A content calendar is a great way to help map out your content ahead of time. The name may seem fairly obvious, but if you’ve not used one before then the concept can take a little getting used to.
Essentially, a content calendar is a way to map out your content and ideas ahead of time. It helps to ensure consistency in your communications and increases the chances of people hearing your message, especially on ever-crowded social media platforms.
While content calendars provide space for organic content and ‘pop ups’ as they happen, they also help you to ensure some key principles of communicating well, to engage and grow your audience over a period of time.
Who should use a content calendar?
Content calendars should be used by anyone helping to map out your communication or marketing. They are especially helpful when you have a team to help collaborate on content together. It’s also a great document to let non-team members view so that they can see what you’ve got planned – and so they can feed in ideas. It’s worth being aware that while collecting ideas from throughout your organisation is sometimes helpful, limiting the number of people who are actually editing the calendar will make your workload a lot easier!
How should you use a content calendar?
The key to working with a content calendar is working ahead of time. By thinking through what your actual intentions are, you can then look out and plan content ahead of time.
Sometimes there are no clear intentions and you just want to remind people that you are still there and having social media tick over – and that’s ok! Using some pre-filled tabs on your calendar will be a great help, reminding you of like-minded organisations whose content you might want to share – or joining in with some of the many “national days”.
Some of the key benefits of a content calendar are:
You can use a content calendar to plan ahead and make sure you’re talking about the things you want to talk about.
Having a content calendar can do lots of things, but one of the most important things is that it allows you to talk about the things you want to talk about.
Without planning, your posts might not be taking you in the right direction. They may not have the focus they need to ensure your audience keeps coming back for more or are being responsive to the content that you are sharing.
A content calendar helps you keep your eye on the big picture. It helps you speak clearly to your social media audience, and increases the chances of them taking actions that you want to highlight.
Remember, social media is there to provide an opportunity to engage your audience, not just to be another thing that has to be done for its own sake.
A content calendar helps feed you with ideas
A content calendar gets around the problem of not knowing what you’re supposed to be writing about, or what you’re trying to say.
Writer’s block is a constant feature for most social media admin – especially if you’re busy trying to fit in social media amongst other projects. Keeping a content calendar helps you to map out your key themes, and make sure that information is being presented in a coherent and helpful way for your audience.
Keeping a list of your key themes and information on suppliers and customers can also help to provide you with quick links to their stories, and a large supply of ready content that you can look to share.
It helps develop good habits
There’s a lot of content in a social media world – but consistency is key. Whatever you’d like to say to your users, doing so consistently will enable you to build a solid relationship with your audience. Your audience will come to expect a pattern of the kind of content you will be sharing, and when. Publishing intermittently is hard for users to engage with; if they don’t see a pattern, they’ll be less likely to check up on what is being posted.
Planning content out ahead of time doesn’t mean you can’t also share relevant content that may pop up from other channels along the way. But planning ahead ensures that you have a springboard to faster – and better – content more consistently.
It makes it much easier on teams
Some people struggle to come up with content ideas – but frequently it’s actually just sharing information that already exists.
Across a range of scenarios, you’ll often find different people undertaking different initiatives, but not everyone may know about them. Feeding all of the content ideas into one source allows you to filter the good ideas from the bad, or to know when something is worth sitting on for a later date.
Working on a content calendar together also allows you to make sure that all parts of your organisation are working together: teams working on printed material know the same content as the social media team, who in turn know the same information as the admin or sales teams.
It amplifies your content
If your content is organised well, it will help to produce better social media posts. Posts that are more polished should expect to see an increase in the number of people who are engaging with them, which in turn will help social media algorithms present your content to a wider range of people.
Well-planned social media content will also help to connect to other channels, and other platforms. Rather than just having people scrolling through your content, ideally you’ll be able to get people to take action on your posts.
What does ‘take action’ mean? That may mean encouraging people to get in touch with you, or to place an order, or to read an article on your website. Lots of different scenarios will mean you are looking for your audience to perform different types of actions – but ultimately it’s about engaging with your audience, and having them engage with you. Think of it as encouraging people to become participants in your story, rather than just consumers.
It should in turn increase your audience, your engagement, and your bottom line.
It (should) achieve results
Creating and sharing content isn’t the end goal – ultimately you want to engage your audience and have them take some form of action.
How quickly you see those results will vary for a range of reasons, but usually you should be able to see some form of noticeable results quite quickly.
It’s worth bearing in mind that many people in your audience won’t take immediate action, unless it’s in their personal interest. But by keeping yourself in front of your audience on a regular basis, you will help to drive them towards you when they are ready to take action and help develop your brand recognition in the meantime.
So how do you create a content calendar?
There are different ways to create a content calendar and depending on your organisation or objectives there will be different ways to set one up.
Many people now use online tools to help with their content calendar – with scheduling tools such as Hootsuite or Later being especially useful for social media. At Tentmaker, we currently use Google Drive to build out our main content calendar ideas, and then schedule the posts within Later. When the posts are ready to go, either by an automated time picked by Later or by a time we select, we’ll then get a push notification to let us know that the posts are ready to go.
We prefer to use Google Drive as a starting point, utilising a Google Spreadsheet for the main framework of the content calendar. We also use a range of other folders or reference documents in Google Drive to store content and reference information in. This includes some of our core content that we regularly use, and the images and graphics that we have developed as part of our ongoing marketing strategy.
Our top tips to create your content calendar include:
Have a library of pre-made content to pull from
Having a library of pre-made content helps to give a head start to all of your marketing material. It also provides a key collection of content that you can pull from when you have last-minute requests that come your way.
Once you have an idea of the platforms that you want to communicate on, it would make sense to develop a set of templates for set sizes, such as powerpoint slides, Facebook images, postcards etc. If you need help with content creation, we’ll be happy to help!
Consider which social media tools you could use to help support your social media content.
Some of our favourite tools include:
- Later – Later is an online platform that allows you to schedule social media posts ahead of time, with Later posting to your social media platforms on your behalf. Later is the tool that we use when we are looking to schedule social posts well ahead of time, although when time and resources allow, we’d always encourage you to post content directly into the social channels – authenticity is really important in social media.
- Hootsuite – Similar to Later, Hootsuite allows the scheduling of social media content ahead of time.
- Google Drive – Google Drive offers a range of tools to help create and curate content – along with offering online storage options and the ability to to share with individuals or teams, Google Drive offers a range of really helpful tools.
Ask questions that will help you map out your content calendar
Answering these questions will help you make sure you’re posting the right kinds of content and that you’re also ensuring the consistency that you’d hoped to achieve.
- Who are you trying to communicate with?
- Which social media channels are you planning to use?
- Are you blogging? If so, how often?
- How many social media posts would you like to commit to each week?
Develop lists that help to provide information on your main points of contact or products/services/events.
These lists will act as helpful reference points on some of your core information, and are particularly helpful in being a reference point for writing social media captions.
Having your core content information written down also helps to remind yourself every so often of what your core details are, and helps to focus you on what it is that you could be and should be talking about.
Some of the information you may want to include would be:
- A diary of events
- A list of customers
- A product list
- A list of the suppliers that you represent?
- Do you have a list of other trade/industry bodies that you’d like to interact with?
- What other key themes are worth listing out on your content calendar?
The core information that you keep will depend on the specifics of your business or organisation, but having these details collated will help you to know your core messages – and who it is that you want to speak to/build relationships with through your marketing.
How to map out your content calendar
We use Google Drive to map out our content calendar, with a range of tabs that provide different information. Again, depending on your specific circumstances, different tabs may be helpful – but we find it to be a really useful way of beginning to build out our content calendar.
Our main tab on our content calendar sheet is the overview of our whole content calendar and allows us to show what content is due to be posted to which channels.
We use the tab functionality of the Google Drive sheet to allow us to create a range of tabs on different topics relevant to our content, something that would be different for each organisation.
As an example, we know that blogging is an important part of our content strategy, so we have a blog tab on our content calendar. This allows us to list out the subjects that we’d like to blog about ahead of time. It also allows us to detail who the author will be, what the post date is, and what target keywords we’re looking to focus on as part of our search engine strategy.
As an online tool, Google Drive also allows us to share our content calendar with those we collaborate with, and can provide direct links to where other content required for our calendar is stored.
Additional steps such as colour coding your calendar can also help to break down different elements of the calendar, such as who is responsible for what.
As an initial guide, some tabs that you might want to include on your calendar would be:
A yearly overview of your calendar. This helps to give a broad overview of what you would like to try and talk about at different parts of the year. You can use this to collate different seasons of your organisation, or different events and holidays that relate to your target audience.
If your content calendar is particularly large, then you might find it more helpful to have a tab for each month, or per quarter. That will help you to break your content down into more manageable sections.
A main themes tab allows you to list out all of the main themes of your business or organisation. This allows you to have a broad overview of what you would like to be talking about, while also enabling others within your organisation to provide a brief overview of key themes they may specialise in. At Tentmaker, we use the main themes tab to talk about our main services, and have listed out descriptions of those main themes. We can then use that content to create word of the month social posts to share with our audience which helps to share our knowledge, and hopefully peak their interest in the services we provide!
A tab for other feeds is a way of listing out the organisations you would like to follow and interact with on social media, including some of your competitors. Interacting with other people’s posts is a critical part of social media that is often overlooked, and in sharing content of other channels you are able to show goodwill to your customers and suppliers, while also generating free content!
A calendar opportunities tab is something we have developed in our content calendar template as a good fall back option for when you’re struggling for content. The calendar opportunities tab lists out lots of different celebratory days of the year, such as pancake day or international coffee day. A lot of the items listed won’t have anything to do with your organisation, but it can be a helpful reference point for when you are struggling for other ideas.
A blogging tab helps to list out the content that you would like to have blog/news posts written about for your website, and also allows you to identify who is responsible for writing them and when you need them for. As well as providing good content for your social media channels, blogging is a great way to have fresh content on your website and increases your chances of visitors consuming more of your website content and taking action.
There are lots of tabs that you might want to incorporate into your content calendar, and the needs of each content calendar will vary depending on each organisation. A product tab would be useful for listing all of your products, a services tab would be useful for if you are in a service industry and an event tab might best suit the needs of your organisation – there are a lot of options out there!
TOO MUCH INFORMATION?
Having a content calendar can save a lot of time in the long run, but it can also take up a lot of time to start with.
We’re happy to help when the workload feels heavy, so get in touch. Put simply, we do what we do – so you don’t have to.
OUR TEMPLATE CALENDAR
The template calendar that we’ve made provides a range of tables to help share specific information and pre-made ideas ready to go, which will help provide a kick-start to your content. Get in touch with us for more information and we’ll be happy to help.