How to Build a Social Media Content Calendar

You've created your Facebook page, Twitter profile, and even signed up for YouTube and Pinterest. Now what? Though you've been told that you have to "start a conversation" (there's that term again) with your community, knowing where to begin can be a little tricky. One thing I've learned from blogging for the better part of a decade is that an editorial calendar can be an invaluable tool to help you plot, plan, and brainstorm relevant content ahead of time no matter if you're just starting out or launching a social media campaign for your company. But how does an editorial calendar translate to social media? You've may have read a lot of posts containing tips on building a social media editorial calendar, but none telling you what exactly constitues "content." Maybe I can help.

Getting Started
Questions you should ask yourself first:
  • What am I trying to achieve by using social media? — Before you even start to think about filling up your calendar with ideas, you'll have to think first about what your social program is trying to achieve. Will it be to increase pageviews to your website? Achieve better customer service? Increase sales? Grow your customer base? Figuring out the answer to this question will help you decide how to attack the various social channel options out there.
  • Which social media outlets will I participate in? — Going gung-ho and signing up for every social media account under the sun will lead to burnout — you can't be everywhere all the time. And why would you? It's likely your target market isn't hanging out on EVERY social channel, right? First, identify your target market and do some research on what social channels they prefer. Study those for a bit to get a feel for what kinds of content is being shared and how the community operates, because no two communities are alike. This means the same content shouldn't be posted on all the social communities you're participating in so you'll need separate areas of your social calendar dedicated to the various social networks you're managing. It's a lot of work, but once you know what content does well on which sites, you'll be able to work smarter, not harder.
  • How far ahead will my calendar run? — I recommend planning three months ahead of time for big themes, holidays, events, and campaigns, but revisiting the calendar monthly, even weekly, to correspond with news, developments, or new ideas.
  • Who will be involved? — If you're working with a large company, pull in your marketing, PR, and sales teams to see where you can cross-promote or get involved in pushes for new readers/followers/fans.
  • Where will the calendar live? — Whether you've got yourself an old fashioned desktop calendar or putting your entries in a Google Doc so everyone on the team can reference it (recommended), have a place where your ideas are stored and organized by date. Don't just write a list in a notebook.

See how to actually build your calendar, and what it should include after the break.

Building the Calendar
I like to work in Google Docs since it gives me the option of sharing the calendar with teammates, but you can use whatever collaborative spreadsheet you'd like.
  • Label your first row with days of the week (or weeks of the month, depending on how specific you want to get)
  • Label the top row something along the lines of "Event/Type," "Department," "Assets," and "Participants"
  • Event/Type will be the kind of content you're producing. This could be a webcast, a Twitter chat, an interview, a giveaway, a talking point, a poll, a question regarding recent news, or updates about your company.
  • Department is the collaborating department within your company. IE: You're tweeting and promoting a giveaway for the marketing department.
  • Assets will be any kind of art, video, photography, or design element you might need from different departments
  • Participants is anyone who is managing this particular event, conducting the interview, or running the chat/discussion online

Filling in the blanks
I could give you a thousand ideas on what to include in your social media editorial calendar, but you should always be on the lookout for new angles to keep your content fresh. Also, you'll notice that I'm including blog posts in this list. Blogging is inherently social because it encourages sharing, commenting, and conversation. If your company doesn't have a blog yet, I'd recommend getting on that — it's a great place for your audience to meet up and learn more about you.
  • How-to videos
  • Tips to share
  • Blog posts
  • Twitter/Facebook chats
  • Dates to link to specific link partners
  • Promotion of guest bloggers
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Polls
  • Important dates — Departmental campaigns and how you'll be coordinating (ie: social channels you'll be using to promote campaign from marketing, sales, HR, customer service, ect.)
  • Important hashtags you know will be used and when (ie: #Oscars #CES2011 #FashionWeek, ect)
  • Important events — Start social conversation around holidays, themes, events, news, and hashtags

Listing out everything that you need to cover and could possibly cover in the weeks and months ahead allows you to consider all of your options, and get your juices flowing on how to cover events, news, holidays, themes, and company-wide or departmental campaigns. Share how you developed your social media calendar (or any questions you have about building your own) in the comments!

Source: Flickr user lioliz