February 20, 2023

How to Develop a Social Media Content Calendar

How to Develop a Social Media Content Calendar

Social media marketing requires marketers to stay on their toes, always adapting to the latest technology, tools, and algorithm updates. This can make the career sound edgy and almost impulsive. While it is a fast-paced career, the reality is that social media marketers also need to be dedicated researchers and careful planners for long-term success.

You don’t need to be coming up with posts for each client’s account on a daily basis and hope that it feels relevant, original, and engaging to their audience; you want to be planning this far in advance.

This is where a social media marketing calendar comes into play. In this post, we’re going to go step by step through the process of developing a social media content calendar for your business and your clients.

What is a Social Media Content Calendar?

A social media marketing calendar (which is also sometimes called a “social media marketing calendar” or just a “social media calendar”) is a detailed, mapped-out calendar showing what you plan on posting and when.

You can use social media marketing tools to literally plot different post topics on a virtual calendar, making it an extraordinarily helpful visual and planning tool. The example below is from Agorapulse.

Agorapulse social media marketing content calendar tool

You can get as detailed as you want; you can just note that you’ll have “Instagram Story, UGC” or actually upload the post you plan to publish that day.

We recommend that the final version of your social calendar be as thorough and complete as possible with fully finalised posts uploaded in order to streamline your day-to-day routine, but it’s up to you.

The Benefits of Social Media Content Calendars

Social marketing calendars have a number of different advantages for social media practitioners. These include the following:

  • Saves you time. Speaking from experience, it takes much less time to sit down and create a cohesive calendar once a month that accounts for last-minute additions than it does to try to come up with new content every few days. You’re focused, and you can generate more ideas faster.  
  • Allows for full client or manager approval. If you’re working for a client or on a team, there’s a good chance that either a supervisor or your client will want to comb through each post to make sure it checks out. Planning in advance makes this possible.
  • Makes it easier to create diverse and strategic content. We know that we all have multiple market segments within our overall target audience, and users at all stages of the sales funnel.To keep all of your users engaged, having diverse content is essential. It keeps it interesting and fresh across all platforms, and it’s much easier to intentionally map out diverse and strategically-optimised content when you’re plotting it out in advance instead of trying to piece things together the day-of.  
  • Prevents last-minute scrambling. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute as a social media marketer.We’ve all had moments where we can’t find the right partner to tag in a post or we realize that the graphic designer didn’t actually have an image ready for a super-important campaign launch.Planning and scheduling your content calendar in advance can prevent this, ensuring that your social marketing runs smoothly. It will also enable you to bulk-produce your content.

How to Create a Strong Social Media Content Calendar

Creating a strong social media marketing calendar that your client and their communities will love is pretty easy when you have the right procedure in place.

Let’s go step by step through the process of creating an engaging social media calendar, which you can use for your clients’ profiles or your own.

1. Choose A Third-Party Publishing Tool

While you absolutely can use native scheduling tools for each platform like what's available through Facebook, I strongly recommend opting for a third-party social media management, scheduling, and publishing tool.

There are plenty of great options on the market, including:

All of these tools offer affordable base-level plans with the option to scale to more profiles, users, and teams as you grow, and they all allow you to do the following:

  • Schedule posts in advance, plotting them on an actual calender so you can visually see what’s posting to which profiles when
  • Submit posts to approval from other team members
  • Upload images and potentially videos
Sprout Social's social media content management tool

Check out each one to see which has features that best suit your needs; some allow you to schedule posts to Facebook Groups you’re an admin of, and others allow you to schedule Instagram Stories. The image above is from Sprout Social, but we're going to use Agorapulse for the rest of this post.

The ability to schedule the versions of the posts you’ll publish (images included) is an enormous asset and it gives you a calendar to drop content into. It's well worth the investment, especially since this is a tool that will practically pay for itself as your business scales.

2. Decide which Social Media Sites you’re going to be Publishing to.

This will depend on your social media marketing packages that you offer and your client’s needs.

Some clients may only want you to post on Facebook or Instagram. Others will also want Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube thrown into the mix. (Currently, most social management tools offer features for all of these platforms.)

If you did take our recommendation and opted to use a social management tool, connect all of these profiles to the account, and make sure to take best practices regarding frequency into consideration. You can get some tips on how often to post on social media sites here.

Uploading post to social media content calendar tool

3. Develop Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

Your social media marketing strategy will determine what types of posts you want to publish and why. We have a full course detailing how to develop a social media strategy that can help.

As you’re fine-tuning your strategy, think about what mix of content that you want to publish each month and on each platform. You may realize, for example, that you want to post the following:

  • Sales and product-heavy content about 20% of the time, half of which will include direct links to your site
  • Snippets of your top blog posts or YouTube videos once or twice a week on Facebook and LinkedIn
  • UGC once a week minimum
  • Employee-generated content (EGC) at least once or twice a month
  • Long-form content for peers and clients on LinkedIn once per week
  • Stories at least 3x per week, ideally with multiple Stories in each segment

You can put all of this in a checklist, and once it’s approved by anyone who needs to review it, you can start putting it to work.

4. Decide How Often You Want to Post on Each Platform

We touched on this above, but knowing how often to post on each platform is important. Knowing best practices for each social media site is a good call, too.

This will depend entirely on your business, your audience, and your strategy. Their budget can also influence this decision; tighter budgets can mean fewer profiles or fewer posts.

A B2B service-based brand, for example, can do the following:

  • Post on Facebook 3x per week
  • Publish on LinkedIn 5x per week
  • Post on Instagram 2 x per week

An eCommerce brand that’s more product-focused might opt for the following schedule:

  • Post on Pinterest 3x per day
  • Publish on Facebook 4x per week
  • Post on Instagram 6x per week, with at least 2 Stories 5 days a week

Sync this up with your list of what you want to post. This way, you’ll have a good guide to make sure you’re meeting monthly minimum posting requirements.

5. Map Out High-Priority, Time-Sensitive Content

The first thing you should plot on your social media content calendar will be the high-priority posts. These are posts that need to be published at certain times to effectively promote specific events, campaigns, business updates, or other high-value happenings with your business.

Depending on what’s happening each month, this may include:

  • Promos of new products or services
  • Holiday-themed content, including “Get this nameplate for your office administrator for National Secretary’s Day!”
  • Social media or virtual contests
  • Timely content, like reminders about tax deadlines if your client is an accountant
  • Pre-planned content like Twitter Chats or group discussion posts
  • Reminders to RSVP to attend an upcoming event

These posts should always go on your social media content calendar first and before anything else. Then you can work backwards and fit everything else into the empty spaces.

Example social media content calendar

6. Fill In Other Pre-Planned Content for the Month

You’ve got all that time-sensitive stuff in place, so now it’s time to go through the rest of the content that you know you want to post for the month.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to post long-form content to LinkedIn once a week. It doesn’t matter what day. This is when you’ll create those posts and plug them into empty spaces in your content calendar.

Make sure that you're spacing these posts out from those that are already scheduled. This helps create a balanced and consistently-engaging content calendar.

Social media content calendar example

7. Use Topic Queue Features to Fill Extra Spaces

Several social media management tools have exceptional "queue" features that are practically a lifesaver for social media practitioners.

Queue features allow you to create a library of posts that you organize into categories like "Sharing blog posts" or "product videos" or "Christmas content."

This is where evergreen content (or at least label-appropriate evergreen content) shines. Every time you have a great idea for post, go in and create it, and then add relevant queued time slots into your calendar. You can even shake it up with a “blog post” queue slot and a “product video” queue slot to keep your calendar diverse.

In addition to giving you some flexibility with creation, it also gives you slots in your schedule that you can move around if needed. Say something news-worthy happens in your industry, and you don’t want to push any of your crucial campaigns, you can just bump a queued slot.

8. Review, Submit, Sit Back & Relax  

After your content calendar is up, take some time to go through every single post for every profile to check that:

  • There are no typos or misspellings
  • All posts meet platform best practices, like having hashtags on Instagram but not Facebook
  • Everything is scheduled for the appropriate day
  • All posts that are supposed to have their images, videos, or links

You can then submit the calendar to your client, team member, or supervisor to wait for approval. And once it’s approved, you can sit back, relax, and wait for the engagement to start coming in!

How to Use Your Social Media Content Calendar: Final Thoughts

Social media content calendars make your job as a social marketer much, much easier.

You get to stay organized and work ahead, allowing you to handle last-minute changes and all incoming engagement (if that’s part of your social marketing packages for clients, of course!).

You can even stagger content calendar creation so you’re never overwhelmed at the end of one month or the beginning of another, making it easier for you to scale long term. If you’re working with a team, this also gives you the ability to factor in buffer time for coworking and approval schedules.

And if you’re looking to win over new clients that you’re pitching and you really want to wow them, consider using a social media management tool to create a mock-up content calendar for them. Show them the types of posts you’d create and how you’d optimise scheduling, and work it into your presentation. It’s extra work, sure, but it could help you win the client over.

Ana Gotter

Ana Gotter

Social Media Marketing Specialist

Ana is a strategic content marketer specialising in business, finance, and marketing writing, though she's worked across a range of industries. She works from her home in Orlando with her three dogs.

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