For brands hop­ing to mas­ter social media, cre­at­ing a con­tent cal­en­dar is cru­cial in build­ing a strate­gic pres­ence. Social plat­forms may be dynamic, but a cer­tain amount of plan­ning and orga­ni­za­tion will help your pres­ence immensely. With a con­tent cal­en­dar, you can plan posts ahead of time, sim­plify the approval process, and impose some much-needed struc­ture on your social media campaign.

1. Start early and stay ahead

One of the best aspects of an effec­tive con­tent cal­en­dar is that it abates the need to post some­thing right now! Tak­ing some time to flesh out a month’s worth of con­tent can greatly reduce the stress that accom­pa­nies social media’s fast-paced envi­ron­ment. Start plan­ning your con­tent cal­en­dar at least a month before you intend to begin your social media cam­paign. Once your cam­paign begins, make sure you con­tinue to stay 1–2 weeks ahead, so when the big launch day comes and your mind is scat­tered, your con­tent won’t be. You’ll have set copy to pub­lish to your fans. The key is to remain agile with your con­tent, but also orga­nized and prepared.

2. Decide on a gen­eral post schedule

Think about how many times per day you want to post your social media updates. Some brands have very vocal fans and are able to post mul­ti­ple times per day, while other brands whose fans are less par­tic­i­pa­tory may pre­fer to limit their posts to a few times per week. The best way to deter­mine how many times to post per day is to A-B test. See what kinds of posts get the most engage­ment and when they’re posted. In addi­tion, plan to post at a con­sis­tent time of day. Stud­ies have shown the best time to post on Face­book and Twit­ter is around 9 AM PST, but keep in mind your Page may have a dif­fer­ent opti­mum post­ing time, so fig­ure out what’s best for you and keep your sched­ule as coher­ent as possible.

3. Plan around mar­ket­ing objectives

Make sure your con­tent cal­en­dar takes your future mar­ket­ing cam­paigns into con­sid­er­a­tion. If you already have con­tent planned for those cam­paigns, tie it into your social media campaign—these are easy addi­tions to your con­tent cal­en­dar. Plus, it’s a two-way street—your social media ini­tia­tives will ben­e­fit from the cross-promotion, and your mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives will ben­e­fit from the extended aware­ness. For exam­ple, when Old Spice launched its real-time social media cam­paign on YouTube as an exten­sion of its “Smell Like a Man, Man” cam­paign, their body wash sales increased 107 per­cent in less than one month.

4. Final­ize a sim­ple approval process

You can’t expect every sta­tus update or piece of con­tent to be per­fect, but you can set up safety nets to avoid a dis­as­ter. Cre­at­ing a com­plete, but sim­ple process for approv­ing con­tent can pre­vent sta­tus update deba­cles and the headaches that fol­low. Host­ing the cal­en­dar in the cloud, or through a Social Media man­age­ment tool (like the Con­text Optional Social Media Suite), makes it easy for every­one involved to make sure the best con­tent is mak­ing its way onto your social media channels.

5. Adjust your strat­egy as needed

Review the type of engage­ment your con­tent is receiv­ing. What does it tell you? Do open-ended ques­tions gen­er­ate more engage­ment than mar­ket­ing state­ments? Do pho­tos drive more Likes but fewer com­ments? Take your analy­sis, com­pare it to your social media goals, and make adjust­ments as nec­es­sary. Social media can be a lucra­tive addi­tion to your busi­ness, so the stakes are high. For exam­ple, Burger King invested less than $50,000 on their Whop­per Sac­ri­fice Face­book Appli­ca­tion, which returned greater than $400,000 in press/media value. If your social goals are not being met, sim­ply adjust your strategy.

The world of social media is fast-paced and can be stress­ful, but there are always strate­gies you can use to get – and stay – ahead. A con­tent cal­en­dar is one of the sim­plest ways to orga­nize these highly com­pli­cated cam­paigns into more eas­ily imple­mented strate­gies. After all, social media never sleeps – but you need to.