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It turns out that one of the most overwhelming areas of running a creative business is keeping up with social media.  I know.  I wouldn’t have guessed that either.  Before starting my business, I probably would have said creating new products or developing a brand.  But no, it is social media.

Social media can be so overwhelming.  It’s hard to stay active on every channel and constantly interact with your audience.  Especially when you’re trying to focus on every other aspect of your business.  

But social media is important to the long term growth of your small business.  As much as I might try to tell myself otherwise.  It’s the place where you can showcase your expertise, grow brand recognition and build positive relationships with your audience.  

The key to managing your social media effectively is being consistent.  You need to show up every day.  That is you or your scheduled posts.

But, have you ever tried showing up anywhere on a daily basis?  I know for me, I’m happy when I can get all of my customers orders out the door on time.  Forget trying to also figure out what to post and when to post it on multiple social media channels.  

If you find that you’re having these same struggles when trying to manage social media for your business, it might be time to try a social media calendar.  This organizational tool could be your key to getting all of your information in order and starting to show up regularly on social media.

Colorful notebooks on blue background with the text overlay "How to plan a social media calendar that gets results"

Why you Need a Social Media Calendar in the First Place

Let’s be honest here.  Have you ever tried to run your social media without a calendar?

I know that I have.  Like every single New Year.  I always make social media one of my New Year’s goals.  And the last couple of years it’s turned into a disaster where inconsistency ruled the day.  A social media calendar can solve all of these problems.  Using a calendar let’s me schedule the posts that I want to share in one location and helps me stay organized. 

There’s also no confusion about where the information on what to post that day is located.  This equals a lot less wasted time.  Instead of staring into space confused, I know exactly where to check during my marketing time to make sure I stay on track with social media.   

It’s also a huge time saver.  When I use a social media calendar, I no longer spend precious work time every day wondering what content I should share today.  Instead, I spend one day a week – about two hours – and schedule EVERYTHING out.  I know what to share on Etsy Updates, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.  After spending my dedicated social media time planning the calendar out for the week, I simply follow it.  No more thinking about it.  

Puzzle pieces scattered on a wooden background

Figure Out a Calendar that Works Best for You

There are lots of different social media calendar templates that I’ve tried over the years.  Most of them used the traditional calendar grid.  As much as I like looking at a full calendar, I found myself squeezing my writing onto the little boxes.  It turns out that I have more to write than the box allows or just bigger handwriting than what the calendar was designed for.

Other types of social media calendars that I’ve experimented with have been in Excel spreadsheets.  I like laying out different types of content that I’m planning on publishing on a specific day.  Some days I post two or three times on one social media channel.  The little calendar box only allows me to write in one post idea (at most).  

The Excel spreadsheet template gives me as much space as I need to write.  I can add lines as needed and change the width of the columns.

My big issue with the spreadsheet model is that I love to handwrite my calendars.  Typing the information in just doesn’t have the same effect.  And don’t ask me to bring something up on my computer to check if I’m staying on track.  I like to flip to the correct page in my social media binder to see the schedule.  I’m just tactile like that.

When choosing the social media calendar that works best for you, think about how you like to work

Are you a pen and pencil kind of person or do you love doing everything on the computer? 

Once you know how you like to do things, it’s easier to choose the best social media calendar that will work.

Since I do like to design and haven’t quite found a social media calendar that works for me, I made my own version.   

The main reason is because none of the calendars include Etsy updates as an option for social media sharing.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, Etsy updates is a great way to share your products and shop happenings with Etsy buyers.  Anyone who has interacted with your shop will see your shop updates on Etsy.com and their homepage.  This includes anyone who has favorited items from your shop.

Etsy updates is an easy way to keep your products in front of potential customers who have shown interest in them.  For free.

So, I wanted a calendar that gave me the chance to share posts on Etsy updates as well.

If you don’t have an Etsy shop, skip this option or use it to share updates on whatever e-commerce platform that you use.  I know Creative Market and Zazzle give sellers the opportunities to update people who’ve favorited their shop and products.

My social media calendar is laid out for one week.  You can plan up to three themed posts a day depending on how ambitious you are.  These posts can be shared across different platforms (just check off the boxes of the platforms you want to share on) or you can create unique posts for each platform.  

For example, you might choose a product to share on Tuesday.  You can schedule these shares on three different platforms.  In the post idea box, you might write the name of your product.  Then, write in when you want to share it.  After you’ve filled in that information, you can check the platforms you want to share it on.

Just because you wrote down the product as one post idea, doesn’t mean you’re going to share it the same way on each platform.  You would probably want to plan a unique post type for each platform.  More about creating unique content for social media below.

You can download your free printable social media calendar here.  There are two versions – one is in grayscale for easy at home printing and the other is in color.

How Much Do you Really Want to Share

When I started my creative business, my original marketing plan was ten pages.  It was beautiful.  The plan included everything from posting on social media multiple times a day to sending out handwritten notes for customers’ birthdays.  Let’s just say that none of that happened once things got rolling.

Although everyone will have their own advice for what is best when it comes to sharing on social media, choose a schedule that works for your business.

Don’t overschedule yourself or you’re setting yourself up for failure from the start.  Select content that interests you to share and find a rhythm that works for your shop.  If posting what you’re working on every morning makes you feel productive and is something your followers want to see, then by all means go ahead.

But posting every morning doesn’t work for me.  I spend my mornings deep in writing and design tasks.  The idea of having to interrupt my creative process to post something on social media makes me cringe.

So, decide on how much posting you want to do before committing to a social media schedule.  It will make things easier down the road.

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Audit your Audience

It turns out that before you can figure out what types of content to create and share, you need to know what your audience is interested in.  

To figure this out, start by making a list of the social media channels you are currently active on.  Write down how many followers you have for each channel and how these followers have changed over the last year.  Don’t worry if this number is an increase or decrease.  You just need to know where you stand on social media BEFORE filling out your calendar.

Once you identify the social media channels that you are active on, figure out which post (or two) were your most popular in the last six months.  Use the number of likes and interactions that you received from your posts as a guide.  You also should consider click throughs to know if your post was driving traffic to your website.

Although auditing this information can be time consuming, it’s important to understand your audience better.  Knowing where your engagement is coming from and how they’re engaging with your content will help you plan the best content in the future.

The Key is to be Prepared

One thing that I’ve learned over the many years of running an online business is that social media doesn’t just happen.  It’s really hard to do social on the fly.  

It just doesn’t work.  Mainly because of all of my day’s interruptions.  It’s hard to think about what to post on social media when I’m worried about everything else I need to juggle.

When you look at the success of some of the very popular social media accounts, remember that they’ve taken years of consistency to grow a loyal following.  Posting every day.  Finding interesting content to share.  And using their online presence to build a strong relationship with their audience.

These aren’t things that just happen for your business.  They take time and focus.

If you want to grow a social media audience that shows up when you need them, then start planning your social media ahead of time.  Create a social media calendar well in advance, schedule posts and know the sources where your content will come from.

Over time, your consistency will pay off for your business and you will build a trusting relationship with your audience. 

Follow the 80/20 Rule 

Or at least the 70/30 rule.  What does that mean?  Basically, not every piece of content should be your own.  Actually, only 20 or 30 percent of your content should be yours.

So if you plan to share ten new posts a week, only 2 or 3 should be your own content.  The rest of the posts should be others’ content.

When I am creating my social media calendar each week, I highlight the spaces where I plan on sharing my own content.  I schedule this content first.  Then, I fill in the rest of the spaces with other people’s content.

By why, you may ask?  Think about some of the social media feeds that you follow that is a constant barrage of the person’s own content.  Do you stick around?  I know I have unfollowed many an account because I was tired of getting travel updates or learning about their not so new business package again.

Although your goal is to post consistently, it’s also important to grow an audience that interacts with you.  If you’re always posting about yourself, your audience tends to tune you out after awhile.  

When focusing on the 80/20 rule, it makes you mix up the content that you’re sharing.  You want to give your audience an assortment of information – such as industry news, related content from others, your content (and product information) and some all out fun things.  

By planning a wonderful mix of posts, you create a social media feed that your audience can’t wait to check out.  

Create your Own Content

When scheduling posts on my social media calendar, I always start with my own content. 

There are lots of different kinds of content that you can create.  For my shop’s social media channels, most of the content that I share comes from my blog.  I also sometimes share photos of our work space, customer photos, current projects and inspirational quotes.  

When deciding on what content you want to share, start with your blog if you have one.  Choose your new post(s) and any older posts that relate to something happening that week.  For example on National Ice Cream Day, I share blog posts from our ice cream birthday party.

After I’ve scheduled in a couple of blog posts, I add in some additional content.  I include a couple of product shares, announce a current sale (or create an exclusive one for social media) and a photo (or two).

Before scheduling any of my content, I highlight the spaces on the calendar where my own content will go.  On each social media channel, I try to choose 30% of my own content.  I spread these posts throughout the week, so my own content is cycling through consistently.

Locate Trustworthy Content Sources

Once you have scheduled your own content for the week, it’s time to add a mix of content from other sources.    

Sharing others content is important because it makes your social media feed more interesting, establishes you as an expert in your field (because experts know lots of things to share) and helps create relationships with others.

There are lots of ways to collect different pieces of content to share.  I have a secret board on Pinterest called “Social Media Bits”.  When I see a pin for a post that I would like to include in my social media planning, I pin it to this board.  This is a great way to collect new ideas that I want to share with my audience. 

When I need to plan my social media for the week and schedule other people’s content, I start here.  It saves a lot of time since I’ve collected the pins while I am doing my manual pinning any way.

Another way to find good content to share is to follow your favorite niche bloggers.  Use Feedly – a blog reader that has an app for your mobile device – and subscribe to your favorite bloggers’ feeds.  This way you can stay up to date on what’s happening on your favorite blogs.

But as with every other wonderful tool out there, you need to stay organized.   Reading a bunch of posts on Feedly doesn’t help save you time when planning your social media calendar.

It turns out that Feedly has a board section just like Pinterest.  Create a board called “Social Media Posts” or something similar.  When you find a post that you like, save it to this board.  Then as you start to gather your other content for your social media calendar, revisit this board and see which blog posts you want to share.  This way you won’t have to trudge through piles of old blog posts again to find the exact thing you were looking for.

When choosing content to share, make sure that it matches your brand’s values and who you are (or want to become).  Sharing pieces of content that are inconsistent with your niche and audience’s interests will lead to a lot of unfollows and potentially terrible comments.  As you choose content to include on your social media schedule, staying on point will help you effectively grow your audience.

Also, make sure that the content that you choose to share is reliable.  Many times I go to repin a Pinterest pin only to discover that the link isn’t clickable or doesn’t lead to the correct resource. 

Before sharing any content, take the time to double check the link.  It can be a bit embarrassing sharing content that only results in dead ends.  And if you do this too often, your audience will stop trusting the content that you share.  Which is never good.

Paper airplanes in a row with red one leading up front

Keep It Unique

When thinking about planning your social media content, it’s important to keep it unique to each platform.  So, no doubling up if you can help it.  If you do create something that would be perfect on multiple platforms or you want to share a piece of content with all of your different audiences, adapt it to match each platform.  

Since every social media platform is different, it wouldn’t make sense to share each piece of content in the same way.   You also have a very different audience on each platform.  People follow certain platforms for a reason.  Play to their needs by making your content as original and unique as possible.

To show how you can do this in real life, let’s look at ways that you can share your weekly blog post.

I share all of my blog posts on the three different social media platforms that I’m active on – Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – in a rotating schedule.  If this week I wanted to promote my blog post for Halloween Ghost Kabobs, I would create different content to post on each platform.  

On Instagram, I would take a photo from the blog post and crop it into a square.  I normally do not add a text overlay to my photos because I want them to speak on their own.  You can add a text overlay, though, to include more information for any followers who are just scrolling by. 

You would then include a link in your bio to your post so that your followers can read more.

When I post on Facebook, there’s a lot more space to share.  I usually write a quick description about the article to catch my readers’ attention.  Many times, I also ask my audience a question to consider.  Asking questions gets a lot more comments and interactions with the post.

For Facebook posts, I usually don’t need to create a separate graphic.  When I paste the link to the post in the Facebook text box, it automatically pulls up a photo from the blog post or link.  If you don’t like the photo that it uses or wish to add more, you can do that too.

Next, I head over to Pinterest and create a new pin for the post.  Using Canva and an assortment of Pinterest templates, I create an eye catching pin.  After I’ve created the pin, I add it to my Pinterest boards.  If you’re using the WordPress app, Tasty Pins, you can also add your new pin to the Pinterest Hidden Images section at the end of the post.  When you do this, more pin images automatically come up when a reader goes to share your post on Pinterest.

The same process can be used to share out a product listing.  You need to create a separate Instagram post, Facebook post and Pinterest pin that highlight different elements of your product.  It’s not enough just to post your product listing over and over again or you won’t capture your audience’s attention.  Check out these tips to effectively share out your product listings here.  

Final Thoughts…

Using a social media calendar effectively is important for your business to be successful on social media.  It helps keep you organized and makes sure that you know what to post and when.

Before starting to use a social media calendar, start gathering sources for content to share.  It’s a good idea to have a wealth of content ideas before you try to schedule anything.

Then, download our free social media calendar here.  You can aim for one week at a time or print out four calendars and schedule an entire month at one time.  

After you have your social media calendar printed and filled out, start scheduling your social media posts.  Write in times to post your own content and other people’s content too.  Be sure to switch between the types of content that you post to make sure that you keep your feed interesting.

Once you’ve been using a social media calendar for a month, check in on your progress. 

Is it helping you schedule your social media posts more efficiently?  Are you posting consistently?  Has your number of followers and engagement percentage increased?

If you find that the calendar isn’t as effective as you hoped, tweak it as necessary.  Like most other things with your creative business, your social media calendar is a work in progress.

Still need a social media calendar?  Check out our FREE printable social media calendar in grayscale here.  Love color?  You can get the free printable color version here.  It’s the perfect way to start your social media journey on the right foot and grow your creative business.

 

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