How To Create A Content Calendar That Actually Works
Kimberly Ann Jimenez,
Digital Strategist & Founder
I’m going to be blunt.
If you’re doing any kind of online marketing in this day and age and you don’t have a content calendar, you’re not getting the most out of your content at all.
So what exactly is a content calendar and why the heck do you even need one?
If you’ve ever wondered what to post on Facebook or ran out of blog topics (‘aint nobody got time for that), you need a content calendar in your life, my friend.
Content calendars help plan, organize and schedule every single piece of content you publish online.
It’s the place where all of your social media posts, your blogs, your newsletters, your videos, podcasts and your graphics strategically come together to grow your business.
So if you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet you don’t have a system in place to organize and repurpose your content just yet.
It’s time to create a content calendar.
See, you know all too well that this whole content marketing thing takes time, a lot of it. And if you’re not squeezing your content for all it’s got, you’re missing out on lots of engagement, traffic, and leads.
Imagine being able to (finally) plan in advance every piece of content that will be published online across the board for your business.
Having a bird’s-eye view of your content enables you to anticipate what is coming down the pipeline so you can get really strategic with the content pieces you publish and leverage your content to attract more engagement, more traffic and increase your leads.
That’s what a content calendar can do for your brand.
It’s the foundation of what should be your content marketing system.
So let’s get into the whole process of how to create a content calendar that actually works.
HOW TO CREATE A CONTENT CALENDAR THAT ACTUALLY WORKS
STEP #1: SET MONTHLY & QUARTERLY GOALS BASED ON YOUR PROMOTIONAL CALENDAR
So this is the BIGGEST mistakes I see online entrepreneurs make when it comes to creating a content calendar strategically.
Take a step back and analyze your promotional calendar.
When are you going to be re-launching that online course? How soon do you need to start teasing your new challenge? Are there a few weeks you should be focusing on list building to promote your one-on-one services?
All of these details matter. A lot.
Why? Because the whole point of content marketing is to… market yo stuff.
Your content should deepen relationships with your readers and lead them through to the next step in their journey to becoming a customer.
When you are clear on what you are promoting and to who, it’s easier to reverse-engineer your content marketing so that everything you publish online works in unison to help you CRUSH your business goals (revenue included).
So pull out a piece of paper (or your handy task management tool… I love Trello) and jot down your monthly and quarterly goals.
Here is an example…
1. Prep our email list for my new product launch by publishing a 3-part blog series on self-esteem.
2. Grow our email list by at least 500 new subscribers by promoting my new email course.
3. Re-engage cold email subscribers with new lead magnet funnel.
Now that I know what my goals are, I can start designing my content strategy to meet those goals.
STEP #2: ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT INTO BUCKETS OR CATEGORIES
I learned this strategy from the amazing Laura Roeder and it changed my life.
Creating ”content buckets” (or categories) for your posts can really help you stay focused on your overall strategy but also save you tons of time when you sit down to create your content.
So here’s what you do…
Figure out what your EPIC content buckets are first.
Epic content in my world is simply long-form, original content where you deliver massive amounts of value on a consistent basis.
Usually, your epic content falls under any of these channels: a blog, a podcast, a live video show, a newsletter or live broadcasts and a YouTube show.
In our business, our blog is our epic content channel and we also create weekly YouTube show + a Podcast to enhance our blog content and distribute it to a bigger audience (+ we send out an email to our subscribers with new content as well).
But you don’t need to start with all of these. Pick a single epic content channel and go all in. Once you are clear on your epic content channel.
Once you are clear on your epic content channel it’s time to run through the same exercise and jot down your content buckets but this time for your social media networks.
They can be for example:
- Blog posts
- Other people’s stuff
- Behind-the-scenes shots
Figuring out what these content buckets are is simple. Go back to your social media posts and pay attention to what has been successful in the past.
Are you getting a lot of engagement when you post behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram? Put ”behind-the-scenes pics” on your content buckets list.
You can also take a look at the highest performing posts from your competitors’ social media posts and get ideas as to what your audience reacts to.
But if you’re just starting out, don’t be afraid to experiment and try new content buckets.
Next, figure out which blog posts topics perform better on your site. You can use tools like Google Analytics and SEOMoz to determine which blog posts get the most amount of traffic and engagement on the internet as a whole.
BONUS: Use Buzzsumo to figure out what specific topics in your niche or industry get shared across the web more frequently.
Have a brainstorming/research session and create a list of 20+ blog topics so when it’s time to sit down and actually write your blogs you don’t have to waste time staring at a blank page and a ticking cursor.
Finally, create & schedule a bunch of these content buckets and blog posts in bulk. This will not just save you time and energy, it will laser-focus your strategy.
Need a little a visual? Back to the content buckets.
Here is how I organize my own content buckets, but remember that you can create as many categories as you see fit, always keep your fans’ interests and positive reactions with past content in mind.
In other words, make them your own.
MY SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT BUCKETS
Here is where you get to communicate with your readers and really showcase your know-how & expertise. Remember that you always want to send your fans and followers back to your website. Use these posts to build your traffic and grow your email list.
You know the feeling you get when you see an image quote or read an article that really hits home? Your fans and followers want to feel it too.
So share inspirational content with your fans and followers, if you think it will empower them.
These are great conversation starters. By asking questions that are easy & fast to answer you’re breaking the ice with your fans and encouraging them to converse about topics that interest them.
Tips & Tricks:
This is probably one of my personal favorites. Create short tidbits of insights, advice or tips that can be helpful to your audience. You can start off by answering some of the questions you get asked the most by your current clients.
Other People’s Content
It’s virtually impossible to create all the content your audience is interested in all on your own (unless you’re a publication) so show fellow industry leaders some love & share their content with your audience whenever you think they’ll find it helpful.
This process is basically just content curation. You’re going out there and curating some of the best content to showcase in your own social channels.
Contests & Giveaways
These can help build buzz about your products and get people talking about them. Get really creative and you’ll be able to leverage contests and giveaways really efficiently.
Of course, you want to sell your product but there’s an art to doing so. You should never be afraid to sell on social media, but always make sure that you’ve given enough free value away first.
This includes photos of yourself or your team, behind-the-scenes action, a photo of your cute puppy… you get the point.
I like to leave space for creativity and anything that just pops into my head and that way my content stays fresh and relevant.
STEP #3: DETERMINE YOUR FREQUENCY
Okay, now that you have your content buckets outlined, how often should you be publishing these pieces of content?
For your epic content channel, I recommend publishing at least once per week. That will help you stay consistent without feeling overwhelmed.
So, one new blog post, YouTube video or Podcast will be perfect. As your blog grows, you can experiment with a higher frequency but in my experience, 1-2 original content pieces per week is a fantastic start.
What about social networks? How often should you post on those?
That’s really gonna depend on the channel social networks you publish your content on.
No frequency works best for every brand so like anything, you have to experiment.
I touched on this topic in a previous blog, so just to recap, here is a good rule of thumb in terms of the total amounts of posts you should be scheduling each week:
- Facebook: 1-3 times per day (sometimes more often if you have a worldwide audience).
- Twitter: 6-10 times per day (sometimes more often if it works for you).
- Pinterest: 3-10 times per day (you don’t want to overdo it with your followers).
- Google +: 1-2 times per day.
- Instagram: 4-7 times per week.
- YouTube: Weekly or more often if you can.
Here are some tips you can use to plan out the frequency of your content.
- Stagger your posts so your content stays fresh and varied.
- For every self-serving post make sure there’s another post that delivers amazing value.
- Experiment. With time, you’ll figure out the frequency that works best for you.
STEP #4: CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE TOOL
okay, now that you are ready to create a content calendar system for planning, creating and publishing epic content everywhere, it’s time to get to the tool part (my favorite!).
Choosing the right content calendar tool for you really comes down to preference and functionality (aka use what works for you, homie!)
If you’re a little old school and you love managing your tasks on paper, then reach out for your favorite content calendar.
I’ve created a special calendar template pack just for you. Just enter your name and email below to get the free PDF pack.
But if you’re more like me and you’re into the digital stuff, check out my favorite content calendar tools.
This tool is the bomb.com.
Personally, it would be very hard to go back to any other publishing tool because CoSchedule just makes this content calendar thing easy-peasy.
Why do I love it so much? CoSchedule brings together your marketing content and your social media posts under one roof. Not only can you publish your blog and social media content using this tool, you can actually plan and edit your newsletters, video scripts, podcast episodes and more.
Plus, their drag and drop features make it extra easy to plan, organize and schedule all of your content in advance.
Did I mention they have a dope WordPress plugin? It integrates seamlessly to help automate your blog publishing process.
But you don’t need WordPress to use it, which is a beautiful thing in itself.
I am obsessed with this tool and use it on the daily to do the following:
- Plan out and schedule my blogs in advance.
- Schedule and publish content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +.
- Collaborate with my team.
- Keep my video shoots organized.
- Plan out my Instagram and Pinterest content.
- Create and edit my newsletters.
Trello rocks. It’s designed to be a task management site but it’s so versatile, it can function as pretty much anything.
From content calendars to wedding planning, you can pretty much do it all on Trello (at least I have).
Easily manage your entire content/editorial calendar on Trello or just choose to plan your social media content.
Now, the major disclaimer: Trello won’t push out your content (meaning actually publish it) but it’s still a phenomenal way to plan & organize your content strategically. I’m sure there might be a way around this via a trigger based app like Zapier or IFTTT, but that’s a whole different story.
One of my favorite features about Trello is that it has a built-in calendar so you can see all of your content at a glance.
Take a look at individual cards. You get to add copy, attach images & files plus add checklists, assign users and engage with team members to discuss details.
The labels are also fantastic if you’re visual like me. I love color coding my posts like a total maniac.
Trello, of course, also integrates with various tools like Google Calendar. Which leads me to my next tool…
Google calendars are free and absolutely functional when it comes to creating your content calendar.
Although there aren’t as many features included, it’s a great alternative.
Simply create a new event for each content piece and color code them. You can also attach images and files to individual events if need be.
One of the features I like is being able to create several calendars to categorize content types. For example, you could have a separate calendar for blog posts or Facebook content.
Then, you filter off the view to only see specific content categories or see everything that is scheduled at once, which is fantastic.
I love this task management tool almost as much as I love Trello (Trello still has a few more practical features I enjoy) and with their new board layout, you can turn any project into a gorgeous and uber-productive content calendar.
Prefer a checklist? Asana has you covered with pre-designed project templates you can use.
Simply choose the Editorial Calendar template from the New Project tab and you’re good to go (you must have the premium version of Asana, though).
STEP #5: CREATE YOUR CONTENT CALENDAR LIKEABAWS
Okay, superstar. You’re prepped to start scheduling content in your shiny new content calendar systematically.
Start by importing your epic content pieces (blog posts, podcasts, etc.) that will set the theme and the tone for the rest of your content (aka newsletters & social media posts).
This is where you can really get creative and do some research (hello SEO + Pinterest + YouTube optimization).
So once you have your epic content pieces laid out, it’s time to add in your supplemental content pieces (lead magnets, content upgrades, newsletters, etc.).
And finally, add in your social media content.
I like to create content for one channel at a time so I don’t feel overwhelmed. These days my team does all of my social media scheduling, but we still use this exact same format to leverage our time, energy and get the most bank for our content marketing buck (so to speak).
So you have your content buckets figured out for your social media posts and your content calendar set; it’s time to look at your social promotion strategy.
In other words, let’s figure out how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to promoting your blog content on social media.
By now I hope you know you shouldn’t just publish your content once on social media and then forget about it. It ain’t gonna work.
You gotta have a solid content promotion schedule if you want to get the most amount of eyeballs on your awesome content.
So here is the schedule I use:
Steal my strategy & download the PDF cheat sheet so you can reference it later. It comes inside The Ultimate Content Calendar Template pack and it’s totally free.
So there you have it. How to create a content calendar that actually works!
I can’t wait to hear how you set up your own content calendar so leave a comment below and share other tools you love, tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way or even any questions you might have.
See you in the comments section!
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