Create a document to plan your social posts

UPDATED 10/5/16: Scroll down for a sample social media plan from Colorado Public Radio.

In a Poynter class I’m teaching, we’ve been talking about the need to be strategic about how we produce our social channels.

It’s not enough to react to today’s news. We need to think about the mix of content. We need to share what we know people are talking about today, not just what our newsrooms feel like producing today. We need to share certain stories at certain times.

We need to think about what we published yesterday, last week or six months ago that might have new relevance today, and come up with a system to plan ahead for those posts.

Some of us also have lots of people jumping in and out of social posting in our newsrooms. It can be tough to know who’s in charge of which stories, which hours and which days.

To manage all that, we need a document that looks further ahead than today’s news budget. I came up with a document that worked well in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian, and I cleaned it up for public sharing.

Here is my sample social media planning doc, in case it’s useful for anyone else.

And if you have one you’d be willing to share, will you send it to me? I love peeking in on other peoples’ work systems. It gives me the same excitement as new school supplies, or pictures of home offices. Ahh, productivity.


I’m doing some work with Colorado Public Radio, and I was so impressed with the social media planning docs created by their social media manager, Leslie Smail.

Here is their template in a Google spreadsheet.

Here’s what Leslie wrote about how CPR uses the template. (I’ve seen it in play for a specific project, with multiple staff members using it to share ideas, plan and edit behind each other.)

  • The overview tab is a basic gantt chart that we use to map out the different stories we’re putting out and some high level steps and deadlines along the way. The calendar to the right of those tasks is just a visual high level view of what’s happening over the month and in what order.
  • The other tabs are for each social media channel we’re on and maps out exactly how many posts we want for the month, and the dates and times, which we’ve determined based on when we get the highest engagement rates for particular days of the week and times of day, so adjust this for your particular audience. For subsequent months, just add more rows. This planning doc shows how we planned out a particular reporting project, in which we aimed to tweet 3x a day about our coverage, post on Facebook 2-3x/week and on Instagram 2x/week. This will obviously vary for your particular project and I would encourage you to use this as a master planning doc to plan out ALL social media posts, not just for a particular project.
  • Here’s a breakdown of the different columns and how they’re used:
    • Owner: If multiple people are working with this planning doc, assign who is responsible for each post
    • Date: Pretty self explanatory. This column is formatted so that if you just type in “10/5” for example, it will auto format to say “Wed-10/5” or you can double click in the cell and a calendar will pop up if you want to change a date that way.
    • Time: We say AM, Noon, and PM as shorthand for morning, afternoon and evening, trying to give pretty equal coverage to all times of the day, or you can adjust this if you see much more engagement for a particular time of day
    • Type of content: This is a helpful way to make sure you are tracking how often you talk about different stories or are testing different strategies. Types of content could include video, questions, quotes, photo galleries, etc. This way you can sort by a particular content type and make sure you are varying the type of content you put out on social media.
    • Message: This is where you draft the actual posts. Column J tracks the character count and is also color coded from green to yellow to red to tell you the optimal post length, which you can adjust by right clicking and clicking “conditional formatting”
    • URL: Put the link to include in the post
    • Notes: We use this to remind people of particular hashtags or handles to include.
    • Image: If you want to use media that isn’t included in a link, we link to a file path on our internal server, so that we have a record of where media (videos/images) are and aren’t emailing them back and forth

Thanks for sharing the doc, Leslie! Anyone else have one to share? I’d be thrilled to keep updating this post. Reach me here.

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