10 Social Media Calendars, Tools, & Templates to Plan Your Content

What do cross-country road trips, wedding speeches, and social media marketing have in common?

You could improvise all three, but it’s better to have a plan for what direction you’re heading — especially when developing your social media content strategy.

By now, most marketers recognize that social media plays an integral role in an effective inbound marketing strategy. And with so many social networks to manage and publish on, it’s important to stay organized and have a plan for when and what you’re going to share on these platforms.→ Free Download: Social Media Calendar Template [Access Now]

In this post, we’ve rounded up some of the most helpful tools and templates for building out an effective social media content plan. Check them out below.

The Benefits of Using a Social Media Content Calendar

We’re all busy. And when we’re busy without a plan in place for the tasks we have to get done, things inevitably slip through the cracks. Social media content is no exception.

Just like with blogging, a successful social media strategy requires regular publishing and engaging with followers to see positive results — whether that be in terms of SEO, brand recognition, lead generation, or all three.

So, if you’re not already using a social media content calendar, hear me out:

  1. Calendars help you get organized to avoid the dreaded scramble when things come up. With a social media calendar, marketers can plan out posts for entire weeks or months in advance, which frees up working hours to strategize for the future — and to dash off any posts about breaking news in your industry. Otherwise, you’ll spend valuable time each day searching the internet for that day’s content to share, which is a known productivity killer.
  2. A calendar helps you plan for each social network to customize posts instead of spamming all platforms with the same message. Social media marketers should take the time to craft custom messages for each network, and doing this in advance will save time throughout the week and ensure you’re being thoughtful and intentional when you do post.
  3. Calendars can help you track performance and plan for future posts. Without a calendar, social media marketers are publishing content into the void and are unable to track big-picture and past performance. With a calendar, marketers can look back and analyze which content performed best so they can adjust their strategy accordingly.
  4. With the help of a calendar, marketers can plan for holidays and observance days, such as National Cat Day, when they can tailor their content and engage with a wider audience.
  5. Social media calendars improve efficiency. According to Content Marketing Institute, 72% of B2B marketers attribute the success (which has increased annually) of their content to the development of a formal content strategy.

Now that you understand the merits of having a social media content calendar in place, check out our list of top tools to stay organized and on top of your game.

Social Media Content Calendar Tools to Plan Your Messaging

1. Microsoft Excel Downloadable Template

Content Calendar

Marketers might already use Excel for different types of reports and data analysis in their roles, but it’s a highly useful tool for social media content calendar organization, too. Excel can be customized according to whatever priorities or metrics a team is focused on, so it’s a great tool for planning ahead.

The good news? We’ve already done the heavy lifting for you by creating a free, downloadable social media content calendar template using Microsoft Excel. Marketers can use this template to easily plan out individual social media posts — monthly or annually — while keeping an eye on bigger picture events, holidays, publications, and partnerships.

For more on how to use the templates, check out this in-depth guide from my colleague Lindsay Kolowich.

Social media calendar ideas organized on an Excel spreadsheet

Use the Monthly Planning Calendar Tab above to get a bird’s-eye view of what’s coming down their content pipeline in a given month.

content repository tab within this calendar excel template

In the Content Repository tab, users can record the content they’re publishing on this tab to keep track of which pieces have been promoted and to easily recall older content that can be re-promoted on social media.

social network update tab within content calendar template

On the Social Network Update tabs, users can draft and plan out social media posts in advance. These tabs are for organizational purposes, and the content of the posts themselves must be uploaded into a social media publisher.

This free resource can be used to draft social media posts, or it can be bulk-uploaded into a publishing app to maximize efficiency. (HubSpot customers: You can use this spreadsheet to organize content and upload it directly into Social Inbox. For instructions on how to do so, check out the template’s cover sheet here.)

2. Google Drive

Content Calendar and Asset Organization

Google Drive has several helpful features that make it easy for social media marketers to build out an effective content calendar.

Here’s an example of how a team might use Google Calendar to track both their editorial and social media calendars to make sure they’re aligning posts with new blog content. These calendars can be easily shared with multiple teams to avoid scheduling conflicts and ensure that campaigns are aligned.

Social media calendar organized on Google Calendar

Marketers can also use shared Google Sheets to schedule posts on social media, track the status of different pieces of content, and assign tasks to team members — all on the same platform as their calendar.

Social media calendar ideas listed on Google Sheets

With the help of Google Docs, users can keep comments all in one place and can collaborate on different projects without emailing back-and-forth or having to schedule a meeting. This is a particularly useful feature when editing content for social media, which may need to be drafted and approved quickly.

Google Docs document with projects listed and comments on those projects

(HubSpot customers: You can link your Google Drive account to your HubSpot portal to easily upload files from Drive into your HubSpot software.)

3. Loomly

Content Planning, Creation, Publishing, and Calendar

If you want more mileage out of a content calendar than publishing dates, you can turn to an all-in-one content planning and publishing platform such as Loomly.

Loomly offers tools beyond the management of content, going even so far as to provide post inspiration and ideas to help you create content. It also allows you to manage your content assets, schedule posts, manage them in both a list view and a calendar view, and analyze what’s working.

Their most robust feature set, though, includes a collaboration and approval environment so that teams can submit mockups, provide comments, see version logs, and flag for approval. This can help you streamline for efficiency when it may otherwise seem as though there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” on a particular project.
loomly social media calendar featureImage Source

4. Trello

Task Management and Content Calendar

Trello is another organizational tool that’s highly effective for team collaboration. More specifically, social media managers can use Trello’s flexible assignment “cards” and customizable “boards” and “lists” to map out to-do lists, manage a content calendar, plan a campaign, and house ideas from a brainstorm.

Here’s an example of a Trello board a social media marketing team might use to plan posts for the upcoming week:

Social media calendar created on Trello

But you’re not limited to just one structure: Users can customize boards according to their needs. For example, a team could create a board to organize social media posts for a given week, on a specific platform, or post ideas around a topic, such as a campaign or awareness day.

Trello cards allow for a ton of customization as well. Here’s a fictitious social media editorial calendar card with Twitter copy options around a piece of blog content. Note that you can track progress toward completing a checklist, which could be useful for social media marketers looking to track campaign progress.

animated gif showing checklist on editorial calendar on Trello

Additionally, Trello cards can be assigned to different team members, marked with due dates, and commented on. Users can even customize the labels (as in the image below) with different publication statuses so the entire team can see the progress of their social media posts and when they’re due on the calendar. The labels could also indicate different social networks that content is being published on.

Trello labels used to show calendar status

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Trello also offers a full calendar view (shown below) which makes it easy to visualize what content is going out, and when.

Social media calendar ideas organized on a Trello calendar

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5. Evernote

Content Calendar, Task Management, and Asset Organization

Evernote is a note-taking app that marketers can use to keep track of all the moving parts that comprise a social media campaign.

The tool also features yearly, monthly, weekly, and hourly logs, which make it easy to keep track of when you’re publishing content on social media, when you’re producing blog content, and other team-wide priorities. (Evernote offers customizable templates for each of these that can be downloaded into the app.)

Social media content calendar on Evernote

Another useful feature? Evernote’s Web Clipper extension for Chrome. Marketers can use this tool to easily save links to their Evernote Notebook for sharing later on.

Evernote webclipper extension feature

The Evernote mobile app also boasts some interesting features to help marketers keep their social content ideas straight. For example, you can easily snap a photo and save it to your Evernote files for review later.

evernote capture photos feature

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This feature is of particular valuable for social content creators looking to maintain a backlog of photos to publish on Instagram.

6. Hootsuite

Social Publishing and Content Calendar

Hootsuite offers a built-in Planner tool to help you create campaigns, identify publishing gaps, and collaborate with your content creation team. Its primary features are in social publishing so that you can release content to your networks in advance, but it also has rich features for collaboration and post approvals. You can also curate content from other sources without logging into your account. Once your content is created, you can preview it with the Composer tool, which displays according to each social network’s unique format.

hootsuite social publishing calendar features

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7. Agorapulse

Social Publishing and Content Calendar

Similar to Hootsuite, Agorapulse offers social publishing tools and a content calendar so that you can manage your social media accounts with ease. This includes scheduling (or rescheduling), queuing, and bulk uploading posts, which is incredibly helpful for those who do quarterly or monthly content plans. What makes Agorapulse different, though, is its social inbox that allows you to manage all the interactions from various platforms in a single place. After all, content isn’t just a one-and-done activity; it’s about building awareness and engagement with your readers as well.

agorapulse social publishing calendar feature

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8. StoryChief

Content Planning and Distribution

If you want more from your content calendar than simply knowing when posts go live, StoryChief is a good option. With StoryChief’s smart calendar, you can better strategize and plan your content strategy across channels. It not only displays your timetable; it also allows you to assign collaborators to tasks and filter by campaign. StoryChief self-describes their tool as a “content distribution platform” that unifies analytics and publishing across multiple channels for a more simplified approach to content creation. Best of all, it syncs with your favorite calendar apps as well as HubSpot.

storychief smart calendar feature
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9. ClearVoice

Content Creation and Management

So what about content planning and creation? ClearVoice offers content creation tools to fit into your workflow. While their big claim to fame is their Talent Network Search which allows you to find and connect to content creators to work on your projects, ClearVoice also has features for task management for internal and external collaborators. You can create, edit, and approve projects in an interface that makes editorial management easy. They also have a dashboard and dynamic editorial calendar with plenty of interactive functionality, and there’s integrations with other popular software.

clearvoice editorial calendar

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10. Zerys

Content Creation and Management

Zerys is another platform that matches you with your ideal content creation freelancers. However, it markets itself as a platform dedicated to content success, offering features for content planning, production, publishing, promotion, conversion, and analytics. You can manage unlimited content projects, plan keywords and titles for blog content, hire writers, and view all deadlines on an integrated calendar. Your in-house writers can use the platform, too, with the project management features that Zerys offers. It also integrates with HubSpot so that publishing is a breeze.

zerys content calendar feature

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Social Media Templates

HubSpot’s Social Media Calendar Template

If you’re new to setting up social media calendars, HubSpot offers a pre-made, free, and downloadable template that you can use to schedule out full weeks of posts. 

HubSpot's Free Social Media Calendar Template

HubSpot’s Social Media Content Calendar Template for Startups

This template is very similar to the one seen above, but also has tabs that work as a repository for content ideas. The template also includes helpful tips for posting on specific social media networks. 

Social media idea repository tab on Social Media Calendar template from HubSpot

If you’re aiming to get all of your ideas down in order to develop a big-picture plan for your social assets, we recommend starting with this template. 

Getting Started on Your Social Media Schedule

Now that we’ve reviewed a few helpful tools to kick your social media strategy into high gear, experiment with them. Every social media team is different, and it could be a combination of these tools that helps you execute your strategy efficiently to drive ROI. 

social media content calendar

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

social media calendar

Originally published Jun 25, 2020 10:00:00 AM, updated June 25 2020

Topics:

Social Media Publishing

7 Steps to (Effectively) Branding Your Business on a Budget

In marketing, it seems like the word “brand” is used a lot — the leading brand, off-brand, personal brand … you get the picture.

But there’s often confusion around its meaning in business. What does it entail? Should you hire an expert?

Most of all — branding is expensive, right?

Not exactly. As it turns out, there are some creative ways to brand your business effectively without a ton of cash. And while it can require an investment of time, the ROI won’t go unnoticed — in some cases, it can actually help you save money, while also growing your business.

Building your brand is a crucial part of developing your business. It’s the foundation of giving your organization a voice, identity, value, and awareness among consumers. And, thanks to the plentiful number of resources, tools, and platforms available today, a brand build might not be as burdensome (or costly) as some think.

So read on, and see how you can use the following seven steps as a guide for your brand build.

Download Now: Free Brand Building Guide

How to Brand Your Business on a Budget

You don’t have to break the bank to grow and maintain a brand. In fact, you can complete most of these tips without spending money. The most important things to remember when brand building are to keep your customers in mind and deliver messages that support your company’s mission.

Below, let’s discuss a budget-friendly way to grow better on a budget.

1. Create a persona to understand your audience.

You’ve probably heard that knowing your audience is the key to creating marketing messages that appeal to them. A great way to get to know them? Create a buyer persona — a semi-fictionalized representation of the values and characteristics of your ideal customer.

Personas outline the challenges of that customer and where your business fits in to solving their problems. Below is an example of a buyer persona, Marketing Macy. Notice how my persona lists demographics, like age and education, as well as tools needed for the day-to-day, like a CRM.

Marketing Macy buyer personaThe needs, goals, and behavior of your potential customers dictate how you convey your product or service. So for Macy, I want to focus on a B2B strategy that caters to her goals of lead generation and brand building.

Understanding those goals helps you determine what kind of media your personas are consuming, what motivates them, and where they “live” online. This information allows you to develop a compelling, effective brand that reaches the right people.

Make your own buyer persona with HubSpot’s free MakeMyPersona tool, which guides you through a series of questions about your ideal customer. The tool is fun, interactive, and meant to get you thinking critically about who you want to reach with your brand and how you want to reach them.

2. Develop an identity and voice for your brand.

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, your brand can start to take shape. Create a brand identity — what makes your brand, your brand — and its voice, which is the tone you use in any copy or public communication.

Developing brand voice and identity is similar to constructing your personas. But instead of answering questions about your target audience, you’re answering questions that are more introspective to your brand: What are your company’s values, what do they represent, and how do you want people to talk about you?

When you answer these questions, focus on creating content that supports them. Craft compelling emails, blogs, social posts, and multimedia that reflect your company’s mission, values, and how you want to appear to customers.

For example, if one of your values is to be accessible to customers, communicate contact information on social media pages and answer service questions that appear in comment sections.

Developing your voice comes through in the copy of that content. Are you going to use conversational language that relates to customers? Or will it be more beneficial to reach your audience from a technical standpoint?

For example, one of my favorite brands to follow is Glossier, a beauty company with a great understanding of brand voice.

When I tag the company in a photo on Instagram, I usually get a reply with one of their famous logos: An emoji version of a smile and wave (🙂👋). This logo appears on the bottom of marketing emails and packaging, keeping the brand consistent across multiple formats.

Even if you’re not starting from scratch, establishing a strong(er) brand voice can be valuable. Just take operating system software service Android, for instance: Their 2019 rebrand was a logo re-up, making the design cleaner and modern:

The Android rebrand of 2019

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The logo came from a need to speak to a shift in audience. Initially, Android’s target audience was the developer, but instead, the company has become more consumer-facing. The change was bred from this analysis.

3. Map out a consistent social media presence.

So, we know who your personas are. And now, we have an idea of what and how to create messaging that connects with them. But where are they?

Since you have a clear picture of what your audience is interested in, next, figure out where they’re spending the most time on social media. We’ve talked about how effective it is to reach people where they’re already present, and that includes their online behavior.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to play Inspector Gadget to figure out where your audience spends time online. Check out competitors — see where they’re most active (and how their language may or may not connect to audiences).

Additionally, look at how your audience interacts with social media. For instance, the highest percentage of U.S. men and women who use Facebook are between the ages of 24 and 35. So, if your persona fits that bill, focus your strategy on Facebook.

If you find the majority of your audience prioritizes one social network, you’ll have an idea of where to allocate your resources. But don’t ignore other sites. When you build a presence on multiple social media platforms, you’ll have an opportunity to diversify how you reach audiences. Diversifying the methods and channels you use for obtaining new leads helps you to connect with as many potential customers as possible.

Maintaining a presence is just as important as building one — for example, have you ever gone to a brand’s Facebook page, only to find that nothing has been posted in the past three months? Chances are, it didn’t have a positive impact on your perception.

That can be avoided by planning and scheduling social media posts, like you would with any marketing calendar. This free Social Media Content Calendar can help.

4. Start a company blog.

We’ve covered the importance of blogging before, and it can’t be emphasized enough. It’s a core part of the inbound marketing flywheel, especially the “attract” stage, which turns website browsers from strangers to visitors.

Inbound Marketing flywheel attract stage.

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In fact, blogging is a fundamental step of inbound marketing. It helps you reach qualified customers, like your personas, by creating the content that matches what they’re searching for. That’s why it’s so important to make blog posts relevant to audiences (and optimize them for search engines — here’s how).

Customers are definitely looking for the information you’re able to provide. Plus, that content can serve as material to populate your social media networks. To find what your audience is searching for, conduct keyword research, which will tell you what the most important topics for your audience are via search engines.

While blogging is fiscally inexpensive, it does take time.

The inbound marketing version of that question would ask, “Would you rather blog for one hour each day and promote content created by and for your company, or several hours a day sourcing content for your ideal customer from your competitors?”

An editorial calendar is also helpful in maintaining consistent timing and fresh content on your blog. That’s why we put together a free blog editorial calendar template, complete with instructions and content management tips.

5. Make customer service a priority.

When we hear the name “Zappos,” most of us immediately think, “Unparalleled customer service.” The online apparel retailer built this level of service into its core approach to doing business.

Why is that so important? For Zappos, making excellent customer service the cornerstone of its brand actually saved money on marketing and advertising. That’s because it created word-of-mouth among existing and potential customers.

This is called earned media: The recognition that your brand has earned, not paid for, from people talking about something you did that was remarkable.

For example, when I’m shopping on a new website, the first thing I do is read reviews. If I see reviews that mention speedy shipping, friendly customer service, and high quality products, I’m more inclined to purchase.

This revisits the importance of your identity and voice. As you go through these brand-building steps, think about the values that you want your audience to experience, like excellent service. Those values are what shape the brand’s culture, and that influence the voice you project to an audience.

6. Take advantage of co-branding.

I’ll never forget what my colleague, Lisa Toner, says about negotiating co-branding agreements.

“Larger companies may have a large reach,” she explains, “But what do they not have?”

When you’re just starting to build a brand, you might not have the reach that Toner’s talking about. You can take the steps to build it, but that takes time. Until then, one way to get your name in front of a broader audience is to partner with a brand that does have that reach.

But don’t just pick any brand for a partnership. Make sure it’s one that’s aligned with yours so it makes sense in the minds of your audience. Here’s what we recommend in seeking a co-brand:

  1. Will your partner’s audience be interested in your brand? Is this audience difficult for you to reach without this partnership?
  2. Will your audience trust your co-brand. That’s crucial to getting them to listen to you, so make sure your partner reaches the audience in a way that instills confidence.
  3. Do you have something to offer your co-brand? Just like Toner asks, “What do they not have?” The experience should be a win-win-win: For you, your co-brand, and the consumer. As an example, if you have an international audience that your partnering brand doesn’t, consider pointing to that when discussing the partnership.

Building a brand might seem like a huge undertaking, especially when resources are limited. But there are plenty of economical ways to not only get started, but to continue the momentum.

And please, have fun with the process. Of course, there has to be a degree of strategy and logic involved — that’s why there’s tools to help you determine the different pieces of your brand. But it’s a creative exercise, so keep that in mind if you get bogged down in technicalities.

7. Host a masterclass or webinar.

What are some of the talents the minds at your company display on a daily basis? Are they masters of email marketing? Do they excel at coding? Do you earn a “World’s Best Brand Strategist” superlative every year?

A fantastic way to grow your brand — and earn leads — is to leverage these talents into a masterclass or webinar, and promote them online.

By optimizing your class with hashtags and witty captions, you’ll find audiences that are interested in the talents for which you’re offering lessons. These masterclasses can be a 45- to 60-minute session that provides an overview of your special expertise, how to do it right, and how use your own strategies to illustrate.

For example, if I were to offer a webinar, it would highlight the art of using emojis for business, an experiment I’m passionate about. I would start by describing why engaging copy is important for attracting customers. Then, I’d explain the pros and cons of emoji usage. Finally, I’d share the right and wrong times to include emojis in marketing messages.

After that, I would present an experiment and report on my findings. Whether the experiment supports or negates my thesis always leaves room for fruitful discussion — leading to the last portion, questions. Voila: An outline for a masterclass that uses my talents to back up the credibility of a business that focuses on, let’s say, marketing or social media.

Running experiments doesn’t have to cost a dime, and hosting a webinar takes only about an hour of your day. The result, however, is spreading the word about the talents of a company, providing data that supports credibility, and promotes company values like delighting customers and giving helpful, educational content to your audience.

Branding on a budget? Absolutely possible. What counts, when you’re brainstorming ways to brand effectively, is how to use the resources you have to the best of your ability. Keeping your audience in mind is the first step — after that, it’s about thinking of creative ways to engage those target customers.

Have fun with building your brand. After all, this is a creative process and while every experiment may not work, you can always learn to improve. Good luck, and happy branding.

How to Build a Brand

Originally published Jun 9, 2020 4:00:00 PM, updated June 10 2020

Topics:

Marketing Budget Branding