If You Build [A Content Calendar], They Will Come

I know, I know. You get daily reminders from every industry expert, newsletter, and your 14-year-old niece that a critical component of business success these days is a killer social media presence. There’s an enormous opportunity to give your expertise legs by developing relevant content and sharing it strategically. It’s not that you aren’t aware right? It’s that the starting point resembles the gate to Hades.

Here’s the thing, I promise that if you take the time to develop a content plan that includes a calendar, you’ll remove some daily work from your plate and some pressure. It can prompt soon-to-be new clients and customers to find you instead of you always hunting for them. A sound strategy gives you audience or customer insight to transform you into the best virtual friend ever–which will often develop into a great relationship IRL. It will highlight you as the engaged and resource-rich industry aficionado you are–while you’re busy doing what makes that real. Follow these 5 steps to get you started:

1. Set your intentions

Namaste. Kidding! Well, not about setting intentions. I mean goals Y’all. Decide your desired outcomes. Sales? Thought-leadership? Brand awareness? Leads? Set S.M.A.R.T. social goals that align with your business objectives. These will inform your strategy, provide a way to measure outcomes, and adjust as needed for success.

2. Do the research

Perform the exercise of a social media platform audit any employee of the C.R.A. would be proud of. Explore each place you live online. Focus on the platforms that make sense for your business. Do they need an update or makeover? Perhaps you’re not on a platform you should be, or another has run its course. You’ll share and cross-promote your content through these channels, so you want to make sure they represent you well. Your identity and personality should be consistent and clear across the lot. While you’re at it, spend time on competitor properties to see what they do well and what needs work, and some accounts you plain admire for inspiration. Then, get to know your audience. Check out the analytics to determine where most of your followers are, interact with you most, and what type of content resonates.

3. Develop your content strategy

This step takes time and contemplation, so give yourself the space to do so. Think of the content strategy as your map. It will outline how to get your useful and relevant content out to your audience. Look beyond your prominent core offerings. You’ll get traffic from folks looking for what you offer, but creating a community where you are a useful resource every day, will mean you’ll stay top of mind when that time comes. You may also stand-out as the obvious choice. For instance, if you offer accounting services, your content could span from tips on doing your own bookkeeping to building a budget. Write about teaching kids to manage money, or what the newest dip in the stock market means in layman’s terms. Think of your own social and digital properties as the middle of a wheel, and the spokes are how you get that info out to the world. Find some templates you like to start.

4. Carve out your editorial plan

Take those core subjects/areas of expertise and marry them with relevant calendar dates such as holidays, seasons and significant times in your industry. Then decide what you’ll talk about and write about when. Plug these into a weekly editorial calendar. Keep in mind to leave room for real-life happenings. Using the accounting example again, if a surprise announcement is made that affects finances. That week you planned to talk about teen spending, be ready to make a shift. Remember, relevance and usefulness is the core of every activity, and each should serve your goals. These are overarching themes that you’ll share in various ways across your networks – and all roads lead back to you.

5. Build the calendar

Now it’s plug-in time. You’ll outline per platform, the what and when for each day and week. This includes links and visuals. Doing these a year in advance is the holy grail, but if you can master 2 or 3 months to start – you’re doing great. HootSuite and CoSchedule provide user-friendly and free calendar templates. The calendar should be detailed enough to post quickly, in bulk if available, or just hand to someone else (lucky you!), and they understand what to do.

How do you tackle the massive web that is content planning? Share your tips and struggles!