If you Google “How to Create a Strategic Content Calendar”, you will get no fewer than 147 million results in just under a half of a second. Needless to say, it’s a popular topic! Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all as some results would lead to you to believe. Who has time to sift through all those results, anyway?
Our experience working with solo entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small business owners has led us to create this post. Developing a strategic content calendar with a complex learning curve or one that takes way too much time to implement is simply not sustainable or feasible. This is probably why you’ve been avoiding creating one to begin with and we’re here to help with that.
Do you need something simple, effective, and efficient? This post is for you.
Why You Need a Strategic Content Calendar
Many small businesses post to their social media accounts just to be posting. Be honest – have you done the 5:00 whistle post? You know, the one where you’re leaving work for the day and throw something up on Facebook just so that you’ve shared something. Don’t worry! Even we’ve been there.
When there just aren’t enough hours in the day, creating a strategic content calendar is the last thing you want to think about. However, that’s exactly why you should make one right now. You’ll save time and money, not to mention you’ll see a higher return on your posts when you have a plan.
A strategic content calendar will also help hold you and your team accountable. Plus, when you see that your content is actually getting you the results you hoped for, it will motivate you to keep going. After all, we know that social media marketing is not likely your most favorite part of your job.
Simple Steps to Create a Strategic Content Calendar
The organization of your content is likely to be one of your biggest challenges and you’re not alone. Where do you start? What should you prioritize? How do you find your voice? These are all critical pieces, so we’ve simplified the process of getting started.
- Determine which social media channels you are going to use and can genuinely commit to engaging with. If you know you just can’t or simply won’t use a platform, go ahead and delete that account. Focus on the ones you will “do” as well as possible.
- Commit a minimum of one hour per week to working on your strategic content calendar. It’s important to prioritize this work and find the time to make it happen on a consistent basis.
- Review your own style of organization. As you create a strategic content calendar, create one that compliments your nature. Not sure of your style? Check out this handy quiz with organizational tips.
- Develop goals and what you want to accomplish. These targets give you a direction to go with when you’re creating content. Goals can be anything you want them to be, just as long as you set them. Examples include “getting 300 more followers on Instagram in 30 days” or “get 20 new retail orders through Facebook each week.” No matter what, write them down, be specific, be optimistic, and be realistic.
The Annual Overview of a Strategic Content Calendar
- Create an annual overview calendar that includes all 12 months, January through December, even if you start the annual overview in the middle of the year.
- For each month, list all holidays (federal, state, personal, and just for fun). HubSpot has a really great template to pull from and don’t forget the “National Awareness” events, particularly if they apply to your industry.
- Next, for each month outline any and all possible or definitive promotions or events that you might be running for your business. No matter what kind of business you have, there is always a way to incorporate a sale, a giveaway, a discount code, a contest, an event, or even an introduction of a new product or service. For inspiration, check out our 12 last minute holiday marketing tips.
- Using all of the above, define a monthly theme for your business to apply across your social media channels. Let’s use a dental practice as an example. We would recommend making February’s theme “we ‘love’ providing dental care for kids”, which pulls in a Valentine’s Day reference (love) and the National Children’s Dental Health Month (kids/dentistry). This will then be used as a guide to craft more specific content.
- Determine your email or newsletter frequency. Pencil in the dates you plan to send a blast and confirm the send out date of your more robust campaigns.
- Lastly, under each month, craft a couple of blog subjects and titles. Play off of your monthly themes, holidays, and promotions. While we recommend blogging once per week, most small businesses find bi-weekly to be more manageable. (It’s important that we note here that you should blog often and consistently. If you’re deciding where to put your time or money, blogging would be at the top of our list.)
Create the Content for Your Strategic Content Calendar
- Get a scheduling tool. We recommend Buffer because of their price, intuitive platform, and functionality. Other favorites include Meet Edgar, Hootsuite, and SproutSocial. This is the only step that requires a little tech know-how, but once you are signed up for one of these platforms, request a demo and training. Spend just one morning learning how to use it and you’ll save yourself countless hours in the long run.
- Design a 30/31 day calendar for each month for a total of twelve. Under each day of the month, leave a space for your theme, each social media platform, blog topic, newsletter send date, and promotion. Using a simple excel spreadsheet, we find the following to be a helpful guide.
- DO NOT GET OVERWHELMED. Our goal is to make this easy for you, so if you are already breaking out in a cold sweat, stop right there. This piece of the creation is simply a visual for you to see how to plan out your posts. Use a pencil, sleep on it, hand it off to an intern. The idea is to start organizing your strategy to help you avoid that 5:00 whistle post. As you develop your own system for laying out content ahead of time, this will become second nature. If you’re a visual person, like me, you’ll like the idea of having this printed and stapled into your daily planner. On the flip side, if visual doesn’t do it for you, you can skip this step and head straight to the content development.
- Create content. Now that you have your day to day calendar or scheduling tool, you can follow your guide and plan out great content. Do it in lumps – a week at a time, a month at a time. You really can look down the road and have posts ready to go. Don’t get so carried away that you don’t post any current or relevant posts, but you can give yourself a break.
- Finally, don’t forget to measure the results. How you measure will depend on what goals you set. The best advice is to keep it simple and measure at least once a month. If you aren’t reaching your goals, mix up what you’re doing. Find the pain points and adjust. Don’t repeat the same mistakes!
Put Your Strategic Content Calendar to Work
Not only does all this help you get ahead, but it also saves you the stress of worrying about what to post and when to post. And, let’s face it… a synonym for strategic is “organized.”
As always, we’re here for you every step of the way! We provide affordable consultation services by the hour. Even if you just need a few minutes’ help to set up your spreadsheet, we’ve got you covered!
~Jenny Green, Co-Owner @ Fisher Green Creative, firstname.lastname@example.org