One of the things that have always irritated me about social media marketing is the near-fetishization of the editorial calendar.
I’ve known companies that have scripted every single tweet, Facebook update, Instagram photo, and blog article for an entire year, dictating the date and time each message will go out, and color-coding it to product launches, corporate events, and phases of the moon.
And I’ll admit to more than a little schadenfreude when those year-long schedules were derailed by some corporate crisis, takeover, merger, or product cancellation.
I’ve never understood the fascination of such strict, rigorous scheduling because it’s so easily disrupted, but I like the idea of general guidelines. Just a few recommendations to keep me on the right path, not a step-by-step, turn-by-turn map of the route I have to take.
As I like to say, “Just tell me where I need to go, I’ll figure out how to get there myself.”
So here’s a way to make a quick and dirty editorial calendar.
- To start, create a spreadsheet on Google, Excel, or Numbers. Label the days of the week, and create enough lines for your posts for each day. The example above has three posts per day.
- Color code the alternating weeks by hand. Don’t use the application’s alternating rows command because it doesn’t let you group them this way. (At least I haven’t figured out how to do 2 or 3 rows at a time without screwing up the header..)
- Put the dates to the right of the block.
- Put a row below the month, and put the Topic Of The Day in each cell. If you’re going to run a daily theme, spell it out here. If you want a weekly theme, put it to the right, next to the dates column.
- You can also drop hashtags into each cell. In the sample calendar above, I could drop in #contentmarketing in every Monday spot, #language in every Tuesday spot, and so on. This gives you a little more flexibility to label each post and keep a running theme. For example, for one client, I post a funny little picture on Instagram at 3: 15 every afternoon. (You can see Marcel and his crazy little adventures here.)
- Do a Google News search for your particular keyword or hashtag. Start scanning the stories and open up each one that seems to fit what you’re looking for. Do a quick read through and then copy the headline and the URL and paste it into the cells. Helpful tip: Don’t go to news.google.com, because their selection of articles is rather limited. Instead, do a general search and then click the News button at the top of the page. Then select the Recent menu, and choose Last 7 Days. Copy that URL and paste it into a cell on your calendar. Do that for every keyword/hashtag you need. Label them, and set those cells’ formatting to clip the contents, not wrap. (It screws up the look of your calendar.)
- Schedule your posts no more than one week in advance. Every Monday morning, I schedule the week’s social media posts for all of my clients. This way, I’m not working too far ahead if there are any major disruptions to their news or social media flow.
- With each new month, just Duplicate the most recent page. Then, highlight the calendar, hit Delete, and start all over. Change the dates, drop in your hashtags, and start filling up the content again.
- Use a service like HootSuite, Buffer, or TweetDeck to schedule your posts. To schedule your social posts, use a service like one of the ones mentioned, or any of the other options out there. Of course, these all cost money, and some are more expensive than others. You can post to TweetDeck for free, but it only lets you post to Twitter. However, there’s a workaround: Set up a few automation tasks on IFTTT.com or Zapier.com. These tools will let you automate certain tasks, such as reposting an Instagram photo to your Twitter account, or texting you every time it’s going to rain in your area. For a couple clients, I use Zapier to repost all tweets with a certain hashtag (#LI) to LinkedIn. This saves me from spending money on HootSuite, Buffer, or other social scheduling tools.
How ever you set up your own social media and editorial calendar, find a method that’s easy for you and doesn’t require you spending many hours developing an entire schedule for the year. Set up daily and weekly themes to guide you for the kinds of messages you want to share, but keep things loose so you can pivot if the need arises.