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Your Guide to Using a Content Calendar for Better Content Marketing

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You help manage your company’s blog, but you haven’t gotten a chance to post in weeks.

You handle all of the social media, too, but you’re struggling to find things to post.

You’d love to start a podcast, too, but there just isn’t enough time to pull it off.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Because it’s all too common for digital marketers.

What’s a solution to help get you off the exhausting content-creation hamster wheel?

A content calendar.

What is a content calendar?

You’re smart (you’re a digital marketer, after all), so you probably already know what a content calendar is. But you might be at a loss for words on how to properly define the term.

Essentially, a content calendar is any place where you organize and plan out all of the digital (and physical) marketing materials that you’re creating. That’s exactly as general as it sounds—meaning that a content calendar can be whatever you want it to be.

When used properly, a content calendar saves you time and allows you to create more effective marketing campaigns. But how do you get started with this invaluable tool?

6 reasons to use a content calendar

Before we dive into the how for leveraging content calendars, let’s spare a few moments to discuss why you should use one.

After all, it’s easy to think about a content calendar like just another thing for you to manage. And it will be, if you don’t shift your thinking to be more proactive. It’s easy to continue shooting from the hip, but it’s more effective in the long run to start depending on a strategy.

So, here are six reasons why it’s worth it for you to invest some time and effort into building a functioning content calendar into your company’s content marketing.

  1. Manage more content. Don’t try to juggle everything manually.
  2. Be more intentional about content. Be proactive, not reactive.
  3. See how content works together. Align your strategy over multiple channels.
  4. Get the timing right. Manage time, date, and cadence.
  5. Stay consistent. Avoid those content dead spaces.
  6. Give yourself more margin. Prevent yourself from burning out.

Ultimately, the content calendar is meant to help you out. It can be your marketing best friend if you’re willing to give it a chance.

What can you use a content calendar for?

As previously mentioned, a content calendar can be a very broad resource. Nearly anything in marketing can be viewed as content. Therefore, nearly anything in your brand’s marketing efforts can fit into a content calendar.

That list usually includes some of the following:

Your content calendar certainly doesn’t have to include all of those elements—and certainly only the ones that work for your business. Start with one or two platforms and grow from there. The goal is to make things easier for you, not more complicated.

What tools can you use to build a content calendar?

Before you dive into actually managing content in a calendar, you’ve got to pick the right tool for you. Which is the right tool? That all depends on your needs and preferences.

There are plenty of digital tools that you can use to create your own content calendar. It’s probably best if you test out one or two of them first to see how they fit your preferences. Get your team’s input since they’ll likely need to be on board, too.

Here are a few of the most popular options:

At GreenMellen, we actually use a mix of these tools. We manage all of our client content calendars in Google Sheets because of the flexibility and customization. However, we also manage our agency’s content ideas between Notion and Sprout Social.

What information should be included on the calendar?

If you try to manage too many content platforms within your calendar, it could backfire and become too overwhelming. In the same way, you can overload the calendar with too many different data points. 

You’ve got to find a balance of the right amount of information to save—not too much, and not too little. As with everything else, that will take some experimenting to find out what works for you as a marketer and for your team.

For your consideration, here are some of the most pertinent details to consider including:

  • Titles: headlines & subject lines
  • Dates: when is the content being shared?
  • Audience: who are you targeting with the content?
  • Status: where is it in the process of creation?
  • Links: provide live links to where the content lives online
  • Meta Data: tags, categories, ect.
  • Stats: blog post views, engagement, downloads, etc.
  • Leave yourself a space for notes or comments

This information is not only important for planning future content, it’s also a great archive for past content. This helps you remember what you’ve developed previously to strategize what will work moving forward.

Advanced tips for using content calendars

OK, we’ve covered some of the basics of how and why to use a content calendar. But we wanted to give you some expert advice from a marketing agency that manages content for several other organizations (that’s us).

  • Keep everything organized. The point is to keep everything where you can search and find things easily. Take the time to label sections and details clearly. For example, if you’re using a spreadsheet, organize your various platforms (blog, podcast, etc.) into separate tabs. That helps you keep everything from getting jumbled together.
  • Make it as automated and interactive as possible. The goal is to save you time, not add more tasks to your plate. So find ways to automate processes when possible. This is more common with dedicated tools like CoSchedule, which can actually modify your content online as you update them on the calendar.
  • Collaborate with your team. This is no good if you’re not keeping the rest of your team in the loop. They likely want to know what’s going on with content marketing. And the content calendar is your way to share it with them. Invite them to your tool of choice and invite them to help.
  • Use content buckets for ideation. An effective content calendar not only tracks when something is being published, but also aids you in thinking of new ideas. For example, use the different content categories to think of new ideas and then add dates to them to fill in blank spaces on your calendar.

More articles on content marketing

Ready to take your content marketing to the next level?

Back in April 2020, we actually hosted an entire Meetup on the subject of content calendars. It’s too late for you to attend that gathering (unless you’ve got a time machine handy), but you can always view the slide deck.

Wish you had a template content calendar to use? We’ve got you covered there, too! Just click here to copy the Google Sheets content calendar we use at GreenMellen.

If you find that resource helpful, don’t miss out on future Meetups. We get together once a month to talk about the latest in digital marketing and technology. Best of all, you don’t have to drive anywhere—we meet via a live webcast. Not to mention, it’s 100% free.

Ready to take your content marketing to the next level with a content calendar, but don’t have the time? Well, GreenMellen can help you with that! We help manage digital content for clients of all sizes. And creating a killer content calendar comes as a part of that service.

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Robert Carnes

Marketing Manager

Robert Carnes is a freelance writer, published author, and professional marketer. His book, The Original Storyteller, is a 30-day guide to becoming a better storyteller. Robert lives in Atlanta and you can follow him on social media @jamrobcar.

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