This post is part of Spotlight on Social Media Strategies, a new series designed to help you make the most of the changing landscape of social media.
The most successful social media accounts don’t leave their messaging to chance. Instead, they invest upfront in the creation of a storytelling structure that brings key messages into focus. Think of social media platforms as instruments in an orchestra and your editorial calendar as the conductor that unifies each piece into a harmonized whole. In today’s post, we will be exploring how to get started crafting such a calendar, and what tools you might use along the way to help you meet your outreach goals.
What is an editorial calendar and why do I need one?
A successful editorial calendar will help you streamline a number of important tasks such as identifying key themes for your overall content output, distributing posting duties among team members, and maintaining a consistent online presence. Investing upfront in the creation of an editorial calendar for your nonprofit has many advantages:
- It gives you a chance to brainstorm ideas for posts and find creative ways to showcase the impact of your work;
- It makes your engagement more efficient by giving you time to plan ahead while staying on schedule;
- It offers the flexibility you need to adapt content and deadlines as you go;
- It helps the rest of your team have a sense of the overall goals you are working to achieve and how they can contribute to the plan’s success.
How do I create an editorial calendar for my nonprofit?
Here are some steps to help you get started crafting your very own calendar:
Start big then zoom in:
The best plans start with a big picture vision that helps identify goals you wish to achieve in various increments of time. Starting with a yearly vision then zooming in progressively on quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals is a great way to ensure that your posts are always relevant and well thought out. If it’s your first time creating an editorial calendar, look to the year ahead and identify which milestones you need to prepare for: is it the launch of a campaign or new service? Any holiday events or international days of significance that you could produce content around? A fundraising push? Having these all laid out ahead of time will help you schedule content more proactively, and make sure that all your channels and tools are good to go (see our last post on social media audits for more on that.)
Break it down step by step:
As you brainstorm story ideas and work on a production schedule, consider the following questions to help you determine content priorities:
- Who will take the lead on writing and editing your social media posts?
- Does the content need to be reviewed for final approval before being published?
- Who is your target audience, and what is the best way to share your content with them? (For example, you may publish Instagram content as both an individual post and an Instagram story, or choose to promote a ‘link in bio’ that redirects to longform content hosted directly on your site.)
Once you have a sense of your key milestones and processes, you can use free tools like Google Calendar, Asana (with discounted paid plans available to nonprofits) or Trello to build an editorial calendar. You could also try free templates like Hubspot’s, Asana’s and Trello’s to get started right away. If your organization doesn’t already have infrastructure in place to manage its communications workflow, you could also consider paid services like CoSchedule’s Editorial Calendar to streamline the process and make your calendar software-based rather than spreadsheet-based.
Image: Asana's editorial calendar template
When it comes to posting content, most nonprofits struggle with consistency––especially if they do not have a dedicated staff member taking the lead on communications. Yet as Charles Bordet writes in this article for CoSchedule, “creating content consistently without a calendar is like driving a car without a steering wheel. It doesn’t work.”
When it comes to social media, consistency is therefore absolutely the key––and not just for what concerns the frequency of posts, but also for their look and tone. Here, an editorial calendar is especially valuable because it gives you the opportunity to produce or source supporting assets (think: banners, photos, and other design material) ahead of time. These will make your posts stand out and help tell a more cohesive and compelling story.
Determining how often to publish new content is another way that an editorial calendar can guide your outreach efforts. Social media platforms have different sets of expectations and best practices, and finding the right formula that works for your nonprofit will take some trial and error. Once you’ve found your rhythm, though, an editorial calendar will help you avoid the dreaded scramble to hit your targets, helping you find the best way to customize your posts and diversify your messaging across channels. If you are just getting started posting on social media and/or do not have a dedicated communications staff, as a rule of thumb, consider posting at the following frequency:
- Twitter: 3-6 posts a days;
- Facebook: 1 post a day or every other day;
- Instagram: 1-2 times a day;
- LinkedIn: once a week or ad hoc;
- YouTube or Vimeo: ad hoc.
You already have a powerful story to tell. Investing upfront in an outreach plan will make your content more memorable, as well as build a reputation for trust and reliability. As you get to know your audience and your needs better, don’t forget to update and adapt your strategies… and to have fun experimenting with different approaches along the way!
Does your nonprofit use an editorial calendar to guide its outreach efforts? Have you learned any important lessons from planning content ahead of time? Leave us a comment below to share your stories with the rest of the TechSoup Canada community!