Keeping track of social media can be a big fat pain for busy small business owners. A social media calendar will soothe the suffering.

Social media calendars help small businesses stay on top of posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other outlets. A calendar also acts as a notebook, giving owners and employees a place to add new ideas and create a monthly schedule of posts. Eventually a social media calendar becomes self-generating; because each year is much like the last, the events are too.

A basic social media calendar consists of a spreadsheet with columns for post date, columns for each social media outlet that contain posts for each outlet, and a column for links. However, you can use the tools in a Google Drive account, an application such as Evernote, or a dedicated social media tool such as Buffer, to create a more sophisticated system. (We’ll cover more tools in a later blog post.)

Now that the calendar is set up, here are content ideas for a new small business social media campaign:

Celebrate the holidays now, before they happen

There are enough holidays for everybody.

Holidays are the bedrock of social media campaigns. Everybody loves holidays.

Add all the major holidays to your social media calendar. Here’s a pretty good list. Next, find holidays that relate to the business or its customers. For instance, businesses in Texas (which friendly martian calls our second home), might want to add Texas Independence Day. An office supply store will take note of Administrative Assistants’ Day, or a fireworks stand could celebrate National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Day.

After selecting the holidays, create entries on the social media calendar for four or five posts related to the holiday. Use these slots to build up anticipation for the holiday by posting contests, holiday sales or specials, facts about the holiday or how the holiday relates to the business. Even if the 10 federal holidays are the only holidays on the calendar, that’s 40 to 50 posts already scheduled. Good job.

Grow the love: create sharable sales and specials

OK, here’s what we’ll do: You get the coupon and share it with me, and then I’ll share it with Woody.

Social media is all about sharing, so give your users a coupon or a product special every week or every couple of weeks. These are high-engagement posts that benefit customers and compel them to share the sale with friends, family and co-workers.

Websites like snappa and pablo allow business owners to create free social media graphics to promote the specials. The tools automatically create different image sizes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Also see Friendly martian‘s handy tips for mastering images.

A couple of things to remember:

  • The better the image, the more people will share it.
  • Add an expiration date for the sale on the image.
  • Remind customers to print the coupon or show it on their phone.

Plan the social media specials for the year and add them to the calendar. Post about weekly specials at least twice during week—that’s about 104 posts taken care of for the year.

Build trust by sharing knowledge

The student is now the master.

Show customers how to do simple things that relate to the business. For example, a tire shop can create a one-minute video on how to change a tire or properly thread a lug nut. A bakery can create similar videos on how to frost a cake or create decorative flowers from fondant.

How-to videos are resources that bring customers back to your post again and again, and the educational aspect creates a positive image of the business. Here are a few other ideas: A wedding caterer might create how-tos on fancy napkin folds or special place settings; a travel agent can share efficient packing tricks or wardrobe tips for different parts of the world.

Video ranks highly on social media—especially YouTube and Facebook—so get comfortable being in front of the camera (or find a camera-ready employee). All you’ll need to create how-to videos is a camera phone and either a simple online video editor like Adobe Spark or a mobile video app like iMovie for iPhone or FilmoraGo for Android.

How-to posts require planning and can take more time to produce than other kinds of posts. However, it’s worth the effort to build a library of resources that customers can easily find and share. Most businesses will probably start with one or two how-tos a month, which will fill 12 to 24 slots on the social media calendar.

Take selfies, lots of selfies

Tag @topdawg60 on insta yo

Take every opportunity to show action at the business. Anything that shows people interacting with other people is a win on social media. Snap photos of employee birthday celebrations, happy customers, employees performing their jobs or making the company’s products. Showing the company’s human side helps customers relate to the business. (It’s a good idea to get the consent of the people in the photo before posting.)

Most importantly, feature the business’ products and services. Selling is the name of the game and the remaining social media slots on the calendar should be filled with images and explanations that relate to the business’ offerings. Be creative with your photos. Static product shots are fine, but if you can show the service in action or the product in use, the pictures will generate more interest. If you ever get stuck, check out our Five tips to remove writer’s block.

Dedicate a specific day of the week on your calendar for employee recognition. Featuring your products and services can happen anytime—plan at least two posts a week. There’s about 156 post for the ol’ calendar.

Woo-hoo: Your calendar is now full

So, doing the minimum math: 40 holiday posts + 52 sales or specials posts + 12 how-to posts + 156 selfies = 260 posts. Just enough to cover the 261 “working days” in a year. (It never hurts to take a day off.)

Once the business has been through a social media calendar year, creating and managing posts becomes routine. Use the basic calendar again during the next year and add ideas for new kinds of posts.

Congratulations. You’re a social media expert now.