Inspiration to Implementation: How to Create your First Content Calendar

If I’m working, I usually have a couple Google tabs open tab at any given time: one for my mail, another for whatever thing I’ve just looked up and one for my calendar. I’ve got the calendar synced with my Facebook and Gmail accounts to remind me of birthdays, events and what projects I have do. Using a calendar is the best way to ensure I’m prepped for the week ahead and that deadlines get met. When you’ve grown your online business to the point of regular social media posts and B2C interaction, there's another kind of calendar that's just as important as any other: your content calendar. I’m going to go through how to create your first content calendar, from inspiration and idea creation to segmentation and implementation.

Just to cover this before we go too far down a rabbit hole: a content calendar is barely different from your normal work calendar, just a bit more specialized. A proper content calendar should be a dedicated map of your future social media or blog posts. Like any other calendar, its main goal is simply organization. A well-crafted content calendar is a great way to plan out your social media activities in advance, and as a business owner it lets you control your messaging and engagement on different social media platforms to further establish your brand.

Hubspot provides a variety of content calendar templates, but I recommend starting with a Google Calendar or Doc. I find Google Docs handier than Excel because it’s accessible online rather than from a desktop, and all updates are pushed live so you and your team are all (literally) on the same page. From Calendar.Google use the drop down on the left next to My Calendars to add a new one dedicated purely for your content marketing.

Different social media channels will have different post etiquette. Twitter and Pinterest are inherently more agile and can withstand multiple posts a day, whereas Facebook and LinkedIn move a bit slower, and you’ll want to keep to posting relevant content to only once or twice a day. Find two or three platforms to work on first (don’t overload) and follow best practices for posting schedules.

Consistency is everything, which is why you’re creating a calendar in the first place. For beginners, I would recommend writing out posts in advance. This is going to facilitate posting regularly and you will have included all necessary assets. This way the text, image link our outside link can live tidily within your calendar until they’re ready to go. From there you can plug and play your content buckets into their respective platforms – a longer description to Facebook, something punchy for twitter, the relevant hashtags for Instagram, etc. – quickly and easily.

Post topics are the next big step – you know, the actual content of the calendar. I recommend using the pithier rhyme of “show, tell, grow, sell.” In a balanced cycle, show something within your industry you (and your customers) will enjoy, tell them something new or exciting, grow your business by linking to fellow bloggers or posting contests and sell sell sell. Switch these up, and mix-and-match your post content to avoid fatiguing your customers in one of these four tenants. Too many outbound links and your page may seem spammy, too much self-selling and you’re not providing any additional value. Mix in industry news as well as fluffier content that is shareable. Protip: look at your competitors (the big ones) and see what they’re doing successfully.

In order to come up with relevant posts to share, plug national holidays and major events into your content calendar. Holidays, from national ones to smaller, benign ones can provide the perfect excuse to post something. National talk like a pirate day? The content writes itself. Presidential election taking the news cycle over? Done. Major industry conference coming up? Easy peasy. Again, the goal is consistency, so these major events will really pay off in the future if your natural creativity starts to wane.

Ultimately, a living content calendar is going to pay dividends in saving time and sanity for your editorial schedule. The biggest step will be to create the document and flesh out the first month. Once you’ve got that covered, your content calendar will take it from there.

How do you manage your content calendar? Let us know in the comments!