If you’re not using a content marketing calendar, you’re probably using an inefficient marketing strategy – if you even have a strategy at all. In this article, we will tell you how to create a content marketing calendar your audience will love, no matter what industry you’re in. After all, what they say is true: content is king!
Let’s start with the basics.
What exactly is a content marketing calendar?
A content marketing calendar is a tool to help you plan and execute your content marketing strategy in an efficient and timely manner. It is a calendar-based plan for your content that provides you a view of how your content will be laid out over a specified course of time. Think of it as a guide for what content you want to publish and in what order.
Content, of course, includes anything from articles on your company website to social media posts. Whether you have a company blog or even just a relatively active social media presence, a quality content marketing calendar can help you get organized and generate results in your content marketing strategy.
Now that we have definitions squared away…
Why do you need a content marketing calendar?
Content marketing simply is not something you can take care of on an as-you-go basis. It’s best to organize your content in the form of a calendar rather than a disorganized to-do list. This helps you visualize when exactly certain content will be published and in what order. Using a calendar format also allows you to easily plan content around major holidays and on a consistent, timely basis. It helps you make sure everything is actually being published on time and in the proper order. Plus, arranging your content on a consistent calendar format makes previously posted content easier to track and re-purpose if need be.
Picture this: you own a pet store. it’s August 26th. Just another day, right? Maybe you’ll make a cute Instagram post about some guinea pigs you have on sale. Or maybe you’ll publish a blog post on your website teaching users how to take care of a goldfish.
You start scrolling down your own Instagram newsfeed only to see all your friends sharing photos of their dogs with the hashtag #NationalDogDay. Uh-oh! National Dog Day may not be a “real” holiday, and it may not be important to most people (unless you’re a dedicated dog owner, of course). However, as a pet store owner, you’ve now missed out on an amazing marketing opportunity.
As your well-meaning fish care tips get drowned out by a sea of puppy pictures, you may find yourself wishing you had planned ahead. Now you have to scramble to create some canine content while your competitors are already racking up the retweets. This stressful situation could have been avoided if you or your agency had planned a content calendar in advance based around industry-specific holidays. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of fun holidays that are practically invented for social media. National Chocolate Day anybody?
Not only are pre-planned content calendars great for making sure you have quality content published on major holidays, they also help you make the most of events like new product launches or website redesigns.
Furthermore, a well-planned content marketing calendar will help you avoid spamming your audience with too much of one type of content. You may not have noticed you posted three blogs on how to secure a car loan in a row, but your loyal followers sure will, and it might tempt them to unsubscribe. By planning your content on an organized calendar, you can see everything at once before it gets published to ensure you aren’t missing anything important and have diversified your content themes to keep things interesting.
You should have content calendars for your blog posts, emails, social media posts, and any other type of media you are publishing on a consistent basis. Keeping separate but related calendars for each type of marketing allows you to link all your content and keep consistent themes across all media. This will make cross-promotion a breeze!
So now that you understand what a content marketing calendar is and why you need it, let’s keep diving.
How far in advance should you be planning your content?
In the world of content marketing, the longer you plan ahead the better. Generally speaking, of course. We recommend planning your content one month in advance, that way you can create a full month’s content marketing calendar at a time. Depending on how frequently you publish content, you might want to consider weekly, quarterly, or bi-monthly content calendars instead, but monthly calendars are typically ideal.
If you plan too far ahead, you may have to make adjustments when plans change. Likewise, if you don’t plan far enough ahead of time, you may be scrambling to create quality content in a timely fashion. No one needs that stress! Planning ahead also gives you more time to review content and proofread, proofread, proofread. The last thing you want is to rush through content and end up publishing something with an embarrassing mistake. Trust us, your followers will take notice.
What should your content marketing calendar look like?
Layout is important for the sake of organization. It’s best to use an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet to plan your content in. If you have a large team working on content, a dynamic platform like Google Sheets will be the most beneficial for you. A content marketing calendar created on Google Sheets can easily be worked on, edited, and shared across a group of people. They’re great for collaboration!
There are many different ways you can lay out your content marketing calendar depending on the amount of detail you wish to include. Some people prefer to organize their content on a standard calendar so they can see all the content at once. Others prefer a linear view with dates on the far left side and corresponding rows of content.
If you are planning to post the same or similar content across multiple platforms, create separate columns for each platform to include any different variations of the content you will need. Spreadsheets will also allow you to create multiple tabs so you can have one for website content, one for email content, and one for social media content. That way all your content platforms can be organized on one calendar for easy access.
Regardless of how you choose to lay out your content marketing calendar, there are a few steps you should take each time you start a new one. First, you should mark off only the days you actually want to be publishing content. Not everybody needs to post content every single day. Then again, some business owners post fresh content multiple times a day. It all depends on your audience’s demand and the industry you’re in. Aim to keep a consistent content posting schedule, whether it be once a week, three times per week, or every weekday. Consistency is key when it comes to content marketing.
Consistent posting allows you to track patterns more easily. For example, maybe content you post on Mondays gets more readership or social shares than content you post other days of the week. Maybe you get less traction on weekends and should avoid posting content on weekends for future content calendars. If you are not publishing your content on a specific schedule, it can be nearly impossible to accurately track patterns like this.
To find a content publishing frequency that works for you and your business, consider industry standards and available resources. You don’t want to overwhelm your content writers or proofreaders or else you could end up with low-quality content. Remember, when it comes to content marketing, always value quality over quantity.
Once you’ve marked off the days you want your content to be published on, it’s time to mark off any significant holidays or industry events on your calendar. This ensures you don’t miss anything! A well-organized content marketing calendar can save you a lot of time in the long run.
After that, you should mark off the remaining spaces on your calendar with themes you want to touch on. Make sure you alternate between themes so you aren’t posting content on the same theme too frequently. You may also want to include evergreen content, that is, types of content you always post on a consistent basis like a “throwback Thursday” photo or a regularly occurring employee spotlight.
In addition to addressing multiple different themes throughout your content marketing calendar, you should also alternate between different types of content. Not all content has to be in the form of text or text with accompanying images. Play around with videos, gifs, and even infographics!
On the subject of keeping your content diverse, remember to diversify your target audiences as well. It’s pretty typical for a business to have more than one audience. For example, a dog food supply company may be targeting breeders, doggy daycare owners, and regular people who own dogs. Keep all of your audiences in mind, and diversify content so that each audience is getting the same amount of attention. You don’t want anybody to feel left out!
Consider the following features about your audience when building content:
- Demographics: choose images that represent the proper audience. For example, if you are trying to sell retirement plans, your content shouldn’t be full of images of young people. Similarly, if you sell dental hygiene products, you don’t want images of models with yellow teeth!
- Posting times: what times and days are they most likely to be online? As a marketer, it is definitely not enough for you to just publish your posts randomly throughout the day. With today’s fierce competition, you can’t afford being overlooked by your audience because of the wrong posting time. So it’s very important for you to determine what times and days your users will most likely see your posts. This way, you have greater chances of engaging and converting them.
For instance, if you are trying to target high school students, do not post content when they are likely to be at school since they will have limited access to the Internet. Likewise, if you are trying to target business owners, you should aim to publish content in the morning before typical working hours, in the evening after the workday is over, and during popular lunchtimes like 12:00 pm.
- Pain points: consider what your target audience may be struggling with that you can offer a solution to. For example, if you sell energy bars, address how your energy bars can help people get over their mid-day slump or get pumped for a workout they might otherwise be dreading! Think long and hard about any questions or concerns your audience might have and answer them through your content.
- Values: think about what your audience values and address these values in your content. For example, if they value timeliness, stress fast shipping times.
In addition to diversifying the themes and target audiences you address in your content marketing calendar, remember to add value to your followers with unique, custom content. That includes original images, infographics, videos, and articles or information. If all you’re doing is sharing information and multimedia from other sources, your followers will not be as engaged. Become an authority in your field by dazzling your followers with original material. If you fall victim to writer’s block, turn to pre-existing materials for content inspiration. FAQs, brochures, educational materials, or even older content calendars can help you plan content unique to your brand.
You should also be considering your overarching marketing goals in all the content you create. This may require thinking outside the box. If your goal is to increase sales by 25% in one year, it can be tempting to point all of your content towards pushing your product. The problem with doing this is that people don’t like feeling like they’re being sold to. Odds are, no one is checking out your blog or Instagram account because they want to be advertised to. They want to be informed, entertained, and most importantly, treated like real human beings rather than marketing statistics.
In order to generate sales in the long run, you will need to impress your followers with compelling content and build brand awareness and trust. People are much more likely to purchase from you if you’ve put in the work to build their trust. Great content marketing can turn website visitors into prospects, prospects into customers, and customers into repeat customers.
Plus, establishing your brand as a leader in the field through high engagement rates and large social followings is basically the online version of word-of-mouth advertising!
If somebody is in search of a particular type of product or service (like the one you sell!) they may land on your website or one of your social media profiles in their research, and they are going to want to see interesting and engaging content. In fact, consumers are becoming more and more likely to research brands online prior to making even smaller purchases. They are also more likely to purchase from you if you have a large following and tons of positive engagement!
Some great content marketing tips to increase engagement are to pose polls or questions that encourage comments and to run giveaways that require people to share, comment on, or otherwise interact with your content.
Now that you have filled out your content marketing calendar, it’s time for the next step.
Put your content to the test!
One of the most important parts of building a content marketing calendar is using analytics to track data on how your audience interacts with your content. You can use this data to create future types of content and improve the quality every month! Google Analytics will help you analyze traffic on your website. Additionally, all popular social media platforms include their own built-in metrics. However, if you want more detailed data, you may want to turn to third-party tools or a digital marketing company like ours to help you with this. There are tools that are more practical financially for a marketing company than they would be for a small business.
So what types of data are important to examine when it comes to your content? There are a few questions you should be asking yourself when it comes time to analyzing your content.
Which content themes get the best traction? What types of images have your audience engaged with the most? If a certain piece of content does particularly well, don’t be afraid to recycle it. You can even create evergreen content like an employee spotlight on the first of every month, regular giveaways, or weekly customer photo shares!
This may be difficult, but don’t just focus on the positives. You should also be analyzing which types of content performed the worst. No one likes to admit when they were wrong, but taking note of what types of content don’t resonate with your audience can help prevent you from making the same mistake twice.
Creating Content Your Followers Love
The best way to create a content marketing calendar your followers will love is to look at the content they react positively to and build off of it. If you’re starting from square one, some market research can help you out. To see what types of content your followers are most likely to be interested in, check out your competitors. We don’t recommend plagiarizing, of course, but there is no need to reinvent the wheel when you know of a company with a similar target audience already. Take a look at their content and see what gets the most engagement. Do their followers react best to list-style articles? Maybe that’s something you can incorporate into your own blog. Perhaps they get the most likes on social media posts with super bright colors. That is another easy detail you can work into your own content.
Just keep in mind that you want your content to be unique and original to truly add value to your followers and keep them coming back for more! Don’t have time to create truly unique content? That’s what we do at LYFE Marketing. All content is original, unique, and custom created for your audience. We put everything together in an organized content marketing calendar each month for you to view and approve. If this sounds like the addition you need to your marketing portfolio, contact us today to get started.