By Tommy Griffith / Last Updated: September 17, 2019

If you’ve ever participated in a conversation that includes:

  • What are we going to post on Facebook today?
  • Hey guys, where should I post this?
  • Do we have anything to post on Twitter this week?

Then you need a social media calendar.

This post will teach you the step-by-step process to create a social media calendar that helps you attract more traffic, leads, and sales from social media.

Plus, we’ll include the exact template you can use.

This template was designed by Jasmine Atherton, who has managed social media for companies like Airbnb and Delta.

Their results speak for themselves:

How to Use This Walkthrough

First, you will need to download the template below.

Get The Social Media Calendar Template

Heads up, there’s more to social media marketing than just using the right template.

This post will walk you through each step of filling out each column of the template in a strategic way.

As you move through the walkthrough, you’ll be able to mark each step as completed.

Once you’re done here, be sure to check out the ClickMinded social media marketing course for a more detailed overview of how to get more traffic from search engines to your business. If you’re looking to create a comprehensive social media strategy, check out our retro-inspired, 8-bit social media strategy guide.

Let’s get started.

This walkthrough includes:

Plan Your Major Campaigns in Advance

The first step of filling out your social media calendar is to include the publish date:

When it comes to posting on social media, most businesses play defense.

That’s when you’re always scrambling to come up with content to publish at the last minute.

Instead, you should play offense.

To do this, list out in advance all the major campaigns your business will run through the year.

Here are some major ones you might want to think about:

  • Valentine’s day
  • Mother’s day
  • Father’s day
  • 4th of July
  • Amazon Prime Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving / Black Friday
  • Christmas
  • Hanukkah
  • New Year’s

(Some of these are specific to the US, but you can come up with a similar list for any country).

Simply doing this, will give you weeks or months to create content for your social media channels.

Planning ahead allows brands to create meaningful content that gets massive engagement, like this 4th of July post from Airbnb:

Here’s an additional resource to help you plan ahead:

Pick the Right Content to Publish

Now that you know when your major campaigns are happening, it’s time to pick the right content to publish on your social channels.

You will use this information to fill out columns B, C, and D of the template:

A lot of businesses make the mistake of being too promotional.

I bet you follow more than one brand or business that only speaks about their product and tries to get you to purchase.

Don’t use social media just to promote your business.

Social media is about sharing content that engages people and starts conversations.

For example, check out this back-and-forth between Old Spice and Taco Bell (pay special attention to the engagement metrics).

These brands are not on Twitter trying to push their products in every chance they get.

Instead, they use social media to nurture and build trust with a broad audience.

To do this, all you need is plan your social content against your sales funnel.

The basic sales funnel looks like this:

The TL;DR is this:

  • At the top of the funnel, you want to attract as many people in your target audience as possible
  • At the middle of the funnel, you want to convert the people from the top of the funnel into leads (usually by collecting a piece of contact information like email or phone number)
  • At the bottom of the funnel, you want to convert leads into customers

Notice how engagement usually lowers the closer the content is to the bottom of the funnel?

That’s why you need to balance the content for each stage of the funnel.

When in doubt, follow an 80 / 15 / 5 split:

  • 80% of top-of-the-funnel content
  • 15% of middle-of-the-funnel content
  • 5% of bottom-of-the-funnel content

Here’s an additional resource to help you create content for your sales funnel:

Choose the Right Social Media Channels

At this point, you know when your campaign is going live and where the campaign fits into your sales funnel.

Now it’s time to choose the channel to distribute your campaigns:

There are a couple of common mistakes we see businesses make over and over again when it comes to channel selection.

Mistake #1: Following the hype of the “new and trendy” social channels

It’s hard to read headlines like this and not want to jump headfirst into the newest social media to pop up every month.

In general, most businesses will do just fine if they manage to avoid the hype.

Mistake #2: Treating all social channels in the same way

This one is for those who think they can participate in several social channels by just publishing the same “title + image + hashtag + link” combo in every channel.

You know you’ve tried this ;)

Think of it like this:

You can’t just copy and paste an ad from Facebook into an email campaign and expect it to work.

The same applies to social media channels.

If you try to create something generic that works for every channel, you will end up succeeding in none of them.

Each channel is different, and the content you share in each of them should be designed specifically for its characteristics, strengths, and limitations.

To pick the right social channels, answer 3 questions:

WHERE is your target audience?

This is a simple but effective first step.

If you’re targeting professionals between the ages of 50-65, it doesn’t make sense for your business to create a Snapchat account.

Before picking a channel, make sure your audience is there.

For example, Hubspot knows a lot of their potential customers hang out on Linkedin, so they are especially active in that channel.

WHAT are they doing?

A lot of people get the first step right and fail anyway.

Just because your audience participates in a channel, doesn’t mean they will be waiting for your content.

Next, you need to understand what is it your target audience is doing on each channel.

For example, here’s how Airbnb uses LinkedIn and Instagram.

  • LinkedIn is where people make professional connections, so it’s a great channel to attract potential employees.
  • Instagram is where people go get inspired, so it’s a great channel to attract potential customers.

HOW are they consuming content?

Finally, you need to understand each channel’s typical consumption habits.

Instagram and Pinterest are both mostly visual social channels.

At first glance, it can be hard to tell them apart.

However, people using each channel consume content in entirely different ways.

Instagram is mostly a passive channel, and Pinterest is an active channel.

  • On passive channels, users have a browsing mentality.

Think of the way you scroll through a feed on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

In passive channels, you will need to participate as an active publisher—always pushing out new content that enters your audience’s feed.

  • On active channels, users have a discovering mentality.

Good examples of active channels are Pinterest or YouTube, where users typically go in searching for something in a specific topic.

On active channels, you don’t necessarily need to publish regularly.

Instead, you will focus on optimizing content for each channels’ search engine, so your content can be discovered.

That’s why marketing on active channels is a lot like doing SEO.

Here are some resources to help you choose the right channels:

Create World-Class Social Media Content

Next step is to create the content that will engage your target audience:

To create world-class content for social media, use a 4-step framework:

  1. Create target personas: this will help you really understand your audience (including their desires, wants, and needs)

One of our favorite examples of companies using target personas is Empire Flippers, a website for people who want to buy and sell online businesses.

They write very openly about their target personas and know exactly what each of them wants and needs:

This makes A LOT it easier to create content that’s relevant and interesting to each segment of your aduience.

  1. Create single-minded value propositions (SMVPs): simple messaging for each of your target personas at each stage of the funnel

Have you noticed how hard it is to decide on what to eat when you’re in front of a menu with hundreds of options?

That’s what happens to your audience when you include too much information into your social content.

SMVPs allow you to keep things simple and to the point, increasing your chances of people acting on your audience.

We really like how Lyft uses SMVPs in social media.

A short and straightforward message tells you just enough to understand (not more) and pushes you to a single call-to-action: update the app.

Remember, you don’t need to convince everyone all the time to buy your product or service…

…you just need to keep people moving to the next stage of the sales funnel.

  1. Choose your content types: adapt your message to the right format for each social channel

5 years ago, each social channel had just 1 content type—so this step was easy.

Nowadays, a single channel usually has multiple ways to publish content.

For example, check out just a few options available on Instagram.

SproutSocial has some great resources on specs for the most important social media channels:

Keep these handy when you’re creating your social content.

  1. Create attention-grabbing content: this is content that people want to consume AND that helps you achieve your business goals

Tasty is a great example of a company that creates content people enjoy (quick recipe videos) and achieves a business goal (traffic and sales).

In fact, Tasty’s formula for social content has been so successful that it has basically become the new standard for all recipe sites.

We go in-depth into the entire 4-step framework in our Complete Content Marketing Strategy Guide.

For best practices about creating content specifically for social media, check out our free mini-course: Creating World-Class Social Media Content.

If you want to get right to it, these are some of our favorite tools for creating social media content:

Track Your Results

At this point, you have a plan for your major campaigns, you’ve picked the right content to publish, you’ve chosen the right social media channels, and you’ve created world-class social media content.

Now it’s time to tie your efforts to your business’ goals.

The most successful social marketers don’t care about “going viral”.

Followers, likes, and views won’t help you grow your business.

The best social media strategies drive traffic, leads, and sale from social channels.

That’s why tracking is so important.

To trace back visits and revenue back to your campaigns, you need to add tracking parameters to the URLs you share on social media.

This step will allow you to track traffic referred by specific social media channels, campaigns, and posts and learn things like:

  • How much revenue is each channel driving
  • Which campaigns or posts drive the most traffic
  • What are social visitors doing after they land on your site

To do this, you need to:

  1. Add UTM parameters to your URLs

UTM parameters are just pieces of information you append to each URL, which Google Analytics uses to create reports for your campaigns.

Tracked URLs look like this:

  1. Shorten the tracked URLs

The problem with UTM-tracked URLs is they don’t look great when you share them on social media.

Instead, you can use a URL shortening service like Bitly or TinyURL to make your posts look cleaner.

Here are some free resources to help you track the results of your social media campaigns:

Publish at Strategic Times

In this step, you’ll define the specific time when your content will go live.

People think this is way more important than it truly is.

The thousands of blog posts and studies about the “best time to publish on social media” have convinced many people that the reason their social media content is not working is that they haven’t been publishing them at the right time.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I don’t think there is such a thing as a “best time to post” that works for every business.

This will vary a lot depending on:

  • Your product
  • Your industry
  • Your audience
  • The social channel you use

Don’t stress about whether it’s better to publish at 11 am vs 2 pm.

Instead, choose a time frame that makes sense and test what works for your business.

Obviously, stay away from mistakes like:

  • Publishing in the middle of the night when your audience is asleep
  • Not adjusting your publishing schedule to your audience’s

Do this, and you’ll be fine.

If you still want to look at stats, here’s an additional resource to help you schedule your social content:

Build Your Social Media Process

This is perhaps the most crucial step in this whole thing.

Where a lot of people fail when using a social media calendar is not at building it for the first time.

They fail at continuing to use it and making it a regular part of their process.

That’s what the last part of the template is for.

Consistency is key if you want to see results.

I recommend not starting simple with your social media calendar process:

  1. Include an approval process for the content that will be published
  2. Record the links of every post that goes live

An approval process achieves a couple of things:

  • You get a second or third pair of eyes on the content, hopefully catching errors before they go live.
  • You force yourself to be held accountable for sticking to the calendar.

If you’re running social media, you should be on top of this calendar every day, and it should be reviewed every 1 or 2 weeks.

Finally, adding the live link to the post makes it super easy to reference and find stuff that did and didn’t work.

Your Turn

That’s it! You have a strategic approach to using a social media calendar to drive more traffic, leads, and sales to your business.

And remember to click here to download your template.

All you need to do is put this stuff into action.

Run Powerful, Metric-Driven Social Marketing Campaigns

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