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Either you run the day or the day runs you. Quote by Jim Rohn.Are you someone who decides what content to produce and post on the fly rather than planning in advance? It’s a common problem when time is short but, as you probably know from experience, this can result in a last minute panic to think of topics, missed opportunities around special events in the calendar and a haphazard approach to sharing the content once it is complete.

The benefits of using a marketing calendar

One way to take the stress away from your content management is to create a marketing calendar. This is a tool that lets you plan your future content to fit in with your overarching strategy, key dates throughout the year, and your marketing goals. You never have to grope for ideas the night before the next blog is due to be published and you can tie all of your content together, for example, posting images and statuses on social media that relate to that week’s blog.

Even if you work alone, having a marketing calendar will help to keep you on track during your busiest weeks and the weeks when your motivation has gone AWOL. All you will need to do each week is check your calendar to see what you need to post.

Your marketing calendar can just contain notes about your blog topics or cover your social media, email marketing and newsletter content too. The key is to find what works for you.

What should your marketing calendar include?

Marketing calendar

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what your marketing calendar should include. There are some excellent free templates, which offer a good starting point (I’ve included some links to these resources I’ve found at the bottom of this article) or you can create your own. Either way, you might want to think about adding the following:

Key dates

  • Annual seasonal holidays/celebrations
  • Special and fun days in the calendar – you can find a list of these dates at timeanddate.com; look for dates that tie in with your business or will resonate with your audience
  • Important industry events
  • Events that you’re running or attending

Begin by looking at the year as a whole so that you can identify how many weeks in advance of an event you might want to start promoting it on social media. Once you have a broad overview, you can focus on planning a month at a time.

Month-by-month

You might want to use an Excel sheet, Word or even the monthly overview available with Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar to plan what content you want to post every day.

This might include two or three Tweets per day and two or three Facebook posts containing a mix of memes, articles and statuses. In addition, you might want to add your weekly blog and newsletter dispatch dates to your marketing calendar.

One method is to create an Excel sheet with columns that break down the scheduling information into more detail. These columns could include:

  • Date to go live
  • Time to go live
  • The article title or a description about the focus of the piece
  • Status, i.e. whether scheduled, to be posted, etc.
  • Content or message, e.g. the wording of a Tweet, or Facebook or LinkedIn status
  • Link to include with the post
  • Image to use with the post
  • Focus keywords and meta data for any blog articles (as discussed in my recent SEO Basics Checklist article, it’s helpful to have a unique focus keyword for each page, as well as meta data that invites people to click through to the article if they find it through a search engine)

It can also be helpful to add a column for metrics to your content marketing calendar. This would be where you keep information such as how many likes, shares or comments the content attracted on Facebook or how many times it was retweeted on Twitter. This will help you to build up a picture of which topics get your audience talking, as well as which don’t. These metrics can help you pinpoint the best days and times to post throughout the week, as well as the best platforms for reaching your audience.

Another suggestion is to have an ‘Ideas’ page attached to your content marketing calendar where you make a note of potential blog topics when they come to mind. You can then look at the calendar to see where the topic would best fit.

Free content marketing calendar templates

Below are some links to free marketing calendar templates that I found when looking into this topic. I should point out that I’m not affiliated with any of these companies and some may require you to sign up to their mailing list before you can download the calendar.

Personally, I use Meet Edgar to schedule and manage my social media content as this is what works best for me. Other tools such as Facebook’s scheduling tool or Hootsuite work well too. The key is to experiment with your marketing calendar and the available tools to pinpoint what’s the best fit for your business.

Do you plan a marketing calendar throughout the year or do you write your content on the fly? What does your marketing calendar include? What do you find easy and what do you find challenging? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.

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