Two Reasons to Use a Content Calendar

Content can be overwhelming. There’s typically a lot of it, if a content manager is doing his or her job correctly, and it’s consistently being pushed out to the masses. When developing a content strategy, a lot of elements are involved like meta data, message architecture, keyword strategy and some sort of plan to attack search engine optimization. When just starting out, an element of a content strategy that is sometimes overlooked is a content calendar, also occasionally referred to as an editorial calendar.

Here are two reasons why a content calendar is a must for every content strategy:

1. It keeps you organized:

With so much content flowing in and out, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all if not for a content calendar. This is exceedingly helpful when there are multiple people contributing content. If it’s a blog with multiple bloggers, the content will be coming in from all over the place and it can’t just be published as soon as it comes in. A content strategist must make sure there’s an equal amount content coming out daily. There can’t be 10 posts on one day and none the next. All of this is far easier to keep track of when there’s a content calendar keeping track of these things all in one place. Many content management systems, like WordPress, have a function like this built right in. This is most likely because these services realize the extreme importance of a content calendar.

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2. It’s easier to keep strategy aligned:

Keeping the content strategy on track is extremely important because when brands sway away from their strategy, they often lose track of their brand voice as consistency, as well. A content calendar lays out your content and allows you to place it and distribute it in ways that make sense and will contribute to the message you’re trying to get across before you don’t have the ability to control it anymore. What I mean by that is, if you’re just pushing out content that you think aligns well with your brand message, you can’t identify any potential problems until all the content is already out there. With a content calendar, it’s easy to have foresight before the content is published to be sure the message you’re sending is strong and effective.

Content calendars can be helpful for a variety of different mediums, whether it be social media content, blog content, or any other types of content.

Publishing is Hard: Make it Easier on Yourself

You’ve thrown yourself into the exciting industry of content marketing and social media. Hooray! But wait, that means you’re also now a publisher since publishing content is a big part of your new daily responsibilities. And here’s a secret for you—if you didn’t realize it yet, you soon will.

Publishing is hard.

Consistently creating quality, effective content takes a whole lot of work. And this work certainly doesn’t end after you click ‘publish.’ But no worries, it’s time to make it easier on yourself—starting now.

Content Creation

Keeping up with your content creation needs is tough. Photo: Dawolf, Flickr CC

Plan, Then Plan Some More

The more time spent on creating a cohesive content strategy for your web content in the beginning, the easier the entire process will be for you. Don’t forget to include the following elements into your planning. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list but is an excellent way to get started. Be sure to write all this down into a content strategy guide for yourself, as you’ll want to refer to it regularly!

  • Messaging
  • Brand tone and voice
  • Target audience and personas
  • Keywords
  • Distribution channels
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Metadata

Create an Editorial Workflow for You and Your Team

Now that you’ve got a pretty good sense of what your content will be about, who it’s for, and how you’re going to get it to them, it’s time to create some procedures, policies, and a workflow. This will help you to gain momentum and keep up with the complexities of frequently publishing content.

Developing an editorial calendar (Contently has an incredible guide to creating one), a customized content management system (CMS), and your newly developed content strategy guide is going to be what sets you apart from everyone else.

An editorial calendar will keep you and your team focused on creating the right content, for the right people, at the right time. And a CMS customized with page and post templates for your specific needs is a tool that will keep you and your team publishing efficiently. Margot Bloomstein, author of Content Strategy at Work, says it best. “Above all, make it easy for your internal users to produce, publish, and manage great content.”

Kanban Wall For Content

A workflow strategy will get you and your team regularly producing content. Photo: DeanoPower, Flickr CC

Don’t Publish Your Content in Just One Place

Most organizations don’t need to create content for only one channel; that’d be too easy. They have to share their content across several platforms in order to effectively reach their audience. If this is you (and I’m sure it is) make sure you’re not publishing your content in just one place. Instead, take your topic for a blog post and rework it to fit across other appropriate channels as well.

Can that blog post work well on the main website? Should it be a microsite? Or what about a digital magazine, email newsletter, podcast, video series, webinar, ebook, or infographic? And don’t forget about your social channels! You’ll be surprised how much additional content you can create when you’re thinking creatively about its form. Fortunately, Hubspot has lots of ideas for not letting your content go to waste, which is definitely worth checking out.

Like I said, publishing is hard. But the above strategies to plan a cohesive content strategy and develop a workflow will surely help you to create content more regularly and efficiently.

Do you have any strategies to add? What helps make your life as a content manager oh-so-much easier?

3 Reasons Why Your Blog Posts Blow

(Image courtesy of George Redgrave)

If the only comments on your blog are from spammers advertising the latest scams, there may be an opportunity to improve the quality of your blog posts. Only the blog and its postings should be doing the advertising. Fortunately, the very nature of a blog makes it an inexpensive, 24/7 online marketing campaign for a company or organization. Unfortunately, just as there are brilliant marketing campaigns, there are others that make you ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” Don’t let your blog become the latter.

5 Ws

Remember when we learned the Five Ws in school — who, what, where, when, and why? Just as these 5 questions are used to tell a story, they can also be used to create a better blog post:

  1. Who is your target audience for the blog post? Author Yvonne Lyons noted in “Blogging: 34 Things that You’re Doing Wrong” that you cannot create content, if you don’t know your audience,
  2. What is the story you are trying to share? In the “The Ultimate Guide to Blogging,” author Joe Pulizzi recommends creating useful and interesting content that moves the reader to respond. Such Calls to Action include commenting, sharing, or connecting through social media.
  3. Where does the blog post fit in terms of the content categories? A regular column may result out of frequent topics and/or posts.
  4. When do you share your content? The latest trending topic will not always apply to your brand so developing an editorial calendar will help you schedule relevant content continuously.
  5. Why are you sharing the blog post? If the post, doesn’t relate to your brand, then focus on one that does.

TL;DR ( Too Long; Didn’t Read)

(Image courtesy of Clint Hamada)

I’m sure that this phrase has appeared in the comments section of a few blogs that you visited. The fact that someone would rather respond to his/her fellow commenters than read your blog post is a bad sign—especially when the commenter clearly states that one issue is the post is too long. As Dotmarketing points out in their best practices piece “Writing for the Web,” a person tends not to read every word that appears in a blog post and instead scans it. Yes, the hours spent agonizing over writing the perfect post will most likely result in only a quick read through by the intended reader. So keep your post short (between 400 – 1000 words) to allow the reader to enjoy your post during a break. If a visitor is willing to take time out to scan your blog for a few minutes during their busy day, then honor his/her time.

Like, +1, RT

(Image courtesy of Melbourne Streets Avant-garde)

After following my earlier recommendations, you have created your best blog post yet. You post your masterpiece on your blog, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day.

Not so fast.

Remember your only previous commenter was some mother from Springfield who makes $77 an hour on the Internet.  I’m sure that she’s a lovely lady, but she’s not your target audience. You need to find your true audience.

  1. Help Google find your blog post.

Find out the most frequently used search terms that relates to your blog post and then incorporate these popular terms within your blog post title, content, and tags.

2.   Use social sites to spread the word.

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging,” author Joe Pulizzi suggests doing things like asking people on Twitter to help promote your blog. Another suggestion was to use social bookmarking sites like Digg to post your content, which will hopefully be shared by others.

3.  Post helpful comments on similar blogs.

A quality comment can help you develop relationships within the same community (fellow bloggers and commenters alike), generate traffic to your blog, and will hopefully create a new audience following.

My hope is that these tips will help get the word about your great organization or company. With so many blogs currently out there with new ones continuing to be added, it is getting harder to be seen on the Internet.  However, if you follow the 5 Ws, keep it short, and then spread the word, you can develop a faithful legend of followers and not just spammers.

Three Tips for Writing a Fantastic Blog Post

2312596915_dea8339cf2_zA blog can be a fantastic asset for a brand. Among other things, it allows the brand to control its own message, boost search engine optimization and helps craft an identity online. But a blog is useless unless its updated frequently and effectively. A blog post needs to capture the audience’s attention and hold it throughout the entire post. It also needs to deliver some sort of value to the brand, which is often easy to forget. It’s important to know company goals and values before embarking on a blogging journey so that you know what direction to take every post. But you can’t accomplish any of these things if your blog isn’t properly structured.

Here are three easy things you can do to help create a great blog post:

1. Think of a catchy title.

A catchy blog post title is the best way to capture your audiences attention. Your blog post can’t be great if no one is reading it, and no one is going to click on it if your title is boring. It’s the first thing people see, so it sets the tone of the entire post. The title shouldn’t be ambiguous. People should know what they’re in for the moment they click on the post. This makes it easy for the people who know what they’re searching for. This blog post, for example, is targeted at people writing blogs. Those blog writers are likely to search for ways to improve their blogs and when they see the title, they’ll know this post will help.

2. Link to other bloggers.

Why would I link to a competitors blog? Then all my traffic will also go to them and I wont be setting myself apart. While that type of thinking made sense at one time, in the world of online blogging, linking to other blogs is a great thing.  The Internet, and especially blogs, are all about an open exchange of ideas. If you’re not linking to other blogs, you’ll be seen as less reputable. It would be like writing an academic paper without sources.

3.  Don’t write a novel, but tell a story.

According to Anagard, the average Internet user’s attention span is just six seconds. Of course, that attention span will expand if you’re distributing great content, but it emphasizes the fact that audiences are no longer interested in long-form writing like they once were. Try to write in a concise way and get your point across in as few words as possible. But just because you’re not writing an extremely long post doesn’t mean you can’t still tell a story. The story is what is going to keep the reader hooked. Don’t sacrifice your story by using too few words.

 
Photo via P4BLoX