If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. This adage is especially true when it comes to social media marketing. The reason: social media marketing is hard. Or, rather, making social media marketing generate results and ROI is hard. And it’s a lot harder when you’re caught trying to think up good ideas moments before you’re due to create content or write a post. This is where a content strategy and execution plan comes into play.
Creating a content calendar means setting aside time to figure out what sorts of content you will post and when. Deciding on both of these issues doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. There are lots of analytics tools (see our post 20 Of the Top Measuring and Analytical Tools For 2015 for more info) that can help you see what sorts of content your audience is likely to engage with, and when the optimal times to post are. Doing this will ensure your content always reaches the widest possible audience and has the biggest possible impact.Why a Content Calendar is VitalClick To Tweet
If you’re completely new to social media marketing and have no content to gather analytics data from, then the first step toward creating a content calendar is to ask yourself a few questions.
Firstly, who is it you’re creating content for? You need to have a rough idea of who your target audience is. This will ensure that the initial content you publish isn’t way off target, and you can then monitor its success and refine your future content accordingly.
Secondly, it’s also important to know why you’re creating content. Is it to generate leads? To build your brand? To drive attendance at a particular event? Knowing what you want to achieve is crucial in determining what types of content you’ll produce.
Finally, you need to define what’s possible and what’s not. Ask yourself: how many resources do I have at my disposal? It may happen that you have access to fantastic original images, but lack the resources needed to create decent original articles. Knowing what you can do, and what you can’t, will help you to create a realistic content calendar.
Content calendars help to keep your posts interesting, topical, and non-repetitive. Social media marketing, by its very nature, involves many different types of media (images, articles, videos, etc.), as well as many different formats (lists, collages, links, etc.). Having a content calendar should allow you to keep the types of content you publish varied and consistent. A good content calendar lets you think in terms of groups of posts, rather than individual posts, allowing you to pursue ongoing ideas as well as to incorporate certain themes.
And, if you want to review your posts, it’s far easier to glance back over your content calendar than to scroll down each of your social media pages manually. This is something you should always be doing, else, especially over long periods of time, you run the risk of repeating yourself.
What Should Go In Your Content Calendar?
Your content calendar should be as comprehensive as possible. Each piece of content you plan to publish should have at the very minimum:
- A title
- The type of media it comprises of – video, text, image, etc.
- A rough idea of what it will contain, if not a brief synopsis
- A date and time for posting
- And information about who is responsible for both creating and posting the content.
But really, the more information you include, the better, since time spent planning means time saved later – and often these are not proportionate, with a small amount of time invested earlier saving far more time at a later date.
For example, if you see interesting articles or research or data on a topic that you know you will write about at a future date, then bookmark those website pages and also paste the URL into your content calendar to help remind yourself.
It’s also a good idea to include and highlight particularly important future events that may be occurring so that you can promote them. For example, if you have a webinar coming up or speaker slot, it would be a good idea to include it on the calendar so that you’re able to schedule both direct and indirect marketing posts for it.What Should Go In Your Content Calendar? Click To Tweet
A good content calendar will also categorise upcoming content thematically. This will ensure that your posts won’t be random, but part of a bigger picture. Indeed linking content in this way is a great way to keep people’s interest and attention (so long as you choose the right theme).
Flexible Content Planning
Planning is, without a doubt, absolutely vital to social media and content marketing success. But sometimes it’s not possible to stick to your content calendar 100 percent. People may be ill, technology may fail, a great breaking news story may need hijacking (or you may have your own unscheduled news!), and countless other obstacles may arise that prevent you from posting content for when it has been scheduled.
As such, it’s important to have a back-up plan. One good technique is to create a backlog of evergreen content way in advance so that if you’re unable to post the content you want to, you at least don’t let that timeslot go completely to waste.
Other times, you may wish to modify your content calendar due to important industry news and changes that have happened since a post was scheduled. For example, if some big event occurs in your industry, a post focusing on a completely unrelated topic may not get the levels of interest it normally would (especially if your competitors are posting about said big event).
To make sure you’re able to adapt to these types of changes quickly, you need to either keep a very close eye on the news or, much better, set up an RSS feed. We’d recommend the RSS feed. Even better, use keyword searches in many of the social media tools out there to keep on top not just breaking the news that is relevant to your audience, but also to monitor what is trending and what isn’t.Flexible Content PlanningClick To Tweet
Content Calendars Conclusion
Content calendars are an important element of any great social media marketing campaign. The increased level of organisation they bring enable those who use them to post highly-engaging content consistently.
Of course, creating the calendar itself is no easy feat, and is certainly not something should be crammed into a Monday morning. Take time over your content calendar, after all, it’s what you’re going to be working with for the foreseeable future. If you work in a team, ask others for their input, and, for particularly difficult ideas, make sure what you want is possible.
And always have your content calendar at the back of your mind. This way, if you stumble across some great third-party content, or have a great idea away from the office, you can make sure you add it to the calendar later. Or add it to your Notes on your iPhone or email it to yourself if you want to foolproof!
Many organisations fail to get this important part of social media marketing right. And it’s no surprise. Content calendars only work if they’re thought through and planned properly. And rushed or wrong-headed calendars can actually cause more harm than good. As with anything that is rushed or poorly thought through!
If you’re new to all of this, or just need a little help, we are able to help you put a great content calendar in place on your behalf, and make sure that you’re able to stick to it so far as is as possible. To find out more, about this service click here.
Do you use a content calendar? And what do you think are the biggest benefits of doing so? Or perhaps you prefer to take a more unstructured approach to social media marketing? Either way, let us know your thoughts with a comment.
Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and Business2Community. Dan's also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
Dan is passionate about the philosophy behind Comms Axis: we bring content, marketing and sales together to connect businesses with their audiences.
We pride ourselves on delivering tangible business value and ROI alongside excellent customer service. We work with a broad range of clients and industries, from B2B to B2C, from technology to cosmetics, from start-ups / SoHos to pan-European and global brands.
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