Creating a Content Calendar
Creating a content calendar for your blog or social media channels is a critical component to effective inbound marketing. Pre-planning and organizing your posts saves you the time-wasting, frustrating process of trying to brainstorm “on the fly.” It also helps you avoid writing redundant posts and gives your entire team of stakeholders an opportunity to provide input on your company’s messaging.
But where to begin? To help you plan and schedule you’re blog or social content, consider the following, comprehensive steps:
AUDIT YOUR PLATFORMS
Which social channels are you currently using? If some of your feeds are underperforming, it may have less to do with your specific content than with the inappropriateness of that channel for your products or services. Similarly, if you don’t have a social profile on a platform popular with your target market, you’re putting the proverbial cart-before-the-horse if you don’t set one up prior to planning your creative.
Generally speaking, blogs are great for industries whose audiences enjoy in-depth insights or entertaining feature stories. Visually-oriented social channels such as Instagram and Pinterest lend themselves to design-centric businesses, particularly those in the consumer goods and lifestyle sectors. LinkedIn is a perennial favorite for those in B2B services, particularly those whose products or services appeal to LinkedIn’s heavy-users who commonly work in sales, training, or HR. The often-misunderstood Twitter has become a defacto “headline news-reader” for both B2B and B2C sectors, and can be an effective channel for any business wanting to set itself up as an industry thought leader. YouTube is obviously critical for businesses whose audiences can benefit from video tutorials.
Taking the initial time to determine the right channels for your business and messaging can save you a lot of wasted efforts, going forward.
CHOOSE A MANAGEMENT TOOL
There’s no bigger inefficiency than manually posting to multiple channels in real-time. Scheduling your content via a social media management platform not only cuts out labor-intensive posting steps, it gives you an at-a-glance dashboard to see how your content is performing across all your platforms. HootSuite and SproutSocial are among the top management tools for active social users. For businesses with complex customer management and marketing needs, most CRMs offer robust social management options, with Pardot, HubSpot and Zoho being among the most popular.
DECIDE ON A POSTING SCHEDULE
Posting regularly to your blog or social accounts is critical to attracting and maintaining an engaged following. But what constitutes “regularly” will vary from one business to another. Some businesses can post multiple times throughout the day. Others might only post weekly. The most important thing is to focus on quality, rather than quantity. Forcing yourself to create content to meet an unrealistic schedule just results in a lot of “noise”—low-quality, uninteresting, posts that don’t get any engagement or shares. Low quality content can have a negative effect on your engagement, resulting in people unfollowing or hiding your posts from their own feeds. Set a realistic schedule based on you (or your team’s) ability to create interesting, substantive content that delights and surprises your followers.
CREATE AN INITIAL SPREADSHEET
Some content create prefer to draft their calendars within their social management software, while others prefer to create a more heavily-designed editorial calendar that can be easily shared and appreciated by diverse internal and external stakeholders. But beginning with an initial spreadsheet of dates, topics, and assigned writers is a critical first step and this customizable template can be incredibly useful as a starting point.
PICK YOUR TOPICS
It can be very helpful to meet with your staff annually, quarterly, or monthly to brainstorm on topical ideas. Consider things you’ve seen discussed in trade magazines, questions you’ve fielded from customers, and other content assets you’ve recently created for your website or for off-page marketing. Working with issues assets that your team has recently encountered or created can help you avoid the onerous task of researching a topic from scratch, so bring a list of your content assets.
Also be sure to bring along a list of any and all recent topics you’ve already posted about, in order to avoid redundancy. Check your social analytics to see which topics have received lots of engagement in the past. You might also your Google Analytics reports to see if there is some popular, legacy content on your site or blog that might need a timely refresh.
Try to avoid content that is self-promotional (awards won, news coverage you have received, etc.). In general, self-promotional content should comprise no more than 20% of your social feed. Focus the remaining 80% on topics of interest to your readers.
VARY THE APPROACH TO YOUR CREATIVE
Questions that ask for follower input can be a great way to generate comments. Infographics and other visual media often earn a lot of likes and shares. And sharing backlinks to your blog or website is a good way to use your social channels to drive users to your site, where they are more likely to convert into leads or purchases.
The key is to vary your approach. Creating too few posts that link back to your site results in a lost opportunity for lead and sales generation. Creating too many of these posts results in an off-putting, spammy, hard-sell social feed that few people will want to follow. Too many long blog posts can bore your readers, while creating only airy, visual social graphics will result in too few followers digging deeper into your knowledge base.
Consider the form of engagement that you want each blog post or social to generate, and work backwards from that to determine the best format for your creative.
SET GOALS FOR SYNDICATION AND CROSS-PROMOTION
Too many social media managers post only to their own accounts, and don’t ever guest-blog nor comment on the feeds of other social influencers. As you iron out your content calendar, consider other industry professionals who might be able to amplify your message, and include a note in the calendar to reach to these accounts when you post your own content.
It’s typically a good idea to syndicate your blog content to a few other sites, but which sites you choose will depend on your content. Medium is a great site for syndicating long-form blog content, and it can also help you earn valuable SEO backlinks to your website. Sites such a Quora are ideal for syndicating Q&A-type content. Facebook Instant Articles are great for reaching a B2C audience, and LinkedIn’s syndication services can help with your content discovery among B2B audiences.
Just don’t overdue it with syndication: focus on 2-3 platforms whose editorial reach and visibility work best with your content.
MONITOR, ANALYZE AND REVISIT
Once you eventually write, schedule, and release your creative, watch the performance of your content across all platforms. By recording these notes in your content calendar, you’ll have helpful ideas to bring to the table the next time you sit down to plan out a new calendar.