If there’s anything more difficult than creating content, it’s planning it out. But planning out your content in advance will help you maintain a consistent content strategy regardless of the platform.
Many business owners, especially those who use a variety of marketing channels (email, social media, GoogleMyBusiness, blog content, etc.), struggle with this and find it overwhelming. The thought of creating a content calendar can seem daunting, and it's often left on the shelf for another time.
Creating content doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, once you get a process in place, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to maintain a content calendar. You’ll wonder why you didn’t use one before!
I'm going to dive into how to create a content calendar, but first, let’s take a look at what a content calendar is.
A content calendar is an internal tool used by marketers to plan out content in advance. You might also hear it referred to as an editorial calendar or publishing schedule. What you call it isn't important, but it is important that you have one and use it! You can build this valuable tool for yourself in Excel or Google sheets or you can invest in one of many content tools that also allow marketers to schedule and post their marketing content (Hootsuite, Falcon.io, Buffer, etc.).
Next, I'm going to talk about creating a content calendar so you can start planning your content today.
Start by defining your goals. Every marketer should create content with clear goals in mind. Sit down and write out the main goals you want your content to achieve. We suggest using SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. For example, a SMART social media goal would look like this: increase Instagram reach by 5% (400) in the next 28 days.
Where will your content calendar be located? If you have a team working on your content, you’ll want a document that is easily shareable, and you want to be able to easily track progress. We recommend using Google Sheets or investing in a paid content management solution.
You'll also need to decide if you're going to create a content calendar that's inclusive of all your channels or if you will create calendars for each channel. If you decide to make an all-inclusive content calendar, you need to note all the marketing channels you use and decide how they will be represented in your content calendar.
An alternative to creating an all-inclusive calendar is to create a channel-specific content calendar with notes about what's planned for other channels. For example, you can create a social media calendar that includes channels, dates, times, images, videos, and copy for posting on social media.
Your social media calendar could also include the dates for an advertising campaign on Google or when an email campaign will be sent. But it won't include copy or materials needed for these nonsocial media activities. These notes are there to allow the social media team to complement the work that's happening on other channels.
Your content marketing strategy should use many different distribution channels and methods. You will use organic and paid marketing methods that might include social channels, email, TV ads, etc. That being said, you don't have to use them all. Focus on excelling at 1-4 marketing channels, instead of trying to be on as many channels as possible.
After deciding what channels are best for your business, you need to define your content topics and how you're going to present them. This is an important step that, if done correctly, allows you to be more efficient when creating content. Let's think about this step in the context of an agritourism business that offers farm tours, shopping, and has an Airbnb on the property.
This business would want to create content that:
After you have laid out your content topics, you need to think about how it will be presented.
To educate people about the animals that call the farm home, they could create videos, blog posts, graphics, photos with detailed captions, etc.
To show the personality of the animals, they could create short-form videos and post videos/photos with captions from the perspective of the animal.
To show off their products and Airbnb, they could post high-quality images of their products/amenities or give a live tour of either location.
To share the nice things customers are saying about the business, they could create simple graphics with customers' kind words, share their reviews on social as is, or ask them to record a video testimonial.
The timeline and the frequency with which you will be posting content is an important decision. Will it be weekly, monthly, or quarterly? For example, if you’re planning social media marketing content, you might have 7 different social media posts you publish every week. These social media posts might include one throwback Thursday, two educational posts (one short-form video and one blog post), two personality posts (one picture with a witty caption & one short-form video), one live feed video, and one promotional post.
After you decide on your content plan, we suggest crunching the numbers to see how many pieces of each type of content you need per month. In the above example, you would need 4-5 throwback Thursdays, 8-10 educational posts, 8-10 personality posts, 4-5 promotional posts, and plans for 4-5 live videos.
Establishing this content mix allows you and your team of content creators to get into a rhythm and batch your work.
If you have a small team, you might be the person who updates and approves content for publishing. But some business owners/marketing leaders want to sign off on all content before it's published. In the second scenario, the content calendar becomes even more important.
Having a content calendar that is updated well in advance allows you to get permission to publish from leadership with plenty of time to spare. This makes the situation less stressful for all involved and saves you from chasing around your busy client or boss for last-minute approval.
If you need leadership/client approval you will need to build this into your process. You will need to make sure the reviewer has access to your content calendar and discuss how to mark the post as approved for publishing.
A content calendar helps you to form a habit, and checking it regularly will keep you on top of your content schedule. You’ll also be able to check in on the rest of your team, if you have one, and keep track of any changes, updates, topic ideas, and published posts.
At the end of the time period, you can review your content calendar to see what content did well and what did not. Reviewing your content will help your team decide what content to create in the future.
I've never met a marketer who loves to create content calendars. But I consider it a necessary evil, especially if your content creation process requires collaboration with others. You do not want to be the annoying digital marketer who is chasing down on-camera talent, writers, videographers, photographers, and designers at the last minute for upcoming content. If you aren't able to plan and coordinate your content in advance, you're going to struggle to get your content creation team to collaborate with you. And your content creation team often makes or breaks your content. So we understand you dragging your feet, but we also believe it's essential to raise the quality of your organization's marketing.