“Could you pop into a quick morning standup, Ash?”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I’d reply. “I’m just finishing up a Facebook post.”

As a community manager, most of my mornings would start along these lines.

One of the toughest, and most time-consuming, tasks in community and social media management is finding a stream of high-quality, engaging content to share with your audience every day.

A social media calendar is an excellent way to keep on top of this. But staring at a blank calendar can feel daunting: How do you find great content to share? How can you keep your feeds engaging? 

In this post, we’ll help you to identify some great ways to curate content and create an engaging social media calendar for your business.

Let’s go!
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What is a social media calendar?

A social media calendar is essentially a planning document that allows you to visualize your social media strategy. It helps you to organize all the content you are curating and creating and helps ensure you’re consistently sharing high-quality content with your audience.

A content calendar can also be extremely useful to give your wider marketing team or other areas of the business an easy-to-digest overview of your social channels and help you organize resources as you’ll know what content needs to be published and when. It is super helpful to be able to plan when you may need some help from a copy editor or designer, for example.

Here’s how our social media calendar looks within Buffer:

social-media-calendar

Why a social media calendar is important

It will help you be more consistent
Consistency is key to social media success. It’s hard to achieve your goals and break through the noise if you only post now and then or whenever you get a chance.

By creating a social media content calendar and pre-planning your schedule, you can ensure you’re regularly posting updates and keeping on track.

Social media requires strategy
On the CoSchedule blog, Garrett Moon explains:

“The difference between having a content marketing editorial calendar and not having one is simple: One is flying by the seat of your pants and the other is executing a strategy.”

Success on social media requires a strategy. You need to know what content your audience craves, and have the right tools to execute. Having a social media calendar will publish incredible content on a consistent basis.

(P.S. We’ve teamed up with Hubspot to create a social media content calendar template to help you manage and plan your social media content.)

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5 places to find incredible content and inspiration

Having a social media strategy is one thing, curating and finding all of the amazing content you need to execute that strategy is another challenge altogether.

Here are five places to find and curate great content:

1. Twitter

Twitter is an amazing tool to find great content ideas and talking points from your industry.

Following and retweeting others in your niche is a great way to engage with people and share content in real-time. However, when it comes to planning a content calendar, Twitter can be a great help here too.

Twitter search is amazingly powerful and by searching for topics related to your business you can uncover some real gems to add to your calendar.

Here’s a great piece of content I found by searching for ‘social media marketing’:

hubspot-tweet

2. Following industry news and trends

Every industry will likely have a focused news outlet (or even multiple outlets for larger niches).

For example, to keep up with the latest online marketing and advertising trends, I regularly check out: AdWeek, Brand Republic and The Drum. These sites help me to keep on top of the latest news, trends and conversation within the industry. If you’re looking to curate some great content, it can be a good idea to

If you’re looking to curate some great content, it can be a good idea to identify some of the best blogs in your niche and regularly scan them for content your audience will love.

3. Social media analytics

Taking a look back at your own data and analytics is an amazing way to figure out what content has been successful and resonated with your audience.

Here’s an example from Buffer analytics showing two of our most popular tweets over the past week:

buffer-analytics

It’s always good to experiment and try new things on social and by looking back at analytics, you can start to see what is working for your business and performing best across your social channels – this will help you to refine your strategy and create a calendar full of extremely engaging content.

We’ve also started to see a trend within Buffer where people are re-Buffering some of their most successful posts to maximize the reach and engagement of their best content.

Pro tip: If you do start to re-share content multiple times, it can be great to make slight tweaks each time, so that the re-shared posts are identical to the originals.

4. Content aggregators and communities

When I first open up my laptop in the morning, I quickly scan through a few of my favourite content aggregation sites: HackerNews and Inbound, in particular.

These sites help me to scout some of the best content on social media, marketing and startups. Content aggregators and community sites are a great way to find content on any niche.

Here are a couple of great sites:

Reddit

Reddit is an amazing place to discover a ton of great stuff you could re-share with your audience and what’s even better is that every niche you can imagine (and then some) will be sure to have its own subreddit.

Here are a few examples:

To find the best subreddit for your business, head over to Reddit search.

Quora

Quora isn’t necessarily a content aggregator, but it’s a great place to find some inspiration.

Keeping an eye on questions in your niche on Quora can be a brilliant way to find some ideas for social media content (posts, images, videos) and blog posts – countless posts I’ve written have been inspired by threads on Quora. 

For example, if you’re a mortgage advisor, following the ‘Mortgages’ topic on Quora will give you a ton of ideas for content you could create:

mortgage

From just these two questions and subsequent threads, you could craft a wealth of content and know that there’s an audience of people who are interested in it before you start.

The best way to get started on Quora is to sign up (results are very limited without an account) and search for topics related to your niche that you can start following.

Once you’re up and running, you should begin to see a bunch of relevant threads on Quora every time you visit the site.

5. Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a great tool to find out what content performs best in any niche.

By simply searching for keywords related to your business you will find some of the most share blog posts that are centered around your chosen keywords.

Here’s a quick search I ran for ‘real estate’:

 

buzzsumo

By identifying the most popular content in your niche, you can find some awesome, highly shareable content to add to your calendar and also find some inspiration for new content of your own.

How to plan your content calendar

Once you find some amazing content, what do you do with it next? Here are three quick steps to planning your social media calendar.

1. Find the best time to post

In 2015, we ran our own study to find the best time to tweet. To do this we analyzed over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles, pulling the stats on how clicks and engagement and timing occur throughout the day and in different time zones

Here’s the chart for the most popular times worldwide, taken from an average of 10 major time zones (the times represent local time):

This works as a great guideline when you’re starting out with planning your calendar, though often, it’s best to experiment with different timings to find out what works for you and sometimes you may find it easier to grab attention at non-peak times.

Facebook Insights also has a neat tool that will show you the times when your Facebook fans are online. Here’s an example from Buffer’s page:

fb-insights

Once you’ve decided on the best times to post (or at least, best times to test), you can schedule those times in your calendar and start adding content to tell your story.

2. Figure out how you’ll tell your story

The content you share on social media is telling your brand story. Every tweet, status or blog post is like a page in a book, each representing a small part of your story.

When you plan your calendar, try to think about how you can pull together all the content you have and craft a unique, flowing story from it.

3. Get your team on board

A successful social media strategy often relies on many people working together.

A calendar helps you to understand what resources you’ll need and when you’ll need them, to execute your social media strategy. For example, you may need a designer to create some graphics, a copywriter to edit your status’.

If you don’t have a whole team to focus on content, having it all planned in a calendar can help you to schedule your own time better and put aside a time to create images or proofread your posts.

Bonus: The Social Media Content Calendar [Free Template]

We’ve teamed up with the awesome folks over at Hubspot to create a free social media calendar template.

Social_Media_Content_Calendar_Landing_Page_Image_Shadow

Our customizable Social Media Content Calendar will allow you to organize your social media activities far in advance to make your social marketing more manageable and less time consuming.

This easy-to-use Excel template helps you plan your updates, breaking down how to format your content for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, all while providing helpful tips and tricks along the way.

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Over to you

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments: Do you use a calendar to organize your social media content? How do you source great content to keep your calendar full?

Share your thoughts and experiences below. I’m excited to jump in and join the conversation.

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Written by Ash Read

Content crafter at Buffer. I’m fascinated by storytelling, entrepreneurship, and travel. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me on a football pitch or basketball court.

  • http://virtualvalley.io/ Tom

    Yes Ash!

    Sending this straight to my Virtual Team for breakfast reading tomorrow morning, not sure how they are currently gathering content but sure this will help out.

    Keep killing it and will be sharing this bad boi with my 3413 Twitter Followers 🙂

    Thanks
    Tom

  • howcool

    ummmm… what’s the plural of “morning”???

  • Joshua Price

    Great article Ash, I’ve been looking at BuzzSumo for a long time. Have you found that the cost is justified?

  • http://freelancetechnologyreview.com/ Karen McCamy-WordPress Trainer

    As most of the buffer Team knows, I’m a HUGE Buffer fan…however, I was more than a little disappointed that the free download link took me to Hubspot! They are relentless in their email marketing (read: they are a pain in the frequency), and I’m already on their mailing list!

    I also discourage my students from utilizing someone else’s “platform” for their marketing strategies, because it’s costly and something the SMB and solo should have close control over. If you farm it out (outsource it) you’ll never really have control or understanding of what works…

    I find a calendar that uses drag-and-drop works best, so it’s either the FREE Google calendar, or a subscription app (plugin) like Co-Schedule.

    As I’ve written in comments here before, I’m a solo worker and I think editorial calendars are best suited for teams…

  • https://goodbits.io/ Lana Topham

    Great post, Ash. Picked up a lot of little tidbits to help with my community management role. Thank you!

  • Bojana Smiljanic

    Thanks for a great post Ash, I’m currently in charge of content at a start-up that has been running for the past 9 months and really need to get my game on with a strategy that will bring RESULTS. I’ve just been putting links in a google doc and re-post or use as inspiration for a blog, as and when. I like the idea of structuring this using a calendar and also keeping abreast of community content in my niche. Hope it works!

    • Rian Moonen

      I feel the same! Curious about your progress! 🙂

  • Lenard De Guzman

    Apart from having a social media calendar with all the content ideas you’ve gathered, the next step is to find a team that can execute it well — if you don’t already have one! 🙂

  • WALLANDTILE SEO

    Wallandtile.com’s strategy is to work with our customers to enhance the homes and projects of consumers in North America by providing a wide selection of products that are innovative

  • Emily Eisenhuth

    I think the strategy of having a calendar is a great idea. I haven’t tried a social media calendar but I plan to try one out now. I look to find what is trending to others and be more organized with my post instead of just posting randomly.

  • Sandra

    I find a lot of inspiration on Twitter daily, but these suggestions are really great! As for scheduling content, we had to come up with our own ContentCalendar and now the whole team is coordinated much, much better. And what is really important, we are not late with publishing content on any of our blogs anymore. 🙂

  • Marta Aw

    Thank you!! As someone looking to become a Community Manager this was super cool to read. Also, some sites and tools I haven’t known before, I will be sharing and saving this article. Have a good one!