Anyone who has managed a social media account for a while is familiar with that sense of panic. You need to post something… but what?!?
In this moment of panic, you can’t think of ANYTHING to say. Running a social media channel is a bit like feeding a horrible beast that is always hungry for more content.
The trick to avoiding the panic is to have a content calendar.
What’s a content calendar?
A content calendar is simply a plan of what you are planning to share on social media.
It doesn’t have to be very complicated or expensive. You can use a paper calendar, a diary, an online calendar or a spreadsheet. There are, of course, various apps and software that include social media planning in their features. The important part is that you can create a plan and quickly check what must be created, scheduled or shared. Creating a content calendar is all about making life easier for future you.
The more details you add when you dream up an idea, the less you have to flesh out later. You may find it useful to include some of the following details in your content calendar.
- Post Topic – What is your post about?
- Caption – What are you going to say?
- Link – Where do you want your audience to go?
- Image or Video – What image or video do you need to source or create?
- Hashtags – What hashtags will you use?
- Location or account tags – What accounts or locations do you need to tag?
- Posting time – When will you schedule or post your content?
Of course, it doesn’t have to get this detailed. A social media calendar can be as simple as a list of what you are going to share where and when.
Is creating a content calendar worth the effort?
Planning what you want to share on social media in advance not only squashes social media post anxiety but also improves your content’s quality and intention. Rather than finding something (anything!) to share each day, you can work out what you should be sharing to communicate with your audience effectively.
Having a plan will allow you to preview upcoming events, sales and product launches to build anticipation. It will help you circle back on important themes and messages so you can drive home a point. Finally, a plan helps your audience know what to expect from your page.
Shouldn’t I just share whatever is in the news?
For some industries a content calendar will need to be very flexible and fit around the news cycle. That said, it is still useful to plan the topics you would like to cover, what images, videos and graphics you may need, and set calendar reminders for when you need to post the content.
For most businesses, a lot of content can be scheduled in advanced. Even the content that will need to be shared live should still be added to your content calendar – as a reminder to actually post that update.
No matter what industry you work in, it is a good idea to leave a few gaps in your calendar to share unplanned content. A fantastic photo you have just taken, or a trending topic, are excellent hooks for your business. In these moments, you want to move quickly to share content when it is relevant.
Conversely, be prepared to pause or replace items on your content calendar. Real-world events or online trends can quickly flip a carefully planned post into an off-colour update.
I’ve created a blank calendar… now what?
You may find a blank content calendar even more terrifying than that empty update box. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are the steps I use to fill up a content calendar.
- Start by establishing a weekly content schedule. This is a plan for the days and times you want to share content and the social media platforms you want to use.
- The next step is to enter in any special dates or events in your calendar. Include public holidays, local events, planned media events, announcements, school terms etc. You should include any event that is likely to create social media content opportunities. You could complete this step for the whole year in January and then add new events as they pop up.
- Now look at your events and announcements and determine what posts are required before or after each event. For example, you may want to create several posts previewing an exhibition opening, coverage of the opening and follow up posts afterwards.
- The next step is to add any content you are already creating that can be adapted for social media. If you send out a weekly newsletter you could also share that message as an Instagram post and film some stories talking about the topic.
- Now add your content pillars. These are themes or features you regularly use for your website articles or social media posts.
- Finally, allocate content that is not time-sensitive (aka evergreen content) to the gaps in your content calendar. This content could include inspirational quotes, testimonials from clients, tips, photos from behind the scenes or user-generated content.
Some planned content, such as Christmas messages, can be planned, created and scheduled months in advance. However, it’s a good idea not to get too far ahead of yourself. Social media is always changing, so it is good to regularly review what content is working for your audience and experiment with new ideas.