How to Create a Social Media Calendar
Social media provides a HUGE opportunity for authors to connect with their readers – but where do you even begin using it to promote yourself? How often should you post, what should you write about, and how can you find the time to do it regularly?
Those are questions we all struggle with, which is why Ginger has put together a quick guide to help. These tips are based on his own experience working with professionals and brands in developing their social media calendars and strategies.
Our recent blog about how bestselling author Jack Carr connects with readers inspired several questions from authors wondering how to go about using their social media accounts more effectively.
One of the most actionable strategies is to create a Social Media Calendar, which plans and prepares a whole bunch of posts which can go live automatically; removing the pressure of having to remember to post every day, or come up with content on the fly.
It’s the same approach professionals and brands use to manage their social media accounts – and I know this first hand. In my 20+ years as an advertising and marketing professional, I created content for and managed the social media accounts of global companies like Tyco, and familiar brands like Applebee’s. This is how they did it – and you can do it too!
Why do you need a social media calendar?
Every author knows that they “should” be on social media. Whether it’s Twitter (X), Instagram, or TikTok, a presence on social media allows you to connect with readers from all over the world, and it’s essentially “free” advertising paid for by the time and effort you put into your account.
Although older platforms like Facebook (Meta) have become pretty much “pay to play” for posting content, there are wild frontiers like TikTok which can perform miraculously for authors. In Episode 3 of the Fully Booked podcast, Craig and I even spoke to author Jennifer Millikin, whose four-year-old book became an overnight bestseller after she posted a single video about it on TikTok.
So there’s definitely a lot of opportunity out there for authors looking to promote their work to a broader audience – but it’s also a lot of work. When I was coming up with content for travel brands like CheapOAir, the challenge was to create four or five pieces of content each and every day and after a while, I started to describe that job as “like working in a sausage factory.”
I don’t think authors need to post that frequently, but it’s still quite an ask to come up with a new and engaging piece of content every day… or every week… or every month, if you’re really hard up.
In the world of corporate America, the answer to this was to create a content calendar – to plan out weeks or months of content in advance, and then schedule it using a tool like Hootsuite so each post would “fire and forget” without you having to remember to do it manually.
This strategy translates equally effectively for authors. If you can dedicate a few hours to scheduling a few weeks worth of content, you can have your social media account buzzing in the background while you focus on more important things (like writing.)
That’s why you need a social media calendar.
How do you create a Social Media Calendar?
A social media calendar is basically just… a calendar! You just use it to schedule what and when you’re going to post, so you don’t have to think of anything on the fly.
At first, don’t get too focused on what this calendar is supposed to look like. Whether it’s a paper printout, a Google calendar, or something sophisticated like Hootsuite, none of that matters compared to the content you’re going to fill it with.
You start off by deciding how frequently you want to post on social media, and what form that content is going to take.
Schedule in Advance
A great first step is to commit to posting once a week. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when you don’t plan things out in advance, even that opportunity can quickly pass you by.
Using your calendar, choose which day you want to post on (Mondays and Wednesdays are my favorites) and mark each day for the next three months on your calendar.
If you’re planning a calendar for September, October, and November 2023, for example, you’d have 13 Wednesdays to find content for.
Then, simply plan out what to post on those thirteen days. Maybe it’s a link to your latest book. Maybe it’s a suggestion to join your mailing list. Whatever you decide, take the time to plan out the whole post (picture, caption, hashtags, etc.) and save that information in your calendar.
Now, schedule that content.
Some tools, like Facebook and Instagram, allow you to schedule posts up to 75 days in advance. Third party tools like Hootsuite allow you to do the same on other social media platforms. Whichever service you choose, scheduling your content in advance allows you to “fire and forget” and have weekly posts going out without you having to think about or remember anything.
Congratulations – you now have a social media strategy!
Taking it further…
By scheduling weekly posts, you’re already way ahead of 90% of self-published authors; but this is just the beginning. I mentioned earlier that I used to schedule up to five posts a day for brands like CheapOAir. Authors don’t need to go to quite those lengths, but you can certainly do better than posting just once a week.
But where do you get started?
The best move is to go back to that content calendar again and start planning out what you might post to fill the other days on your calendar. The secret to success here is to come up with a theme, or a gimmick. For example, mark each Thursday on your calendar with a “throwback Thursday” post including the hashtag #TBT.
This is a post in which you share an older picture of yourself (or an older book, if you don’t want to share anything personal) and talk about the context of what it meant then, compared to what it means now. You don’t need to spend much time on these posts, but by coming up with them all in advance, you’ve automatically doubled the number of posts you have scheduled.
Then, do the same again – except for Mondays!
You could post a meaningful quote for “Motivational Monday.” You could share or recommend a book that you particularly liked. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to post every Monday – just think of something, and stick with it.
By having a ‘theme’ for each day, it’s much easier to think of content – and by scheduling it all in advance, it’s much easier to regularly post it!
Ideally, you should plan out what sort of post to share each and every day of the week, and then schedule them all in advance. It’s a lot of work – hours of it – but by doing it all at once, you then give yourself a ton of freedom and flexibility for the rest of the time and don’t even need to think about having a social media strategy, because it’s already taken care of.
Don’t stop there!
That’s not to say you shouldn’t post anything on social media that you haven’t already scheduled. Far from it! In fact, every post you’re inspired to make organically just adds to the impact of the content you have scheduled.
For example, in this blog I wrote about how I snap a picture of every Harley-Davidson I see, and post it to social media. It’s an easy little game I play that ensures I have new and fresh things to share on my social channels – but it’s never planned. I just take photos when I can.
Maintaining a little system like that in conjunction with a planned-out social media content calendar makes your social media even more impactful; and just adds to the number of people you’re going to reach and engage with it.
But it all starts with creating a social media content calendar and doing to work to implement it. By investing the time to put that system in place, you start to build a presence on social media that other authors will be in awe of; and will hopefully help you sell more books and build a bigger profile as a result.