Jan 5, 2016

Why We Love Having a Content Calendar (And Why You Will Too)

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If you’re anything like MailChimp, your business started small—and so did your social media strategy. But when you’re a growing company, your approach to connecting with users and telling your story online needs to grow, too. You’re probably already planning some changes for 2016, and we’ve got a suggestion:

Embrace the content calendar.

Our social media strategy used to consist of a guy named Austin and his sticky notes. They had some great times together! Whenever we needed to tweet about something, Austin wrote it down on a sticky note and, when the time came, drummed up a tweet. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked.

But as we’ve gotten bigger and cultivated a multi-platform presence across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedInGoogle Plus, Pinterest, and Snapchat, we realized we needed a better way of doing things. Enter the calendar.

Why you’ll love a content calendar

In its most basic form, a content calendar is a schedule of what you’ll post and when you’ll post it. It can span platforms, so you could use one to plan your social media marketing, email marketing, or both. Think of it this way: Your content calendar is a framework for the ongoing story you want to tell about your business. When you take a holistic view of your social media or email marketing output, you can turn ideas and broad strategies into an actionable plan that can be tweaked as you learn more about what works best.

A calendar frees you up to listen to your audience and iterate accordingly. Here are some other ways a content calendar can benefit your business:

  • Holidays, sales, and other special dates can’t sneak up on you when you plan for them. Mapping out your schedule gives you the freedom to think about big-picture stuff while making sure day-to-day tasks don’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • If you use your calendar to plan out your email marketing alongside your social media posts, you’ll see areas of overlap that might not have been clear otherwise, like a tweet you want to embed in an email, or a campaign that would be great to post straight to Facebook. You can add newsletter signup forms to your Facebook page, or use Twitter’s Lead Generation cards to reach new subscribers there. Social Follow content blocks can help your subscribers find you on lots of social media platforms, and integrating your MailChimp account with Facebook and Twitter makes it easy to automatically post campaigns there. (And you can make sure they look perfect with Social Cards.) Social profiles let you target subscribers who are active on social media, and Facebook Custom Audiences and Twitter Tailored Audiences are another great way to connect with them.
  • It’s not just about adding followers or growing your bottom line. Planning ahead helps the humans involved, too, saving them time and sanity. You can still be nimble and adapt as opportunities arise, but you won’t be in scrambling panic mode trying to figure out what to post each day. Even if you’ve just got one person on posting duty, your entire team benefits when everyone is able to see what’s coming down the line and help when needed.
  • Most importantly, a content calendar will get you in the habit of posting consistently. There are few silver bullets in social media strategy (other than cat GIFs, obviously). But one of the best ways we know to grow a social following is to keep showing up with something interesting to say. Who are you more excited to see: the friend who makes an effort to maintain your relationship, or the friend you only hear from when they need help moving? Don’t be friend #2!
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Why we love our content calendar

There are a plenty of free calendar templates out there, and if you’ve got a budget then there are additional options to consider.

You can also create your own. After breaking the news to Austin and his sticky notes last year, our marketing team began using a shared Google Calendar to track our email marketing, social media, and blog content. We add campaigns and social media updates as events, and invite people to collaborate as needed. It’s easy to drag and drop campaigns to different times if you need to reschedule an update, and if you really want to get crazy, you can even color code by platform.

You don’t have to get it just right on the first try, either. We certainly didn’t. (Bye bye, color coding! You were too much work.) But it’s easy to tweak your calendar as you figure out what makes the most sense for your team and your business’ goals.

Our content calendar has made it so much easier for us to plan, implement, and iterate a social strategy. It’s also just generally upped our social media game. Before, our follower counts and engagement metrics were good, but we weren’t posting as consistently as we wanted, and we wanted our output to feel more cohesive. Having a central calendar has empowered us and kept us accountable. We’re promoting previously-dusty evergreen content, experimenting with new social strategies, and having a lot more fun, too.  After all, no last-minute scrambling means more time for picking out the perfect GIF.