A content calendar is an easy way to preserve your most scarce resource as a business owner: your time. It is an effective tool for coordinating content creation and helps you manage your weekly workload into clear, manageable assignments. The key is to create content ahead of time to give yourself time to do it right while you are busy running your business.
In my world, I spend one day a week on content creation, and I have a master content calendar for my team that schedules the four types of content we publish each week: blog posts, The SBL Buzz Newsletter, Boss Tip Videos, and The Smallbizchat Podcast. In this article, I’ll explain how I manage my weekly content using a content calendar (and how you can, too!).
10 Tips for an Effective Content Calendar
By implementing a content calendar, you will spend less time wondering what to create and instead focus on developing the creation itself. Here are my 10 tips for creating a content calendar that will keep your ideas organized and your content flowing.
1. Define Your Goals
When planning your content, it all starts with your goal. Is your content meant to generate brand awareness, drive leads, refer traffic to your website, drive sales or possibly grow your follower count on Instagram? Your goal will determine the type of content you’ll need to develop. Pushing out content without a clear purpose will not benefit your business. Start by deciding what your customer needs to know and where they hang out online. The answer to these questions should be used to determine the right social channel and content formats.
2. Use a Template
There are many free content calendars online. Choose one that will work best for you. Your content calendar can be as simple as a google form or a basic excel spreadsheet. The calendar should have a share option if you have an individual or a firm helping you develop content or doing social promotion. Your content calendar should include at least the following information:
- Type of content
- Channel where content will be published
- Date and time for publishing
- Republish option (Example: a video interview can be turned into a podcast or promoted in a newsletter and your blog.)
For content calendar templates, examples and ideas, check out this HubSpot article.
3. Choose Your Channels
Once you have a detailed customer profile and have identifed the social channels your target customers use, you’ll be able to to define the kind of content you should create. You should also consider the type of content your potential customers prefer. Keep in mind that some people like to read, others like to listen, and some prefer to learn from watching videos. Consider publishing the same content in different formats to cross-promote the content to a wider audience. To maximize your efforts, you should only focus on one or two social media sites to build an online community. It’s best to survey your target or existing customers to learn the types of content they prefer. Make sure that your content calendar is not just a social media calendar; it should also include other content, such as expert articles, guest blogs, and podcast interviews.
4. Brainstorm Content Topics
A good way to figure out the best content topics is to develop an exhaustive list of challenges your target customers face. What do you want to teach people? How can you demonstrate your expertise? Focus on creating high-quality content. No one will hire you or view you as a thought leader if your content is just ‘okay.’
5. Decide on Publishing Frequency
Determine how often you can realistically publish new content. As creating content is time-consuming, choosing a publishing frequency that works for you is important. You should develop enough content to regularly drive traffic to your website and bring value to your customers. Can you publish content 2 to 3 times per week or should you opt for just two posts per month? Whatever you decide, it’s a best practice to post content on the same day and time each week.
6. Start Filling in the Content Calendar
Start with topics you want to hit and any national holidays significant to your market. For example, I always develop content to celebrate National Small Business Week in May. Then you’ll need to start to fill in the blanks with relevant content, including:
- Blog Posts: This is where you share your story and build trust with your target audience and teach your core content to highlight your expertise.
- Visual Content: Use short-form videos or pictures from events, behind-the-scenes, products, marketing campaigns, and projects to engage your target audience. People are always interested in funny behind-the-scenes details of how your business operates.
- Series Posts: Create a series by developing two or more pieces of content to educate your target customers on a specific topic.
- External Content: This includes expert articles, op-ed pieces, guest blogs, or podcast interviews.
- Seasonal Events: Are there special events or holidays celebrated in your industry? For example, if you sell spa packages for couples, you might develop content on the 10 ways to celebrate your sweetie for Valentine’s Day.
- Client Stories: Celebrate happy clients in your content. Highlight client reviews and testimonials or develop full case studies on the results you have achieved for clients.
7. Develop Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is content that retains relevance long after it is first published. Evergreen content is search-optimized content that continually stays “fresh” for readers. The best thing about evergreen content is that it is also easy to reintroduce your older timeless articles and blog posts to your audience by adding links to your newer content related to similar themes. Here are the common evergreen formats.
- Listicles: A typical listicle post will prominently feature a number in its title. For example, Top 25 Small Business Coaches to Follow on Twitter.
- Tips: People love to read actionable tips that will allow them to generate quick results.
- How-to: How-to content is popular in any format. What do your customers want to learn?
- Videos: Video content converts better than any other content online, especially if it’s how-to advice.
- Checklists: Checklists are used effectively to help your customers move through critical tasks quickly and easily.
- Tutorials: This is not a simple list of tools. To make it valuable content, you must add tutorials with screenshots, videos, tips on how to get started, usage hacks, and insightful commentary detailing the pros and cons of pricing.
- Resources: People want to know the best resources to help them accomplish their goals. Make a list post of your favorite relevant resources.
- Product Reviews: Product reviews or book reviews are content people enjoy.
8. Have a Repurpose Strategy
You don’t always have to create content from scratch. Old blog posts can also be reused and updated through different channels, such as turning them into short-form videos, podcasts, or infographics. Your potential customers may look for information on various platforms, so it can be a good idea to present similar content in different formats. Not sure where to get started with repurposing content? Check out my article How to Create a Repurpose Strategy for Your Best Content.
9. Review Your Plan
There is no hard and fast rule on how long in advance your content should be planned. But I can tell you it’s a good idea to develop content at least a month or two in advance since you are still running your business. It might be a good idea to review the content calendar regularly to help you stay on track and plan for the quarter ahead.
10. Monitor Your Content
After spending a bunch of time and money developing content, it’s important to measure your publishing schedule against the results. Use your Google Analytics to see what is driving referral traffic to your website and what is the most popular content on your site. It’s also important to track shares, comments, and engagement. Also, you’ll want to evaluate how many opt-ins you generate from your lead magnets and social shares. Sales are the most obvious metric to track. Be sure to ask all new customers how they heard about you or send a survey after the sale.
Flexibility Is Key!
These ideas will get you started creating a content calendar for your small business blog. Once you know what content interests your audience, give the people more of what they want! Don’t be afraid to change the format of the content based on what you’re seeing in your analytics. Or the publish date/time/, the frequency of posting, or anything else we discussed here. Your content calendar will give you structure, but to maintain consistency, you’ll want to review regularly and adjust as needed.
Do you have additional tips about creating a content calendar? Let us know about them in the comments!
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