How to create a social media content calendar

Canada Day. Gay Pride Month. National Volunteer Week. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of important dates and holidays that communities around the world mark every year. With the advent of social media, it’s made it even easier to opt into the conversations around these special days, and to commemorate them with your online community. (Aka: valuable engagement opportunity!)

Having these dates in a content or editorial calendar means you’ll never forget to post on a holiday or date that is important to your online audience. And checking the calendar regularly means you’ll also have time to prepare content for that specific day, week or month, instead of scrambling at the last minute.

So if you’ve been thinking about setting up a calendar, but haven’t yet (or you want to update your calendar) this guide can help. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to get started, some helpful websites for research, as well as some of the do’s and don’ts.

How do I get started?

Start by brainstorming and researching dates that you may want to include in your content calendar. There are two types of content you want to include: important dates and holidays that have a broad appeal, and important dates and holidays that are specific to your business or organization. And remember to include days, weeks and months.

I always like to start with a broad perspective, and then get more narrow. Try working your way down this list:

GENERAL

Major annual holidays — These are dates that are significant to a large segment of your online community, and tend to be celebratory in nature. For example, Canada Day and New Year’s Day. Start at the international or national level, and then go provincial. The links below to international and Canadian holidays will be helpful here. For example:

  • International: International Women’s Day
  •  National: Canada Day
  • Provincial: Family Day

One note about religious holidays, like Christmas and Easter: If you’re going to post about one, best practice suggests that you include all of them in your content calendar (and there are a lot of them, btw). However, if you are a non-secular organization with a specific religious affiliation, focusing only on your specific religion might makes sense.

Dates and holidays directly connected to your brand — This is when you can get a bit more granular about your research when looking for dates/holidays might be a match with your brand. When looking for a match, consider which holidays your specific audience(s) find valuable or meaningful. For example, if your target market is seniors, International Day or Older Persons, or National Grandparents Day may be a fit.

Dates and holidays that are honestly, just fun — We’re talking about National Ice Cream Day, or National Puppy Day (who doesn’t love a puppy pic, honestly).

YOUR ORGANIZATION

Important milestones — These are events that are important to your business or organization. For example, the founding date of the company, a significant anniversary, or the birthday/day of death of a significant leader/founder.

Deadlines — I work for a post-secondary institution for many years, and there were specific deadlines every year that we needed to post about; for example, the deadline to apply to university, or the deadline to accept an offer or apply to residence. If your business or organization is cyclical in nature, it can be very helpful to schedule deadlines in as reminders.

Annual events — You’ll want to start by listing any annual events that your business or organization hosts. You might assume that these are easy to remember because you’re organizing them. But having them in the calendar can be a great reminder as you prepare your posting schedule, especially when things get busy. You may also want to take note of any significant events hosted by community partners to show your commitment to your online community.

What are some helpful websites?

  • Government of Canada: Important and Commemorative
  • Dates
  • Government of Canada: Public Dates
  • United Nations: International Days
  • United Nations: Observances
  • Holiday Insights

How should I create and share my editorial calendar?

Once you have your list of dates, you’re going to need to put them into a document. I’m a spreadsheet-fanatic, so for me, everything gets plopped into cells and charts. But it’s not the most visually beautiful option. So if you feel you want something that is useful and beautiful, then create away! It really depends on what you like best. Because if you create it and share it in a way that you like, it will increase the likelihood that you’ll access it regularly – and that’s key.

Do’s and Don’ts

DO

Customize your content. Having an editorial calendar isn’t always just about posting on a particular day just to say that you did or to jump on a trend. It’s about understanding what value you can provide to your audience on that particular day. For example, Hospice of Waterloo Region did a great job of recognizing the loss around Mother’s Day with this Instagram post. And while they did still posted on the actual day, the one about honouring a mother who is no longer here actually performed much higher because it was a great fit with the brand and the day.

Check the calendar regularly! This might sound like a “duh, of course” tip. But it can be really easy to forget that it’s there when things get crazy at work, or there are a ton of other updates. And make sure to keep updating it as needed, because there are so many holidays and special dates that it’s almost impossible to get everything down the first time around.

Include hashtags and related accounts. When you’re doing your research on specific dates and holidays, it may be helpful to your future self to include hashtags and related accounts. However, it’s important to double check hashtags every year. The meaning of hashtags change over time. So even if you used a certain hashtag last year for a special holiday, the audience or leading organization may have decided to update it to reflect a key theme, or add a date. Hashtags also differ slightly between platforms.

DON’T

Post just to post. It can be tempting to jump on a big date or holiday because of the visibility it might provide. But if you find you’re struggling to find a way to connect it to your brand, you might want to skip it. The risk of it backfiring may be just too high. But it doesn’t mean you can’t post about it at all. Instead, find accounts that are a match and like or share/retweet their content. This way you can still participate, while also supporting your online community.

Forget to like and share. Social media is a community, so if a community partner is marking a date specific to their organization, feel free to like, share or retweet it. Just because it isn’t a date significant to your business doesn’t mean you can’t help amplify their message.

While doing this research may seem like a lot of work now, having a social media or editorial calendar will save you time in the long run. Most of the dates won’t change year over year, so you’ll be ahead of the game next year.

And even if you don’t go through all of these steps the first time, just get started and build it along the way. Ultimately, having an editorial or content calendar can help support your overall social media strategy — and translate into greater social media success.