Setting Up Your Content Calendar For 2018

Make Christmas Come Alive
7th December 2017
The Power of Words
12th February 2018

Ready for 2018

Benjamin Franklin’s quote “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” is bandied around a lot and definitely still has merit but I saw another quite recently that really got me thinking:

“Every minute you spend in planning saves you 10 minutes in execution;

This gives you 1000% return on energy”.

How powerful is that??

Brian Tracy, a motivational public speaker and self-development author made this statement and since a lot of what we do is measured in terms of ROI, it really resonated with me and, besides, we’re all running like chickens without heads so who can’t do with extra time??

We’ve run a series of posts to get people thinking about planning and it may be worth asking you the some of those questions right now. Would you…

  • …head off on holiday without knowing where you’re going?
  • …go flying without knowing where you can land and if you have enough fuel?
  • …take off in a hot-air balloon if you didn’t know how much gas was onboard?
  • …go sailing without having all the right equipment on board and planning your route?
  • …go skydiving without a parachute and knowing it’s all good working order?

I’m guessing you answered “NO” to most, if not all, of these questions and if that is the case, why would you consider starting the year without a social media plan in place??


Why You Should Have A Content Calendar


1.    Manage TIME Effectively

With a content calendar you’ll always be on time with your posting and never miss important dates. That’s got to be the worst – coming across an amazing opportunity and realising you’ve missed the moment!

You’ll also save a whole lot of time in the process (revisit the quote above)!


2.    Be CONSISTENT With your Posting

Consistency is critical for social media – in terms of presence, approach and especially in terms of engagement with your followers. Having a plan means you can make sure there are never any ‘awkward silences’ or lapses in conversation.

An added bonus is that really thinking through your content, instead of posting on-the-fly, means you can ensure that you have the perfect balance between adding value and promoting product (the 80:20 principle)!



You will find it easier to keep your readers and audience engaged by making sure your content is relevant and that it doesn’t stagnate, become repetitive or overly random.

Best of all, you’ll be building credibility in the process!


4.    Increase CREATIVITY

When you have a plan, there’s no last minute rush to ‘post just anything’. You will have more than enough time to make your content especially creative and engaging.


5.    Increase EFFICIENCY

You will be able to organise your content better. When your content is more organised, it’s easier to allocate your own resources more efficiently and also to look for opportunities to collaborate.

This will be all the more powerful if you involve your whole team – both in the planning and the execution. Not only will you enjoy the efficiency of having more ‘hands on deck’, you’ll also benefit from the team buy-in.

Having your content mapped out and organised will also make it easier to see if there’s any content you can recycle, saving you loads of time!


6.    Facilitate MEASUREMENT

Depending on the format of your calendar, it can be a place to record activity and outcomes as well. That way you can use one doc for planning and for tracking and measurement too.

This will allow you to compare performance over time, help you gain a deeper understanding of successful (and sometimes not so successful) content and make it easier to optimise your program.



When you have a sound plan, it’s easier to take your social marketing out of a silo make sure that marketing activities are in sync across the channels and the business.

In addition, you can make use of successful organic content to drive your budget for paid social advertising. If it’s already been succesful on it’s on steam then it should cost you less to use in campaigns. You’ve effectively done the testing already!


8.    Improve Your WELLBEING

Having a plan helps you stay stay focused and organised. This will leave you far less stressed and possibly even a little smug!


How To Create A Content Calendar 

You can do this any way you want to. If you’re really stuck for ideas, you can find any number of templates online. There are a few things you should consider in the process of deciding on your approach.


1.    Think About Your AUDIENCE

Don’t decide what you think they’re going to like. Do the research. Look at your existing content and work out what resonates, what got the highest engagement – views, likes, comments and shares. Then do more of that!

If you have different content for different audiences, make sure this is clearly defined in your content calendar.

If you’re still struggling with defining your target audience, one of our previous blogs that suggests creating a character might help: Here it is.


2.    See If You Can RECYCLE Anything

Determine and mark up anything that is re-useable, can or should be updated or could be re-purposed. It’s also worth noting what CAN’T or shouldn’t be reused.


3.    List Major EVENTS

This should address internal and external ‘events’.

‘External’ would include public and ‘other’ holidays. Start with a list of all the public holidays and then decide which ones need to be acknowledged, which should be addressed in a broader social media campaign or theme and which can be removed (as they aren’t relevant to your business/audience). Apply the same treatment to ‘holidays’, which include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Boss’s day etc.

Consider ‘big events’ such as the Olympic games, Wimbledon, Comrades Marathon etc. You may be able to incorporate them into your plan – as long as you respect sponsors rights! This might mean referring to ‘the big Games’ or that ‘long run’ so that you don’t land up in hot water.

Search ‘List of commemorative days’ and see if there are any international days that are relevant to your business. You’ll probably find a few that you weren’t even aware of!

Internally, you need to know and record product launches, campaigns, annual events etc. Again you need to determine which should be incorporated into your social media plan – and to what extent this is necessary.


4.    Decide On A Calendar PROCESS

Your ‘calendar process’ is entirely up to you but things you should consider are how often you’d like to publish on each platform and how much of each type and category of content you’ll publish.

We started with a colour-coded spreadsheet but found that a Word calendar template is great for a month-by-month view and our blog, in Word format and split into posts, works for daily tracking.

Our file directories are well organised with the post collateral (images, videos, checklists etc) stored in separate folders ie Post 1, Post 2 etc


5.    Schedule Posts Ahead Of Time

In our process, the blog drives the content theme at any given time so, that’s real work. Once that’s done, it’s relatively easy to split your blog into posts and find images for each.

This, followed by a marathon session of pre-posting (on a platform like Hootsuite) you can have your social media done for the whole month!

The Format Of Your Content Calendar

You should decide on format and you really don’t need any fancy tools. There are dozens of freebies online but, whichever way you go, there are a number of elements you really need to include…


1.    Content for Different CHANNELS

Decide how to record content across channels. We repurpose the same content for each channel – obviously adapted for the channel. We have an extremely short version for Twitter, with one or two key hashtags. We have a slightly ‘fuller’ version for Facebook, without hashtags (as they don’t get great engagement on the platform). Then we reuse the Facebook content – but with all the post-specific and ‘generic’ hashtags on Instagram.

You can also expand your planning to include campaigns as well as paid and earned content. Your call entirely.


2.    FORMAT Of Your Content

You need to find a way of indicating the format of the content…

Is it a blog post? A video? A podcast? An infographic? An image?

Colour coding can work, so can keeping creative for each post in a separate file. Either way, you want to be clear about what you have so you know what to post – and you know what you can recycle or repurpose to get the most mileage possible out of your content.


3.    VISUAL Approach

It’s important that all visuals support your brand-building efforts. Your content calendar should somehow highlight any specific visual ‘treatment’ – specifically if it differs from one campaign to the next (image style, borders, filters, logo positioning etc).


4.    Topic CATEGORIES

Once you have decided on the topics or themes for your calendar, determine what categories of your business they address. This will firstly make your content searchable and when sorted, it will help you to determine the balance across different aspects of your business – or lack of it (that is if it’s relevant)!


5.    KEYWORDS And Meta-Data

Determine keywords and relevant meta-data for your content to help you keep your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts aligned with your content creation. Social media IS included in searches and you want to make sure people find you. If you find the whole SEO thing a bit complicated, this article might make things clearer (


6.    LINKS

If any your posts link to your current blog, a previous blog, somewhere specific on your website, another website, make sure you have the link/s recorded in your content calendar. This way you avoid a frantic search when it’s time to publish.



Make sure your call to action is really clear so that every piece of content you create is aligned with your marketing goals – for your business, for the campaign and for the post.


As with most things, there are exceptions…

There HAS to be a place in your thinking for breaking news – even though it’s virtually impossible to plan. It’s a sure way to stay relevant and help with building the credibility you’re aiming for. Whilst you can’t ‘predict’ breaking news, you should have a plan that outlines how you handle it.

Live video (a massive trend – especially on Facebook and Instagram) is much the same but again, you can set out with a ‘rough’ plan. Just be prepared to be flexible enough to cope if things don’t turn out as expected or go according to that plan!


Making a start with your content calendar is difficult but once you get going you’ll find it becomes exciting and when you’re done, you’ll truly wonder how you got by before.

Don’t expect to get it ‘just right’ the first time either. We certainly didn’t and dropped the Excel spreadsheet, dropped the colour-coding and opted for our Word doc really quickly! That said, we’ve seen people make both work beautifully!

It may be helpful to have more than one editorial calendar:

  • A master calendar where you can see everything at a glance (our Word 1-year calendar template), and
  • Separate calendars for each month or for specific activities, platforms or themes.


If you really can’t manage a full years planning in one sitting, split it up. But keep the split as big as possible. Try for quarters at the very least. Either way you should still try for a high-level view of the year in your first session.

Failing to plan might not be quite as dramatic as ‘planning to fail’ but there are so many good reasons you should consider having a solid plan in place…


1.    Feeling EMPOWERED

You will feel in control of (at least one thing in) your busy life. You might find it empowers your team too – whether they have a role to play in the process or you’re just keeping them informed.


2.    Creating The BEST CONTENT

Without the last-minute-panic and having to settle for whatever you can get your hands on, you’ll have time to seek out and create the best content.


3.    Monitoring TRENDS

Because you’re not operating in ‘panic mode’ you’ll find you have more time to keep an eye on trends and won’t miss great opportunities.


4.    Spending Time On ANALYSTICS

The extra time you have on your hands will give you capacity to monitor analytics far more closely. You’ll be able to adjust your posts if necessary because, no matter how firm your plans, there’s no need to keep going in any direction if it’s not working for you. And, for a change, you’ll be on top of this!


5.    Watching Your COMPETITORS

You’ll have time on your hands to analyse competitor activity – social media and otherwise. You never know, you might come across great ideas to implement into your own strategy.

The year is ticking along already so what are you waiting for??



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