Create a Content Marketing Calendar in 4 Simple Steps
One of the most common resolutions for the new year is to get more organized, in both our personal and professional lives. While I can’t give you any tips for your personal life (I’m still working on that myself) I can help you out professionally.
If you own a business, you probably juggle a lot of responsibilities. From payroll to customer service to hiring and firing, it’s all too easy to let your digital marketing efforts slide. Instead of a perfectly planned and flawlessly executed campaign, you quickly share a link to your company’s hours and call it a day. Needless to say, that’s not the kind of content that’s going to bring business in.
One way to avoid this fate is by creating a content marketing calendar at the beginning of the year. A strategic content calendar ensures that everything you post serves a purpose, that your branding remains consistent, that you’re poised to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, and that you’re publishing a steady flow of content your audience actually wants to see. The result? A professional online presence and a polished look that will help sell your products and services.
Your content calendar can be as simple or as detailed as needed, but it only works if you stick with it. At Sage Island, we open our clients’ content calendars daily—this saves us time and energy, keeps us organized and on track, and guides our responses to problems as well as opportunities. If you have a content calendar, you can easily answer questions such as whether a new platform fits your strategy, if you should spend advertising dollars on a new product, and whether your bedrock services are being effectively articulated.
There are many ways to create a successful content calendar, and how you organize yours will depend on your industry and your goals. No matter what route you take, the following four steps are an essential part of the process.
- Brainstorm content that aligns with your goals.
The first step to creating a strategic content calendar is to be clear about your goals. Do you want increase sales, generate leads, or get more emails? If so, how will the content you post help achieve those goals? What questions are you commonly asked, and how can you answer them with engaging, informative content? How can you position yourself as a trusted source of information and expertise? A good idea is to check out your competition and see what kind of content they’re posting, then try to take it a step further.
Once you know your goals, you can have a little fun. Pay attention to trends, hashtags, and holidays in order to foster engagement and be an active part of the online community. For example, the hashtag #MotivationMonday is popular among fitness communities, while National Cupcake Day is the perfect excuse for a chocolate company to celebrate. When you find a good balance between self-promotion and community involvement, you’ll know you’ve struck content gold.
- Choose your platforms wisely and decide how often to post.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Google Plus, your own blog—there are a lot of places to publish your content, but which platform is right for you? That will depend on who your trying to target. If you want to reach tech-savvy millennials, Snapchat is your best bet. If Baby Boomers are your most loyal customers, head to Facebook. If you’re in the fitness business, then fire up your Instagram account. Remember, it’s better to focus on a few sites that will actually yield results rather than waste your time blanketing every social media platform with ill-fitting content.
As for how often you should post, consider how much time you have and—more importantly—who will be in charge of your social media presence. Will you keep it in-house and hand it over to a member of your team? Will you hire a new person with the skills and knowledge to run your accounts? Will you work with an outside agency, such as Sage Island, to manage your accounts so you and your employees can do other things? How you choose to proceed will dictate how much time you have to post and how often you’re able to create unique, compelling content.
- Schedule posts but leave time for serendipity.
As you create your content calendar, think about both your long-term and short-term goals, and break your calendar down by year, month, and week. While the yearly outlook might be sketched out in broad strokes, your weekly calendar will be much more specific. Now’s your chance to incorporate your sales cycle and your busy season, as well as holidays, special events, and big sales. By thinking ahead, you’ll be able to plan for these occasions and turn them into opportunities.
For each day you’ll post, write out the exact copy you plan to use, and note which platform it’s intended for. If you want to post about the same thing on Facebook and Twitter, make sure your copy is optimized for each site. For example, you should tag any products or places you mention on Facebook, while keeping in mind that Twitter only allows 140 characters. Since you know what you’ll be posting each day, take the time to gather all the media and links you’ll need, including photos, videos, PowerPoints, and GIFs, and keep them in a folder you can quickly access.
Of course, nothing on the Internet goes quite as planned. While you can write out every post and gather the best GIFs, there will come a day when a conversation will start, a hashtag will begin trending, or an event will unfold, and you want to take part. In these cases, it’s okay to veer from your content calendar. In fact, it’s encouraged. Posting in the moment will keep your accounts from sounding robotic and allow your personality to shine through, and those serendipitous moments are what make social media so exciting and so effective.
- Analyze your results and act accordingly.
While posting engaging content that gets tons of likes, follows, and retweets is the part everyone sees, there’s another, less glamorous aspect of your content calendar that’s just as important: analytics. Each month, you should review your stats on each platform and take notes on what worked and what didn’t. Which posts got the most attention? Which images did your fans gravitate toward? Did you lose followers or grow your community? Keeping an eye on this informative will help guide the choices you make as you prepare to repeat the cycle, and will ensure that your efforts don’t go to waste. Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If something you’re doing isn’t working, then you need to change it. The only way you can do that is if you analyze the results of your efforts and make the necessary edits.
The types of analytics you’ll have access to varies from platform to platform. Facebook offers robust insights that will help you tweak targeting, the time of day you post, and how many people you reach and engage. Twitter will tell you which tweets received the most impressions. On Instagram, likes and comments speak for themselves. Pay attention to these numbers and act accordingly, and your results will continue to get improve as time goes on.
If you’ve read this far, then you understand the importance of creating a content marketing calendar and how much it can help your business reach its goals. If you need help getting started, contact Sage Island and let our marketing experts set you up for success.