If you’re part of your company’s marketing team, you already know planning ahead can make or break your social media strategy. Simply put, without organization, you risk missing deadlines and pushing out subpar content. What’s more, missing the mark makes your entire team feel discouraged and stressed.

The thing is, contrary to popular belief, there’s more to a social media post than simply publishing it. And those weeks or months you spent on planning, strategizing, and coordination? They can all boil down to nothing if you don’t have a structured way of keeping the whole team on the same page.

Why you need a social media content calendar

Working with the help of Post-its, loose pieces of paper, and a gazillion open tabs might be a system you’re used to. Not everyone is an organization whiz. More importantly, not everyone needs a set system to feel on top of things. And while organized chaos is a perfectly valid working style for one person, it won’t do a team of people any favors.

Since everyone in your team has a different working style, you need to come up with a system that works for everyone. In the case of planning and scheduling outbound content, a calendar is your best bet. And while keeping your team on the same page is the most obvious benefit, a good content calendar also:

  • helps you stick to deadlines
  • holds you accountable for your part of the work
  • lets you visualize the workflow
  • allows for company-wide transparency
  • makes it easier to track performance

Now, it’s important to note that there is no universal social media content calendar template that will work for any team. That’s why you have to consider what your needs are and just how much structure your team needs. Let’s help you figure out what your ideal Google Sheets content calendar looks like.

1) How often do you post?

This might be an obvious statement, but the less frequent the posts, the less structure you need. In terms of content calendars, this means that you will need fewer columns and less color coding. You could also create a yearly calendar instead of breaking it down.

On the other hand, if you post every day, a good strategy would be having a monthly calendar. That way you minimize the effects of your team being overwhelmed or confused because of the amount of data.

2) How many different types of content do you create?

Another factor in how compartmentalized your social media calendar needs to be is the number of networks you’re active on. For example, if you have a blog on your website and also use different social media channels, you’ll need to note it in the calendar.

The types of content you create for those networks will determine how much time in advance your calendar needs to be filled. For example, it will take your team more time to conceptualize and create a YouTube video than an infographic. As every designer knows, the more time there is to perfect that visual, the better.

3) How big is your team?

Think about how many people will need access to your calendar. A less detailed one will do if you have a small team, but if you have multiple copywriters, you need to note who is doing which post. The same goes for the designers, the idea masters, and anyone in between.

Keep in mind that your team needs to be in the loop at all times. When it comes to collaboration, it doesn’t matter whether it’s three people or 30. What matters is creating a process that enables all of you to work together efficiently.

4) What is your process like?

Do you have a dedicated space to write down all the ideas or will it be another sheet in the same document? How complicated is the process from the idea stage to the realization stage? For example, if your content ideas need to be approved before they go live, you will want to give yourself enough time to go through the process.

When your idea is approved, you might have a review process in place that ensures your content is the best it can be. All of these will prolong the time it takes you to get from an idea to a post, blog, or video. Make sure that everyone in your team knows at what stage the content is and that they have enough time to do their part right.

Does a content calendar in Google Sheets actually work?

I know, I know – when you think about Google Sheets, you think about math, numbers, reports, and formulas. In other words, all that less-than-exciting stuff for a marketer. But there are a lot of benefits of using Sheets to create a content calendar:

  1. Everyone knows how to use Sheets (or at least I like to hope so)
  2. It’s free – all you need is a Google account and you’re good to go
  3. Seeing your content organized into rows and columns is oddly satisfying…
  4. …And so is all the color coding through conditional formatting
  5. You can use data validation to create simple checkboxes and drop down menus

If it isn’t clear from the list you just read, I love to play around in Google Sheets more than I’d like to admit. But before you embrace the spreadsheet approach to creating a calendar, it’s only fair to put all the cards on the table. What I mean is, there are some disadvantages to using Sheets to create a content calendar:

  1. Image preview ruins your formatting. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend adding images to cells. As an alternative, you can store your visuals on Google Drive and simply paste a link into your calendar.
  2. Last-minute changes are manual. There’s no fancy click-of-the-mouse automation here, only dragging the rows up and down.

And that’s it, two drawbacks that are easy to solve. Since you’ve come here to see how to create your own content calendar (or download the templates), let’s get into it! Roll up your sleeves and prepare to be blown away.

Creating a social media content calendar in Google Sheets

Step 1: Open a new Spreadsheet.

Once you’re in, name your document and rename the Sheet at the bottom by right-clicking on the tab. What you’ll rename it to depends on the type of content calendar you’re creating. Here, I’ve chosen to go with one tab per month.

Step 2: Begin the formatting process

Here I’ve selected the first row in columns A-P, merged them, and then typed in the name of the month. Depending on your preferences, you can align the name left or center, choose the text size, and set another background color. Don’t need the month on top of your calendar? No problem, you can simply skip this step and leave it out.

Step 3: Name your columns

The number of columns you use depends on the amount of information your team needs. I’ve added the following:

  1. Due date is the deadline for all graphics, copy, and revisions. It means that, at this point, the only thing left to do is post.
  2. Publish date is the day when the post needs to be live on social media.
  3. The Topic column should contain the name of the post. It doesn’t matter what you name it as long as everyone knows what it’s about.
  4. After the topic comes the Type of the post. In this case, you’ll want to put in whether it’s a blog, photo, infographic, video, etc.
  5. Next, I added as many social media columns as the Assist-o team uses. Your company may be active on other social media, so you’ll need to adjust this part according to your needs.
  6. The Caption copy, Graphic copy, and Designer columns are there for practical purposes. They’re meant for you to put in the names of team members who are in charge of getting it done on time. If you have a small team, you can skip this step as needed.
  7. Remember when I said image previews ruin your formatting? That’s where the Link to assets column comes in. Whether you store your copy and graphics on Google Drive, Dropbox or somewhere else, a simple link to the correct folder will make your life easier.
  8. The next two columns are Notes for the designer and the copywriter. These come in handy if you have multiple people coming up with the ideas. You can go without them, but they help us at Assist-o to cut the read-my-mind factor out from the equation.

Last, but not least – the Status column. Here’s where and how you track your team’s progress and stick to your strategy.

Step 4: Fill in your dates

And please, don’t do it manually. You can speed up the process by typing in the first day and clicking on the cell that contains the date. Once you do that, a small blue square will appear on the bottom right of the cell. Drag it down and the rest of the dates will appear. It really is a kind of magic.

Step 5: Add checkboxes

You already know you aren’t going to post the same content to all social media channels. For that purpose, you can add Data validation to your Sheet. Believe it or not, it’s very simple. All you need to do is mark the column under every social media channel and right-click. When you do that, there will be a menu in which you need to click on Data validation and choose Checkbox.

Step 6: Add drop-down menus

If you don’t feel like putting in names and post statuses all the time, you can create drop-down menus. The process is the same as above, only this time you will choose List of items in Data validation. This way, you need to list teammates’ names and post statuses only once, rather than typing them in every time.

Step 7: Add some color

While it may seem like an unnecessary step, color-coding your calendar will help you in the long run. Having designated visual cues not only saves everyone’s time, but also keeps you on track when you have a lot of content planned. You can use color to your advantage by marking the area you want to color-code and right-clicking. This time, you’ll choose Conditional formatting. First, I color-coded all the checkboxes because a splash of color makes it easier to see which social media channel the post is going out on. After that, I color-coded the status column so it’s easier to track which phase we’re in. Normally, I’d also do it to the columns that contain drop-downs with teammates’ names, but that’s up to you. At Assist-o, we let everyone choose their own color – it’s good that none of our favorite ones overlap!

Step 8: Duplicate and rename

Once you have your empty template, you can duplicate the Sheet for every month in the year and change the dates. Alternatively, if you don’t post frequently or want to have all the posts in the same place, you can use one Sheet for the entire year.

Extra tip: Freeze rows and columns

You can mark the rows or columns you want to always see, go to View, and click on Freeze. That way, the most important information always stays in place.

Wrapping up

Of course, there are many different ways you can reorder these columns to make them work for your own team. You might have your own set of categories, or you may not need all of them. The most important thing is that now you know how to create a social media content calendar in Google Sheets.

Don’t have time to do it from scratch or see a few minor adjustments you can make? No problem – you can download both the monthly and the yearly template right here.