Tackling social media without a plan is kind of like sitting down to write a college entrance essay without an outline. You have the very best intentions, but the result is a stream of consciousness narrative that hops from one topic to the next without warning.
As community managers we go to work with a fully loaded tool belt packed with shiny apps and platforms. But at the end of the day, our most important tool is one we build ourselves: the editorial calendar. Here’s how we organize our editorial calendars to build brand stories on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly basis.
Editorial calendar tools
The most common question we get is about the tools we use to build editorial calendars. Luckily, this is an easy one to answer. We rely on Google Drive for collaboration purposes, but good old fashioned Excel spreadsheets also get the job done.
Compilation of digital assets
It goes without saying that your social calendar should include all social outlets your brand is present on. By adding in any other planned digital assets, such as blog posts, email newsletters and white paper releases, you’ll make it easier to plug in related social material.
Digital overview AND social detail
From a strategic standpoint, a monthly or yearly calendar will help let you take a step back and look at the larger brand story arc. But in order to execute, you’ll also need to set up a tactical calendar that lists your social media plan on a day-by-day and even hour-by-hour basis. What will you tweet on Tuesday? What time is that Facebook post going out on February 13? When will you hit Pinterest? Precise planning keeps the social media flow going.
To get a look at both angles, we have one spreadsheet tab that is a digital content overview with blog posts, white papers, conferences we plan to attend, and email newsletter dates. For daily scheduling purposes we have a detailed social messaging tab that breaks things down on an hourly basis.
Social media flexibility
You can plan ahead for months at a time, but know that you’ll need to leave room for alterations. Maybe a new conference pops up, or a sensitive national event occurs that will affect the language you use. Editorial calendars are absolutely essential for social media success, but they are by no means set in stone.
Plan for creation and curation
If you’re producing quality content, you’ll naturally want to share said content on social platforms. But to foster engagement, it’s important to share and interact with others’ content. You can plan content curation ahead of time by tracking down links and preparing accompanying messages. If you’d rather aim for fresh content, leave blocks in your calendar for “TBA curated content” — just be sure that you save time to plug in that content the day or week of.
Need help filling your editorial calendar? Check out these tips for brainstorming digital content topics.