[Free] Content Calendar Template: Get organised for the year
Written by Luke SmithJul 14, 17
Do you know what you’re posting, sharing, and blogging this Thursday? How about two Thursdays from now? Thursday of next month?
If you answered "mmm... not too sure" to any of these, the good news is you're not alone.
Too many small businesses are left chasing their tails throughout the year because they simply fail to put any real plan in place.
If you've ever scrambled to put together a last-minute blog or social media post and vowed that 'this is the year you get a handle on social' but come up short when you realise you've got no idea where to start — then this is the blog for you.
Enter, the holy grail of Content Calendars. The one simple tool you need to finally get a grip on your marketing (and start getting those social media posts out ahead of time!)
Simply put, having a calendar helps us:
- Manage our time better
- Stops us from missing deadlines and important dates
- Helps create clarity, direction and a common goal for all of our marketing.
Today we'll be looking at why every business should have a content calendar and how they can help your business become more organized, time efficient and better prepared.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What a content calendar is
- How it can benefit you
- We’ll give you our template
- Show you how to fill it out
- How to get more mileage out of your blog posts
What is a content calendar?
No surprises here, it's a document that helps you plan your content. An overview of the year that accounts for important dates, allows us to plan for seasonal events, and accommodate for various peaks and troughs throughout the year.
A content calendar is a way for businesses to plan, schedule and organise their content, ads and social media.
Armed with this understanding we'll dive into why you need one and where to start.
Why should I use a content calendar?
In case you missed Part 1 of our Content Marketing series: What is Content Marketing and how it can benefit your business, here's a brief recap.
Content Marketing helps you:
- Find new customers
- Build trust
- Improve customer experience
- Increase brand loyalty
Simply put, content helps reach you reach your customers earlier in the sales cycle. Engaging them with useful and relevant content designed to educate, provide value and solve problems. Ultimately leading to increased engagement, sales and longer relationships.
businesses need content calendars because 'flying by the seat of your pants' rarely works as a long-term strategy.
Here’s how the content calendar can transform your marketing:
- See the big picture: Do you ever ask, why the hell am I doing this? By planning ahead, you’ll know exactly where it fits into your overall strategy.
- Manage your time and resources: Simply put, a calendar helps us manage our time better. By planning ahead you’ll be in control, making your marketing more efficient and more effective.
- Become Proactive: It’s finally time to capitalize on your wealth of experience by putting it down on paper. Plan and organize around key events, dates, and launches.
- Use Social Media more effectively: Knowing what’s ahead allows you to create supporting content around those events; educating and informing your audience.
- Create better content: Your customers want information! Help them understand your business with a clear content strategy
With a solid content calendar in place you'll be seeing into the future... well, not quite, but that's what it’ll feel like.
Most importantly, a content calendar helps transform your business' marketing efforts from reactive, to proactive. Eliminating the last minute scramble to come up with things to post.
We’ll give you our template
As promised, here is the best of the best as far as content calendars are concerned. Having first tried our hand and sampled many of the others out there, we've taken the bits we liked to make our own brand of Franken-calendar.
Here’s why ours is the best:
- You can see the whole year
- It allows you to focus on days of the week: helping you to easily create patterns and form habits, without getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty.
- We’ve filled in some key dates (at the moment it’s only for Western Australia — let us know in the comments if you’d like us to create one for your state or Country).
- It's also the best damn looking calendar out there. (Let us know if you find one prettier, we’d be happy to collectively bask in its beauty). Why does it need to look good? Well, cost-benefit analysis says that our behaviour is influenced by how easy or difficult we perceive an action to be. An easy-looking calendar is more likely to gain a positive, visceral reaction.
What should I include in my calendar?
Social media by nature is spontaneous, so the idea of trying to plan what meme you're going to post 6 months from now may seem futile, and it is. But that's not the point of your content calendar. This calendar shouldn't be replacing your weekly engagement: sharing, liking, comments etc. This calendar should help plan for those key events, creating content in the lead up to the event/promotion.
Your calendar should be a high-level overview of the next few months. Plan as far ahead as you like, but there’s no point including your social media posts for next year.
What you can expect:
- The content calendar should give you a high-level overview of your marketing for the year. Highlighting key events and dates related to your industry.
- Use it to plan blog posts and promotions over three months.
- Also plan Facebook posts a month in advance.
To keep it simple, we’ll be focusing on blog posts and Facebook to illustrate how you can distribute your content to ensure you get the most bang for your buck out of the effort you put in, and to maximise the exposure your blog post gets without boring your followers to death. But feel free to adapt the calendar to whatever marketing mix your team is using.
What content should I post/share?
Content and social media are very simple: post content your customers are interested in. Make it fun, make it engaging, be personable, post, share and like things your customers actually want to read!
Anyone can do this for things they like. But for a business to be successful on social, there’s one small detail nearly all small businesses overlook: understanding your audience!
The importance of understanding who you’re talking to, and then tailoring your message to them cannot be understated. This topic is something we’re really passionate about, but it’s a rabbit hole far bigger than this article. Stay tuned for our full rundown on understanding your audience using our persona mapping worksheet. Our sign-up to our newsletter for practical updates, tools and tips to help small businesses get a grip on their marketing.
How often should I post?
There’s no golden rule for this, but a couple of things to keep in mind:
- You can never post too much: recent changes to the news feed algorithm means you have about a 3% chance of your followers seeing a post.
- Quality over quantity: don’t post garbage
- 80/20 rule: 80% of content that belongs on social media.
How to fill it out in 7 easy steps
To make filling out the calendar as easy as possible, we've broken it down into seven logical steps. We've also provided an example of each step using a Pest Inspection Company.
1. Think about your audience.
Content is all about delivering value to your audience.
Think about their needs, what they're looking for, how you can ease pain points, or improve their understanding of your product, service or industry.
Don't forget: your customers want to speak to humans. Social media is an excellent platform to help your customers put a face to a name and humanise the company.
Most importantly: social media is trial and error. Don't be afraid to dive in and have a go.
2. Key events for your industry:
Start by highlighting all the important dates in red. This is the concrete stuff: things that are definitely going to happen. As an example, from my experience, I can say—with a high degree of certainty—that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. Similarly, I’m fairly confident that Summer and Winter are going to continue for the foreseeable future (depends who you ask). With this in mind, here’s a couple to get you started:
- Seasonal: Summer, Winter, etc.
- School holidays, Financial End of year
- Holidays: Australia Day, Anzac Day, Christmas
- Events and Charities that align with your company values: how can you support these?
2. Important Dates to your Company:
- Company Birthday
- Employee Birthdays
- Please don’t make the mistake of forgetting about these! A quick social media post to celebrate the birthday of an employee is a great morale booster and an opportunity to demonstrate how valuable they are to the company
3. Peaks and Troughs
- What can we do to build upon these?
- What is the catalyst?
- How can you combat the downturns?
4. Sales and Promotions
- Of the dates listed above, which should you create a promotion around?
- Jot down a couple of ideas
- Which should you create a social post for?
5. Paid advertisements
- How will you get the message out?
Is increasing your social media following one of your marketing objectives? Then it’s probably time to start thinking about running a competition.
Based on your promotions, you should be trying to fill the available slots with content around the theme for this month. Warming them to the idea of potential problems, and encouraging them to see your business as the solution.
What information can we put out to educate our customers?
A quick note on getting the most out of your content
If you're going to spend the time creating the content, you may as well get some mileage out of it. Unfortunately, the evil geniuses over at Facebook are making it increasingly difficult for businesses to get their content out in front of their followers. With the latest studies indicating a dismal 3% of your followers actually see your content, you'd be forgiven for sharing the content you've been slaving over more than once. But no one
- Share it on numerous channels – Don’t just use content once, split it up and create new content for a different platform, maximize the reach of each piece by ensuring it appears on all your social media platforms over time.
- Get your team onboard – Effective marketing using a content calendar requires a team effort, so make sure everyone is using the tools available.
- Instagram hashtags and locations – Finding your message is key to success, make sure you use appropriate hash tags and locations to increase shares and your audience with it.
- Share it a couple of times but keep it unique – Change your content up a little to create brand new content that avoids repetition, keeping it fresh for your audience.
- Recycle your content – Make sure you use all content on all your social media platforms, edit and adjust content to keep it fresh.
- Best times/days to post for your audience – Experiment to find the best time of day to post, check your engagement and responses to understand when your audience response is at its peak.
Given Facebook’s cruel algorithm, your content may not always be seen by your followers. In fact, current page reach is somewhere between 2 and 5 percent, meaning for every 100 people that like your page, only between 2 and 5 of them will actually see your post. (https://www.inc.com/larry-kim/goodbye-facebook-news-feed-10-things-publishers-need-to-know-about-news-feed-armageddon.html)
So, we’ve got a couple of tricks up our sleeve to help you get the most out of the content and maximise exposure, without spamming your followers to death.
The gist of this approach is that you take pieces of content from your blog and distribute across social media throughout the week. Here's an example of how you could dissect your blog:
- Full article
- Select a quote
- Share an image
- Post a statistic
- Turn statistics into a graphic/infographic
- Find a meme related to your content
Each section of the blog posted increases your online visibility, providing content to your audience on the platform while encouraging them to visit your site to enjoy more of the content they are actively looking for. Because that one article can become five or 6 pieces of social media marketing content, it provides incredible value for the effort that is put in to create the original blog post. This ability to make the most of content and time together is one of the most valuable aspects of the calendar, and why it is such a valuable tool for your marketing.
Now we can show you how to create content your audience actually wants
The key for any content is that it is of interest to your audience. It doesn’t always have to be about your product or service, but if you were providing racing driver instruction for instance, then content revolving around car racing, not necessarily instruction, would be relevant content that your audience is interested in.
Think about the interests associated with your product, things that your audience would be interested in: that is connected to, but not always focused on what you have to offer, and this is the area that you can create effective content for. The key to maximizing that content though is to ensure it is seen by as many potential customers as possible, and the calendar is the perfect tool to help you do this.
Stay tuned for our Customer Avatar worksheet and a more thorough breakdown of how to create content your customers actually want to read!
By using our calendar, you can be more effective while freeing up time as well, and though this is not an overnight solution to getting results, it will over time ensure that your content marketing efforts get the best results possible.
If you need some help getting things sorted or getting it all down on paper, then get in contact with the team here at isolutions. Call 9443 2221 or Email:[email protected]
Got a project on the cards? We’d love to hear about it.Schedule a time to discuss