With so many roles and moving pieces, having a plan is imperative. Not only will it keep you organized, but it means you’re more likely to send your content out into world with intent, rather than all willy nilly just to wind up face-palming yourself and wondering why the heck it isn’t working.
Don’t get us wrong — like in many aspects of life, spontaneity has its place in content marketing. There are some things you just can’t predict. Shocking current affairs may present an unforeseen opportunity, a new marketing trend may surface in your industry, or that perfect Instagram story moment might appear out of nowhere. It’s important to be flexible and take advantage of those unexpected gems.
But similar to how certain guiding factors help us achieve our life goals, creating a plan for your content strategy ensures that it will help your venture reach its goals.
What is content marketing?
The actual concept of content marketing is where a lot of people get stuck. Content marketing comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Nowadays, much of it is done digitally, often in the form of blogs, video, social media, articles, infographics and so on.
The goal of content marketing is to create something of value that both engages your target market and promotes your brand and goals. And it’s not just about creating content — it’s about creating quality content, consistently and strategically.
This is where the benefits of having a plan, or a content calendar, come into play.
What is a content calendar, and how do I make one?
A content calendar outlines your company’s upcoming content strategy, often for the next six months to a year, broken down weekly or daily depending on how much content you produce. These calendars look different for every business, but there are some general guidelines to follow.
Before you can start working towards your goals, you need to know what they are.
It sounds simple, but this important step is often skipped. Come up with around 3 - 6 solid goals that you want to achieve with your content strategy and write them down. Some examples include:
Promoting the products/services you offer
Showcasing your expertise in a certain industry
Directing traffic to your website
Generating earned media
These are just a few ideas, and they may vary greatly or become much more specific depending on the nature of your business.
Creating goals is an essential part of an effective content calendar, and you should refer back to them continuously to make sure that every piece of content you create accomplishes at least one of them.
Now that you’ve laid out some ground rules, it’s time for the fun part. Grab some coffee, gather with your team (if you have one) and let the ideas flow.
Start thinking up some different content ideas that suit your brand and goals. Probably not every idea you have will end up being utilized, but write them all down anyway. That’s the joy of brainstorming — you never know what might spark your best idea.
Choose your channels
At this point, you should have a big list of content ideas. But creating the content is just half the battle — you also need to figure out how to make it reach the eyes and ears of your target market.
Make sure you are choosing channels that make sense for both the content you want to create, and your business. What would work great for a real estate agency may not work at all for a cannabis business. Spread your strategy across several mediums, but don’t waste your time, energy and money on channels that won’t bring you results.
Some common digital channels for content marketing include:
Once you spend all that time crafting your content, make it work for you. Most forms of content can be shared over multiple platforms; for example, share your blogs on your social channels and in your email marketing campaigns to help spread the word with little additional time or effort.
Start mapping out content that aligns with your goals
Now, you should be able to create a template for your content calendar and start plugging in content ideas.
Content calendars are typically organized by date on one side, and by a few columns on the other side including the content idea, the channel that will be used to distribute it, and which goal(s) it accomplishes. We recommend listing your goals somewhere on your content calendar so that it’s easy to refer back to them.
As you’re placing your content ideas, make sure you’re asking the right questions — which goal does this content align with? Will it engage your target audience? How can you incorporate some internet best practices, such as SEO?
Follow the dang plan, but be flexible
You’ve made a solid plan — now the tough part is sticking to it.
Follow your calendar to the best of your ability, measure your results when possible, and adjust when needed. Refer to your plan regularly but remember, it’s okay to be flexible. Things change, and don’t miss out on a great opportunity just because it’s not on the list you created months ago.
You may find at one point that your plan isn’t producing the results you’d hoped for, which means it’s time to re-evaluate and make some changes. And that’s okay — you’re learning things about your business and industry that you may have never known otherwise, and your strategy will only become stronger because of it.
What are the benefits of using a content calendar?
If your content calendar is effective and you follow it properly, the benefits are plentiful.
Spend your time and energy creating engaging, valuable content with a purpose rather than wasting it on something futile. Stand out from the competition by sparking creative ideas. Catch opportunities that would have been missed if you hadn’t planned ahead.
Most importantly, create a strong brand presence, build relationships with your audience, and accomplish your marketing goals.
Feeling overwhelmed? We can help. Contact us for more information about a content strategy for your business.