Facing the blank template of your blog, social media site or Web site each morning waiting for inspiration to strike you is not always the best way to approach content marketing. Granted, your content will be fresh, but it’s very likely that your topics and your posts will lack consistency as you write about whatever comes to mind. In addition, there’s always the risk that you’ll launch your site or log into Facebook and won’t be able to think of anything to write about. Working with a content calendar solves both of these problems and adds structure to your content marketing. (Remember: structure doesn’t have to be boring.)
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is to content marketing what an editorial calendar is to publishing. It’s a plan of what you’re going to publish on each of your sites and social media platforms for each period (day, week or other time frame.) This allows you to make the most of your marketing efforts without duplicating content and without jumping from one unrelated topic to another. According to Search Engine Journal.com, one of the main advantages to a content calendar is that it keeps you from scrambling for ideas at the last-minute.
You can use an actual blank calendar to plot your posts or use a spread sheet, whatever is most comfortable for you. You’ll want to work at least 30 days in advance. Many content marketers work 60 to 90 days in advance. Some even plot a year’s work of posts in advance.
Things to consider when building a content calendar
Okay, creating a content calendar for a year may sound overwhelming. You don’t have to start there, but three, six or 12 month could be your goal. Below are some tips for getting your content calendar started:
Plot your “Super Bowls.”
Every business and industry has special events, holidays or seasons that are particularly important to them. If you market costumes, this could be Halloween or, to a lesser degree Mardi Gras. If you sell grills, the 4th of July is likely a big day for you. Identify your “Super Bowls” and put them on the calendar first.
The goal of your content calendar is to use each post to augment each other. This is true from one blog post to another and from your blog posts to your social media posts. You want each post to add to the discussion and build your marketing message from day-to-day, week to week and year to year. One way to do this is to create themes, such as kitchen remodeling month for a home repair contractor or seafood month for a restaurant. Jason Keath, writing for Social Fresh.com, calls being able to develop themes one of the benefits to using a content calendar.
Another good way to use your content calendar is to schedule promotions. Contests, user submissions and getting readers to post photos and product reviews on social media sites can all help grow your business. Your calendar can help you to space these promos out evenly around the year and to make sure that you post teasers in advance of the promotion to garner interest.
Like most marketing tools, there’s no one “right way” to use your content calendar. Once you start using it, you can experiment until you find a way that’s most comfortable for you.