Plan Ahead: 3 Tips for Building a Comprehensive Content Calendar

One of the most endearing qualities of social media is its ability to be flexible and responsive to issues happening in real-time. Facebook and Twitter can get a message to a large audience, and fast. But your company’s content strategy shouldn’t always be reactive, or dependent on whenever you have the time; it’s time to plan ahead and get proactive with a comprehensive content calendar.

Photo of a paper calendar by Flickr's photosteve101

In the social media management world, we have a lot of names for “the calendar”: the content calendar, the editorial calendar or maybe the content planner. It doesn’t really matter what you decide to call it; what matters is getting it done, so you have time for the myriad other functions of your job. Start with these three tips to design the content calendar that everyone—be it your colleagues, or clients—will envy:

Grab your company’s calendar.

Think about it. At the beginning or end of the year, you’re taking a glance at your sales cycle, and planning your company’s objectives around it. Your social media should reflect what you’re talking about as a company, so be sure to have important product launches or company events top-of-mind when writing your calendar.

Define your content buckets. How do those Facebook posts or tweets contribute to your business or organizational objectives?

What are you trying to say? It’s likely that you have multiple kinds of messages that fit into different content “buckets,” or categories. Think of these as themes that might appear once a month or even twice a week.

These look a little different for everyone, but here are some tried and true examples of categories we’ve used for clients:

  • “Admin”: These posts might inform your audience of potential brick-and-mortar holiday closures or important enrollment deadlines. Basically, it’s the need-to-know stuff.
  • “Staff Profiles”: Hold these spaces for those times you want to give a company employee some love.
  • “Products”: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Save these spaces for those new product features or rollouts.

As you define these buckets, be sure to identify your key metrics and how they contribute to your overall business objectives. Are you leaning on social for customer leads? E-mail list building? Brand awareness? It might be a mix of several metrics. The bottom line: your work won’t really mean much of anything without some goal-setting.

Get organized, or make a spreadsheet your best friend.

Whether you’re a Microsoft Excel power user or a novice, spreadsheets make content planning easy.

Photo of re:group content calendar

You can get as granular as you need: organizing by date, content bucket, medium (text? photo?), text copy and channel. If you’re preparing the calendar for approval by a client or department, considering using Google Drive for collaboration. You can share the spreadsheet with other contacts so that they might make updates and provide feedback in real-time.

Once you’ve finished and received approval on your content calendar, you can start preparing and scheduling any content assets for the next month. Be sure to monitor the results of your efforts, and continually refine and adjust the type and schedule of content accordingly. If one content bucket is performing much better than another, you have a sense of what your online community wants. Social media can be measured through the kinds of metrics I discussed earlier, and you should take advantage of that.

Have you had any success with content calendars? Best practices? I’d love to hear all about them in the comments below!

Photo credit: Flickr’s photosteve101

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