How many social networks is your business active on? How often do you post to a blog? How do the topics you cover on both relate to your newsletters and email campaigns?
While that sounds like a lot, those are the basics of marketing in 2016. (I even left out a host of other forms of marketing and focused only on digital.) If you want to stay competitive and remain on your customers’ minds in between their purchases you must find a way to engage with them. Doing so with content and sharing resources is free, outside of the time it takes to curate, compile, and/or create it.
Why Your Business Needs a Content Calendar
Because there are so many moving parts in an effective content strategy, you need a content calendar to be able to see the larger picture and know what’s working and what isn’t. But that’s just the beginning.
Last year I learned to throw a football properly. Before learning the technique, I thought it was as simple as merely launching it into the air and hoping it went a respectable distance, preferably into the arms of the person you wanted to catch it.
Turns out there’s a whole method behind your grip, when you launch it, where your hand is upon release, how you step into the throw, getting the perfect spiral, and a lot more. All of these techniques come together to ensure you get the most power behind your throw. Without these things, your throw doesn’t really go anywhere and take it from me, hoping (it will go where you want) isn’t enough.
The same can be said for your content calendar and strategy. You can do it on your own without correlating any of your social media platform posts, your blog content, your email campaigns, or your newsletter content but you will get a much more powerful and effective marketing presence if it’s all coordinated.
A content calendar also helps you analyze the effectiveness of individual posts, recognize hot topics for your audience, and what content doesn’t interest them. Without insights into what you are doing, it is hard to recognize success.
How Do I Create a Content Calendar?
A content calendar and strategy go hand-in-hand. You can create a very basic calendar that you use for tracking posting, or use something more in-depth where you track types of content and the objective of each.
All content, regardless of type, should either entertain, inspire, or educate.
These kinds of content are the most often shared and interacted with. You don’t have to accomplish all three in one post but you should have a goal of one.
Tips for a Basic Content Calendar
Create an Excel sheet that lists each day you plan on posting (at the very least it should be Monday-Friday but many businesses, particularly those in a hobby, hospitality or entertainment field, chose to post seven days a week) down the left side, with the places you’re distributing content across the top.
If you post regularly to your blog (and you should), mark these days on your posting schedule. You will post a link to your blog on every social media platform you participate on, at least once. How often you post it to Twitter depends on how many times you post to that platform during the day. The point is not to hammer someone with the same old content but to ensure it gets seen by a large percentage of your audience or followers. On Twitter that means repeat postings but not back to back. Vary your posting time to ensure your stream is not the same post every time. When you do repost, reword the post each time so you can see what phrasing (i.e., tips, questions, solutions, etc.) appeals most to your audience.
The image below shows a basic content calendar with one post daily to social media profiles and a blog that’s published 3 times a week. Notice the content columns for the social media profiles on the days the blog is posted are full. You can curate content for the remaining space. Note that this is a very basic schedule with one post a day. Most businesses will post more like 3-6 times per day per profile. In that case simply add columns for FB 9 a.m. FB 2 p.m., etc.
Add any other postings to your calendar that you do consistently every week. This may be a link to a newsletter, a flash deal, or a customer spotlight. Adding these things will help you get a better picture of your send and distribution times.
Now look where you have holes and fill them in with curated content. Customers are a good source, as are vendors, your chamber, and others on the Internet. Think about what your customers need and brainstorm topics they would be interested in. If you own a spa, you could look for content about topics like wellness, relaxation, prioritizing your time, and nutrition.
Schedule posts ahead of time to save you time in the long run. You won’t need to scurry around looking to post when you’re busy. Schedule your posts in stolen moments when you’re watching TV in the evenings or over your coffee in the morning. It’s best to schedule several days out, but if you do, remember to interrupt your posting should something tragic happen in the world. You don’t want to appear callous and unfeeling.
Take some time to jump onto social media during the day and respond to comments you’ve been left or start a conversation of your own.
Finally, as you become more comfortable with using your content calendar, you can make it more advanced by exploring themes (like a January fitness month) and how different posting times and days affect shares and interactions. The first step to improving the efficiency of your marketing is by organizing your posts and a content calendar is the single best way to accomplish this.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager’s Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.