Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Local businesses know they have to post on social networks frequently, to stay engaged with fans and followers. However, it is a task that often gets put on the back burner or, worse, overlooked entirely. Using a social media calendar can help alleviate this problem.
Below, I discuss what a social media calendar is, what to post and how often, and provide five free templates you can use to get started right away.
What Is a Social Media Calendar?
A social media calendar contains a schedule of pre-written posts and topic ideas for all of the social networks in which your business participates. It displays the content you’ll be posting, and where and when you will be posting it for any given day.
What to Post in a Social Media Calendar
One of the obstacles that keep businesses from posting is that they just do not know what to write. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Upcoming events;
- Topics such as Follow Fridays or Throwback Thursdays;
- Posting other people’s content;
- Repurposing existing content;
- Product launches;
- Special promotions.
Each post does not have to be unique to a particular social network. You can use them in multiple ways across networks.
For example, you can share the same blog post to Twitter in the morning and then again in the afternoon, and share it on Facebook the same day as well. You can also add an image included in the blog post to Pinterest or Instagram.
Something else to keep in mind — make certain the content is balanced. One suggestion is to use the 5-3-2 rule.
Out of ten social media updates:
- Five should be content from others;
- Three should be from you, about your business;
- Two should be personal status updates.
The updates can consist of different types and include links, images, quotes, reshares, and text-only posts.
Create a Posting Schedule
How often you should post has been a favorite topic of research. Here is a quick summary of posting frequency and times for each of the major social networks.
Twitter is the network where you should post most frequently, due to its ephemeral nature.
- Frequency: Three to 30 times a day;
- Timeframe: Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Facebook is where you’ll keep followers abreast of what’s taking place in your business. Don’t overwhelm your followers with constant updates, however, or you risk losing them.
- Frequency: No more than ten posts a week;
- Timeframe: Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Pinterest is a bit like Twitter, with updates occurring on a near-constant basis. Posting on Pinterest does not have to be as aggressive as Twitter, however.
- Frequency: At least five times a day;
- Timeframe: Between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
LinkedIn members are more professional and lean towards networking in general. Gear your content to business-centric topics.
- Frequency: No more than one time per weekday;
- Timeframe: Between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Google Plus followers do not want to be overwhelmed by content so limit posts to a reasonable number.
- Frequency: No more than twice a day;
- Timeframe: Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Instagram, like Pinterest, is for people interested in visual content.
- Frequency: No more than two to three updates per day;
- Timeframe: Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Related article: Social Media: What, When, and Where to Post
5 Free Social Media Calendar Templates
Excel is a common way to create a content calendar but, luckily, you do not have to start from scratch. A number of free templates are available that can help. Pick the one that most appeals to you and edit to your liking. Here are five from which to choose.
CoSchedule, a paid service, offers a free social media plan template. Enter your email address to download.
Hubspot’s social media calendar is a customizable Excel template, which you can use to plan updates for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest. The template will also break down how to format content for the different networks.
Hootsuite offers a sample Excel template that demonstrates what a social media calendar can look like. It includes fields for the author, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Instagram. While basic, the template serves as a stepping stone to creating your calendar.
LocalVox has a robust social media calendar template for use with Excel, organized by days of the week. It includes social media sites such as Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and contains suggested posting times for Twitter.
Marketo does not provide an Excel template but has a PDF worksheet that helps you discover your social media objectives. It includes planning for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, examples of posts for each network, and a daily social media checklist.