Why and how you should create a content calendar

There are many things that can feel overwhelming when your company is making its first steps on social media. How do I budget? How am I going to measure success? How long before I see results? But there is one practical question that seems to be daunting to every marketer: what am I going to post? Social media channels suddenly look like monsters that need to be fed constantly. Leave them alone for a few days and engagement drops, making them look like deserted cities. And that is one scary view.

So how do you go about this? How do you decide what to post? 
Well, first of all, here's what you should NOT do: start drafting posts immediately while hoping for the best. It might feel faster but trust me, it's not. Good social media content requires good planning.
I'm going to describe a few steps that should help you literally fill in the blanks.

Work in batches of one month.

More power to you if you can do more than that, but let's start with one month. 

Increased productivity.

Working in batch makes you more efficient, because you get in the flow. You might spend the first 5 or 10 minutes staring at the page or screen, but once the ideas start coming, you'll see that the list gets longer very quickly. You will then fill in your content calendar in no time. 
A lot of people decide to make their content calendar a weekly (or worse, daily) thing, but trust me, if you were to add up the time spent, it would come up to much more than an monthly session will last.

Faster approval/review.

Chances are your content plan needs to be approved by someone. Or by many people. This process usually takes a lot of time, especially as this task might not be as high a priority for them as it is for you. Going through the approval process each week is draining for everyone. Your colleagues will feel that they are at it yet again, and you'll spend a lot of time chasing them around for feed-back.
Making the approval of your content plan a monthly affair, is making them and yourself a big favor.

Create a monthly content calendar.

You need a template.

Wether you work digitally or on paper, spend 20 mins creating something that you will be able to re-use again and again. Personally, I rather do this step on paper, with a whole month printed on an A4 page, in landscape view (even Microsoft Outlook will allow you to print that out). This way I get a global vision on the month to come.

Sometimes, paper just gives you a better helicopter view than digital.

Sometimes, paper just gives you a better helicopter view than digital.

Start filling in.

There are many many things happening in a company that can be good material for a social media post :

  • Is your company attending a conference, as an exhibitor or with a speaker, or even just to visit? Highlight those days in your calendar.
  • Are there any special promotions that sales has developed? Your clients will need to know about it. Even if you shouldn't be too sales-y on social media, sharing a good deal every once in a while can be good.
  • New product launches are probably worth some teasing, as well as a proper announcement.

In short, discuss with your colleagues from sales and marketing, but also from HR (hello, recruitment events ?) and mark down every piece of news that could be shared with your community.

You are creating your own content, right ?

It's 2016; if your company is not creating any content yet, we need to talk.
But for now I'm going to assume that you do produce content, and of course it should be promoted. Write that down in your content calendar as well. I bet by now, it doesn't look as empty anymore.

What with the spots left blank ?

When you worked on social media strategy, you determined what channels would be used and at what frequency. There is a high chance that you're posting on Twitter much more than on Facebook, for example, since the life span of a tweet is so short.

So now you can really see what is missing in your monthly content calendar. Do I have enough for 3 Facebook posts a week? Can I come up with 2 new tweets every day to supplement the ones I repeat? If the answer is no, then it's time to move on to your next tool...

Content Curation.

It might be really hard to feed the social media monster on your own when your company is not producing enough content. Luckily, it's ok to fill in the blanks with... content created by others - the one condition being that this content will serve your audience, and that you add your personal touch or comment to it. 

So, go tap into your reservoir of saved interesting posts or videos, and use those to fill in the blanks.

Pro Tip: use post-it notes.

If you're working on a paper content calendar, then it's obviously a little bit more tedious to delate and change things than on a digital version. Unless you use small post-it notes! Simply write every element on a separate post-it, and place it on the day where you intend to post it (no pun intended). Then if you need to move things around, simply swap the post-its. 

Get your monthly content calendar approved.

Writing the social content for the whole month, creating the graphics that go along with them, and scheduling your posts is going to take time. So if there is anything you should change, it's better to hear about it as early as possible in the process. Getting your general content calendar approved before you start writing will help you save time. For one, you shouldn't hear down the line that half of it shouldn't be talked about on social and that you need to find 8 new ideas. And secondly, you will notice that the writing process is definitely faster when you already know the topics!

Work in progress

Work in progress

Are you using a content calendar already? What is your experience with it? Share it in the comments! 

The calendar template used in the pictures is a creation of Fran Meneses, Illustrator

Marie-Helene Dibenedetto