When you’re trying to manage multiple social media accounts, blogs, email newsletters, and more, keeping on top of everything can be a headache. Whether it’s for your personal brand or a business, organizing your day-to-day content can be much simpler when you use a dedicated content calendar.
In this post, we’ll show you how to create a content calendar, what you should include and why, and all the steps you’ll need to make sure that you know exactly what content you’ll be posting where and when.
What Is a Content Calendar?
A content calendar is as simple as it sounds—it’s a calendar that you use to plan out exactly when you’re going to post a piece of content. Sometimes known as an “editorial calendar,” content planning has been used since the early days of mass media but has taken on a new life in the digital age thanks to social media, emails, and blogging.
The calendar itself usually lives in a spreadsheet or a scheduling tool so that it’s easily editable and shareable. Or, if you like the old-fashioned approach, a poster board full of sticky notes or a paper planner work just as well. There are plenty of templates out there to help you get started.
The type of calendar you should use will depend on your specific needs and the platforms you plan to post on. If you’re thinking about how to create a social media content calendar, this is probably going to look very different than the approach that someone who’s working on how to create a blog content calendar will take.
The most important thing is to find a solution that works best for you and your team—one that will give you the big picture at a glance and room to grow as your content needs change.
Who Should Use a Content Calendar and What Is the Purpose?
Anyone working with digital and print media should be using a content calendar, particularly if you’re part of a wider team or working with freelancers. But even if you’re flying solo, a calendar can keep you organized enough to produce content consistently, an important tactic when you’re looking to generate long-term success.
Particularly if you’re producing a large amount of content across multiple channels, a content calendar will keep you accountable for hitting your deadlines when it comes to planning, creating, and posting your content.
You can easily see what’s coming up in the next few weeks, where there are gaps that you may want to fill with additional posts, if there are any holidays or occasions that you need to account for, and where you might need to work ahead to cover for any time out of the office.
If you’re working for a large organization and need approval ahead of posting anything online, using a calendar can improve the turnaround time you have for content sign-offs. When you’re working ahead, you can provide leadership with your graphics and text with plenty of time for edits before your scheduled publish date.
Planning out your posts ahead of time and thinking about how to create a content calendar that’s best for your brand allows you to take the time to carefully craft your message and be more strategic about your content. You’ll be more likely to produce content of a higher quality as it won’t be rushed, so you can have the breathing room to plan and create something that will actively engage your audience.
Now that you know why a calendar is so important, it’s time to learn how to create a content calendar for social media and blogs.
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How Do I Create a Content Calendar?
Step 1: Decide on Your Channels
With new social media platforms emerging constantly, the temptation to be everywhere all the time is real. But it’s important to remember where your audience is, what content they want to see and how, and what your overall goals are.
Before you start building your calendar, look at your social media, blog, or email newsletter demographics to better understand your target audience. Have a look at what competitors are posting, where, and when to see where you can take advantage of areas they might be missing. From here, you can make more strategic and informed decisions that will focus your time effectively to create successful content.
Step 2: Build Your Template
Grab a template online or start from scratch with your own. When you’re working on how to create a social media calendar, think about the type of information that you’ll need to have to hand for each and every post.
A good place to start is creating a place to note the date, platform, text, any visuals or links you plan to use, and who is responsible for the content if you’re working with a larger team. For certain social media channels, you may want to be more granular to differentiate between content types, like highlighting whether a post on Instagram is a grid post, a story, an IGTV, or a reel.
If you’re working on how to create a blog content calendar, a few extra spaces on your calendar for planned URL, title tag, meta description, and SEO keywords can be useful for quick reference and planning.
It’s up to you whether you want to include analytics in your calendar template or save that for a separate document. One thing to keep in mind here is who the calendar will be shared with. If you’re working with outside vendors or partners like an agency or freelancers, you may want them to have edit access to the full calendar to better support you, but analytics may need to be kept in-house.
Step 3: Pencil in Important Dates
Once you have your template, you can start adding in content ideas. Before diving into your own posts, make a note on your calendar of any important dates that are coming up that month (or the full year if you’re working on how to create a 52 week content calendar).
What your brand deems important is going to vary based on your industry and communication style. For brands that take a light-hearted and whimsical approach to content, national days like Star Wars Day, International Cheese Day, and Talk Like A Pirate Day can be fun ways to engage with your followers.
For others businesses, traditional public holidays or important dates in your industry will likely be most of what you post here.
Step 4: Determine Your Schedule
Knowing your capabilities when it comes to creating content is crucial in building a realistic and achievable calendar. There’s plenty of advice out there about optimal posting schedules for each social media platform, but it’s important to understand whether that’s reasonable from a time perspective and whether that’s what your audience wants.
Like important dates, your schedule will vary depending on your industry and the size of your team. Some months may be busier than others, particularly if you work for a seasonal brand, but having a content calendar will help you to pre-plan and minimize extra workload where possible.
Step 5: Add Your Content
Once you’ve determined how often you’re going to be posting, you can start putting ideas with publish dates into your calendar. It’s helpful to work backward from these and add status update or creation stage dates to your calendar as well, assigning these to various team members.
For both social media and written content, you may have copywriting, graphic design or photography needs and approval dates that need to be slotted into the schedule, so make sure you’re leaving yourself plenty of time to get everything created.
Start with content ideas that are specific to that month, and save your evergreen, or timeless, content for gap-filling. It can also be useful to leave a few days each month where you have no planned content to shift posts around or add in anything timely as it comes up. You never know when a crisis or exciting announcement might change all of your best-laid plans.
Helpful Tools and Resources for Creating (and Managing) Content Calendars
If you’re using a social media scheduling tool, many have content calendar features built-in, saving you time when it comes to getting your content planned and scheduled. It also makes it easier if you need to move things around, with many tools offering a drag-and-drop-style calendar that allows you to change the date of a scheduled post. Buffer, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social are all popular tools for creating and managing your social media content.
When you’re working on content planning for blogs and emails, spreadsheets can work well for organizing your upcoming post schedules. If you’re working with a bigger team or prefer a more interactive approach, project management tools like Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and ClickUp are great for collaborating and staying on top of each stage of the creation process.
Whatever your content needs are, a flexible and adaptable content calendar is the best way to stay organized across your brand. Happy planning!
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