How to create a content calendar for social media

social media calendarBy Paula Wethington

If you are a social media editor or a social media manager, you know there are certain times of the year in which content ideas are popping up so fast you can’t get everything scheduled.

But at some point, you will hit the “slow news days” in which everything that can be scheduled is scheduled, your clients and sources are out of the office, and even the “trending topics” lists are are slim pickings. While your work days may happily be short, you may still need to find some tasks to do at the office or to continue billable hours for your clients.

This is one of the assignments you should tackle during those slow days:

Create your 2016 CONTENT calendar

An editorial calendar is a scheduling tactic that public relations and journalism professionals have long used to keep track of assignments as compared to publication or production dates. Social media managers have also adopted this idea.

Whether you use real or virtual pinboards, a spreadsheet, calendar software or a word document to organize the information doesn’t matter. The goal is to create a system through which you plan out the best timing for key topics for your publication, accounts, business or client. Then share this list with coworkers and clients as appropriate so you can collaborate on assignments.

Even creating a preliminary schedule is a useful organizational task as you can update it throughout the year.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Deadlines and publication schedules for digital, print and broadcast projects. This would include any themes you have designated for each day. The production timing for each of those formats varies quite a bit, and you might need to plan weeks ahead to make sure the messages or themes synch.
  • Holidays and seasons observed by your customers or audience. Back to school was of huge interest to my readers when I wrote a personal finance column. But Michigan students start the school year in early September, which is two to three weeks after most of the U.S. That meant the national back to school editorial content was too early for my readers and I adjusted the timing for when they were actually ready for it.
  • Festivals, fairs, and sports events that your audience is interested in. Look up the website of favorite teams, schools or county fairs; or check to see whether the visitors and tourism bureau, chamber of commerce or newspaper has been given the dates. You’ll want to schedule tailgate party menu content, for example, just as football season starts.
  • Internal promotions, company anniversaries or campaign weeks. For example, if you work for a non-profit, find the dates for fundraising campaigns so that social media discussions can support what the marketing department is doing.
  • Research appropriate theme days for your accounts. There are numerous websites that have compiled “national day of …” lists. Your local library also will have reference books on this theme. Do a little bit of research among your co-workers or clients on the Internet as to which theme days you’ll want to participate in or talk about next year and add those to your content calendar.
  • Ideas you had but you couldn’t do in 2015 during the appropriate dates or seasons. Maybe you saw a terrific idea on someone else’s account that you’d like to try in 2016. Add it to your list so you don’t forget!
  • Evergreen content ideas that can run any time. You’ll need filler topics here and there; and to be fair, a lot of the topics you probably write about are not time-sensitive.

THE NEXT STEPS

  • After you have the topics mapped out, add notes at each entry as to which social media platforms that content should be planned for – such as Pinterest or LinkedIn.
  • If relevant to the account, include notes as to which team members will handle that topic or that platform.
  • If you need training on a specific tool or program before launching a project, now is the time to schedule that.
  • Start working on research plans such as a list of what photos you need and what experts you want to schedule for a Q&A session.

What’s my favorite tactic? I’ve long used a Word document on my computer’s desktop for newspaper and blog content budgets, so it’s been easy enough to adapt that to other social media use.

Do you geek on social media? I have a huge Pinboard on digital media topics and talk about social quite a bit on my Twitter account. I’d love to see your ideas, too, so feel free to tag me on this topic!

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Author: Paula Wethington

Paula has over 10 years experience working in a variety of digital and social media formats on behalf of a newsroom; and over 25 years total working as a reporter at newspapers in Ohio and Michigan.

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