In this article…
- What is a content calendar?
- Why use a content calendar?
- How to create an effective content calendar
- Additional tips for creating an effective content calendar
Time flies when everything’s digital and we’re tasked with more to do than ever. With so much going on at a given time, it can be easy to miss deadlines. You might even be asking yourself what you can do to get more organized, get more done and save time while putting out content that is high-quality, relevant and promotes brand awareness. Ideally, this content converts at a decent rate, and as you’ll come to understand after reading this article, it’s possible for content marketing to save time and money while making money. This article will introduce you to the concept of a content calendar: what it is, how it works, and tips on how to build and use one that works for you.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is a tool used to organize, streamline and schedule the publication of social content across media platforms. This tool is helpful in terms of understanding and organizing the long-term and short-term objectives of your strategy. In this article, we’ll focus on digital content calendars, so the platforms would include social media outlets, blogs and website content, email marketing and other digital forms of reaching people. In a digital content calendar, you can track your topics, who’s responsible for what, prioritization and more. Utilizing a content calendar allows you to schedule posts ahead of time, eliminating the scramble to post content several times per day.
Creating and using an effective content calendar helps many people to see their conversion rates rapidly increase and their advertising costs go down. That’s because by taking a couple of hours per week to curate and update content on your calendar, you’re freeing up time that you can use to create, collaborate, brainstorm, and research to stay on top of the most current trends in digital marketing. Also, your content will inherently become better because you’re not rushing to put out a post.
Your content calendar is a great tool to use to visualize how your different feeds will look once you’ve posted your planned content. This is extremely helpful when developing content strategies and the organization of it will show to those who follow your feeds. Going forward, your content is curated and each piece has a specific purpose. Furthermore, by creating a calendar of this sort, your team will all be informed so there’s no overlap of efforts.
There are templates available you can use to build a great content calendar, or you can choose to go the route of using a spreadsheet to track your efforts. Either way, you’ll be surprised with the organization your calendar will bring to your content strategy. You can personalize it by arranging things in an order that make sense to you, using color-coding, and adjusting whenever needed.
Why use a content calendar?
There are many reasons to use a content calendar, but these reasons mainly revolve around one major factor: time. Saving time, gaining time, posting on time, planning ahead of time. Here are a few specific ways content calendar usage will help your organization manage their time:
1. Never overlook important dates.
By planning and scheduling your content ahead, you’ll won’t miss out on an opportunity to engage your followers on some of the most important days of the year, including local and national holidays as well as key international dates.
2. Fill in the blanks.
Plotting your content distribution on a visually-oriented calendar will help you see where you may be missing important opportunities so you can fill in those gaps.
3. Consistency is key.
A content calendar helps you in your efforts to stick to a consistent content schedule. Maintaining this consistent schedule provides stability to your followers; they’re more likely to stick around if they know when to expect your next post (and they’re more likely to become customers). This is true for all interactive social accounts (maybe a little less with Twitter, as it’s such a fast-moving platform), so be sure to include as many as possible when planning your content.
4. Manage your content workflow.
Having a clear visual tool at your disposal allows you to see what’s upcoming so that you can meet with the appropriate people to designate tasks and gather materials (photography, props). Giving yourself this lead time will ensure that your content is ready in time to publish on the projected day. Additionally, you’ll be able to visually track your content patterns, which can help you pinpoint what content is bringing the most value. For example, Friday afternoon posts may not see the engagement that Monday afternoon posts do. Finding patterns can help you gain a better understanding of what your audience is interested in.
5. Mix it up.
Finding your ideal content mix requires a bit of time and planning – both of which are under control when you’ve been utilizing your content calendar. Having your content schedule laid out in a clear, visual fashion allows you to assess the types of content you’re regularly putting out. If you’re only posting to make sales, rather than regularly engaging with your followers in a friendly, no-strings way, you’ll see your interaction plummet. Instead, gain and keep the attention of social followers by presenting a balanced mix of curated content, user-generated content, interactive content, and promotional content. It will come across as much more genuine and interesting. Your mix will need tweaks along the way to determine what works best for your brand, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
6. Make the effort collaborative.
Making your content calendar available on a shared cloud platform will keep your team updated and help to prevent duplication of efforts. Sharing this calendar with other departments will help you to work together to build an even stronger campaign. A collaborative calendar makes it easy to delegate and plan, and shift duties around if something unexpected happens. For example, a coworker with a big part of the campaign suddenly falls ill. Without the calendar, it’s more likely that the news won’t reach the right people in time and the campaign can fall apart. However, a collaborative calendar allows everyone to instantly know exactly what needs to be done to successfully complete the campaign.
How to create an effective content calendar
Before you create a content calendar, it’s helpful to conduct an audit of your current social media and website content efforts. This helps you see where you’ve been doing well and what you need to change. Here are some recommended steps for creating your content calendar:
After you’ve audited your current efforts, you have to try and understand the demographic of who follows you on each platform. This is important information to find out, so that you can tailor your content to each platform. These demographics are easy enough to look up for each platform.
Your audit will also allow you to see how often you’ve been posting. It’s a good time to ask yourself if your current frequency of posts is doing what you want or if you should increase, decrease or regulate your posting schedule.
3. Content ratio
You’ll notice that your content has a range of categories. Matching this with your engagement stats will tell you what content gets the most engagement, and from there you can start to sort your content under the categories you’ve determined. Some might include user-generated, promotional, curated, or you can sort by media (blog, video, image). How you categorize is up to you, as long as it makes sense to you and you can see what kind of mix you want to adhere to.
4. Create a repository
From a spreadsheet to a database to simply a dedicated folder, this should be organized in a way that is understandable and each piece can easily be identified and scheduled. Make sure you include in the file information the type of content, appropriate date and link, if possible. This is to help you always have content ready so you never have to scramble.
5. Create your calendar
Your calendar is a planning tool that is meant to help you plan ahead if you need copy written, art created or any other relevant components. You’ll also use this as your posting schedule, keeping track of your content, past and upcoming.
6. Schedule your posts
Now you can schedule your posts with confidence. If you want to simplify things even more, there are tools available to allow you to schedule your content for several different platforms ahead of time to make sure you never miss posting on an important date.
Additional tips for creating an effective content calendar
No matter what your posting schedule is like, the following tips can help you build an effective calendar that will save time and contribute to the success of your business.
- Availability: The aforementioned shared cloud calendar should be available for everyone in your organization to view. Though only a handful of core people should be able to edit the document, it’s helpful that other departments can at least see what’s planned so that the company’s overall effort are cohesive.
- Consistency: Your calendar is only as good as the information you put into it. Taking a few minutes per week to plot your plan of action saves you hours throughout the week, and visiting the calendar at least daily just to refresh your memory of what’s on it can help you keep track of your organization’s changing needs.
- Ease of use: There are countless ways to lay out your calendar. Choose what works for you, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it and use it to the fullest potential. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to keep your calendar, so feel free to choose a template that is easiest for you to maneuver, or create your own. If it works, nobody can argue with your method.
- Stockpile: If it’s June and you have a ton of great ideas for Christmas, create a file to stick them in. Don’t worry if your brilliant ideas you won’t use right away; keeping a designated stockpile folder will provide a wealth of content when it’s needed.
Content calendar example
As mentioned above, there are many ways to structure your content calendar. Below is a simple version of a basic calendar that can be customized to fit the needs of just about any organization.