“I sort of have a plan in my head for how I’m going to schedule my blog posts. But Facebook updates? Those are more random. And Twitter? Let’s not even go there.”
One of my clients who owns a small business made that confession. And he’s not alone. Nearly every blogger, tweeter, Facebooker and YouTuber struggles to produce and publish an ongoing stream of enticing, engaging content.
“I’m going to blog five days a week,” we vow. And then things get busy at work. Or we catch a cold. Or go on vacation. Weeks (or months) later, we guiltily return to our blog, wondering why we ever thought this would be a good idea.
We then make one of three choices:
- We abandon social media altogether.
- We outsource our content writing to a professional.
- We resume blogging with renewed determination.
If choice #3 describes you, I recommend creating a social media publication calendar (which I call an editorial calendar).
An editorial calendar prevents you – and your followers – from getting overwhelmed or underwhelmed. A calendar reminds you to publish at a steady, reasonable pace so you don’t publish 12 updates one week and two the following week.
A calendar doubles as an archive of your published work; you should regularly review it to analyze which topics and articles best resonate with your audience.
If you are part of a group blog that has multiple contributors, a calendar reduces the amount of sub-par, seat-of-the-pants posts. It holds team members accountable to publish on a wide range of topics, and it gives team members a breather between posts, thus decreasing blogger burnout.
The key to a good editorial calendar
A social media editorial calendar should be fluid, rather than set in stone. Give yourself the freedom to interrupt your regularly-scheduled broadcast with breaking news. Reorder updates when needed, or transform a single update into a series.
But remember: assigning deadlines — even self-imposed deadlines — will drastically increase your follow-through.
How to create your calendar
Start by brainstorming a list of topics, links, statistics that will interest your readers.
Google’s Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for helping you generate keywords and phrases that people are likely to search for. You’ll need a Google account to access the Keyword Planner, but you do not have to buy Google ads – it’s free for everyone to use.
Wordtracker is another keyword tool you can try for free.
As you’re brainstorming, look over your yearly calendar and block out dates for product launches, seasonal sales, important anniversaries or milestones, conferences, media appearances, speaking engagements, vacations, and days off.
Review your list of brainstormed topics.
Pull out up to ten categories – search-friendly keywords that will serve as your blog’s table of contents. File every idea on your list into a category.
Editorial Calendar Tools
Now it’s time to assign topics to specific calendar dates. It doesn’t matter whether you use a spreadsheet, online calendar, or a giant paper wall calendar – choose one.
I build my editorial calendar in Microsoft Word. I create a Word table, with the header row displaying:
- Post title
- Date scheduled
- Post URL
- Teaser – a 140-character teaser for Twitter and other social networks that includes a link to the post
WordPress editorial calendar plugins
If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, one of my most-used plugins is Editorial Calendar by Stresslimit and Zack Grossbart. It features a month-at-a-glance calendar view of all posts so I can see gaps I need to fill in.
I move posts around a lot, so I love the drag-and-drop feature, which allows me to instantly re-schedule articles.
Another excellent calendar plugin is Edit Flow. This plugin is great for collaborative blogs. Here are a few of the cool things you can do with it:
- Create custom status categories for every blog post draft, such as “Assigned,” “Waiting for Feedback” (instead of the default “Draft” and “Pending”).
- Add a threaded commenting system WITHIN the WordPress admin so multiple users can discuss each post without having to send e-mails back and forth.
- Receive a-mail notifications whenever a user changes a post.
Train your readers
An alternative to scheduling blog posts and social updates by category is to assign a different type of content to each day of the week.
- Monday – Reviews
- Tuesday – Top 10 List or Links
- Wednesday – Guest Posts
- Thursday – Tutorial
- Friday – Industry News Roundup
- Saturday & Sunday – Take the weekend off; you deserve it!
You’ve heard the adage, “Plan your work and work your plan.” A social media calendar helps you strategically plan your updates and turn your good intentions into reality.
What about you?
Do you use a publication calendar for your blog and/or social updates? Is there a system that works best for you?