The Top 4 FREE Social Media Planning Tools I Use

I had some questions the last time that I posted about social media about how I plan it out, so I’m going to talk a little bit about what I focus on when I’m planning my social media and how exactly I do.

I usually plan my social media out, for my own business, a full month at a time. The reason that I plan it out that far is that, well, I’m busy working on my clients’ social media. My clients come first, but it is important that I’m working on my business and online presence as well. Especially since I transitioned from my previous consulting business into my digital marketing company, Up to Date Kate, and I’m starting my social from scratch. Frankly, if I don’t schedule it out, then all of the sudden 3 months will have passed and I have 0 posts. 😱 It’s so important to plan and schedule it out and really look at it through a wide-angle lens each month before you begin the month. This will apply to any social media accounts that you are focused on.

#4 – Old School Calendar

I use an old school whiteboard calendar as my first step in planning. For my own business,  I actually have four of these. While I don’t plan my social media out for an entire 4 months, I do have big events, big pushes, and things that I should take note of, listed out 4 months ahead. You can use a whiteboard, desk calendar, or anything that gives you a big view of the month.

The screenshot is from a webinar I did for doula and shows my June calendar. I start with a blank slate and I usually decide on a topic or theme for the month and for individual weeks. Each of my social media management clients has their own calendar up in my office, just like this one, so that I always have that wide angle view of their content that’s going out. I create a theme because it’s a lot easier to create content each month if you have a focus on a particular topic or topics. That way anytime that I’m creating content, I’m in the groove and zone of creation and I’m inspired by that topic. I will also think of other content more easily as I’m in that creative zone. After deciding on my theme, I then like to use little post-it notes so I can move them. I’ll usually use color coded post it notes that either indicate the platform I’ll be posting to *or* the category of post that it is (promotional, educational, video, graphic, etc). You can also just write in different colored pens or markers, but I like that the post it notes I can just move easily as I plan, ann then throughout the month as things will need to be adjusted. The post it notes can be easily moved around and you can freely play with the flow of each week and as the month is actually happening you can easily move them as well. Some post going really well? Use that momentum and create additional similar content to keep people hooked. An example of a typical week of planning, if I’m posting once a day:

  • Monday- Animated GIF
  • Tuesday- Quote Graphic + Promo for tomorrow’s live stream
  • Wednesday- Livestream
  • Thursday- Post about the week’s blog
  • Friday- Engagement question graphic, encouraging the audience to engage
  • Saturday or Sunday- Personal Pic or story

Before the beginning of the month, I will allocate an hour or two of my time to just sit with the board and decide how I think that things will look and flow the best. Some examples of the types of posts I plan throughout the month: Animated GIFs, Blogs, Shares of Articles, Engagement Questions, Lead Magnet/Download Share, Promotional Post, Livestream, Pre Recorded Video, Quote Graphic, Animated Quotes, etc. After I get the calendar the way that I want it, I’ll put it in my paper planner. You can also use your online calendar or calendar of choice. But you want to have your social media calendar accessible and on hand, especially if you do most of your work on the road.

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#3 Hootsuite

There are many online social media planning and scheduling options depend on your desired user experience. For me, Hootsuite is where it’s at. And for most of you, you should be able to use their free account level.

Hootsuite, or whatever scheduling software appeals to you, is essential in making sure that you can set it and forget it. A program that you can schedule across *all* of your social media accounts is important, as you want the option to schedule everything at one time in one window. In Hootsuite, I will schedule all of my month’s posts in the Month View in the Publisher so that I can then make sure that everything looks good. I can then easily move things around again if anything looks funky. I can then monitor comments, messages, mentions and evaluate various metrics in my dashboard and make sure every post is going well. If you have a team, they have team friendly features like a process for reviewing your team members’ posts and approving them before going out. My favorite part about Hootsuite is that you can organize your dashboard by tabs in many different ways. For example, I can have one tab with all engagements across every platform. I can have one tab open that shows each I am testing out a few new different platforms in order to create a review of the most popular scheduling tools out there, but honestly considering this is free for most users, it’s going to be the biggest bang for the buck.

2. Facebook Publishing Tools

Publishing Tools is Facebook’s internal, and totally free, scheduling option on your business page. It’s a great way to schedule out your month and see things in list format. You can then tell if you’re staggering your posts for different dates and times. Note that sometimes Facebook will show different things to different people dependent on number of followers or what  new features they are rolling out at that time, so your publishing tools might look different than mine. Some social media experts believe that posts do better when they are scheduled internally, especially videos. I would argue that it’s not the *scheduler* that causes this, but the “set it and forget it” attitude that most folks have when they’re using a scheduler. More on organic reach in a future article, but you should always engage throughout the day on each post for maximum reach. However, if you’re worried about this, just go straight to the source and schedule in Facebook. I do schedule my videos within Publishing Tools, not for organic reach worries, but more because I want full control on how the post looks and sometimes schedulers can make video posts look a little wonky. What’s cool is that you can also schedule your live streams about a week in advance that your followers can then RSVP to and be notified when you go live. Publishing Tools is also a great place to take a look at your past posts and see what is working and what is not. It’s a great way to analyze what your followers are wild about and what they’re ignoring so that you can do more of what they love and get better engagement. The more engagement=the more people will see your posts.

The #1 Most Important Free Social Media Planning Tool You Can Use

It’s….drum roll please…. 👉🏽That Publish button. Ok so it’s not fancy ahead of time planning, but I challenge you to just start posting. Don’t overthink it.

Done is always better than perfect– don’t be afraid to just get your content out there. If it sucks, the algorithm isn’t going to show many people anyways. Also, a lot of the time, you’ll find that the posts you spent the least effort on will get the best engagement. Get content out there. You can improve your content strategy as you go as you start to learn what people like and don’t. Planning is to help you get develop content, not delay you.

Get out there, get social, go viral!

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