How to build a social media content calendar

Building a social media calendar for a brand on multiple platforms can seem daunting.

Back in the day, whipping up content was all about crafting a unique dish for each platform. Content was bespoke and everyone knew where to go: YouTube if they were looking for long-form vlogs. If they wanted curated aesthetic feeds, they’d go to Instagram. If they wanted to argue about the flatness of the earth, they’d go to Twitter/X.

Now, the lines are blurring between each social channel. Instagram Reels and YouTube’s shorts are competing for a slice of TikTok’s pie, LinkedIn more often than not veers into becoming Facebook-y and Elon has drawn a line in the sand, claiming that X is to become the new ‘everything app’. 

Us social media managers have always been at the mercy of constant algorithm and platform updates, but especially since the rapid rise of TikTok, things have become a lot more complex. 

How do you solve a problem like homogenised social content? 

Is content king anymore? With the constant need to feed the algorithm, it’s amazing what passes for content. The truth is, the social platforms are our royalty, and while they wined and dined us to get us onto their platforms, now we’re there, we’re hooked, like addicts at the mercy of their platform updates. Is it any wonder that so much of the content is simply churn? 

We are encouraging brands to break free of the hamster wheel and stop damaging their brands by posting for the sake of posting. You don’t need to post on every awareness day and sometimes, a TikTok trend isn’t for you, especially when it’s already doing the rounds on reels a month later. 

When you try to align with what everyone else is doing to meet the algorithm, your brand identity gets lost along the way. 

Our call to arms 

We created International International Day Day because, well, we thought it was funny. But bigger than that, we wanted to make a point. We’ve hit the tipping point of seeing ridiculous awareness days used by brands to create content on their channels, which is a symptom of the much larger problem that we wanted to address; that social just isn’t fun any more and we all have a part to play in holding ourselves to a higher standard, providing value with every single post. 

The need to produce more creatively on social media has never been more important to cut through the noise.

Who are you talking to?

Firstly, you need to identify your purpose on social media by considering your brand’s core values as well as what your target audience expects and wants from you.

Looking at Lego, their purpose on social media is to inspire creativity and imagination, connect with their audience, promote their products and services whilst continuing to build a community and have a bit of fun. Lego encourages its fans to be creative and imaginative by sharing photos and videos of their Lego creations. They create content that is inspiring to their audience, and they encourage them to interact with each other and with the brand. As a result, Lego has a large and loyal following online.

Tesla’s purpose on social media is to educate and inform the public about electric vehicles and sustainable energy, build a community around its brand, promote its products and services, and advocate for sustainable energy. By creating such a big community on social, its products are some of the most talked about and desired in the world making the company a leader in the transition to sustainable energy.

Along with promoting products, Oreo’s social purpose involves connecting with its audience on a personal level. They use platforms like X and Instagram to share playful posts, interactive challenges, and creative twists on their iconic cookie. They also use their channels to listen to their audience and get feedback. They often share memes, GIFs, and other types of content that are relevant to their audience and that reflect the brand’s fun and playful personality. 

Understanding who your audience is and where they live online should first be established as part of your wider social strategy. One size does not fit all. Different platforms attract different audiences, and each audience has its own unique preferences when they choose to open one app over another. Are they looking to see a How-To tutorial, a stunningly curated feed of house interiors, or the latest new restaurant check-in?

Imagine you’re at a party, trying to impress someone. You approach them and start talking about your favourite hobby, which is collecting stamps. But the person you’re talking to is completely bored. They’re not interested in stamps at all, in fact, they’re a competitive bowler, and they’d much rather talk about that. You wouldn’t waste your time trying to convince them about stamps because they’re not your audience. Knowing that your potential audience does exist and is likely to engage with you if your story is relevant and engaging is key to nailing down where and how you talk to them. 

Where do they live online?

If you’re a brand that sells high-end skincare products, your target audience might be women in their 30s and 40s who are interested in beauty and anti-ageing. But where do these women hang out on social media? Well, according to a report from Statista 2022, Instagram’s audience is made up of 70% women, and 35% of them are between the ages of 25 and 34. This should help inform your hero channel as Instagram for your social content planning based on who you’re trying to target – very few brands have the resources to give everything to every channel. 

When you create content that is specific to each channel, you are showing your audience that you care about their interests and that you are committed to providing them with valuable content. On Instagram, for example, Chanel shares high-quality photos and videos of its products, such as the iconic Chanel 2.55 bag, the Chanel No. 5 perfume, and the Chanel tweed jacket. The content often features celebrities and fashion influencers wearing or using Chanel products. Whereas on LinkedIn, they share news and announcements about the brand, such as new product launches, sustainability initiatives, and charitable partnerships with King Charles for those who are interested in that side of the business.

So, before you start creating social content, take some time to understand your audience. Who are they? What are their interests? What are their pain points? And what do they find engaging on the platform they spend the most time on, all of this should help you identify and create content pillars for your brand’s product or service.

Why content pillars are so important

Brands should have content pillars for their social content to ensure that they are creating consistent, relevant, and valuable content for their audience. If you’re a restaurant trying to create a menu, you don’t want to just list every single dish you can make, that would be overwhelming for your customers. Instead, you want to group your dishes into categories. 

You might have a “Burgers” category, a “Salads” category, and a “Desserts” category, this makes it easier for your customers to find the dishes they’re looking for. The same principle applies to segmenting your social content. You don’t want to just post a random assortment of content on your feed, you want to group your content into pillars, or streams. This will make it easier for your audience to identify the content they’re interested in.

Think about your audience’s interests and why they resonate with your brand in the first place. What do they care about? What problems are they trying to solve by using your product or service? What are they curious about or is it an emotional connection? Once you can identify these for your brand, research a list of topics that are relevant to the audience and the brand. The topics should then be whittled down into categories and grouped into smaller segments which form the overall content pillars and bigger campaign ideas. If someone uses your fabric softener brand purely because the smell reminds them of home, are you talking to them in a way that goes beyond product functionality?

If you’re looking for your audience to be able to identify the different streams on your channel, content can be categorised through a recognisable graphic on your asset, a bespoke hashtag or even just introduced in the copy. It’s a nice way for audiences to recognise the content and for you to identify what they engage with most.

Evergreen content should also be regularly included as part of wider calendar planning. This content is timeless and relevant to your audience regardless of the time of year or current events. It is the type of content that you can create once and use over and over again to tell your brand story. Make it impressionable and memorable.

If you’re a toaster brand named Toastylicious, you may consider these 3 main content pillars:

  • Toaster machine education e.g. how to clean your toaster, the perfect settings for golden toast.
  • How-To Toaster Recipes e.g. the millennial avo toast, decadent French toast for breakfast.
  • Toast lifestyle: e.g. sharing toast with friends, the history of toast.

When you have clear streams to follow, you can focus your time and resources on creating content that is relevant to your target audience and that aligns with your overall business goals. Your content should then become consistent and exactly what your audience engages with from a brand that just…gets it. Toast to that.

Who else are you talking to?

Remember that you’re not always talking to your loyal and dedicated fans or followers. When users end up on your channels from other marketing campaigns or from the explore page, they are likely to be curious about your brand, but they may not be familiar with it yet. This means that you need to create content that is both informative and engaging, and that will help them learn more about your brand and what you have to offer (assuming that they haven’t doom-scrolled your previous 236 posts).

This is why it’s so important that your organic social plans match up with your paid social, website, out-of-home campaigns, and the wider marketing strategy for your brand in order to create a consistent and cohesive experience for customers. 

When all of your marketing channels are aligned, it tells your audience that you know what you’re doing and it was no happy accident that they ended up on your channel, the algorithm really said ‘for you’ for a reason. It also makes it more likely that they will remember you and choose your product or services over competitors when it comes to making purchase decisions.

BUT! Remember that brand recall can’t and shouldn’t always be relied on. Can you remember what you saw on Instagram yesterday morning? Then don’t expect your existing or new audiences to be able to join up campaign messages spread across multiple chapters that they need to piece together. 

Believe it or not, users don’t always log on to social media to be sold to. If your content is too complex or difficult to read, they’re likely to scroll right past it. Keep it clear, digestible, and simple because users are often bombarded with information from all sides and they don’t want to have to work hard to understand what you’re trying to say. 

Now, make the content… ‘Pop!’ (as we often love to hear)

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, posting the same types of content repeatedly and can cause content fatigue for the user. But there are always ways to be more exciting and creative by leaning into new ways of producing what you usually talk about on your platforms. 

One way to do this is to apply the age-old saying “No idea is a bad idea.” When you’re brainstorming, don’t be afraid to come up with the most outlandish, ridiculous ideas you can. You can always narrow it down later into something more realistic for your brand but it’s a great place to start sowing your seeds.

The important thing is to get all of your ideas down on paper or, more likely, on a computer screen in advance of the activation. Once you have a list of ideas, you can start to think about how they could be formatted, and whether video, AI, UGC, an event, or PR could be used to help bring them to life. If you want to announce your latest toilet cleaner product, don’t rely on ‘International Talk Like Yoda Day’ as a way to justify the office’s biggest Star Wars fan talking about the benefits of your new offering. It’s lazy. And confusing.

Be inspired by what stands out in your brand’s industry that is performing well or generally on social for your target audience and experiment with different formats. Don’t be afraid to try new things and look at how you can reach new audiences through collaborations, partnerships, or creators that bring the best of both worlds to your audiences. What and who would make sense together? Attaching the right collaboration to your brand can hold a lot of power for brand awareness and engagement when it’s truly aligned with your brand values. 

How often should you be posting?

This all depends on what you are trying to achieve with your social strategy. Are you trying to increase awareness, launch your brand, drive traffic to your website, or generate leads? Based on your objectives and identifying your audience types in the previous step, factor in how much time and resources you have to dedicate to creating content and community management. 

If you’re looking to increase channel engagement, you may need to consider how reactive you can be to your audience’s comments and overall sentiment across platforms. This can be crucial for the growth of your channels if regular content is performing well, and your community asks questions and engages consistently. The best way to determine your ideal posting frequency is to experiment and regularly check in to see what is working for your audience and at what times of the day through your chosen performance metrics.

This information can be used to inform your future planning if, for example, you notice that your target audience is actually most active online between the hours of 2 and 6 AM because you’re a nappy brand selling to new parents scrolling their phones whilst cradling their newborn. 

Plotting the calendar

Creating a weekly template for posting makes it easy to slot in each of the content streams that you want to cover and ensures that there’s no duplication or lack of any one pillar that month. Keep in mind that it’s vital to always have that bank of evergreen content ready to be used as and when throughout the year to help introduce any new followers to your page.

It’s always important to be mindful of the month, year, and seasonal periods that may be crucial for your brand. This includes holidays, major events, and cultural moments. If you’re a pool inflatables brand, you’ll want to plan ahead for summer and school holidays and if you’re a brussels sprouts brand, you’ll want to plan in advance for Christmas and Eat Brussels Sprouts Day, obviously.

Planning your content for the upcoming month or quarter gives you plenty of time to create high-quality content that is relevant to your audience and aligned with your overall marketing goals. It also allows you time to track your results and see what content is performing well, knowing that you can adjust anything if need be.

Of course, you don’t want to be tied to your calendar if something unexpected happens in the world. If there’s a major news event or cultural moment, like Taylor Swift attending an NFL game, don’t be afraid to be reactive and create content around that but only if it feels right for your brand, not everything will be and that’s okay. Having pre-approved plans and statements in place for any crisis comms is a great way to be prepared if for example, anything goes wrong during a campaign or your website crashes during an ecommerce launch. 

Measure your performance

Monthly reporting is key for identifying what is working and what is not on your channels. When you track your social media metrics, you quickly can see which types of content are resonating with your audience and which are not. This makes it easier to form your following month’s plan by producing more high-performing content. 

By measuring the impact of your social content on your business goals, you can prove the value of your social marketing efforts and why it’s important that you’re active there. As an example;

Objective: Increase brand awareness
Metric: Reach
Goal: Increase reach by 3% each month

Always ensure that these goals are achievable, measurable, and adjusted according to your brand’s performance month on month.

International create your own day

You have to be mindful of each platform’s unique audience, algorithm, and features. And if you’re posting the same exact content on all of your channels, you’re basically just setting yourself up for failure. Tailor your content to each platform, this way, you can show your audience that you understand them and that you’re committed to providing them with the best possible experience.

Celebrate your brand and its unique offerings as an opportunity to be original and generate engagement with your audience. This also allows you to control the narrative and ensure that your content is relevant and authentic. People can spot a fake from a mile away, so be genuine and true to your brand. 

And if after all that, you’re still struggling to plan your social calendar, make your own day. Celebrate a day that suits you, and your brand. If it doesn’t exist, November 2nd, henceforth shall be the day to celebrate it. If you’re a comms director, why shouldn’t there be a comms director day? If you’re a graphic designer, you sure as heck deserve an International Graphic Designers Day, so mark it on November 2nd.

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