5 steps to creating an effective content calendar

With 2020 officially behind us and the post-holiday lull setting in, now is the perfect time to set your business up for a successful online presence. As you take this opportunity to plan your goals for 2021 and prepare your business’ action plan, you should also take this time to plan a social media content calendar. This is essentially a planning document used to organize all the posts (known as “content”) you are creating for your social media pages.

While many small business owners want to increase their online presence, it seems like social media is always the first thing to fall to the wayside when things get busy. A content calendar is a great way to avoid this from happening. To get started, follow these 5 steps to creating an effective content calendar.

Why create a content calendar?

On top of avoiding the stress of having to come up with last-minute content, social media content calendars are useful because they:

  • Allow you to create better content. Although it might seem like other brands spontaneously create compelling posts, there is generally some planning involved. Having more time means you can do more research, brainstorm and create more involved posts.
  • Ensure you don’t miss important events. A content calendar allows you to identify and plan for moments that are relevant to your business. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl or National Cookie Day, you’ll be ready to post about it and get online exposure to help promote your business.
  • Avoid making mistakes. Although it’s impossible to avoid 100% of mistakes, a content calendar definitely helps! For example, you can easily avoid typos when you have time to double check your work or have a teammate review it.
  • Save you time. Although it might seem like making a calendar is more work, having your content planned in advance will be a lifesaver when you’re busy. It will only take a minute to upload your planned posts (if they’re not already scheduled) and voilà! No more skipping posts when unexpected events come up.

Step 1. Do a social media audit

Before diving into new content, it’s important to first look back at your previous social media efforts. Take the time to:

  • Make a list of your social media accounts. List them all – even if you don’t post on the platforms. Search your business’ name on Google and popular social networks to ensure there aren’t any old profiles you’ve forgotten about.
  • Evaluate your content’s performance. As with all marketing initiatives, it’s important to consistently evaluate your efforts to maintain growth momentum and ensure you’re spending your time and dollars wisely. Most social media platforms have their own analytics you can look at. What you track should be based on your social media objectives. For instance, if you’re looking to increase brand awareness, you’ll want to track metrics related to this goal, such as reach (the number of people who have viewed a post) and impressions (the number of times a post has been viewed).
  • Assess channel performance. On top of evaluating the performance of your posts, take a look at the overall performance of your different social pages. Again, use key metrics to figure out which of your platforms are working for you (if any). Ask yourself: Where do you have the most followers? What platform has the most engagement? Which channels are driving the most traffic to your website?

Step 2. Choose your channels

Now that you’ve analyzed your current social pages, it’s time to select the channels you’ll be posting on moving forward. As a busy small business owner, it may not be realistic to assume you can stay on top of every popular social media platform. Rather than trying to juggle too many pages, it’s best to choose a few channels you can be active, responsive and consistent on. To choose the right channels for your business:

  • Keep your best performing channels. If you’ve already built up a strong follower count and engagement is high on certain platforms, it would make sense to keep building on this momentum. You’ll want to keep your high-preforming channels and evaluate whether the others are worth putting more work into.
  • Find your target audience. Look at the user demographics of different social media platforms to identify the ones your target audience is on. Afterall, you want to be active on the channels you’re most likely to reach your potential customers on!

Once you’ve selected your social channels, take the time to delete all other brand accounts (don’t forget to remove inactive accounts identified in your social media audit). You only want active pages coming up when users search for your business online!

Step 3. Establish a posting schedule

When it comes to social media, consistency is key. To determine how often to publish content, you should consider:

  • Platform recommendations. Different platforms have different needs. According to numerous studies, these are the recommended posting frequencies:
      • 1 post per day on Facebook (consider this a maximum, as studies show that more posts can be viewed as “spammy”).
      • 15 tweets per day on Twitter (Twitter is a fast-moving platform, so frequent posting is recommended).
      • 1 post per day on LinkedIn (at the most).
      • 1 to 2 posts per day on Instagram (big brands post an average of 1.5 times per day).
  • Your resources. Although platform recommendations give you an idea of which pages require more attention, keep in mind that these are just guidelines. It’s important to use your judgement and establish a realistic schedule that you can stay on top of. Remember, you need enough time to create content and interact with customers who engage with your posts.

Step 4. Develop your content strategy

When trying to figure out what type of content to post, a good rule of thumb to follow is the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should aim to engage, educate or entertain your audience, and the other 20% should be used to promote your brand. By posting useful content that provides value to your audience, you build strong relationships with them. This will make them more likely to pay attention when you do post promotional content with a call-to-action. You should also ask yourself:

  • What type of content has worked best in the past? Look back at your top performing posts identified in the social media audit to see what type of content got the best response.
  • What is your goal? You should have a “big-picture” objective for your social media posts. For instance, many small businesses want to engage local followers and grow their online community presence.

Step 5. Plan your content

Aim to plan at least 1 month of content ahead of time. When thinking about content ideas, start off by putting important dates you absolutely want to post on in your calendar, such as holidays and important promotions. Then, start brainstorming! Some tips for coming up with content ideas:

  • Have somewhere to jot down spontaneous ideas. You never know when great post concepts will come to you and you don’t want to forget them.
  • Read the news and stay on top of industry trends. You might want to subscribe to relevant industry newsletters.
  • Look up relevant posts or articles you can share on your page. (Don’t be afraid to share others’ posts – just make sure the source and content is aligned with your brand.)
  • Post about exciting things happening at your business. (As you plan product launches, announcements, or special events, schedule a post to go along with it.)
  • Don’t be afraid to repost your top-performing posts if they are still relevant. (Why not take advantage of your own hard work?)

Content calendars can take many forms. Some businesses use social media planning tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout, while others simply plan everything out on spreadsheets. If this is your first time creating a social media content calendar, there are many free templates available online that could help you get started. Most content calendars include your posts’ date, time, text, link, visuals andplatform.

No matter the layout you choose, a social media content calendar will take a lot of the guesswork out of social media posting and help you grow your online presence. There’s no better time to get started!