How to Create an Effective Content Calendar That Actually Works
Learning how to create a content calendar from scratch is one of those tasks that seems so much more complicated than it actually is. Might seem like a big commitment at first, but it will pay you back by helping you organize your content creation processes.
Whether it is a simple grid with a few links or a bespoke dashboard to meet dozens of goals, your calendar can be as simple or complicated as your content needs.
In this post, I will teach you about the importance of content calendars, how you can set one up for yourself, amazing tools that can improve your content calendars, and why you should outsource content writing to get a significant boost in your overall marketing efforts.
- Why You Need a Content Calendar
- Creating a Content Calendar That Sets You Up For the Whole Year
- Audit your social networks, content, and digital channels
- Understand the key elements of a content calendar
- Decide what the calendar needs to track
- Create a content repository
- Schedule each part of the creation process
- Review the calendar with your team and improve it
- Begin the content creation process
- Start scheduling
- Popular Content Calendar Apps and Tools You Can Use
- How to Scale Content Effectively
- Benefits of Outsourcing Your Content Creation
- Getting the most out of your content calendar
Why You Need a Content Calendar
A content calendar is nothing more than a written schedule of when and where you plan to publish any upcoming content. These calendars typically include upcoming pieces, status updates, planned promotional activity, partnerships, and even updates for already published content.
Here are a few excellent benefits of having a content calendar that might help you understand.
1. Helps you save time by organizing everything
All your content marketing goals have one key point in common with many other goals in your day planner: They require effort and attention each day. You cannot put off focusing on creating and publishing content when you are done with the rest of the work or feel inspired. It has to be an active part of your daily schedule.
Maintaining a content calendar helps you plan ahead, create your content in batches, and lets you avoid multitasking. You can also use it to note down your creatively inspired thoughts for use later.
It is basically the best way to ensure that you will never find yourself desperately scrolling through generic inspirational quotes because you do not have the time to create good content for posting when it’s the right time.
While you will be posting every day, perhaps even several times a day, you will not need to babysit all your efforts. Some content calendar tools let you schedule posts ahead of time and manage audience engagement from one place.
Organizing everything with a content calendar can free up a lot more time for you to focus on other areas of your business without worrying about posting across different feeds.
2. Ensures that you post consistently
Whether you want to increase your likes on Instagram, YouTube subscribers or want to get more people reading your website’s blog, the first tip experts always give is to “post consistently.”
Showing up in your target audience’s feed consistently is the key to encouraging them to engage with your brand online. If your brand has great engagement across its social media platforms and website, your organic reach will be better.
The different platforms’ algorithms will consider your posts relevant and show your content to new people, helping you develop more leads and work on improving conversions.
Populating your calendar with posts ahead of time lets you post consistently, whether you have a slow week or any major promotions to handle.
3. Reduces the risk of major mistakes
Planning ahead means you can also create a failsafe for your workflow. Copy-editing texts, fact-checking all the information, or even vetting the information to ensure that there’s nothing in the content that could make you liable all become easier when you have all the content in advance.
A proper content calendar is the best way to prevent posting anything with major typos, factual errors or even posting the same messages across different channels. You can avoid making mistakes and save yourself from any embarrassment that your brand’s mistakes can cause.
4. You can get more ambitious with your social strategies
The most successful businesses and brands worldwide run several social media campaigns and content marketing plans simultaneously – long, medium, and short-term – everything. And these are all just daily posts.
With a schedule set in place, you can have the time to think of more ambitious strategies to use across your social media platforms, expand your reach to other platforms, and find out ways to improve your overall strategy.
Suppose you are working with the right company for monthly article writing as part of your overall strategy. In that case, you can easily discuss scaling your content production for a more ambitious content marketing strategy.
5. Never miss out on relevant opportunities
Having a content calendar lets you strategically observe events worldwide that could be relevant to your brand’s audience. Whether it is Star Wars Day or the Superbowl, you might never have to worry about missing out on significant opportunities to make posts.
With your day-to-day scheduled posts across social media platforms and blog covered, if anything topical comes up, you will have the time and logistics free to engage with the moment to capitalize on it for your brand.
6. Helps you create higher quality content
The production value for content across the board is eons beyond what it used to be when content marketing began. From copywriters to designers, video editors, and photographers, it is standard practice to have even a single post on Instagram have a whole team of creative professionals behind it today. Asking the entire team to drop everything to make a post for a relevant opportunity might not get you the best results or win you any favors from your team.
A content calendar makes all your day-to-day content creation and publishing efforts more organized. It means you can also allocate your assets effectively, so everyone in the team has the time and space to produce their best work.
Having a monthly blog writing service can improve your asset allocation by outsourcing blog management and freeing up more time for you and your team.
Working with a long-term vision also means you can focus on maintaining a consistent brand voice and content that reflects on it to support your marketing goals.
7. You can track what works and make improvements
When you set up your schedule, you can have the time to invest in tracking your posts and improving their performance.
Social media analytics can give you a lot of insights. A content calendar provides you with the opportunity to schedule any posts you want to experiment with to make improvements. You can plan ahead for A/B tests that you can use to find the perfect recipe when it comes to the type of content, format, post frequency, and the ideal time to post on various platforms.
Creating a Content Calendar That Sets You Up For the Whole Year
Understanding why you need a content calendar might help you feel more motivated to invest the time and effort to learn how to make a content calendar. You might feel inclined to try and find a content calendar template that you can use, but knowing how to do it from scratch can help you set up a customized solution that can meet your needs.
I will discuss the eight steps necessary to create an effective content calendar.
1. Audit your social networks, content, and digital channels
Developing a clear picture of what your current content marketing efforts are like can help you identify all the areas that need improvement and opportunities for new efforts. Auditing your content, social media networks, and various digital channels that are a part of your content marketing strategy is crucial to fine-tuning your strategy and creating a content calendar that maximizes your return on investment.
2. Understand the key elements of a content calendar
Content calendars can be as simple or as complicated as you need them to be for your brand. It all depends on what you need to track through the content calendar. Here are the four items that every content calendar needs to have.
The most important part of your content calendar is Editorial. These are pieces of content that you will publish, whether on your blog, on a podcast, or social media. The primary goal for your content calendar is to schedule your editorial pieces well in advance. This way, you can remain organized and consistent with your publishing schedule and create content in advance.
Ideally, you should invest the time and effort to plan your editorial content a full year in advance instead of not knowing what you will publish next week. You should consider leaving some room for flexibility since things can change quickly in the digital marketing world, and you may need to adapt your plan accordingly.
The platform is where your content calendar is hosted. You need the right content calendar tool that you can use for your content marketing efforts. Being a solo content creator gives you more flexibility in terms of what platform you can use for your content calendar. It can be as simple as a single spreadsheet.
It is a different story for content marketing teams. When you have a content team marketing for a brand, you can have several professionals touch a piece of content before it goes live. It is crucial that everyone can see the status of each post before it can go live. Fortunately, various content calendar tools have features that let you achieve better collaboration for all the content from creation to publishing and marketing.
I have discussed some of the most popular platforms in a later section of this post that you can consider using to create your content calendar.
The next important piece of your content calendar is Promotional.
These are items that do exactly what the name suggests: how you plan to promote the content. Will you share it on Facebook? Do you have a blog for it? Is there an infographic? Are you going to send a newsletter to email subscribers? These are all promotional activities that can be a part of your content calendar.
Promotional activities do not necessarily need to be in a separate calendar from editorial items. You can color-code to tell them apart easily.
This is a list of all future content ideas that you are not actively working on yet. For instance, it could be a random topic for a blog you thought of while driving to work or something that came up in a brainstorming session with your team. These ideas do not usually end up in the calendar because they are not scheduled yet.
However, “brain dumping” these ideas on the calendar can ensure that you do not lose them, and you can even take out the time to actively work on these future ideas for content creation later on in the calendar.
3. Decide what the calendar needs to track
As you figure out what your content calendar might look like, it would be good to map out the information and functionality that the calendar will provide you. You need something that can tell you who is doing what, when it is done, when it is approved, when it is published, and how successful it was.
Here are some of the basic details that need to be in your content calendar:
- The platform
- Link to assets
- Link to published post
- Content creation processes
- Content promotion
- Content updates
You can keep adding advanced details that can be potentially helpful (content status, pair or organic post, specific campaign, platform-specific format, approval status, whether it has been published, analytics, and more).
4. Create a content repository
Content repositories are also called content libraries, media resource databases, or digital asset banks.
Regardless of what you call it, this is the source where all the created content goes for your content marketing efforts. A content repository has a few key features, including:
- It is spacious enough for a large number of files,
- It is accessible from your phone and computer,
- It is secure, but you can easily share it with team members,
- It provides links to individual files so you can link them to the calendar.
How you set up your content repository is almost as crucial as the content calendar itself. The more organized it is, the better it will be. Organizing your content repository will also help you get the most out of your content calendar when you scale content production.
Scaling content production to ensure that all your target content needs are met is essential for success. I have discussed scaling content production in detail later in the post.
5. Schedule each part of the creation process
Most content calendars only include the title of the post and the date it should go live. It can be fine for simpler content pieces, but if you are publishing larger or more complex projects, it would be ideal to schedule out all the steps of the content creation process in your calendar.
Some content might require a lot of research, editing, and fact-checking compared to others. Some cases might even see the work done in an assembly-line style where one element cannot start until the previous one is 100% complete.
Suppose that your content marketing plan has scheduled different infographics and a series of blogs based on the infographics. The design team cannot make the charts and infographics until the research and data come in, so the data collection and analysis needs to be scheduled before.
If your blog writing team requires the infographics as the source of the content for their blogs, you need to schedule the infographics production after the data collection and analysis comes through but before the blog writing and editing needs to be done.
6. Review the calendar with your team and improve it
Now that you have sculpted the foundations of your organized content calendar, it is time to reveal your work to your colleagues. You want the calendar to be moderately intuitive, so invite everyone who will use it every day and ask them to put it through its paces. Schedule a meeting for everyone to discuss their findings on it.
You will most likely find some useful feedback on what you can add, remove, or change in the calendar to fill gaps. By the end of the reviewing process, you should have a calendar that every team member can understand and work with well.
7. Begin the content creation process
Once you set everything up and give a more concrete form to your content calendar, you should focus on beginning the content creation process. By now, you should have defined who needs to be doing what, when, and where.
This is where you get to properly test the calendar and run it through the ropes to see how effective it is in terms of creating the content. Create a bulk of content that you can then schedule for publishing.
The focus should not be on scaling content production but on creating how much you can manage to understand and implement with the content calendar.
8. Start scheduling
Begin scheduling the created content for publishing. As you begin scheduling the content, it can give you a better grasp on how you can use the content calendar to define the timeline for the content creation process and publishing schedule.
As you gradually scale up content production and expand to more types of content across different platforms, scheduling might initially seem a little complex. However, mastering how to schedule will ensure that all your content marketing efforts are organized and well-managed compared to publishing the posts without the help of a content calendar.
Popular Content Calendar Apps and Tools You Can Use
There are countless tools and apps that you can use to create a content calendar today. I will briefly discuss some of the most popular ones people use today so you can get an idea of what might work for you.
Google Drive is, hands down, one of the most obvious choices you can have for a content calendar. Google Drive has several helpful features that make it easy for marketers to build an effective content calendar.
You can use Google Calendar to track both editorial and social media content calendars to ensure that they all align with your marketing strategy. You can share the calendars with multiple teams to avoid any scheduling conflicts for your content and make sure that everything is organized. You can use Google Sheets to schedule posts on social media, track the status of all the content, and assign tasks to different team members – all on the same platform as their calendar.
You can use Google Docs to keep comments all in one place and collaborate on several projects without sending emails back and forth or scheduling meetings. This can be a very useful feature for editing content for social media and blogs that may need quick drafts and approvals.
It may take some time to get the ball rolling with all the tables and making the whole thing look decent. However, it can make your life a lot less complicated when you get the hang of using this free tool for your content calendar.
Trello is a simple, free, and aesthetically pleasing content calendar tool. It comes with a good-looking to-do list tool, makes it easy to add relevant files, links, and notes. My favorite thing about Trello is its calendar view add-on that makes life more organized.
You should remember that it is still a free tool. With everything that it offers in visuals, it lacks in flexibility. If you have a team workflow that also includes a vetting process for the content and getting approvals, or you want to compile long-term analytics data, or even just look at everything at once – an advanced tool might work better for you.
Hootsuite Planner is a popular platform that offers you the trustworthiness of Google Sheets with greater flexibility in terms of publishing directly through the calendar. You get a visual overview of all your content in one place. You can publish the posts by hitting the “post” button for the content or simply scheduling it, so it automatically posts it.
Co-Schedule is another excellent tool that gives you a content calendar template that can help you get rid of relying on spreadsheets. Creating a content calendar through Co-Schedule can let you color-code each type of content, whether its blog posts, email newsletters, social media campaigns, podcast episodes, or anything else.
You can filter content on the calendar by type, team member, tag, color label, and more. It is inclusive of a wide variety of content, and the entire team can easily view upcoming deadlines and who is working on what. You can also use it to view social media messages to help you engage with social media audiences better.
How to Scale Content Effectively
Understanding how to create a scalable content strategy is crucial for the success of your marketing efforts. Here are some important tips that can help you scale your content effectively to make the most of your improved content marketing strategy with the content calendar.
1. Find the balance between content quality vs. quantity
With limited knowledge of scalability, many marketers mistake scaling content with simply expanding the volume of production without regard to quality. High-quality content is becoming more important every day. With each time it refreshes its algorithms, Google is constantly improving efforts to prioritize quality. The goal is to provide users with high-quality content in this age of content saturation.
It is crucial to strike a balance between content quality and quantity. High-quality content is appealing to anyone that comes across it, and people tend to click away from poor quality content because it lacks merit and value. With so much content available online, quality matters a lot.
However, you cannot completely discredit the need for quantity. Brands that post frequently can engage more users by consistently showing up in their feeds than brands that post rarely. Prospects are more drawn to new content that makes quantity an essential aspect.
Having a good quantity of high-quality content also gives regular visitors more reasons to keep visiting and engaging with your brand online.
2. Establish a brand voice and content guidelines
Creating a lot of content is a waste of time if you have no strategy for your promotion efforts. Establishing a brand voice and content guidelines helps you get the most out of scaling your content production.
It sets a certain standard that needs to be met during the content production process to ensure that everything aligns with your brand identity and marketing goals.
To create guidelines, you should look to define some of the following:
- What are your brand personas? Determine who your ideal reader or consumer is.
- What is the goal of the content? Define whether you are pushing for sales, passing information, or trying to add more people to the mailing list. Understanding the goal of the content gives a better sense of direction for how to approach content creation.
- What are your style and tone? The style and tone could cover a wide variety of things like American vs. British English, comma usage, formal vs. informal tone, beginner’s guide vs. expert guide, and so much more. Defining the style and tone sets a good precedent for how to produce content that is consistent.
- Do you have formatting guidelines? Formatting guidelines can standardize the content production efforts
3. Streamline the content production process
Every stage of the content creation process can be scaled and economized, from brainstorming and collaborating to publishing and promotion. Creating a documented content marketing strategy that aligns with your marketing goals is the best way to begin.
Make sure that everyone on the team has access to the documented strategy and is aware of their responsibilities. Streamlining the content creation process into multiple steps is important because it allows you to assign different stages of the content development process to different team members, and it lets you maintain the same standard when creating different pieces of content.
Some of the key steps that you can include to streamline the content production process include:
- Topic definition
- Keyword research
- Outline preparation
- Post writing
- Images and illustrations
4. Allocate the right resources
From the aspect of ideation to production, vetting, publishing, and promoting, you need to ensure that you allocate the right resources for the relevant stages of your content marketing efforts. How well you manage your resources can be the difference between success and failure when you are scaling your content marketing.
Your resources for content marketing can include:
- Content producers
Assigning the right professional for the corresponding stages of your content marketing strategy can ensure that you can scale content creation without compromising on deadlines while maintaining high quality.
5. Repurpose content
If you are not repurposing your content, you are doing content marketing wrong. Combine, reuse, or rethink content in new and unexpected ways to generate more with less effort.
Repurposed content reaches more leads in more places, extracts better value from your investments in content marketing, and it scales – all in significantly less time than each asset would take to create from scratch.
You could use several methods to repurpose content, for instance:
- Split larger content assets into separate blog posts.
- Create infographics based on a blog post or blog posts around an infographic.
- Turn a series of blog posts into a gated piece of content like an eBook.
- Post a statistic or short snippet from a longer content asset to social media.
Repurposing gets you more mileage from each topic, and it challenges you to re-create valuable content assets for different buyer personas and verticals. The result is highly targeted and relevant content that scales up your overall marketing efforts more efficiently.
6. Outsource your content creation
Outsourcing is a very important aspect when it comes to scaling your content marketing efforts. If the internal team is doing everything, there is only so much that they can focus on.
When you outsource, however, you are basically getting more people to help you with your content marketing efforts. It means that you can produce more high-quality content in less time.
Knowing what to look for so you can hire the right company for content writing services is crucial to ensure that your outsourcing provides you with an excellent return on investment.
Benefits of Outsourcing Your Content Creation
Outsourcing content creation by hiring the services of reputable firms can present you with a lot of advantages compared to getting it all done in-house. Here are some of the important benefits of outsourcing your content creation.
Outsourcing saves you money
Paying someone to create content for your marketing efforts when you already have a capable in-house team might seem like an unnecessary expense.
It might be feasible to stick to in-house content production when you are not scaling content creation. However, it would be better to hire a reputable agency to create content for your marketing plan.
It helps you save money because you do not:
- Need to provide benefits for new full-time employees when you outsource
- Need to worry about hiring temporary workers for busy seasons or projects
- Need to train current employees for the content production processes you outsource
Outsourcing your blog posts, newsletters, articles, and other projects allows you to be more flexible with your content marketing calendar and budget. The money you save by outsourcing some content production can be better spent on other business objectives and important projects.
Saves you time
The best content writing agencies deliver high-quality work in a short time, depending on the scope of the project. You can get the content you need when you need it, saving time and keeping up with your content marketing calendar.
Hiring an outside firm also saves you time by letting you and your team to complete multiple projects simultaneously.
For instance, your team can devote more time to focus on crucial content that requires expertise, while you can hire a firm to pump out weekly blog posts on more general topics to engage your audience consistently.
It lets you take advantage of their expertise
Outsourcing also lets you use the knowledge and expertise of others that you and your team might not have. Reputable content writing firms produce high-quality content at a large scale for income. You can bank on them to know more about writing high-quality content that is optimized for organic searches and high-ranking keywords.
Suppose that you are in charge of the company blog, are an expert in the field, but do not write well or don’t understand SEO or blogging. In that case, hiring a blog writing service to take care of it for you is a smart idea. This way, you can be sure that the blog posts are well-written, properly optimized for search engines, effective at generating engagement, and in-depth enough to satisfy your audience.
High-quality writing firms employ writers who know how to:
- Optimize content to get more traffic
- Create more compelling content
- Use call to action and other techniques to convert prospects into leads
It means that you also get more bang for your content buck when you outsource content writing.
It introduces standardization and consistency
Outsourcing content creation can help you increase content quantity without worrying about compromising on quality and ensure consistency through all types of content. When you outsource content production, all the professionals know how to maintain standardization that is crucial for your branding, reputation, and successful content marketing.
The best content writing firms incorporate several layers to content production, including quality checks, revisions, suggestions to ensure strict adherence to your company style guide to provide well-written content that is consistent with your marketing strategy.
You can get a wide range of content types
Outsourcing content creation lets you experiment with several types of content – all expertly produced to align with your content marketing goals.
It helps you avoid the additional training to create multiple types of content in-house. It can save you a lot of time and effort while helping you experiment with different types of content to see what works best for your company. You can use this diversity to hone your content marketing strategy and increase your return on investment.
Getting the most out of your content calendar
Having a content calendar that you can use to plan out the whole year is a great way to organize your content marketing strategy and run a tight ship. Using content writing services to outsource content creation is a great way to have a steady stream of content that you can publish on time to keep your company relevant and audience engaged.
Using a content calendar might require rethinking your current approach. That can be overwhelming, but if your existing strategy is not sustainable, it is a problem you cannot keep ignoring. Your brand is vying for visitors, subscribers, leads, and sales.
Understanding how to create a content calendar and using the right resources to produce great content at scale can drastically improve your marketing efforts and help you achieve your goals.
Get in touch with us for high quality content delivered like clockwork on time.