Like your regular monthly calendar, a content calendar is a planning tool that can streamline communication between members of your content team. As content ideas pass from designers to copywriters to social media managers, each team member can refer back to the content calendar for information about an idea, including its associated deadline and related creative assets.
Here’s how to create a content calendar to ensure seamless collaboration and efficient execution of your content.
What is a content calendar?
A content calendar is a digital calendar used to plan processes for producing and publishing all of the content in your marketing plan, including blog content and social media posts, and even videos, ad campaigns, and other content produced by your brand. You can use content calendars to brainstorm new ideas, store creative assets, and coordinate with other teams. A content calendar can also include important dates from your marketing calendar and world events like holidays.
No two content calendars are alike—some brands may use a simple spreadsheet, while others have dedicated content calendar software. At a minimum, a content calendar is a place to note publishing dates for upcoming posts and basic information about them like the post title and the platform where it will be published.
Benefits of having a content calendar
Creating and using a content calendar will help your team get the most out of your content marketing strategy. Working with a calendar can help you:
- Stay on top of publishing. Organizing all of your content in one place can help you establish a consistent publishing schedule for each platform. A quick glance at the calendar will show how many social posts and blog posts are planned per week, making it easy to spot any publishing gaps. Content calendars with automated notifications can also keep every stakeholder accountable for their step of the production process.
- Reduce errors. Creating and publishing content in a rushed manner can lead to errors like typos or missing links. Planning content in advance will give your team the chance to be thoughtful about the content and have ample time to review and edit the copy to ensure accuracy ahead of publication.
- Create consistent messaging across platforms. Depending on the size of your marketing team, you may have multiple content managers publishing to your website and social media channels. The team can align on timing and messaging for all channels in the content calendar. This way, you don’t end up with an Instagram story captioned “7 reasons we love vanilla” published on the same day a Facebook post declares, “We couldn’t live without chocolate.”
- Have one source of truth for content. A well-organized content calendar is a one-stop shop that can answer common questions about upcoming posts that anyone in the business may have. Instead of frantically searching for links, content team members can consult the calendar to find the upcoming content they need. Other teams, like your sales or product teams, can also look at your content calendar if they’re interested in seeing what blog or social media posts are planned.
- Centralize creative assets. In addition to planning future social media posts and blog content, a calendar can be a central place to store creative assets. That way, if the social media marketing team wants to feature an image previously included in a blog post, both teams know where to find that asset.
- Keep clear records and avoid duplication. With consistent use, your content calendar can serve as an archive of previously published content. Having a clear picture of what you’ve already published can help ensure you don’t duplicate blog posts.
How to create a content calendar
Investing the time to create a clear, functional content calendar can save you effort in the long run by making your workflow more efficient and reducing the risk of errors and duplication. Use the following steps to get started:
- Define the scope
- Identify the details to include
- Establish best practices
- Collect feedback from your content team
1. Define the scope
A content calendar can include content for multiple channels and platforms or focus on a single social network. Decide whether your team will have a separate social media content calendar, or if it can be combined with a blog content calendar. If you have a small content team with no more than one person managing each channel, consider using a single calendar to facilitate communication between channel owners and create a central place to view the overall publishing schedule.
For large teams with in-depth posting strategies tailored to each platform, individual calendars will allow for more detailed planning and analysis. If your calendar includes multiple platforms, set up a system—such as a color code—for distinguishing between types of content.
2. Identify the details to include
Content calendars often include the most important details needed to publish a piece of content, including the intended publication date, post title, caption copy, links to other pages on your website, and design assets, among other things. To determine what details to include in your team’s calendar, think about who will be using it, what information they will need, and their ideal workflow.
For example, if the content calendar keeps track of blog posts that need to be featured on social media, include a field in the entry for individual social media posts where they can find the link to the article as well as instructions on where to find the imagery included in the post. That way, the social media manager will know exactly how to find and share the content.
3. Establish best practices
Set clear guidelines for how the calendar should be used. These guidelines should outline how often the calendar should be updated, what each calendar entry should look like, and how assets should be stored. Make sure each member of your team understands which aspects of the calendar they are responsible for updating.
4. Collect feedback from your content team
Share your new content calendar with your team and ensure everyone knows what role they play in maintaining its schedule. Once the process is rolling and everyone is using the content calendar, solicit ongoing feedback to make sure it’s working for everyone. Make adjustments to the format or workflow as needed.
Content calendar tools
Using a digital calendar will make it easy to plan and update your publishing schedule. Consider some of the content calendar tools brands and social media marketers use to stay organized:
- Free templates. Downloadable content calendar templates are available online. You can update and edit these templates to suit your team’s specific needs. These templates are compatible with Excel or Google Sheets.
- Google Sheets. Google Sheets is a free, cloud-based app that allows teams to work together on a single spreadsheet. This format makes it easy to filter content by any field you set, which can include a piece of content’s publication date, platform, and other categories.
- Google Calendar. Google Calendar is another free Google app that allows you to create events, schedule tasks, and set reminders. Create a separate event for each piece of content to use Google Calendars as a content calendar. Because you can share a calendar with others, this software makes it easy for anyone in your organization to access the publishing schedule.
- Project management software systems. Project management platforms and content calendar software such as Trello or Asana offer useful functions like the ability to assign tasks to specific team members.
- Social media management tools. In addition to functioning as a digital calendar, many social media management tools, like Sprout or Hootsuite, can connect to your social media accounts and publish content directly to your social media channels.
Content calendar FAQ
How far in advance should I plan my content calendar?
Strike a balance between planning far in advance and staying open to any new ideas that may pop up. For social media content creation, for example, planning content in advance gives your social media team plenty of time to create the content; however, social media moves so fast that there may be a new trend before you release your piece of content. Whether your ideal lead time is a month or a quarter depends on your content strategy, your team’s capacity, and your publishing output.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when creating a content calendar?
Failing to regularly update the calendar, scheduling too much of one type of content several days in a row, and creating a rigid schedule that stretches far into the future are all common content calendar mistakes. You can avoid these pitfalls by first establishing and maintaining guidelines that govern who is responsible for updating the calendar and how often they’re expected to do so. Create a posting schedule that includes multiple platforms and types of content—for example, a mix of editorial and marketing material. Schedule content in advance, but allow some wiggle room for last-minute additions, like timely social posts that engage with an internet trend.
How can I ensure my content calendar aligns with my overall business goals?
The best way to create a content calendar that supports your business is to focus on the content your target audience is searching for and consuming. Brainstorm content with your consumers’ needs in mind and find a balance between content that entertains, educates, and markets your business.
How often should I review and update my content calendar?
Update your calendar every time there is a change to your blog publishing schedule, your social media posting schedule, your social media strategy, or your overarching content strategy. For planning purposes, review planned content and add additional upcoming content when the business has new marketing initiatives or social media campaigns.
Can I use a content calendar for social media content as well?
Yes. Social media content creation can be time consuming and requires significant editorial planning. Using a content calendar to keep track of what content you’re publishing on your social platforms will help keep the social media team organized and will provide other teams with insight into upcoming content.