Social media calendars have become an essential part of any modern-day marketer’s armoury. Such is the volume of content brands produce, it’s practically impossible for any marketing team to plot their activities without one.
A scheduling calendar has the potential to support your entire content strategy by reinforcing goals and messaging, facilitating collaboration, and enabling more efficient, effective publishing.
You could make your own, or even download one of the many templates available (Google it). But if you’re serious about your social strategy (and why wouldn’t you be?), then you need a tool with more bells and whistles than a rudimentary spreadsheet.
Here are a selection of some of the main players to help you make your mind up.
The best social media calendars
Building a rabid cult following since 2011, Agorapulse is now playing with the biggest of the big social media management tools. While it’s best known for handling incoming comments and messages through its social inbox, its recently added publishing options make it a solid option for managing social content.
If you’re a fan of content queuing (and who isn’t?), you can set how often you’d like your evergreen content to be sent back to the queue. There are similar options for content you’d like to be scheduled (or rescheduled) for particular times at particular frequencies. You can see all your queued, scheduled and published posts in the Agorapulse publishing calendar. The calendar also shows assigned and draft (‘to approve’) posts, two of Agorapulse’s many teamwork collaboration features.
The tool’s Medium plan for $99/mo allows for three team members and ten social profiles. The Large plan runs $199/mo and gives you six team members and 25 social media profiles. If your organisation is heftier, there’s the Enterprise plan which gives you 12 team members and 40 social profiles for $299/mo.
One of the earliest players into the field, Buffer launched in the UK in 2010 but a period of rapid growth led to its founder relocating the company to California. Fast forward seven years and Buffer is now a veteran of the field.
With all of the main platforms covered (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest), Buffer has the kind of feature package you would expect from an app that has been around for so long. Such is the comprehensive nature of Buffer’s line-up, however, that trying to cut through all the bloat on their website to find out exactly what the platform can do for you requires at least two cups of coffee and a degree of patience. Their FAQ page is split into 17 sections, with 231 questions inviting you to while away a morning.
But beyond this befuddling cyber maze is an array of features that should suit even the largest brand. Scheduling and team collaboration are cornerstones of any social media calendar and are both present and correct here, as is an analytics package that enables you to keep tabs on how your posts are performing. A creative suite, known as Pablo, is an impressive extra and allows users to create branded images that can be automatically resized for the various social networks.
There are three business packages on offer, varying between $99-$399 per month.
A relatively new entry into the field, ContentCal is the brainchild of Alex Packham, former social media manager at online television service Now TV. It offers all the usual scheduling tools, but its makers are keen for teams to use it as a collaboration tool. If you’re struck by creative genius on the way into work, you can jot down a summary of your idea and your colleagues can start fleshing it out straight away. Once the idea is firmed up, it can be dragged straight onto the posting schedule to be shared with the world.
A robust approval process will ensure widespread ownership of posts rather than just individuals, while a handy tagging system adds an extra layer of at-a-glance convenience to your calendar.
Read more about ContentCal in our review.
‘One calendar to rule them all’ is the quirky if somewhat boastful slogan from the team at CoSchedule. That said, they’ve made an impressive claim on that title despite being around for just four years (at the time of writing).
The calendar tool offers all the usual functionality, while the ReQueue feature enables users to get the most out of their top posts by allowing CoSchedule to intelligently share messages at optimal times. Subscribers can also schedule 60+ social posts in bulk, and share content to their calendar from anywhere on the web.
Of particular interest to WordPress users will be a dedicated plug-in that enables them to manage their calendar and post schedule from within their site’s back-end.
CoSchedule has plans to suit all pockets – ranging from the Essential plan which costs $40 a month up to the Enterprise option at $2,200 monthly.
DivvyHQ distils its offering down to the following components: Ideate > Plan > Produce > Publish. The Kansas City-based team place a large emphasis on simplifying the content creation process, reducing corporate reliance on email and other communication tools. DivvyHQ also provides real-time status updates on projects and tracks team performance, leaving customers free to focus on the important task of creating content.
As for the editorial calendar, features include a simple dashboard of tasks that need to be accomplished, an unlimited number of shared calendars, and workflow management. The oddly named ‘Parking Lot’ offers employees from across your company the opportunity to share ideas, and to produce, approve and store content.
Mind you, there are probably more realistic options for smaller companies. DivvyHQ is aimed primarily at high-volume companies – among their current clients are the likes of HP, Mercedes-Benz, Unilever and Red Bull.
Edgar was born in 2014 when Laura Roeder became tired of managing ‘big, ridiculous spreadsheets’ for her clients, and its gone on to become one of the most popular tools in the field.
One of the ways Edgar tries to differentiate itself from other tools is with the ability to recycle content after it has been posted. Users are encouraged to add content to their library, and then Edgar takes over – scheduling posts and repurposing content until it’s told otherwise. Unless you’re adding a one-time post to be sent at a specific time, all the timeslots in your library indicate an update that will automatically be sent week-after-week using the content from one or all of your categories.
Once Edgar uses up the supply in a category, it starts over from the beginning, giving your updates higher odds of being viewed and automatically assuring that you’ll never run out of updates to post. In that sense, you’re always going to have something in your social media queue. While handy, be sure not to overuse your recycled content. Nonetheless, this is a powerful tool with a strong community of supporters behind it.
At the time of writing, there was only one price plan available for Edgar subscribers – priced at $49 per month.
Everyone knows Hootsuite. It’s the most popular social media management platform in the world, being used in 175 countries by more than 10 million users. Furthermore, it can count Visa, HBO, Paypal and Virgin among its clients. Put simply: its meteoric growth has earned your consideration.
The Hootsuite dashboard uses ‘streams’ rather than a calendar layout to manage scheduling. Streams can be set up for each social network, which is handy if you’re the type of person who likes to keep things separate. You can use tabs to organise your streams into groups, so in effect you create your own bespoke dashboard. If you’re working in teams, you can assign posts to the right person, department or region.
With Hootsuite’s Auto Scheduling you can maintain a 24/7 presence. Once you have a content schedule set up, adding new posts to fill the gaps is a straightforward process. You can also use the Hootlet extension to schedule posts as you browse the web. Alternatively, you can upload your content in bulk via a CSV file.
There’s a free plan for individuals and small businesses, with further plans available for Professional, Team, Business and Enterprise.
Instagram is a law unto itself given its visual emphasis, and therefore merits a genre of social media calendar all of its own. There are several Insta-specific schedulers on the market, but our favourite (and we’ve tested most of them) is Hopper HQ.
This intriguingly named tool came into being in 2015 via a successful start-up studio. Its aim is to fulfil the role of an automated social media agency that posts what you want, when you want it. You still have to input your visuals and text into the Hopper HQ system, but unlike some similar tools, it actually posts for you rather than sending you a reminder or push notification.
You can upload up to 50 posts in one go, which will keep your account ticking over while you focus on the more creative elements of Instagram marketing.
A comprehensive image editing suite enables you to pimp your pics to your heart’s content, while a fun scheduling system gives you the option of rearranging your scheduled posts by dragging and dropping colour-coded tiles.
Read our more detailed Hopper HQ review and then try the free 14-day trial yourself.
Only larger organisations will give serious consideration to Kapost due to its pretty hefty pricing. However, for those with deep pockets this will be money well spent. It’s one of the best-known B2B social media calendars on the market, and can boast the likes of GE, IBM, Lenovo and Cisco among its clients.
The powerful software under the bonnet tracks the workflow of your content marketing from strategy to execution and social distribution. It’s a particularly useful tool for brands with prolific content output, or those with large teams, due to the fact you can internally categorise and search your existing assets. The robust platform offers a lot more than many of the other content calendars on this page, but it comes at a cost. Prices start at $3500.
Formerly known as Calendy, the Loomly team are dubbing their app the ‘social media manager’s best friend’. It’s certainly trying hard to fulfil that lofty goal: offering integration for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn.
A clean and vibrant interface is easy on the eye, while an ambitious Live Post Analysis feature is designed to help marketers compose posts based on tried and tested rules. There’s also an approval process, as well as the option to send posts straight to Buffer (with Hootsuite and Oktopost apparently on the way).
There are also a wide range of price plans (five at the last count), which should offer something for everyone.
Percolate prides itself on being the complete all-in-one planning solution for marketers. Their lofty claim is to ‘See, organize, and improve everything marketing does’.
Percolate’s calendar feature is targeted at brands looking for an offline and online marketing planner. The clean interface is designed to give organisations a snapshot of their entire marketing operation across teams and regions. Brands are also able to customise views by campaign of channel performance – a handy level of customisation that larger brands with complex marketing strategies will find especially useful.
Percolate makes it easy to sync up all of your social platforms and easily post to each one, while the approval workflow will be a vital feature for larger organisations with hefty org charts.
Make no mistake, Percolate is a big player. Five offices spread across the US and UK testify to that, as does having the likes of GE, Unilever, Mastercard, Levi’s and Cisco among its clients. It’s therefore only something that only large organisations will want to seriously consider. Pricing is available on request.
Another familiar name in the field, Sprout has been around since 2010. As with Hootsuite, it’s a formidable beast – being funded by the likes of Goldman Sachs, and counting Hyatt, Marvel, Microsoft and Uber in its client roster.
The calendar feature baked into its powerful platform offers a ‘compose’ window that brings together a handful of advanced publishing tools and workflows that makes planning, scheduling and posting messages a doddle. An automated scheduling features takes care of your posting schedule, while its ViralPost function calculates optimal times to post to your audience. It also takes care of organic post targeting, with specialist tools also available for desktop, iOS and Android.
A sophisticated analytics package gives you all your social media insights in one place, while the Asset Library enables you to take care of all your image editing in one place.
You might think that all that comes at a hefty monthly cost, but you’d be wrong. The Standard package is priced at $59 per month, making it affordable for SMEs. Even the Enterprise option is only $249 a month, which we think is a bargain considering what you get for your cash. Sign up for a free trial to try before you buy.
Choosing the social media calendar that best suits your organisation is no easy task, such is the broad range of tools available these days. Not only that, but many offer a similar range of features that makes differentiating between them difficult.
It’s a bit like shopping for a new car. They’ve all got engines, four wheels and seats, so a decision will usually come down to look and feel, with budget also a crucial factor. But just like cars, social media calendars are available for test drives – so try out a few free trials and demos before you take the plunge.
We’ve used several of the tools included in this feature for lengthy periods, and taken them all for a test spin. In our view, CoSchedule, ContentCal and Buffer are all well worthy of your consideration.
But if we had to pick just one, we’d probably opt for Sprout Social. Try it out for yourself and let us know if you agree.
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