The internet never sleeps, nor does it ever go on vacation. If you’ve been marketing your product or service online, you know how difficult it can be to come up with fresh, insightful content.
The online world’s appetite for valuable content is insatiable.
However, you also know that even the best of your employees are human and, therefore, finite. Whenever your top performers need a break, it’s in your best interest to ensure they get vacation time. Still, you need to keep the production line rolling in their absence. This is where the usefulness and effectiveness of your content marketing calendar come into play.
Which type of content marketing calendar works best?
Nowadays, there are many social media calendars, tools, and templates your business can purchase, download, or mimic to get started. The absence of tools is not the problem, not anymore. Many are free! Instead, the most common problems are a lack of adequate planning and failure to assign adequate coverage.
Many managers make the rookie mistake of severely underestimating both the creative process and the sheer drudgery associated with content publication. Your best bet is to start small and build as you go.
One helpful rule of thumb is to adopt the belief that one high-quality post is far better than 10 bland posts. Cranking out “Meh” messages is likely to do more harm than good for the reputation of your business.
Just starting? No problem, here’s a step-by-step guide.
You might be feeling some anxiety or even panic as summer marches on. However, for your own benefit, resist the urge to skip to step No. 6. If steps 1-5 represent little more than ticking off a few checkboxes for you, that’s great. Just make sure these undergirding content marketing calendaring practices have been fully addressed prior to cranking out messages and automating any of your feeds.
1. Start with clear, written content marketing objectives.
Yes, the temptation to dive in and get going is huge. However, entering into a content marketing calendar with any degree of hurry will come back to bite you.
Sketch out a quick one-pager that says something a little bit more than “increase sales.” Your mission statement, which you’ll memorize, should be less than 50 words. Make sure every member of your marketing team knows the underlying objectives. Without a “true north” that everyone understands 100%, your content trajectory will drift.
2. Conduct a pre-existing content inventory.
What do you have already on hand that could be repurposed for online eCommerce?
Did your team write a printed marketing piece last year? Maybe your technicians created a how-to video for YouTube? When someone walks in your door or calls, what materials do your employees gravitate toward to help them answer questions? Any one of those existing go-to resources represents an opportunity to market your product or service online.
But republishing fliers or promotional pieces you’ve received from vendors won’t cut it. Plenty of competitors offer your product or service. Why should someone choose to come to your store?
3. Create at least three customer personas.
A customer persona is a fictional representation of your “average” customer or client. As your team develops messages, they should run everything through this grid.
Invest the time to create at least a handful of diverse personas. This is especially useful if your product appeals to a wide spectrum of customers. Many businesses make the mistake of targeting messages to a narrow slice of humanity. For example, a snarky response on social media might score some points with Millennials but fall flat with your base.
4. Pick and use your preferred marketing channels carefully.
Where are your prospective customers gathering and exchanging information? It’s become common knowledge that Facebook long ago became the preferred hangout for people 25-35. Today, it can be tricky to pick your format and channels, but a lack of intentionality in this regard carries with it the potential to kill any campaign as soon as it launches.
In addition to making sure you are on the right channel, you will want to avoid “channel overkill.” Consumers see this a lot and it gets old fast. For example, content created for Instagram should focus on visuals whereas content created for Twitter relies primarily on the clever use of words. Copying and pasting from one channel to another doesn’t work.
5. Seek to create bulletproof content.
In a rush to get something out on the internet, it’s all too easy to forget its permanence. As soon as you press the “Publish” button, you have effectively lost all control over your content. Users often take screenshots and keep them stored on their smartphones (and their cloud accounts) forever. This is especially true when businesses publish online content that is tone-deaf, inaccurate, or just plain cringeworthy.
While they were on location in Spain shooting the 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian, director and screenwriter John Milius once told star Arnold Schwarzenegger that “Pain is temporary, but the film is permanent.” Perhaps not the most sensitive thing to say to someone enduring a punishing workout doing all his own stunts, but it stuck. As you move forward, consider adopting “The internet is permanent” as your team’s rallying cry.
6. Choose a calendaring template and start scheduling.
If you’re just starting to publish online content, use a manual-posts-only approach. Observe which features you will need to accommodate on your social media calendar. Keep careful notes as you go along. There are a plethora of calendaring templates available, but choosing one and then switching to another later on will only waste more time.
How often do you need to publish? What times of day seem to be most favorable for your industry? Do you have the right people in place to support your production schedule? Only by starting small and building will you get actionable answers to these key questions. Then you can pick your best template.
7. Moderate, moderate, moderate.
Another rookie mistake to avoid is treating your messaging channels as a one-way avenue. Yes, you are publishing valuable information, but success demands that you allow the world to interact. More than one communication initiative has failed for a lack of staff to respond to emails, comments, and complaints.
When your campaign takes off, you might well find that you are spending more time interacting with interested consumers than you are crafting new messages.
8. Slowly begin automating your marketing.
Following up on the “start small and build” approach, be careful not to move into automation software too soon. Ensure that more than one employee has “the keys to the car.” It’s on you as a manager to make sure that you are 100% familiar with all of the creation and posting processes before you turn your people loose with automation.
For example, even the best copywriter occasionally misses a typo. Sometimes we copy and paste the mistake across multiple channels. Say that your singular social media person sets up 10 days of communications that contain an error. He or she then jets off to a remote locale. You will very much want to get into your accounts and fix future inaccuracies.
9. Gather and filter response data.
As your team moves deeper into communicating online, it can be tempting to put too much focus on various responses. For example, an exceptionally poor review on Amazon might put your team into a funk. This is where the importance of data-driven decisions comes into play. Pivoting your approach in response to a handful of grumblers might be a serious mistake.
Are sales inching up, even incrementally? Are an increasing number of people visiting your site? Have interactions been by and large positive? Gather hard data — website analytics, financial numbers, etc. — to serve as your benchmarks before making even small shifts in your approach.
10. Adopt, adapt, and improve.
Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged as you seek to establish a regular rhythm, tone, and voice. Own all of your misfires and mistakes. Learn from the comments you receive. Of course, not every voice should assume an equal weight in your deliberations.
As you track what works for you, maintain an authenticity that is palpable as customers begin to interact with your company online and perhaps even visit your storefront. You’ll get there!