With a 140-word maximum, social media sure seems like it was designed to be quick and easy. You can write a message and upload a photo to Facebook in under 30 seconds, or craft a blog post and immediately publish and promote it to your followers on LinkedIn Pulse. But, while social media is constantly being touted as the fastest way to communicate, many companies are doing the complete opposite and taking their sweet time to plan and craft their social posts.
[Tweet “Unless you’re sharing what you ate for lunch, posting on social media requires forethought, strategy, and planning.”]
Unless you’re sharing what you ate for lunch, posting on social media requires forethought, strategy, and planning. Companies need to ensure they are providing value to their followers, staying relevant and up to date, and maintaining consistency. And the best way to do all that? With a social media calendar.
A social media calendar helps you organize and visualize all your copy and images for every social channel. You’ll always know what is going out next, you can plan around key events, dates, and launches, and you can always ensure you have enough prep time to get everything ready for publication.
Here are the easiest ways to make a social media calendar:
The beauty of Google Calendar is its familiarity and sharing capabilities. Many of us either use Google Calendar in our personal lives or use Google Apps at work, so there is no learning curve and you can get up and running right away. And, rather than sending around a static spreadsheet and resending it whenever there is a change, you can easily invite people to view and edit your calendar in real time.
Here’s how it works: you create a new calendar just for your social media posts and instead of adding events like you usually do, you add a brief summary (or title) of the social media post you plan on publishing that day (for example, you could name your event “LinkedIn: Thanksgiving post”). Then, you can add details like the exact copy and links to photos in the description section and assign team members to certain posts by inviting guests to your “event.”
Takeaway: Use Google Calendar if you want to collaborate in real time with a team of people and you all already use Google Apps.
Excel is an easy way to organize all the details in one place. You can break the calendar up by day of the week and add columns for copy, author (or community manager), topic, deadline, publish time, images, and publishing channels. It’s also helpful to add an extra column for notes, so you can add anything lessons learned along the way.
You can create a different sheet for each month to streamline the planning process or have one Excel file for all marketing initiatives and each sheet could be a different channel (social media, blog, ads, etc).
The biggest disadvantage to using an Excel template is the lack of flexibility you have when sharing it with others. Unless you add the file to Dropbox or another cloud storage app, you’ll have to email out the Excel file every time there is a change. And, you can’t have two people working in the file at the same time.
Takeaway: An Excel template is best if you are a team of one and you want a more detailed calendar.
Trello is a free, visual way to organize anything with anyone. It features drag and drop cards in a list format, so you can easily add cards or reorder them to adapt to your workflow.
There are many ways you can use Trello as your social media content calendar. You could follow the example above and use each list to represent a stage in the social media content development process. Moving from left to right, the first list could be about post ideas, the second could document your researching process, the third could outline topics on hold, the fourth could show which posts you are writing, the fifth would hold all the images, and the last one would show which ones were published. This example is not the most traditional content calendar, and instead shows the process and where you are along the way.
If you want the standard content calendar, each list could be dedicated to a different social media platforms and all the cards in each list would include the post copy and associated graphics.
Takeaway: Use Trello if you are a visual person and work best with lists.
Conclusion & Next Steps
While Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are all about ease of use and immediacy, the last thing you want is to be scrambling every day to think of something to post. Although it sounds counterintuitive, taking the extra time to think through the upcoming months, plan around important events, and write your copy ahead of time will actually speed up your process and end up saving you hours every month.