In the third post of this series, we’re going to have a look at what a content calendar is, why it’s worth setting one up, and what you should include. If you missed the first two posts in this series, you can read the introduction about setting goals here, and our discussion about your brand book here.
A content calendar is a key component of a broader concept called content marketing, but in this context, we’re looking at how a content calendar can help you with the management of your digital presence. One of the biggest challenges that small business owners face is that of limited time, and a content calendar is ideal for helping you get the most out of your digital marketing activities with the limited time that you have available.
Want to know what a content calendar is and why it should form part of your marketing activities? Let’s begin!
What is a Content Calendar and Why Use One?
A content calendar is basically a document or schedule that lists all the content that you are planning on publishing in the near future. The word ‘calendar’ is used because that is exactly what it is - a calendar that shows you what you are publishing on which date.
A content calendar allows bigger businesses to have better control over the marketing material that is published on the brand's behalf. As mentioned earlier, a content calendar is key to successfully implementing a content marketing strategy because content marketing is all about telling a story. A content calendar helps you plan out your content and marketing story and allows you to build this story in line with your overall marketing strategy for the period. Furthermore, if you have several employees tasked with managing your digital brand, you are able to stay on top of what was posted, when, on which platform, and by whom. A content calendar also makes collaboration between different departments in the business easier and ensures consistency with regards to your content frequency and your digital branding. All of this aside, the main reason why a small business should make use of a content calendar is to save time and effort.
Consistency with regards to what you do online is incredibly important and when we talk about consistency, we are mainly talking about your branding and your content frequency. We'll get into the importance of consistency in another post, but for the purpose of this one, what you need to remember is that the frequency of your posts impacts the way that your potential customers view your brand. Consider a Facebook page that only posts once a month or hasn't posted anything in several months. How do you think that reflects on the business? Does that come across as a business that would respond to customer queries or help if something goes wrong? This is especially important for businesses that offer a service that customers sign up for. Overall, you want to build trust and confidence in your business and show potential customers that you are serious about what you do.
As important as consistency is, there are limitations that small business owners face; time being one of the biggest ones. Small business owners often don't have the time to create content on a frequent and continuous basis. Sitting down in front of your computer or phone on a daily basis, wondering what to post can be very time-consuming. This is where a content calendar comes in. Paired with your content templates (which we will be discussing in a future post in this series), you can easily plan and create your content without feeling like you are reinventing the wheel every day.
How to Set Up a Content Calendar
Truthfully, there really is no right or wrong way to set up a content calendar. There are suggested formats and elements that you can include, but a content calendar is essentially a way in which you organise information. As with a to-do list, we each find a format that works best for us, and the format of your content calendar is no different - it should be one that works for you. It is worth mentioning, though, that if you have several employees who manage your digital presence, it is advised to include them in the discussion about the structure of your content calendar and find out what works for them as well.
The flexibility of the structure of a content calendar aside, there are certain elements that should ideally be included. These elements include:
The date on which the content is going to be published.
The platform on which the content will be posted.
The type of content (i.e. blog, image, video, etc.)
A link to the visuals you will be using for the content. You can also add the actual visuals to your calendar, but it does make your structure a bit bulkier.
The hashtags you will be using.
Any links that you are adding to your content.
And lastly, if you are part of a team, you will want to include a section that states who is responsible for posting the content and the status of the content. For example, has it been published, has it been delayed to accommodate other content, has it been scheduled, etc.
Again, you don't have to include all of these elements; it's all about what works for you. There are also numerous free content calendar templates that you can find online and edit to suit your needs. Your content calendar can also be set up in a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, paid third-party software like Hubspot or Sprout Social, or simply use the calendar app on your computer. The main aim is to plan and prepare your content for at least two weeks in advance. Doing this will save you a lot of time and a lot of effort.
Your content calendar is basically a document or schedule that lists all the content that you are planning on publishing in the near future. Setting up a content calendar allows you to plan and create your content in advance and, paired with your content templates, saves you a lot of time and effort. It takes the guesswork out of what content to post on the day and also gives you the opportunity to set up an overall story that you want to share with your audience.
Even though there are suggested elements that you should include in your content calendar, the overall structure of your calendar is flexible and should be set up in a way that best works for you.