Users expect a lot out of the brands that they follow on social media.
They don’t want to know what you had for breakfast or what lyrics perfectly capture your mood that day the way that your personal account followers might be accustomed to—they want you to create the best social media schedule full of content from a variety of expert sources that will teach them something useful about your business or industry. Other times, they want to be entertained and delighted.
As if that isn’t enough to fill a social media manager’s 40 hour week, they also want it delivered on the social networks they already use and provided to them with enough frequency to keep their newsfeed fresh and interesting.
That’s quite an undertaking—so how’s a social media manager supposed to come up with so much great content, and also figure out where and when to share it? These steps will help you get prepared to execute a robust posting schedule, and take the guesswork out of who, what, where, why and when to post in order to create the perfect social media plan for a business.
In this article, I'll be covering:
- Why you should use a schedule to post social media
- Planning for the best social media schedule
- How to create your social media schedule
- Identifying your social media posting frequency
- Choosing the content for your social media schedule
- Analyze your social media calendar performance
Why Schedule Social Media Posts?
As a social media manager, you have options for which process you use to produce posts.
You could use a schedule template to tell you when to post, and then manually go create posts during each of these slots in the schedule—if you don’t need any sleep while posts need to go out in other time zones and you want to practice how quickly you can type your password as your repeatedly log in and out of every platform you use.
Post Tracking Spreadsheet
You could also create a spreadsheet where you create the post text and supply the link ahead of time so posting is expedited with some copy+pasting, but this manual process still won’t save you from needing to be online during each posting time in your schedule and not having the ability to repurpose posts across the multiple platforms that your audience favors.
Why using a manual process is challenging:
Firing off dozens (or maybe hundreds) of thoughtfully created posts per week is a lot to manage without some technological help.
While you may be used to posting in the text box when you natively log onto each social network, having the ability to schedule your social media posts will save you time when you schedule in bulk at the time of day that’s right for you—and won’t have to natively log on to each platform and create one-off posts at random times of day before logging off again until it’s time for the next post.
If you have a few favorite social platforms you use, this time-suck doubles and triples when you don’t have a tool that can repurpose posts across multiple social media sites and aggregate all of your various platform posts into one command center.
Social Media Scheduling Tool
Scheduling out all posts from one social media management tool will also organize your content and make sure you’re maintaining a diverse content-type ratio. Once you’re able to sort posts by category of content and see your scheduled content mix laid out in a visual way, you’ll be able to determine what you need more or less of to fill your social media schedule.
Pre-planning steps for creating a social media schedule
Set your social media marketing goals
In order to determine which social media strategies are successful and worthy of repeating (or not), set social media marketing goals to benchmark your progress against. These goals should be directly informed by your business goals. When you know that you want to drive product sales on your website, increase traffic to your news article, or schedule a consultation, you might focus on a social media schedule that drives traffic to your site through posts with links, and then measure click-through rate.
Since every social media post isn't going to result in a sale, a secondary goal of social media marketing is engaging your audience to later guide them towards your end business goals. That might mean increasing brand awareness and engagement so that when they do need your type of service or product, you're top of mind. If your goal is to grow your brand awareness and take share of voice from your competitors in the market, an increase in followers and mentions might indicate success.
Whichever you choose, these goals will inform your posting cadence as well as how you fill in your schedule template with your content mix.
Choose the best social media scheduling tool
You’ve got your social media marketing goals, now how are you going to execute them? Your next step toward creating the best social media schedule for your business—that doesn’t keep you up all hours of the day and night to manage—is to do your research around social media tools that can help you in the following areas:
- Scheduling posts in advance
- Visualizing and organizing your social media schedule
- Making posts customizable yet repeatable across platforms
- Social listening
- Reporting and analytics
Once you’ve found social media scheduling tools that can assist with these tasks (or maybe one tool that does all five, like Social Report), you’re ready to create your posting schedule template.
How to create the best social media schedule
Choose your social media platforms
First, determine which social media platforms will be included in your schedule template. This decision is typically made by weighing your marketing goals and the affinities of your target market.
For example, a software company’s technical white papers might find a home in B2B-friendly LinkedIn, while a bakery’s highly-visual dessert photos will excel on Instagram. A customer base filled with baby boomers might not give you the traction you’re looking for on Twitter. If you don’t already know where your target audience typically likes to consume their content, start with this infographic.
Pro-tip: Be highly targeted when choosing your platforms and try not to worry that you may be missing marketing opportunities by leaving some platforms out of your mix. It’s more valuable to have just a few platforms where you know your specific audience spends their time. This way you’ll have the time and resources to do them well, instead spinning your wheels to “spray and pray” across platforms that won’t reach your target users.
Choose the best times of day to schedule your social media posts
Next, you need to decide what times of day you want to publish posts and create a weekly template for these times.
Two factors will help you determine this:
- the geographic locations of your audience
- general best practices for high-engagement times on each major social network
Some social media management tools even eliminate this research step, and automatically tell you when the optimal time to post is.
If you have a global audience, you will probably need to make sure that you’re scheduling out content to be shown to your furthest followers while you’re sleeping. If they’re mostly in your time zone, you will know not to post your best content at 2 am where it might become a needle in the newsfeed haystack by morning.
The best posting frequency for your social media schedule
Try to avoid scheduling these to be every hour, on the hour, during the same hours every day of the week, or anything else that looks otherwise repetitive and robotic.
Remember, users are expecting to engage with brands on a personal level when they interact with them on social media, not be on the receiving end of a machine that churns out spammy, repetitive posts.
Research out there will often give you the one or two highest performing times of day for a post, but most businesses should realistically be posting more than this. For guidance on how to decide the rest of the time slots in your posting schedule template, look to recommended posting cadences.
The various social networks that you’ve chosen as a good fit for your audience have different “shelf lives” for their posts—while people may expect you to rapidly fire off some small, digestible tweets up to thirty times throughout the day, one facebook post might get the job done. Use this summary of posting frequency research that suggests how to strike the balance between memorable and annoying, and find the frequency that aligns with the engagement goals you set at the beginning.
Example Facebook vs. Twitter posting schedule:
Fill your social media schedule template with content
You have a template for which times of day you will post on which platforms—now it’s time to fill it with rich and varied content.
Social media is just that—social. So don’t be surprised if, just like in a normal conversation, people don’t want to hear you talk exclusively about yourself. Having a balanced content mix can keep users engaged and maximize opportunities to give them a variety of helpful information.
Determine your content mix using the “Rule of Thirds” publishing philosophy
A helpful rule-of-thumb to keep you on track is the social media “rule of thirds.”
The rule of thirds dictates that a good content mix will include a balance of your own business’s content (like blogs, promotions, and product info), valuable external content that you curate and post (like news articles), and authentic engagement on the platform.
The good news: 2 out of 3 of these can be (and should be) scheduled out ahead of time, leaving you ample time to engage with timely trending material and posts from followers or industry influencers as they come up.
How to schedule your own business’s content
Schedule out planned campaigns far in advance
Start filling in your template with campaigns that you’re well aware of ahead of time, like holiday-focused promotions, new product releases, or the upcoming blogs in your content calendar. Automating these posts will free up time for you to spend on posts that require you to be a little more agile, such as curating a relevant breaking news article or retweeting an influencer.
Add nuggets of text to posts sharing your blog or product content
These pieces of text accompanying the link to your content should be written to sum up the value that the user can expect to get if they read your content, and how it’s relevant to your followers. Less text tends to perform better across all social networks, so keep it short and sweet.
Use hashtags (on the appropriate platforms)
If growing your following and increasing brand awareness is one of your social media marketing goals (we’re betting it is), hashtags are an effective way to help people who don’t follow you yet to find your posts. Find new hashtags by getting inspiration from influencers in your industry and using the ones that your current followers already tend to use. Once you have a few in mind, you can test out the popularity of different hashtags by searching them on the platform and see how many people across the entire platform are relying on that hashtag to find and provide content.
Now your schedule template is filled in with
- Seasonal campaigns and
- Your website content across the few platforms you’ve chosen as a match for your audience.
How to curate and schedule thought leadership content
1. Find a few publications that write content that’s relevant to your followers
Find a few favorite sources you trust that pump out a lot of articles that are targeted to your industry and ideally feature articles from the movers and shakers in your space. Where do you get your own news when you’re trying to stay up to date for work? Those sites are a great place to start. If you liked it and found it noteworthy, chances are your followers will too. If you get stuck, look at what sites influencers and competitors are sharing from.
2. Use the same text and hashtag best practices as you would on posts of your own content
Now your schedule template also includes external articles in addition to your own content across your chosen platforms:
Leave time to interact with followers and influencers
Keeping that north star of “being social” in mind, use the time you saved by scheduling posts ahead of time to log onto social networks and authentically engage. During this time you should:
- Network with influencers by sharing or commenting on their posts
- Expose your followers to valuable content they might not be following by sharing posts that discuss subjects you haven’t posted about yet
- Take the pulse of your followers by reading their posts, posting open questions, and creating polls
- Track your competitors’ social media strategy
- Provide customer service when issues arise
Perform analytics to optimize future posts
As always, check in on which aspects of your social media marketing plan are meeting the goals you set in the beginning, and which are falling a little short. If you chose to use a social media management tool to schedule your posts, you’re in luck—you can maximize your efficiency even more by repurposing your most successful types of content in future weeks and build out that template with posts that hit optimal engagement every time.
Final thoughts on creating the best social media schedule for your business
The best social media schedules require substantial time to plan, organize and execute. While there's practical advice on the internet, you're responsible for knowing your business, your customers, and your goals. Use your social media channels to achieve those goals by putting some thought into how different components of your social media schedule and content meet different needs of your audience.
- Determine who you're speaking to and where they spend time on social media.
- Consider when they use each social media channel and when they will see and engage with your content.
- Learn about best practices and recommended posting cadences for the platforms you’re using.
- Allocate room in your schedule to interact with your audience. Social media tools can help you automate and save time, but you should also interact and engage.
Once you’ve taken these aspects of social media schedule planning into consideration, evaluate how your posts are performing and if you're hitting your goals. Find ways to improve with experiments. Always test and adjust and ultimately, you will settle into the best social media schedule for you and your business.
Anna Dievendorf is the Marketing Manager at Social Report (and the other brands in the ASG Martech family) focused on bringing you valuable content and social media marketing news through blogs, emails, and social media. Read more about her experience in connecting leads with the right information at the right time on her LinkedIn or connect directly at Anna@grade.us