media, you can be more present and respond to people who like or comment on your posts.
In this guide, we’re sharing tips to help you plan your own social media content calendar, and we’ll cover the following:
96% of the social media managers we surveyed use a social media calendar. So, if you haven’t already created your own, it’s about time that you do.
There are plenty of advantages to planning ahead and creating your own social media calendar instead of “winging it,” including:
As we alluded to earlier in this post, most companies have a social media calendar. It is up to you how elaborate you want to make yours. If you don’t know how or where to get started, here are some tips you might find helpful.
This of course depends on your goals.
Tanya Gauthier of ByMillennials Agency Inc. says, “Organization & clear objectives is key to creating and managing an effective social media content calendar. Too many brands and creators are curating calendars on the go with no purpose.
At ByMillennials Agency, we like to use Trello and ClickUp to create visually appealing boards using cards and every single content card is tied to a brand pillar. That way, you’re able to create a beautiful calendar with a purpose behind each post!”
Getting buy-in from key stakeholders in your company not only helps you align your content with business goals, but also makes it easier to create this content.
“To create and manage an effective social media content calendar, you don’t want to do it alone,” says Jonathan Aufray of Digital Growth Hackers. “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. This is a saying that I try to follow when it comes to marketing. You want to go far and think long-term so you need people around you to come up with new ideas, create different types of content (Images, videos, articles, etc.), review it and schedule it.
You need to have a process in place and using a scrum board or Kanban board can be very helpful.”
In addition, Tracy Ring of 10x digital Inc. adds, “A social media calendar needs to be easily accessible to all stakeholders. Unless you’re a one (wo)man show, you likely have multiple people collaborating in your process. So you can’t have content, collateral, or notes that live in multiple places. This means you need to take the time to research the best process or platform for your organization, then also onboard everyone involved. Yes, it will take time, resources, and budget, but it will be WELL worth it in the long run.
We switched to a centralized system with client-facing calendars, complete with post mock-ups and an approval process. Once we got over the learning curve, it made a huge difference in effectiveness and overall social media success.”
“Planning ahead is definitely the most crucial tip here, because social media management can quickly get out of hand and is very hard to stay on top of, if there’s no content prepared ahead of time,” says Dimitris Tsapis of PlanM8. “Using a media management software such as Buffer or Sprout social is a great way to go about it and plan ahead, keeping up your activity and engagement.”
In fact, nearly 50% of the social media managers we surveyed prefer to schedule content at least a month in advance.
Megan Thielen of Twelve Three Media explains, “Creating a month’s worth of content at once can be a cumbersome task, which can make it difficult to start, unless you have a plan and a roadmap with digestible and actionable tasks that will lead to a final product. Our team approaches content creation & management in pieces that are associated with a timeline throughout each month.
We generally break our timeline down into weekly chunks, building 1-1.5 months before anything goes live. One week is dedicated to a team brainstorm & topical calendar buildout. Two weeks are dedicated to content creation and internal reviews (this is where we take our topical calendar roadmap and make/secure assets, write copy, and execute internal reviews/revisions).
One thing that comes with actual planning is rationale. When you allow yourself to thoroughly think through what you’re doing, I often find you have strong rationale to why you’re doing it and why you’re doing it the way that you are. This is extra necessary when trying to obtain buy-in, approval, etc. Plus, it’s generally good to have rationale. Someone will always question what you’re doing, whether that’s your boss, a client, etc.”
Others prefer to plan out content for the entire quarter.
Leah Moody of Argon Agency says, “I like to plan in quarters, Depending on the type of business I plan for the quarter based on local, national and industry specific events. I plan posts and promo around those opportunities.”
Before you start creating a bunch of new content, it can be helpful to know what’s working.
“Before you begin filling your social media content calendar, complete a thorough social media audit,” says Jordania Nelson of Divining Point. “Developing a clear picture of your brand’s current social media efforts will help define the type of content to plan for. See what is and isn’t working on all present social platforms, and keep in mind content will likely perform differently on each channel. Use this information when strategically organizing your calendar to achieve the best results.”
Eden Cheng of WeInvoice adds, ”Find out what all you’ve already posted and covered. This is crucial to stop repeating content. We know that audits are tedious yet they are essential. Not only this; audits are useful to know your audience and their preference.”
Editor’s Note: You can use this Google Analytics Social Media Dashboard to track how effective your posts are at generating traffic to your site.
One of the best ways to increase engagement is to include a mix of different content types in your social media calendar.
“Switching up the type of posts you make is key to keeping your calendar effective and engaging,” says Brita Hammer of Emergent Software. “Look for opportunities to socialize things you normally wouldn’t think about.
These are a few examples of more unique posts that you can add into your rotation. Also, it’s important to keep the posts about your company to about 50% (or even less) each week. No one wants to follow a page that only talks about themselves!”
Carrie Mok of EPM Digital adds, “There’s no use scheduling a week’s worth of just promo posts, your audience will not engage with all of them as it’s going to oversaturate their feed.
Instead, think about how you can create value, be relevant and diversify the content that they see. That way, you’ll get an audience that is more likely to like, comment or share your post, which encourages the platform algorithms to show your posts to more people more often.
I would even block out key events that may be of relevance throughout the year and go beyond your usual planned content. For example, that could be planning content around National Mental Health month or even something more fun like National Toast Day if it’s of relevance to your brand.”
There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to post an awesome graphic on Instagram, but you are waiting on your designer to make some revisions or your boss to review it. Having detailed processes and a list of dependencies in your content calendar can help you avoid these issues.
Marie Johnson of Schleuniger Group says, “Make sure your calendar has as few dependencies on other departments as possible while being flexible enough to incorporate their input should it arrive.
If your calendar calls for market-related content on Mondays, have some sources such as Google Alerts to fall back on. Don’t wait for Business Development or Management to come knocking. But if they do, have some open slots ready.”
Kiera Kosciolek of Kinsta adds, “Having content created and organized well in advance is important (at Kinsta, we plan up to a month ahead, to give our team time to design and translate the assets) but being flexible with that content is even more important.
Product launches can be delayed, stakeholders might not be able to deliver assets on time, or outside events may necessitate a shift in strategy. It’s crucial to be able to adjust quickly and ensure that your channels stay active without having your calendar collapse.”
Being consistent is key if you want to see results from social media marketing.
“Stay consistent,” says Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale. “Sometimes we tend to become demotivated or lose track of the content we have to post. So, one tip we think is effective is to build a habit of staying consistent and posting even if you’re not getting a lot of engagement from your followers.”
Clare Jones of Custom Neon adds, “Stick to it! The great thing about creating a social media calendar is that it makes you accountable. Using software tools or shared docs to create the calendar is even better, as then you are accountable to others.
Remember to schedule time, not only create new content but also actively engage with your audience. It’s the perfect opportunity to build rapport and gives people a connection to you and your products.”
Another key to success is staying organized.
“Include all the information you need to quickly conjure up the posts without having to navigate to different file locations on your computer,” says Claire Adams of FitSW Fitness Software. “Google Drive is the best help for this because instead of embedding the graphic content you want to use in your posts you can link to it specifically for each day you have content planned for. Include hashtags, copy, graphics, and any links you would like to share in the post in the calendar. Segment your calendar by target audience and social media account (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram).”
Eric Rohrback of Hill and Ponton recommends color coding your calendar.
“Make it color-coded so that you always know which category or content pillar you are supposed to be doing on any given day,” says Rohrback. “If you are managing a social media or marketing team, sync it with something like Trello so everyone can see your updates whenever they want to.”
Too many social media managers try to reinvent the wheel by creating all new content. The reality is you can be even more successful by leveraging the content you’ve already created.
“My number one tip for creating and managing an effective social media content calendar is to reuse old content,” says Nicolas Gagné of Win In Health. “You don’t always have to make your content from scratch. Most companies have useful content in-store that they haven’t yet utilized. It could be data from the CRM system and customer survey results.
What we do is update and repost old blog posts through different channels. It is vital to make sure that the content on your website is up to date, as many potential customers may browse through your older articles or blog posts. Reviewing and updating them makes your business look professional and reliable. To get the best engagement, we let our readers know by marking the updated articles. This way, we make the most of the valuable content we have created and broaden our reach.”
One way to make this process easier is to create your own content library.
Andra DelMonico of AnDel Marketing says, “Create a content library of your assets. This helps you have an easily accessible resource when scheduling social media posts. Include folders for company branding assets, stock company imagery, and company data and statistics for easy fact research.”
In addition, repurposing isn’t just for old blog posts. This also works for older social media posts.
Ruby Slade of Financer adds, “Utilize the same research and content for each social media platform by duplicating your Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn post to the other platforms you use. Then go in and make the necessary edits and changes so it’s appropriate for each specific platform. This saves you time and keeps the posts uniform, but still unique and tailored to each different site and audience.”
Editor’s note: Use this Google Analytics blog performance dashboard to monitor the performance of old blog posts you’ve recently updated.
One of the biggest mistakes that new social media managers make is leaning too heavy on trendy posts and conversation starters to drive post engagement. They end up posting a ton of things that have nothing to do with their brand.
To avoid this fate, Andrew Winters of Cohen & Winters recommends, “Decide which categories you would like to cover, then plan out how you will space these categories out throughout the week. This will help to keep you organized and ensure that you are supplying fresh and engaging content.”
Another way to think about this is to create content for every stage of the customer journey.
“Make sure you’re hitting each stage of your customer’s lifecycle with your calendar,” says Brooks Manley of Brew Interactive. “This includes crafting posts for strangers, prospects, leads, and current customers. A great content calendar includes content for each, and helps each move forward in their journey.”
One of the most popular ways to boost engagement is through themed posts, assuming they are relevant to your target audience.
Gabriel Dungan of ViscoSoft says, “Schedule content by topics or themes on specific days. For example, Monday’s topic is Product Reviews, so post a client’s review of your product. Thursday’s theme is Tips, so you could share a way that your product can be used. As a bonus, this helps both in creating the content calendar and creating the posts as well. You can batch create all of your posts on a specific topic at once and have them ready to go in advance.”
Aristide Basque of K6 Agency adds, “Make note of holidays, special events relevant to your audience, and any other significant days so that you can create content for those days. This way, you’ll have content prepared well in advance. If they’re relevant to you, you can even take note of things such as National Dog Day or International Taco Day for example.”
Nancy Kapoor of Grazitti Interactive explains, “A social media content calendar should be an itinerary detailing how you would like to connect with your audience. Planning and scheduling your social media campaigns is a lot easier if you have added five key information pieces:
Such a social media calendar will help you in effectively organizing and scheduling your content. Also, planning well in advance is another thing a content calendar will help you in being consistent with.”
One easy way to create content that is on-brand is to turn to your FAQs.
“Frequently asked questions are a great source of content for any company,” says Wendy Margolin of Sparkr Marketing. “If clients or customers are curious or need to know something, the odds are that your prospective audience needs this information as well.
You can also gather questions from other spaces with similar audiences, such as on Quora or on the reviews for an Amazon book.”
Just because you have a social media calendar doesn’t mean you should follow it 100% of the time.
“Be flexible,” says Natalie Slyman of Benchmark Email. “It’s great to have a calendar that outlines the various types of posts you plan to create and publish on each platform, however, algorithms change, and updates are made. And as you track results over time, you’ll want to make necessary changes to your calendar that might yield higher engagement and interactions. Your calendar shouldn’t be a strict guideline, rather a simple guide to help you maintain consistency. Then, as you review how each type of post performs, you can make room for other creative ideas to see more engagement over time.”
Leah Wood of Blue Digital adds, “My one tip for creating and managing an effective social media content calendar would be not to stress about strictly following the calendar. Some days there will be social media news stories or trends that can be commented on or newsjacked to gain audience interaction and attention. These can’t be planned for. Allowing yourself to drift away from the calendar for a day can lead to bigger results.”
In fact, most brands deviate from their social media calendar at least occasionally.
Nikola Roza of Nikola Roza- SEO for the Poor and Determined adds,”Allow for a bit of randomness in your social postings schedule. I mean, do strictly follow your social calendar, but also post outside of your schedule and promote yourself and others freely.
This will free you from that annoying feeling of guilt that maybe, just maybe, you’re not doing enough and that you could be even more active on social media.
Automation is key here and to that end I use Missinglettr.
Missinglettr creates campaigns for me which I review and approve at the same time as I populate my social content calendar for the next month.
That way I have regular postings from my calendar mixed in with postings that Missinglettr sends on its own + engagement that all my posts combined garner and to which I religiously respond to.
Bottom line, my social feeds are bursting with activity and I’m not even breaking a sweat.”
Resist the urge to overcomplicate or overplan your calendar.
“No matter if you’re a small or big team, keep it simple,” says Kendall Aldridge of OnePitch. “When it becomes overcomplicated, it becomes hard for teams to execute and follow. Put what’s necessary, create a strong system, and have clear expectations about who is responsible for what part. Clarity and understanding go a long way.”
Storm McManus adds, “Don’t overwhelm yourself or your team by trying to have a presence on every single platform. Focus on 1 or 2 platforms that your business gets real traction on and keep those up to date and relevant. This makes it easier to create content and manage your calendar more effectively.”
If you want to get fancy with your content calendar, here are some social media tools that can help you plan and collaborate on social media content.
However, regardless of whether you build your calendar in a spreadsheet or through a social media planning tool, most brands will want to use social media scheduling software to schedule a lot of their evergreen posts in advance.
Natalya Bucuy of LiveHelpNow says, “Use scheduling software. While it’s effective to post daily or even multiple times a day on certain social media platforms, let’s face it – we all have other things to do, too. Scheduling software can be of great help to manage a busy calendar. You can set up posts ahead of time for the week or the month ahead and not worry about logging in every day to post.
That is not to say you shouldn’t still log in every day to interact with your audiences. That is also important and should be part of your daily routine.”
Anthony Gaenzle adds, “If you manage a large number of social media channels, or if you work for a small business and you have limited resources, it doesn’t make sense to schedule every single post in your calendar. That’s what your social media management tools are for. Doing so would just be duplicating your work for no reason.
Where you need to focus your energy in order to use your social media content calendar effectively is to leverage its value for events, campaigns and other more time-sensitive content.
For instance, if you have a product launch coming up, you would want to plan out your promotional posts announcing and pushing the new product into the market across a predetermined period of time. Or, let’s say you’re an ecommerce business and it’s the holiday season. You can craft your holiday-related tweets ahead of time to ensure you stay on track and get the most out of the season.
Whatever your business, or even if you’re a blog owner, you can use this tactic to save time and be more efficient by avoiding duplicating your work. Your calendar doesn’t have to house ALL social media posts. But, it should 100% house your more focused posts to keep you on track once the campaign, event or season arrives.”
In sum, building a social media content calendar will make your job easier. By planning your content in advance, you will eliminate the stress of having to think about a new post topic each day.
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