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How to Create a Social Media Calendar and Stay Organized

Social media content calendars are the best way to plan and organize your content. Build one in 4 easy steps or use our free templates.

Christina Newberry, Brayden Cohen August 3, 2023
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A social media calendar is a lifesaver for busy social marketers.

Creating and posting content on the fly is tricky. You’re more prone to typos and writer’s block. Spending a little time upfront creating a social media calendar is much more efficient. That way, you carve out dedicated time to create, tweak, proofread, and schedule posts — and take the stress of planning out of your day-to-day.

Keep reading for your complete guide to setting up a practical and powerful, easy-to-use social media calendar. We’ve even included some free social media calendar templates to get you started!

Bonus: Download our free, customizable social media calendar template to easily plan and schedule all your content in advance.

What is a social media calendar?

A social media calendar is a detailed overview of your upcoming social media posts, organized by date and time. It can take the form of a document, spreadsheet, or interactive dashboard.

Social marketers use content calendars to plan posts, manage campaigns, and review ongoing strategies.

Every entry in a social media calendar typically includes some combination of these elements:

  • The post creatives (copy, image files, videos, links, tags etc.)
  • The date and time it will go live
  • The social network and account where it will be published

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How to create a social media calendar in 4 steps

Follow the steps below to create a lean and efficient social media content plan…

… or watch this video if you’re a visual learner:

1. Audit your social networks and content

Before building your social media posting calendar, you need a clear picture of your existing social media accounts.

Use our free social media audit template to create a precise, up-to-date record of:

  • Impostor accounts and outdated profiles
  • Account security and passwords
  • Goals and KPIs for each branded account by platform
  • Your target audience, their demographics and personas
  • Who’s accountable for what on your team
  • Your most successful posts, campaigns and tactics
  • Gaps, underwhelming results, and opportunities for improvement
  • Key metrics for measuring future success on each platform
  • Your competitors’ activity that you can learn from

As part of your audit, note how often you’re currently posting on each social network. Look at your analytics for any clues about how your posting frequency or time of posting impacts engagement and conversions.

Hot tip: Sign up for a 30-day free Hootsuite trial, and use our all-in-one analytics dashboard to easily analyze your performance and track competitors in one spot.

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2. Choose your social media channels and content mix

Deciding what kinds of content to post is a key part of your social media strategy — and an important step to building a social media calendar. There are a couple of standard marketing strategies for content mix that you can use to get started:

The social media rule of thirds

  • One-third of your posts promote your business or drive conversions.
  • One-third of your posts share curated content from industry thought leaders.
  • One-third of your social posts involve personal interaction with your followers.

Content mix: Rule of thirds

The 80-20 rule

  • 80 percent of your posts inform, educate, or entertain
  • 20 percent of your posts promote your business or drive conversions

You’ll also need to determine which social channels to use for which types of content. Some may not be necessary at all. The audit you completed in step 1 will help you determine which channels are the best fit for your business.

Don’t forget to schedule user-generated content and curated content. That way, you don’t get overwhelmed creating everything yourself.

3. Decide what your social media calendar should include

Your social media calendar won’t look exactly like anyone else’s. For example, a small business owner doing their own social posts will likely have a much simpler calendar than a large brand with a full social team.

Map out the information and functions that are most important to you. That way, you can get the most out of your social calendar.

Start with basic details, like:

  • Platform
  • Date
  • Time (and time zone)
  • Copy
  • Visuals (e.g., photo, video, illustration, infographic, gif, etc.)
  • Link to assets
  • Link to published post, including any tracking info (like UTM parameters)

You may also want to add more advanced info, like:

  • Platform-specific format (feed post, Story, Reel, poll, live stream, ad, shoppable post, etc.)
  • The associated vertical orsocial media campaign (product launch, contest, etc.)
  • Geo-targeting (global, North America, Europe, etc.)
  • Paid or organic? (If paid, then additional budget details might be helpful)
  • Has it been approved?

If you’re just getting started, a simple spreadsheet works well. If you’re looking for a more powerful solution, consider a social media management tool like Hootsuite. Hootsuite comes with an interactive calendar that:

  • Helps you build complete posts and schedule them in advance
  • Supports team collaboration on drafts
  • Recommends the best times to post for each network
  • Allows you to bulk schedule your content
  • Lets you pause all your scheduled content (for example, if you’re handling an unexpected PR crisis)

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4. Invite your team to review, and use their feedback to improve

An effective social calendar makes sense to everyone on your marketing team. Ask for feedback and ideas from stakeholders and your team to make sure it serves everyone’s needs.

As you start to work with your calendar, evaluate how it feels to you, and ask the team to provide ongoing feedback. For example, if it feels onerous and finicky, maybe you want to dial back some of the detail. If it’s not detailed enough, you may need to add a few columns.

Your calendar will probably continue to evolve as your business does — and that’s okay!

Free social media calendar templates

We’ve created two Google Sheets templates for you to use as a basis for your own social media calendar. Just open the link, make a copy, and plan away.

Social media calendar template

The social media content calendar template linked above has room for the major platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok). But it’s highly customizable, and you’re free to make it your own with the channels that make sense for you.

Make sure to create a new tab for each month, and plan out your editorial content week by week.

Among the many helpful items in this calendar, don’t miss the tab for evergreen content. This is where you can keep track of blog posts or other content that always performs well on social, despite seasonality.

This template includes columns for you to track and schedule:

  • Type of content
  • Original publication date (keep track of this, so you know when it’s time for an update)
  • Title
  • Topic
  • URL
  • Top-performing social copy
  • Top-performing image

Social media editorial calendar template

Use the editorial calendar template linked above to plan individual content assets. Think blog posts, videos, new research, etc. This is where you plan out the content that your social media efforts will be promoting.

The template is easy to use. Just create a new tab for each month, and plan your editorial content out week by week.

This social media editorial calendar template includes the following columns:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Topic
  • Deadline
  • Published
  • Time
  • Notes

You may want to adapt your template to include other important information, like target keyword or content bucket.

Why use a social media content calendar?

1. Get organized and save time

A social media calendar lets you plan ahead, batch your work, avoid multitasking, and note down all your content ideas for later.

Social media planning calendar tools even allow you to schedule social media posts ahead of time. That means your accounts can be active every day without you having to log into all your social platforms every hour on the hour.

The average internet user regularly uses 7.5 social media platforms. For marketers managing multiple social media accounts, the number can be much higher. When you’re managing multiple accounts, getting organized is essential — and planning your content frees up time for more strategic work, which is often more fun anyway.

2. Make it easier to post consistently

There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should post on social media. That said, there are some generally accepted best practices to use as a baseline. The most important rule, no matter how often you decide to post, is to post on a consistent schedule.

Sticking to a regular schedule is important, so your followers and fans know what to expect. It’s also a good way to make clever use of weekly hashtags like #MondayMotivation. (I prefer #MonsteraMonday, but that might not be for everyone.)

For a real-world example, take a look at the weekly content calendar for The Winnipeg Free Press. Sure, this isn’t a social media content calendar, but it is a weekly plan anchored by consistent content ideas.

Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Sections: weekly breakdown of topics to cover across several verticals and categories.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Content frameworks like these give you one less thing to consider as you create your posts. Scheduling posts in advance allows you to stick to a schedule while ensuring you always have quality content ready to go.

Social media calendar tools also allow you to post at the best times for your audience, even if those times don’t align with your core working hours. Which leads us to…

3. You can take a real vacation

When you create content and schedule it in advance, you can actually take time off. No logging into your work accounts on Thanksgiving, late at night, or early in the morning.

For busy social media managers, creating a social media calendar is an act of self-care.

4. Reduce typos and avoid big mistakes

Planning posts ahead of time allows you to check your work and build a safety net into your workflow. Everything’s easier when you’re not rushing to post.

A social media calendar — especially one with an approval process — is the best way to prevent everything from minor mistakes to social media crises.

5. Make higher-quality content and cohesive campaigns

Social media production values have skyrocketed since the early days. Today, it’s not unusual for a single post to have a whole social media team of creatives behind it.

Asking your team to drop everything for an emergency Instagram Reel won’t win hearts or minds. It’s not going to result in your best possible content or a cohesive account either.

A social media calendar helps you distribute resources and make sure your team has the breathing room to do their best work.

Following a long-term plan also allows you to craft content that supports your social media marketing goals and beyond.

6. Time your content to important holidays and events

Planning your content in a calendar forces you to keep an eye on what’s happening in, well, the calendar. This means you’re prepared for everything from Daylight Savings Time to the Super Bowl. (And everything else: We’re looking at you, National Pizza Day.)

We’ve created a Google Calendar of holidays you can use to frame social media posts. You can import it into your own Google Calendar to give your content planning a little extra relevance.

Let’s take a look at the Charlotte Parent magazine’s 2022 editorial calendar. It shows how content themes and specific articles align with relevant events, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Charlotte Parent magazine's editorial calendar listing big events and themes for every month

Source: Charlotte Parent

7. Spot opportunities for partnerships or sponsored content

Planning content in advance gives you time to think about partnership opportunities. Or to approach influencers about working together on sponsored content.

It also makes it easier to coordinate your organic and paid content, so you can make the most of your social advertising dollars.

Influencers and bloggers usually have their own editorial content calendars. This is another opportunity to compare notes and find more partnership opportunities through content planning.

8. Track what works, and improve it

What gets scheduled gets done, and what gets measured gets improved.

Your social media analytics are an informational goldmine. You can use those insights to improve lackluster results and produce more of your best content.

Instagram analytics overview in the Hootsuite dashboard

If you’re using a social media marketing tool like Hootsuite, you can use the built-in analytics tools to capture a complete picture of all your social media efforts, so you don’t have to check each platform individually.

Social media content calendar apps and tools

There are probably as many different social media content calendar tools as there are social media managers. These are our favorites.

Google Sheets

Sure, Google Sheets isn’t fancy. But this free, cloud-based spreadsheet tool certainly makes life easier. A simple Google Sheet is a good home for your social media calendar, especially if you use one (or both) of our templates as your starting point.

It’s easy to share with team members and stakeholders, it’s free, and it works.

Hootsuite Planner

We’d never knock a spreadsheet. But if you’re looking for an even simpler solution, Hootsuite Planner takes your social media content calendar to the next level.

You can use Hootsuite to draft, preview, schedule and publish your social media posts. And not just for one platform, either. Hootsuite works with Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. You can even use Hootsuite’s Bulk Composer to schedule hundreds of posts across multiple social profiles.

Hootsuite Visual Planner

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Unlike a static spreadsheet, the social media calendar you can build with Hootsuite’s Planner is flexible and interactive. If you want a post to go out at 3PM on Wednesday instead of 9AM on Saturday? Just drag and drop it to the new time slot, and you’re good to go.

Hootsuite even suggests the best time to post for each social media account.

Hootsuite's Best Time to Publish feature

Once you’ve planned your social media content calendar, use Hootsuite Planner to manage your social media posts, engage with your followers, and track the success of your efforts. Sign up for a free trial today.

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By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

By Brayden Cohen

Brayden Cohen has spent the past 7+ years working with disruptive brands helping them grow and scale their marketing strategies through digital channels.

He’s worked on and consulted for small and large teams at start-up and enterprise B2B and B2C organizations building integrated social, content, influencer, and employee advocacy campaigns and programs to grow their brands globally.

Read more by Brayden Cohen

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