Most of America is now on a social media platform, including your customers. If you’ve tried to fit social media into your strategy before, but you weren’t sure how to get value from it, 2021 is a great year to start with an active social media plan. We wrote this 2021 beginner’s guide and social media calendar to help you get real value from your social media channels.

As you go through the guide, follow along with the free calendar. Simply access this Google Document, go to File, select “Make a Copy” and you’ll have an editable version for yourself!

The 2021 Beginner’s Guide to Social Media and Free Calendar

Who Should Use This Guide?

Our 2021 social media calendar template is designed to make it easy to plan your posts, and give them direction. If you find yourself randomly posting pictures or company updates when you have a minute, you’re often unsure of what you’re “supposed” to be posting, or you struggle to create enough content and engage users, our 2021 beginner’s guide to social media and calendar template can help.

Our beginner’s guide to social media is a good starting point, and will help you fill in your new calendar. As you grow your following, your social media posts and strategy will probably become more complex and customized. You can add to the calendar template to include more platforms, posts, content and more.

As we go through this guide and calendar template, we’ll use a fictional example business, Neighborhood Cycling Shop. Neighborhood Cycling Shop is a small business selling bicycles and accessories. They’re going to use the beginner’s guide to social media and calendar template to reach more customers locally and promote their online store.

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Getting Started: Social Media Inventory

To start filling in your social media calendar, you’ll need to know what you have to work with. Start with the following.

Your Platforms

To start, limit this to three platforms. If you have inactive platforms, keep the account so someone doesn’t cyber squat on your social property, but worry about them later. Choose the platforms you’re most comfortable with, where your audience is likely to be most active, where your competitors are most active, or where you currently have some engagement.

Social Media Skills

Do you have an employee who is always on their phone? They might be an asset in disguise. Talk to your team and see who has experience with which platforms, who has worked with video editing, photography, or graphic design.

Time and Tech

If you give team members additional jobs managing your social media or creating content for you, they’ll need time, resources and incentive to take on extra tasks. At minimum, this will require a company smartphone with a good camera, time set aside to create and post content, some type of social scheduling software, and a clear company social media policy. Remember, you can’t create something out of nothing, and trying to manage your social media without time or technology isn’t feasible.

Inventory Example

Neighborhood Cycling Shop takes a social media inventory and decides they want to use Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. One staff member has experience with YouTube and video editing, while another has a significant following on Facebook and Instagram.

The Shop owners work up a social media policy, give each employee access to a company smartphone and social media scheduling software, and set aside time for the employees to post. They also set up an incentive program, where the employees will get bonuses if social media goals are met.


Goals are important, even if this is your first dive into social media. For the 2021 beginner’s guide to social media, let’s set some modest (but challenging!) goals. These goals should be attached to a measurable business metric, and informed by data. For example, “get 500 more followers this year” is specific and measurable, but why is it a goal? More followers does not necessarily correlate to more customers.

A better goal might be, “create a promotion with 500 shares.” The ultimate goal here is to improve visibility and put your products in front of more potential customers. Another goal might be “generate 500 leads this year from social media” or “improve traffic to our online store from social media by 30%.” All of these goals have a clear business metric attached to them, not vanity metrics.

Your goals should also be realistic within the status of your current social media accounts. Consider both percentages and individual numbers, and what they mean in context. For example, if you’re currently only getting 5 leads per year from social media, increasing by 100% to 10 is a pretty modest goal, that’s less than 1 a month. However, if you get 1,000 leads a year from social media, increasing 100% to 2000

Example Goals

The Neighborhood Cycling Shop owners dive into their social media activity and decide that 10 customers from social media is a good goal for the month. They’ll track this using a coupon code only available on their social accounts.

Target Audience

With your goals and assets outlined, you’ll need to know who you want to reach and what you want to promote.

Our calendar will cover one month of social media posts from three accounts. For this month, choose a promotional item you’d like to share, such as a coupon, downloadable guide, webinar, instructional video or something else that’s accessible and valuable to the audience you’re trying to reach. You won’t be promoting this item with every post, but it should be a part of the goal you previously outlined.

Example Target Audience

Neighborhood Cycling Shop previously decided that a coupon code was a good way to track their goals. The owners confer with the social media experts on staff and decide who would be an ideal target audience for the coupon. Together, they decide that college students at the local university are a good target audience; this market tends to cycle instead of drive, they’re active on social media, and they’re often looking for a good deal, so a coupon will be useful for them.

Content Inventory

You can save time by creating a content inventory before filling in your social media calendar. This way, you won’t have to hunt for assets as you’re drafting posts. Keep in mind that some of your content can be recycled or repurposed across different platforms. For example, you can extract highlights from a blog post and create a series of text tweets or Facebook posts. Or, you can pare down your longer YouTube video to share on social media.

Collect all the content that is relevant to your audience and your promotion. Brainstorm how you can repurpose some of this content to save time. Then, decide what new content you’ll need, and make a plan for creating it. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes; what information would be interesting or helpful to them? Consider all of the following content types.

  • Blog posts
  • Long or short videos
  • Text reviews or testimonials
  • Video reviews or testimonials
  • Case studies
  • New product features
  • Surveys or polls
  • Instructional videos
  • Relevant news stories
  • Product comparisons

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Content Inventory Example

Neighborhood Cycling Shop looks through their previous blog posts, videos, reviews, product comparisons and more. They select a blog post on safe cycling, a video comparing the best urban bicycles, an instructional video on bicycle maintenance, a product video showcasing an mobile bicycle repair kit, reviews from their college customers, including a video review.

User Generated Content

Remember, social media is all about sharing. You don’t have to create all of this content yourself. Implement a plan to find and promote user generated content, especially customers or business partners. Consider the following tips:

  • Follow hashtags: Social media platforms often organize content around hashtags or keywords. Follow or track these to promote other content that your customers will find useful.
  • Retweet or Repost: Find accounts that already post helpful content, and use the platform’s repost or sharing feature to spread the word.
  • Encourage sharing: Create your own hashtag or another mechanism and encourage your customers to use it, so you can share their experiences.
  • Use Reviews: With your customer’s permission, share their praise with other customers on social media.

User Generated Content Example

Neighborhood Cycling Shop follows relevant hashtags about cycling and follows their partners’ and suppliers’ accounts. The shop shares relevant information from these accounts and hashtags. To encourage customers to share their bicycling stories, the shop gives customers free stickers with every purchase, showcasing their own hashtag.

Use the example calendar to see how the Neighborhood Cycling Shop organized their content. Make a copy of the social media calendar template and refer back to the 2021 beginner’s guide to social media to create your own.

Posted in: User Generated Content (UGC)