If your brand has yet to enter into the world of social media marketing, we definitely recommend you back away from the computer, pick up the phone and call us. We’ll help you jump into the digital age with conviction and style.
If, however, your brand has owned channels then you probably produce a massive amount of content for the pages monthly. It’s no surprise that content is the main component of any type of marketing initiative. Whether it is email, print or a radio spot, you need content, and not just any content, good content. But with a day-to-day that’s full of back-to-back meetings, report deadlines, and those few seconds of non-work related sanity, how do you create and organize content for your social media accounts on top of everything else?
If you’re a seasoned marketer, you’re probably scoffing to yourself thinking, “An editorial calendar coupled with a content calendar, duh!” If you’re not as seasoned, you should be intrigued. Either way, let’s jump in to explore some best practices to help you clean up the content mess that’s sure to be living in your brand’s marketing plan.
Let’s first start by covering the basics:
Imagine the editorial calendar as an assembly line in a factory. All of the pieces and parts need to be placed onto the assembly line conveyor belt to be eventually made into the finished product. Likewise, in an editorial calendar, all of the pieces and parts of what your brand has going on need to be placed onto a calendar of some sort.
But what are the pieces and parts? Well, start with the simplest parts—your upcoming events, tradeshows or planned product releases. Then record any partner events, deadlines for your agency or media buys, and basically anything that you think it worth having planned out that could be valuable for marketing or content creation. Maybe it’s as simple as, “our company picnic is on August 5,” or it’s more complicated like, “our publication will deliver to the mailing list on September 3, 4 and 5.” If it’s a date worth knowing, your gut will know.
Plus these elements may already be plotted out in a giant marketing calendar that’s created at the beginning of the year. By breaking down the editorial calendar into monthly views, however, can help prevent missing or forgetting about a smaller date that came into play last minute. Editorial calendar entries are the pieces and parts that inspires content calendars.
Now that we’ve received all of the pieces and parts from the assembly line, we can build the final product. (Here comes the fun part!)
A content calendar outlines specific content ideas by channel on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. When the content calendar is completed, it will look like the content for each day and for each channel is scheduled or planned out. Ideally, the entire piece will be ready to go when your team needs to publish the content.
But how do you make it? Start by taking the editorial calendar and plotting out specific dates that you ought to talk about on your social media pages. For example, if there’s a new restaurant opening next Friday, create a post to be used on that day featuring the opening and consider creating additional posts that tease the upcoming event and provide consumers with details about the opening.
After you’ve nailed down the events or items that take place on a specific day, fill the calendar with reminders about new items that may not be as tangible as “come to an event.” Take for example the publication reference we made in the editorial calendar section above. One way to highlight those publication releases includes writing posts on the days leading up to the first mailing that tells your audience to be on the lookout for the book.
No problem! Just because you have content for every day, doesn’t mean you have to post every day and vice versa. While it’s a good idea to stay consistent with social media posting, sometimes silence works too—especially if there’s a lot going on elsewhere or if what you have to say doesn’t add value. (But that’s a different topic for another day.) We recommend incorporating a full-fledged social media strategy to help you determine how much content to post throughout the days, weeks or months. As usual, no brand is the same when it comes to determining the volume of posts, it’s always a case-by-case basis. But posting just to post is 100% frowned upon.
Content calendar’s take the guess work out of posting on social media. With our client, Castaway Bay, we create bi-weekly content calendars that map the content for each of its channels on a day-to-day basis. During the brand’s high volume season we’ll sometimes create content on back-to-back days, but during the low volume season we sprinkle content and leave some days without. It’s all about balance, and as cliché as it sounds, that really depends on your brand.
Nope, not at all. Content calendars house actual word-for-word language that’s to be used on a certain day, at a certain time on a certain channel, and includes notes on media or supplemental materials that need to be published with the copy. It’s the easy way to grab and go when you’re a busy marketer that has other items to spend time on. So rather than spend time every day coming up with social media content for that day, content calendars allow marketers to plan ahead, giving them way more time to work on other important items. Further, when the content is pre-planned other key marketing team members can review the proposed content, check for grammar and punctuation errors and tweak the content so it’s the absolute best version possible.
On the other hand, editorial calendars are like road maps that outline what’s ahead, what road blocks to expect and what detours are available. They are the tool to planning and the end result is the content calendar in this example. The amount of metaphors for this stage of the marketing plan are endless…if you can’t tell, our Social Media Coordinator loves metaphors.
If you’re working with an agency, outside vendors/partners or maybe you have a large in-house team, keeping these opportunities separate is crucial. While it might seem odd to duplicate your events calendar and call it your editorial calendar, they serve VERY different purposes, plus there are more items on the latter.
Don’t look at it as a carbon copy, instead look at it as its own entity that fuels both the social media calendar and the company marketing calendar including business initiatives and sales. When you break these down, your events calendar shouldn’t be the go-to for planning your content. Instead, you need a second, separate calendar that lets you specifically tailor the days, times and information to fit the social media needs.
Shameless plugs aside, both editorial calendars and content calendars offer marketers a comprehensive look at what’s ahead from both a production standpoint and a content standpoint. When both are completed fully, a marketer can use social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Calendy or Facebook’s in-house publishing tool to schedule the content for weeks to days ahead.
As an agency with multiple clients that also have a lot going on, both calendars help us and our partners stay on track and avoid forgotten information. When we use these systems, content is streamlined and that makes for a happy marketers.
Lizzie Thornton is a Content Marketing Specialist at thunder::tech. When she's not writing strategic content or crafting brand messaging, she spends her time watching true crime documentaries and saying "hi" to every dog she meets.
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