Debate abounds over how much time a social media manager should spend each day on social networks and content. The issue isn’t so much a matter of drive as it is that the Internet is one big rabbit hole of information. Even if you stay focused on things related to work, you can find yourself losing valuable time in the course of managing your online content.

A content or posting calendar helps keep you on track. The concept is simple: plan your posts in advance. Post planning can be a dull task, but just schedule your post scheduling and get it done.

Content calendars can be as basic or as detailed as necessary, depending on the organization’s needs and the resources dedicated to social media marketing. Start off with a simple spreadsheet that you can modify as your strategy evolves. Here’s an example of how to set up a basic content schedule.

Creating this in a spreadsheet program like Excel makes it easy to add to as needed. How far you plan ahead depends on your organization’s news cycle. If your organization is fast-paced or depends specifically on breaking news, you may only plan a week ahead. Most organizations will find they can plan a month ahead, so long as the plan has some wiggle room.

Start your monthly posting calendar by planning around preset events, like holidays. For instance, you know it’s going to happen, so go on and plan a post wishing your audience a Happy Father’s Day (if it is relevant to your audience), schedule it in whatever scheduling tool you prefer (such as HootSuite), and mark it off your to-do list.

From there, plan for your organization’s upcoming events. These will guide your keyword selection and content curation for the month as well. Is your company launching a new product? If so, focus your messaging around that. Here’s a visual.

The next step is content curation. Featuring other organizations’ content, such as linking to good quality topical articles, shares something useful with your audience and helps grow your audience. Plus, if you share somebody’s stuff, they just might share yours. Content curation is also a great way to learn about your field and have stellar posts without having to create everything yourself all the time. The point is, keep it relevant. Content curation makes it easier to share breaking news with your audience, and to fill the gaps where you don’t have much to say. Leave some days blank on your schedule and use those days for content curation and engaging conversation with followers. Now our sample schedule looks like this.

When looking for great content to share, do a search for news around your keywords. Free online aggregators like feedly are wonderful for sorting through industry news without losing too much time to the Internet rabbit hole of information. Be sure to read content thoroughly before sharing it though; you don’t want share something that is poorly written, has blatant inaccuracies, or is offensive to your audience.

When you share other peoples’ content, be sure to give them full credit and tag them in your post. If they aren’t on a given social network, like is the case with the article linked in the post content example above, then use a hashtag to indicate where the content came from. For example, if you to post to Twitter, it would look like this:

Can medical databases help veterans? #SouthernMD

If the content originator is on the social network, use @ to tag them. For instance, if you shared a post from Charitable Superheroes in Action, it would look something like this:

Check out what these amazing volunteers are achieving @HuTerra (HuTerra is my employer.)

Twitter and Facebook turn the @name into tags. Doing this lets the originator know that you’ve shared their content, so they can engage with you about it. This is crucial since the point of social media is engagement.

Don’t rely solely on others for content curation. It should be a mix of sharing of your organization’s original content and sharing content created by others. There is etiquette involved in social posting and especially in sharing what others have created. Next time we’ll take a look at what is important in social media etiquette, including how to use abbreviations.