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How to create a social media content calendar

A child pointing to a picture on a wall.

Artsmark – Hillyfield Primary Academy; Photo @ The LPA, Xavier Fiddes / Hillyfield Primary Academy

If you work in marketing for the creative and cultural sector and you are stretched for time and resources, then a social media content calendar can be your best friend. This handy resource can form a part of your social media strategy and help you prepare and plan for the year ahead.

Here is an easy guide to setting up your own social media content calendar and what you may like to include in it. Remember, your calendar needs to work for you, so it’s up to you what you include in it. These are just some ideas to get you started.

What is a social media content calendar?

A social media content calendar is a plan for what you want to post on social media and when. It helps you keep track of what you’ll share, make sure your posts are consistent, and plan ahead for future content. The calendar includes details like the type of content, the date and time you’ll post, and the social media platform you’ll use. You can organise your calendar by day, week, month, or year. Whatever works best for you.

A social media content calendar can serve several purposes. You may wish to use yours to:

  • Flag important events, holidays, and campaigns.
  • Indicate the topics that you want to cover on specific days, and/or the links you want to post.
  • Include the exact copy you’re going to post. This can be useful for a couple of different reasons:
    1. If you need to get the posts approved – for example if you’re working with an agency, if you’ve hired a freelancer or if your social media person is new to the organisation. In these instances, you may want to be able to look at exactly what they’re posting ahead of it going live to check that the writing and the visuals are on-brand.
    2. If it’s just you managing your social media you may want to plan it all out as an opportunity to scan for typos, and to proofread and sense-check what you’ve written/designed. Getting everything together like this can help if you’re coming up to a busy period and know you will have to post on the fly.
  • Include the assets you’re going to post – so any photos, videos, gifs, or graphics.

Why do I need a social media content calendar?

A social media content calendar might include the platform you’re posting to, the time and date when you’re posting, any hashtags or handles you’re including, links, assets, and the caption.

Content calendars can be useful for your organisation in several ways:

  • They help you plan your work.
  • They help you see the whole year mapped out in front of you — when you’re going to be busy and where there’s quiet time.
  • They’re a useful tool for planning your resources — your budget, your staff time.
  • They help you to highlight important dates for you/your organisation.
  • Your posts will be more seasonal, making your content more relevant at the right moments.
  • They can save you time down the line, as you’ll be able to put out content without having to reinvent the wheel every day.
  • They help you post consistently, which algorithms love.
  • You get an overview of what you’re talking about on your channels so you can identify any topics or themes that you’re missing.
  • Looking back over old topics and posts can help inspire future content. It can also reveal evergreen content which you can tweak and reuse later.
  • You can easily collaborate across your team on your social media content, and even with others outside of your organisation, like freelancers or agencies.
  • Anyone posting to your platforms will be able to see what’s already gone out and maintain the same messaging and tone of voice.
  • If one of the team is off sick or leaves then the calendar should help anyone else managing the social channels to pick up what you’ve been posting and what’s coming up next.

What should I include in a social media content calendar?

Holidays

Holidays are a great starting point to get onto your calendar. Holidays, festivals, and other seasonal events can provide opportunities to offer special programming and promotions.

Think about religious holidays like Christmas and Diwali, as well as days like Halloween, Bonfire Night, and any Bank Holidays. If you can make your content seasonal then it will resonate more with your audience at that point in time. For example, around Halloween libraries might want to post their top horror books, or museums about their most spooky exhibit.

Your content doesn’t have to be directly tied to the holiday either, but it helps you to understand your audience’s mood. For example, around holidays your audience is more likely to be in a festive, giving mood and have more of a focus on family or friends. So you may like to post fun content or take the opportunity to do a fundraising ask.

Awareness/world days or months

These are another easy addition for your calendar. You can find lists of world days and months online, on sites like Awareness Days. Twitter has just released this 2023 Marketing Calendar full of key days to consider including. Meanwhile, Capacity Digital have created a social content calendar specifically for arts marketers which contains many of the most relevant days for the cultural and creative sector.

Have a look through and pick out the days and months most relevant to your organisation for you to be posting about. Just make sure you can relate something about your organisation or work to them, otherwise, it will seem like you’re shoehorning yourself into the conversation. Libraries, this is your chance to shine as you’ll have books you can relate to any awareness day! Pick the most popular or fun and get creative with your content for them.

An important thing to remember is that awareness days and months aren’t necessarily on the same date across the world, and because social media is global it can become a bit confusing. An example of this is that Black History Month is in October in Europe but in February in the USA. Another anomaly is Mothers’ Day falling in March in the UK and May in the USA. I would always pick the date that relates to where your most important audience lives – so while your online audience may be international, if your immediate audience who come in the door or buy tickets are based in the UK then that’s the date to choose.

And finally on this point, remember that awareness days are fun, educational, or inspiring, but they aren’t all people on social media want to talk about, so don’t hinge your entire content calendar around them. They serve as a good jumping-off point for discussing your content/shows/services but you will want to cherry-pick the best ones.

Important dates for you/your organisation

Make sure you include any key dates relevant to yourself or your organisation. Some examples could include:

  • Venue anniversaries: Significant milestones, such as the anniversary of the venue’s opening or the completion of a major renovation.
  • Exhibitions: Dates for opening and closing of exhibitions, as well as related events like artist talks and workshops.
  • Performances: Dates for concerts, theatre productions, dance performances, the launch of tours, and other live events.
  • Ticket sales: Dates for when tickets are released for your events, shows or festivals.
  • Community events: Local events such as cultural festivals or community gatherings that you’re participating in or hosting.
  • Fundraising events: Dates for any special events or campaigns aimed at raising funds.
  • Industry events: Conferences, trade shows, and other events related to the arts and culture industry.
  • Historical dates: Relating to your organisation’s founder, or one of your most popular exhibits.
  • Merchandise: When your album is released, when your gift shop merchandise will go on sale.

Including these important dates on your social media content calendar can help you plan ahead and ensure that you’re maximizing your opportunities to engage with your online audience. You may even want to build campaigns around these events.

Campaigns

A campaign might be around an important event or anniversary, the launch of a project or report, or may be marketing a product or show.

If you know you have some campaigns coming up this year, then make sure that they’re on the calendar. This makes sense for a few reasons:

  1. Keeps you on track: You’ll know what you’re posting and when, so you won’t have to scramble to come up with ideas at the last minute.
  2. Makes life easier: Having everything planned out ahead of time means you won’t have to worry about forgetting something important.
  3. Gets everyone on the same page: If you’re working with a team, a content calendar makes it easy to see what everyone is doing and when.
  4. Ensures you don’t overload yourselves: Knowing you have a busy period coming up means you won’t put other campaigns in at the same time. Try to avoid doing this – running two campaigns simultaneously on the same social media platform is a logistical nightmare for you and confusing for the audience.
  5. Increases efficiency: With everything planned and organized, you can focus on creating great content and interacting with your audience, instead of trying to keep track of everything.

Your campaigns are your most juicy content so ideally everything else on there should revolve around them.

Digital Culture Network's content calendar for the Digital Culture Awards – the DCN’s biggest annual campaign.

Digital Culture Network’s content calendar for the Digital Culture Awards – the DCN’s biggest annual campaign.

Key content pillars

Key content pillars are the main topics or themes that a brand uses in its content creation. These pillars serve as a foundation for your messaging and help to create a consistent brand identity and personality. The number of key content pillars you use is up to you, but you might want to have somewhere around 2-5.

Ideally, your key content pillars should relate to your overall strategy – what are your objectives as an individual/organisation? Think beyond selling tickets or merch to include other objectives. Maybe you want to raise awareness of yourselves in the local community. Maybe you want to promote your community’s cultural heritage and history. Maybe you want to inspire your audience to create their own art.

Or it could be that you offer so many different services that you want to use those as your pillars, so you can ensure you’re talking about them all evenly.

Once you’ve identified what you want to stand for and achieve, then you can think about how social media can help you to do this. This can be a great thing to add to your content calendar to ensure you’re using social media toward your overall objectives. We would particularly recommend colour coding the different pillars on your calendar as then you’ll be able to see at a glance how often you’re talking about them and whether you’re missing any out.

Colour-coded key content pillars in a content calendar.

Colour-coded key content pillars in a content calendar.

Mediums

Mediums refer to the different types of content that can be created and shared on social media platforms. Here we’re talking about text, photos, graphics, videos, live video, and Stories (short form content that exists for 24 hours on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat).

You may like to indicate on your calendar what type of medium you’re sharing in order to ensure you’re including a mix. Algorithms love variety and a mix of mediums makes for a more interesting follower experience. Different mediums have different strengths — for example, video is great for storytelling. Using a combination of mediums can help you to reach a wider audience with more dynamic and engaging content.

You could also add in the asset you’re sharing so that it can be approved if you have a sign off procedure, so you can find the relevant asset later, or just for you to see at a glance everything you’re sharing.

Content calendar including images.

Content calendar including images.

Adding images into a spreadsheet in this way can make the file too unwieldy, so you may prefer to drop in a link for where the asset is saved.

Hashtags

If you know there’s a hashtag you’ll want to use with the post then it’s a good idea to pop it into the calendar. This might be a hashtag for an event, like the #DigitalCultureAwards, or for a campaign, or an awareness day.

Links

I would always recommend having a space to include the URL you’re planning on using, as the last thing you want to do is be scrabbling around for the correct link – or post the wrong one!

Audience

If you’re aiming for a specific audience with a post then you may like to include this information in the calendar too. For example, if you’re focusing on increasing awareness of your organisation among younger people then you may want to track how many posts you’re creating specifically to speak to this audience.

These are all just suggestions on what you might like to include and rarely will a content calendar include them all. Ultimately, your social media content calendar should include as much information as you and your team find helpful.

Where can I download a social media content calendar?

One low-cost option is to create your own social media content calendar using Excel or Google Sheets. Here are some free templates you can download to get you started:

There are plenty of others available online if you don’t like the look of any of the above. Or you may like to create your own.

Alternatively, you can use a content calendar tool or app which can be a timesaving way to create your content calendar. There are plenty of options available, including:

  • Asana (has a free basic plan and a non-profit discount on their pro and business plans)
  • Trello (has a free basic plan and offers a non-profit discount on their paid plans)
  • Monday.com (has a free basic plan and offers a non-profit discount on their paid plans)
  • Social Champ (has a free basic plan and a non-profit discount on their paid plans)
  • Hootsuite (has a non-profit discount)

Or you could even use a shared calendar in Outlook, Google, or whatever other calendar software you use, putting in the posts as meetings.

However and wherever you create your social media content calendar, it should help you to be more strategic with your posting, and to reach your audience with timely, relevant, engaging content.


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