Effective content strategy for online marketing hinges on several factors (this list from Content Marketing Institute is a great place to start), not least of which is creating and implementing a thorough plan. Everyone can benefit from devising a plan and following through with it, so if your desk is usually buried beneath stray papers and quickly-scrawled notes, you will definitely benefit from what is known as an editorial calendar.
Simply put, an editorial or content calendar is any schedule that reflects your online marketing efforts, whether they are blog posts, social media updates, or email newsletters to your mailing list.
Your calendar can be a simple Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet, or it can be created in a number of free or paid apps or software programs. According to Content Marketing Institute, to be an effective piece of your business plan, a basic editorial calendar should include the following components :
- Details about the content (title, brief description, keywords tags/categories/meta tags).
- Who will be responsible for producing and publishing it (writer, graphic designer, etc.).
- Dates – both the date the content will be created and the date it will be pushed out to your audience. It might be helpful to also include a drop-down menu showing the status of the content so you can tell at a glance what is finished and what is still in progress.
- What you want your audience to do next. This is often called a “call to action.” You want to make it effortless for your target market to continue to engage with you and your business.
- How you will promote your content. For example, if it is a blog post, you will want to follow up with social media updates by tweeting a link to the post, posting a Facebook status, and maybe even pinning it on your company’s Pinterest board.
Tools to help create a calendar
You might find that it’s easier to use a tool or program to create a calendar instead of starting from scratch with a spreadsheet. If you use WordPress for your blog, for example, there is an editorial calendar plugin. However, though free and easy to use, the WordPress plugin does have limitations if you work in a collaborative environment, or if you work mainly with other types of content. WordPress users can also check out the open-source Edit Flow.
While there are a number of excellent project management tools available, here are a few that focus specifically on developing an editorial calendar that you might want to try:
- Basecamp – (free 2-month trial)
- Kapost – (pricey but robust; a demo tour is available)
- Desk-Net – (free trial)
- DivvyHQ – (free 30-day trial)
- Marketing.AI software – (free trial)
- Compendium – (no free trial, but you can request a demo first)
As you evaluate the options, consider if you will need the ability to have multiple users. Also, what information do you want to be able to track (when the draft is due, when it’s been reviewed or edited, when it has been published)? Do you want to be able to assign tasks to members of your team?
Think about the type of content that you plan on producing. Will it be mostly blog posts, or would your goals be better served by focusing on videos, webinars, e-courses or some other kind of content?
Get together with your team and decide how often you want to produce content. While regularly is always best, your target market will largely determine how often that will be. Should you reach out to them daily, or is weekly more appropriate?
Also think about how much material you can produce beforehand. It is always wise to stockpile some content in advance, at least a month and ideally three months, if possible. That way, if something unexpected pops up, your blog wont sit un-updated for months at a time.
When filling out your content calendar, don’t overlook real-life calendar dates such as holidays or seasons, as these events will naturally encourage social-media sharing. Also, a Distilled blog post suggests thinking about any important occasions or events for your business. Look ahead and consider when you are launching a new product. You can start sowing the seeds of interest with your audience months in advance.
Once you begin using an editorial calendar, you will see not only how easy it is to implement, but also how it streamlines your entire content marketing plan (as Mashable explains so well). You’ll wonder how you ever did business without it!