For some people, building an online presence seems to be as easy to do as remembering to drink coffee every morning.  It becomes part of their routine without any effort, it seems, on their part. Others struggle for weeks, months, even years, to get into the habit of posting regularly – they can’t find the time, they don’t know what to say, it always feels rushed or irrelevant. Well, if that’s you, don’t worry, because we have the solution to all your problems!

Introducing the Content Calendar

A content calendar is your tool to help you decide what to post and when, and then to keep you organised and on track to get that content written and posted. Some of the steps below you may have already figured out, so feel free to skip to the parts of the process which you’ve not already considered.

photo of a laptop, notebook and a diary being used to create a content calendar

© Katie Goudie

Decide which accounts to use

Do you have Facebook? Twitter? Snapchat? Instagram? A blog? Google+? Reddit? Imgur? YouTube? Tumblr? That new fangled thingy invented last week that you’re sure all the kids are using but you haven’t signed up for it yet?

Check out what your competitors are using and how their audience interacts. Find out what platforms your audience most enjoy using. What kind of content do you like making and what fits in with the way you want to present your business? Then decide where to invest your efforts for the best returns.

Decide how often to post on each one

Here’s another one where you need to do your research. Have a look at research which investigates the optimal posting frequency on each platform. Take these with a pinch of salt of course, because your audience may be different than the generic average.

Also you need to consider how much time you have yourself or within your organisation for creating content. It takes more time than you might think so start off light, and add in more posting days or times as you can manage them.

Pick times as well as dates

You’ll find that certain times are better for reaching your audience on a particular platform than others – do people read your blog on their lunch break? Check your Instagram feed on their commute home? Maybe all your customers are in a different time zone and so they’ll look at your content at a different time than you might expect. Getting your post into their feed at the right moment can have a huge difference on whether or not people see it, especially in this world of content overload, so do your research and stick to the times that will work best.

Brainstorm content ideas

Some people dread brainstorming and others think it’s the fun part – either way it doesn’t have to be a chore. Get together with your content team, if you have one, or schedule a meeting with yourself and turn off your phone for now.

Start making a list of all the ideas you have for topics for posts and series, things you know, sources of information, things your customers want to hear from you, cool stuff you’ve seen on competitors blogs, questions your customers are always asking, and anything else which inspires you to write. Anything is fair game at this point, don’t worry about whether or not it’s a ‘good idea’ or how you’re going to create content on that topic. Just fire everything down.

If the list looks a bit bare, don’t worry. There are lots of tools you can use to help you come up with more ideas.

Then take a second sweep of your list and see if there are ideas coming up repeatedly. Circle a few things which you’re already excited to write about.

Slot in the content

Now’s the time to get out your diary, your GCal or iCal, or even just a blank sheet of paper and write out a list of days or a grid of dates. You can start with just a month if this is your first calendar – with notes for later in the year added to the end.

First mark up the days you’re going to post and the type of content you’re going to creat.

Then take each of your circled content ideas and slot it in next to an entry in your calendar. Remember you’ll be cross posting between your accounts – especially if you write blogs that you want to promote. Instagram pictures display well on Facebook. YouTube videos look great in a Twitter or Facebook feed. Snapchats can be saved and reposted on Instagram to direct your followers to find you there.

Leave a little room for an extra post or two if you’re inspired nearer the time. Or pick a few topics that you could switch out nearer the time if you have a better idea. Your calendar needs to be flexible for it to be realistic.

Share it with your team

Now is the time, however, to share your outline calendar with a wider team – obviously your content team, if you have one, were involved in the whole process, right. Your trusted advisers within your networks can substitute, if you’re a freelancer or sole trader. They might have more ideas, or be able to spot obvious flaws in your plans.

The other thing your colleagues and contacts can do is to hold you accountable to your schedule. You need someone to have your back, who’ll remind you if you miss a post, and encourage you to keep creating. Forming a new habit, like regular posting, can be a lot of work to start with, so you don’t want to leave it to chance and to your own will power.

Book time in your calendar for content creation

Once you’re happy with your calendar for now, open up your own diary and set a date to run through this exercise again to create your next content calendar, and keep up the momentum.

Then, look at each topic or set of posts, and mark in your diary when you’re going to write them. Book out meeting times, if you need to, so you don’t get side tracked, or use a part of your day when you know you’ll always be free.

Don’t drink wine* instead of writing blog posts

The most important thing is to protect the time you need to get the content made, otherwise it will never happen. When it’s writing time you write. If it’s writing time later, make sure you’re ready to get cracking as soon as you sit down at your computer. You can’t make video content when you’re not camera ready!

Having said that, you’re all adults. If you want to sit on a Tuesday evening with a glass of wine and get all your content prepared for the following week, you crack on! But maybe have a quick read over our advice on editing, and take a look at your content on a Monday morning before you hit publish

*If you don’t drink wine anyway, substitute your own personal vice of procrastination.

If you need a little help

If the whole content calendar process feels a bit overwhelming, or you have trouble with just one step, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We have plenty of experience in content planning and can help you put together a calendar, encourage you to stick to it, and fill in for you when you’re too busy to create content yourself. If you need to call for back up, just get in touch to discuss your own needs.

Your stories

Have you used a content calendar before or will this before your first time? Maybe you’ve got some great tools you’d like to share for others to use. Let us know how you get on and if you have any questions in the comments below.