Marketing strategies tend to work in two ways.
The first business approaches it with fine precision. Every marketing piece they put out to the world is carefully constructed, carefully considered. They ensure every tool works together and every message is clear. They test and retest. They tweak to get it right.
The second business approaches it like a dart board. There are many possibilities in front of them, so the person in charge of marketing selects a few things and throws something at them. Some things stick, others fall by the wayside. There isn’t much of a plan. Instead, things are selected as they pop up in front of them. And they are evaluated without really looking at the entire environment.
Of course, for some business owners, we find our marketing methods somewhere in between. We have the best intentions. But who knows what’ll work? And you don’t want to overlook something that has huge potential?
Or maybe you have several people on your team, each doing your piece. One person is in charge of print; the other tweets and posts. Sure, they’re in it together, but do the two really understand how they are working together and the message they are presenting?
John Wanamaker had it right when he said:
“Half the money I spend on marketing is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is a working document used to schedule out the content you’ll share across your platforms for the coming month. It provides the detail for what will be shared by the week, day, and sometimes even by the time of day. The larger the organization, the more content calendars for social media marketing you may operate with.
A well-maintained content calendar keeps you on track to match your marketing goals across the board. It allows you to view all of your campaigns together and ensure they are working together to tell the same story. This allows you to create a more solidified brand. It allows you to analyze data across platforms and better understand your efforts and your audience.
Why have a content calendar?
One of the biggest benefits of using a content calendar is to plan your marketing efforts and visualize what your social media strategy will look like over a period of time. It allows you to stay organized and stay focused on the goal. It helps you plan your marketing efforts around events or important dates in your industry and see where there may be holes. It gives you a chance to assess weaknesses in your content and gives you a chance to fill in the gaps.
Imagine viewing your social media strategy with your email campaigns, your postcard campaigns, your radio and television advertising. How do they work together? Are you talking about the same things? Are you sharing content that works together? When you view your calendars side by side, it can help you take advantage or areas of overlap that you might have missed out on otherwise. Maybe a line from an email would make a great tweet. Or a graphic from your print ad would convert well to an infographic for your Instagram.
A content calendar is more than just a tool to help grow your business. It’s a tool that makes your life easier by reducing your need to dig for information at the last moment. It makes it less likely that you’ll forgo a piece of your marketing because you simply don’t have the time.
As you’re writing a social media post or scheduling your next blog post, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about how to bring all of your marketing together into one cohesive unit.
What should be in your content calendar
A content calendar isn’t difficult to create. Most people do so with simple tools, such as an Excel spreadsheet. You can put one together fairly quickly with these steps.
Brainstorm content that fits your brand persona
This is the way you talk with your customers. This is what they expect from you as a business. You can find the answers by asking a few questions.
- What questions do people have before they use my products or services?
- What questions do people have about my industry?
- What issues do customers have during the process?
- Are there frequent changes within the industry? What do people want to know?
- Do I want to take a serious or a fun approach?
Your answers will help you define the type of content to share. Ideas include:
- Theme based posts #TuesdayTips or #HowToFriday
- Case studies
- Webinars or videos
- Success stories
- Infographics or statistics from the industry
- Guides or whitepapers
Work 2 to 6 months at a time
Schedule out your social media strategy as far in advance as possible. This will give you a chance to change and add things over time. If you know you have a trade event in October, it will help you plan for maximum success. Holidays will become easier to manage.
Test and grow
Content calendars aren’t meant to be a static marketing plan. Instead, they are meant to grow and change over time. Don’t rely on your content calendar completely; keep an eye on current trends to mix and add things to the schedule. If a large current event impacts your industry, by all means, add that to your content.
You should also note what works and what doesn’t. Keep in mind that things can also change over time. What worked last year might bomb today based on trends or current events.
Color code your items for easy reference
Anything you can do to make your plan easier will help you stick with it over time. When you color-code your material, you’ll instantly know what content you’ll have to produce and share on what days. Maybe use blue for longer blog posts, or green for infographics. Yellow might be syndicated content that you take from trusted, authoritative sites.
Consistency Is Key
Using a content calendar to plan ahead allows you to create a consistent flow of content that continues to build towards your ultimate marketing goals. It allows you to develop a unified voice across platform, solidifying your brand in the eyes of your viewers. The further you go out, the more you can see it work together.
In terms of social media, do you appreciate brands that tweet on a regular basis across the week, or blast out several messages at one time?
The bottom line is consistency. Content calendars are great organizational tools for both short and long term planning and help you keep your social media marketing campaigns on track for every day of the year.
Are you ready to create a dynamic social media strategy?