Content Calendar Templates have started popping up for sale all over these days. I have seen so many in my Facebook feed, and sometimes, I’m even tempted to buy one myself. The price is usually pretty low and the claims are usually too good to be true! But the problem with buying a template is, even if it gives you some ideas on what to post about, you still have to actually write the post, create an accompanying graphic, and then post it or schedule it to be posted. The process can be daunting.
Another drawback to using a content calendar created by someone else is that it may not completely make sense for your business. Even if it’s the same industry, everyone’s business is different and so are the people behind the business (meaning you and your employees)! There just can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. You’ll inevitably spend a lot of time trying to force your post to fit their prompt, or you’ll have to come up with something different all together. That defeats the purpose of paying to have it all laid out.
What’s the Solution? Start with A Plan
As with anything I do, the first thing I start with when creating content calendars for myself or for my clients is to start with a plan. It can be a simple, and I would also suggest you don’t try and start out overly-ambitious. Because it’s important to consistently keep up with any plan you start to get exposure and gain momentum for your small business, try starting conservatively. As you get into the rhythm and routine of executing your content strategy, you’ll be able to see where you can increase. You’ll also have a better understand of what is effective and engaging for your customers or clients.
You need to ask yourself some key questions:
- What platforms will I be posting on?
- Decide which social media platforms you’ll be using based on your preference, but also where you target marketing most likely hangs outs. Aim to use about two or three platforms like Facebook and Instagram with Pinterest or SnapChat.
- Next ask, how often will I post to each platform?
- It’s generally recommended to post at least once per day on social media, but that can be overwhelming for people and hard to keep up with consistently when just getting started. You don’t want to feel like you’re spending more time on social media than working in your business. I’d suggest getting started with posting about three times a week, let’s say Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. As you grow your following and strategy on social media, you’ll be able to check in with your analytics to see when your actual audience is most likely to be on those platforms. Eventually, you can shift your days and times accordingly, but it’s important to get started with a plan and stick to it for at least a few weeks.
- What form of content will I be creating?
- There are many options or combinations you can use to create the content you’re going to promise to deliver consistently to your audience. Whether it’s blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, or live videos, you can provide valuable, helpful information to your customers and more.
- How often can I deliver that content?
- Creating your content can play a big role in building your business. No matter which type (or types) of content you choose to create, you want to do so consistently from the get-go. If you’re going to write a blog, decide how often you will publish new posts. If you’re creating videos, decide how many you’ll do each month. When getting started, again, don’t be too excited that you go overboard and aren’t able to deliver your content consistently to you audience. Come up with a realistic plan, like blogging once per month or every other week, to get started. Commit to getting a podcast out once a week, or videos every other week.
- Keep in mind that each of these streams of content will have a workflow associated with it. You don’t just write a blog on a whim and post it. You don’t just wake up and record a new video. (If you do, and can do so consistently, you’re a Rockstar!) For most of us, it takes topic planning ahead, scheduling for writing, editing, graphics, and eventually posting, or scheduling to post. In order to stay on top of your content posting schedule, your ultimate goal should be to get ahead on content creation, so if I week comes up where you get sick or want to take a vacation, you’re able to without having to skip a week of posting. As we all know, life is unpredictable and things are bound to come up, while missing one week may not be a huge loss of your audience, keep in mind that they have limitless amount of other options of there. If you don’t show up consistently, they’ll be on to the next.
Begin to Plan Your Year
After you’ve come up with all the types of content you plan to create and post across the web, including social media. It’s time to plan out your year.
Don’t panic, you don’t have to plan out your entire year of content right now. Start by making a list of 12 topics that you can talk about related to your small business. You can have more than 12, but come up with at least 12 to get started. Don’t put to much pressure on yourself, these are just ideas to start with. You’re always allowed to pivot and change along the way. Again, we just need a good place to start. Getting started is going to be the thing that propels you forward in your small business.
After you’ve come up with a list of 12 topics, grab a calendar. It can be digital, it can be paper, it can be a planner, or just a sheet of paper with the months listed out. I grabbed a little paper planner from Dollar Tree at the beginning of the year (but I’m pretty sure they have them year-round near the office supplies) and started writing in pencil. Plug one of your 12 topics into each month. They can be a broad topic or something really specific. You have now just created your “Monthly Themes” for your own content calendar. They’re topics that apply specifically to your small business and hopefully they are things that are interesting to you and that are going to be easy for you to talk about, at length. And it doesn’t cost you anything (except maybe a dollar if you bought a little planner dedicated to planner like I did).
Side Note: I started off by creating my content calendar digitally, and I still do for my clients, but having my little handwritten planner actually helped me immensely. I created content calendars on Google Drive or One Drive, so they’d be accessible any time, anywhere, on any device. And while that is true, there was something that just made it easy for me mapping it out, in pencil, on my paper calendar. I could open it up next to a computer, tablet, or phone so I didn’t have to toggle back and forth. Both are good methods, but my suggestions is giving both options a try and seeing which works best for you. Everybody’s brain just works a little bit differently.
Start with the Current Month
Now that you have your 12 months of topics, start with the current month. Even if we are already partway through a month, it’s not too late to get started. Just start on whatever day it is. You know what your topic is going to be for the month. Based on the plan you made above, look at how many blogs you need to write or videos you need to make. Schedule the day that you will post them for this month. Go ahead and write when you will post them for next month too. Go back and schedule when you need to write or create the actual content as well. That’s all part of the plan.
Write down what day you will post to your social media accounts as well for the next two months. You don’t have to know what you are posting yet; you’re just indicating that you need to post on social media that day. Be sure to include which platform(s) you will be posting to.
You should have a calendar, whether it’s digital or paper doesn’t matter, with dates of when your content needs to be posted, when it needs to be created, and when you are committing to posting on your various social media accounts. You already know your theme for that month, so any content you post will be centered around that topic.
Now you know how many blog topics or podcast topics you need to come up with that month, about your monthly theme. After you decide what the topic will be for those content posts, you can use that to create your social media calendar. You already know you’ll want to focus on your monthly theme when posting on social media, so ask yourself what information about that topic can you provide your customers that is useful or educational. You want to create engaging content, so the goal is to provide your audience with something that can benefit them.
You can also ask your audience questions related to that topic. It’s a great way to engage and do market research at the same time! Often at the beginning of the month, I will ask my audience what their questions are regarding my planned topic and often use their answers to help guide the content that follows. The more specific you can be, the better able you will be to help answer their specific questions or to make it relatable to your intended audience. Other times I may ask people a multiple-choice question, which allows them to respond more easily, and can help me narrow down some of my ideas if I’m not sure what area of a topic to hone in on. Giving people the content that they are looking for is helpful to both you, as the small business owner and them, as the customer!
You can also share a related quote or statistic to your topic. It’s a fun way to inspire people and it’s also a pretty easy way to not have to come up with something new to post every single day. Again, make sure it’s related to your topic and meaningful. If you just post quotes all the time, it won’t be very engaging for your audience.
If it helps, you can also follow along with social media trends like “Motivation Monday” or “Tip Tuesday.” You can use these commonly used ideas to get some inspiration for what to post on Mondays or Tuesday as long as it’s useful and relevant. And don’t feel confined to only using what’s already out there. You could decide Fridays are for posting Behind the Scenes in your business, or sharing personal stories. It doesn’t have to be an official thing and you don’t even have to do it every single week. It’s all about finding ways to not dread having to post on social media, but instead finding ways to look forward to it.
Don’t forget to add the use of hashtags as part of your social media strategy. For more help on that, check out, “Hashtag Help for Your Small Business (#Hashtag Help).”
Mix It up and Have Fun
As with any content you create, people are looking for authentic, genuine, useful information. Strive to provide that for them any time you post, but don’t be afraid to mix it up and throw in a little bit of fun every once in awhile.
I’m curious, have you every purchased a content calendar template? If so, what did you think? Did this post give you enough help to go out and create your own content calendar with confidence and ease?