Why You Should Be Using a Content Calendar to Plan Your Content Marketing
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Content is king.” Of course, that’s only true of effective content.
Compelling content builds brand voice and brand awareness. It generates new leads and fosters ongoing relationships. It establishes your expertise and trustworthiness, and it provides your audience with valuable education and entertainment.
If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry -- there are many social media content tools to help you get organized and maximize the success of your content. One of the best tools at your disposal is a content calendar.
Overview: What is a content calendar?
A content calendar, also known as an editorial calendar, is a schedule that helps you plan, organize, and manage content. It lends a strategic approach to your content marketing and increases your consistency and credibility.
Content calendars typically include information such as dates, topics with an assigned owner, content type and where it will be posted, and the status of the piece.
Depending on your business and needs, you may also choose to include keywords and calls to action. Keep this information in a working document or spreadsheet, or even use task management software like Monday.com.
Many brands use separate content calendars for social media. Social media calendars help you map out social media content, plan effective social media campaigns, and schedule your posts. Even if your social media calendar is kept separately, align it with your overall content calendar and content strategy.
Benefits of planning editorial strategy with a content calendar
Using a content calendar sounds simple, but it’s a powerful tool for planning your editorial strategy.
1. Makes sure your content serves a purpose
Content for the sake of content is not effective. You want to create and promote content that advances the goals of your business and your marketing strategy.
For instance, content goals might include increasing your website traffic, social media engagement, or conversions. What do you want people to do after reading your content? Share it? Subscribe to a newsletter? Buy a product?
Your content should serve a purpose. It should engage your target audience, establish you as an expert in your niche, and guide people through the buyer’s journey.
Spontaneous and inconsistent content won’t accomplish these goals. You need to stay focused on the big picture, and you need a plan. That’s where a content calendar comes into play.
2. Keeps you on track
Consistency is key when it comes to content marketing. You want to remain on your audience’s radar with helpful, relevant, and engaging content. Inconsistent posting leads to lost engagement, less credibility, and fewer conversions.
Maintaining a content calendar keeps you on track and helps you stay consistent. You’ll post on a regular schedule that keeps your audience engaged. And with a long-term view of your content, you can easily identify gaps, align content across channels, and plan content around key events and dates.
3. Simplifies collaboration
Communication and collaboration between teams become much easier with a planning calendar. Give visibility to sales, marketing, and executive teams. Writers who work on your website and blog can coordinate with videographers, designers, and your social media team to tie your efforts together.
With everyone on the same page, you’ll have a more cohesive brand story and voice and a more successful marketing strategy.
Content calendar template you can use to plan your content
Use this free content planner to get started. As you get into the groove of using your content calendar, you may discover more categories or information types that you’d like to include. Feel free to customize as needed.
How to plan your content marketing with a content calendar
Before you sit down and start filling out boxes on your editorial calendar template, read these steps. You’ll need to do some strategizing and planning to maximize its effectiveness and success.
1. Set your content marketing goals
What do you want your content marketing efforts to accomplish? Brainstorm with your team to create a shared mission and vision for the content you’re creating.
You may want to become a thought leader in your space, increase social media engagement, or draw more traffic to your website. Or maybe you want to accomplish all of the above. Your goals should guide you as you plan your content strategy.
Make sure that you include some measurable goals on your list. You need a way to track the success of your content marketing and adjust as needed. Measurable goals include site visits, unique site visitors, subscribers to a newsletter, people who download a content offer or fill out a form, and so on.
2. Identify your buyer personas
Since you want to create content with your target audience in mind, it’s essential to identify your buyer personas. A buyer persona is a detailed, research-based profile of your ideal customer.
Buyer personas describe who your ideal customer is, what they do, how they find information and make decisions, and the challenges they face.
You may have already identified your audience. If not, pause and complete this step before planning additional content. Your content should speak directly to your ideal customer, and this isn’t possible without a clear understanding of your target audience.
3. Audit existing content
Next, take note of your existing resources and content. You can likely repurpose some of this content instead of creating everything from scratch. For example, a current infographic can support a blog post and a video. An in-depth article can be broken down into smaller pieces of content or bite-sized social takeaways.
With the audit, you’ll also identify what type of content is missing and needs to be prioritized. Your audit should include the title, format/type, and any other important notes for each existing piece of content.
You can even organize your content by the stage it corresponds to in the buyer’s journey. Here’s a quick look at content types for each step in that journey:
- Awareness: Blog posts, social media posts, and educational content.
- Consideration: Case studies, videos, podcasts, expert guides, and comparison articles or papers.
- Decision: In-depth comparisons and demonstrations, product reviews, and testimonials.
- Loyalty: User guides, newsletters, product updates, promotions and loyalty programs.
You want to have relevant content for people at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Let’s say your audit reveals that almost all of your content corresponds to the awareness and consideration stages. As you build your content calendar, prioritize adding content for the decision and loyalty stages.
4. Brainstorm content
With your knowledge of existing content, brainstorm new material. Think about what content will appeal to your buyer personas and how you can guide them through the buyer’s journey. Consider the content marketing goals you identified in Step 1 and what topics and content types will help you achieve them.
Remember to plan promotional content around important events, product launches, or other key dates. You may even want to schedule fun, engaging content for social media holidays or dates that resonate with your target audience.
5. Decide on publication frequency
Before you can begin scheduling content, you need to consider publication frequency. Your publication frequency will depend on factors like your goals, budget, and how many people produce content for you. You can also check out your competitors to benchmark the frequency and success of their content.
With blogs, a general rule of thumb is four posts per week. If this isn’t practical for you, post as often as you can. And always prioritize quality over quantity.
Social media is different. As any list of social media marketing tips will tell you, you need to be strategic about when and how often you post. For instance, research says companies should post on Facebook no more than twice on weekdays and once per day on weekends.
Post more, and you run the risk of overwhelming your audience and losing their interest.
6. Fill out your content calendar at least one month ahead
Once you have a list of ideas, it’s time to begin populating your calendar. Some people fill out their calendars three, six, or even 12 months in advance.
You want to find a solid balance between planning and flexibility. Aim for at least one month in advance. As you become more comfortable using your content calendar, you may want to plan even further ahead.
For essential dates and promotions, feel free to jump ahead on your calendar a bit so you have plenty of time to plan a successful campaign.
Optimize your content marketing with a content calendar
Creating an effective content calendar requires advance planning and strategizing, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll empower your team to build an organized and compelling content marketing strategy that resonates with your target audience.
And as you begin to reap the benefits of a solid content strategy, you’ll understand why they say content is king.
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