Sometimes we can get so involved with the newest and shiniest, that we forget about basics. But the basics are your foundation. They’re what a business can build off of, and they’re incredibly important to master.

That’s why I’m bringing back the basics, and delving into the importance of a content calendar.

What is a content calendar?

A content calendar is a tool used to stay organized throughout the year. It’s something that takes some effort to create, but in the long run will help you stay on track, save time, and work more efficiently.

Essentially, it works both as a map of your year ahead, and when the year is up, it’s a document of what occurred. It becomes even more valuable as you plan the next year.

Lorraine and Jared Juitt talked about this topic a few year ago, so listen now, and then read on to learn how to build your own content calendar.

How to make a content calendar

Set aside two hours in January. That’s just about all the time you’ll need. I promise. Pull up your Excel spreadsheet or Google sheets, and get to work.

Across the top row, you’ll write in the months. Along the first column, think about the content you’ll need to create.

If you’re like most small businesses, you’ll likely need:

  • Overall Theme
  • Blog Topics 1-4
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Special Events for your business
  • National/International holidays

Additional things businesses may need include:

  • Videos
  • Graphics
  • Downloads/Whitepapers
  • Coupons
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads

One of my favorite things to add to a content calendar, that many people don’t have, is a specific hashtag for that month. I would recommend this only if your business (a) uses Twitter regularly and has a good audience, and (b) if you know that you will actually use it.

The benefit of having a month-to-month specific hashtag is that you can go back at the end of the month and see how many times it was used if other companies picked up on it, and if it extended your reach on social media in any way.

Brainstorm your themes

To begin with, just come up with 20-30 topics that in some way relate back to your business. Get those themes up on a chalkboard or whiteboard, so you can see the “big picture.”

Next, when it comes to adding a topic to the month itself, it may seem like you should just start with January and work your way through December.

Although that may work for some, I would actually suggest filling in themes for your busiest months first, then move to the slower months.

This will allow for you to really lock in your strategy for the months that you know are going to be hectic, so you can get your best or most important themes in front of the most eyeballs.

What should YOUR content calendar have?

Every content calendar is different, so I can’t really tell you what your themes or topics should be month-to-month, but there are a few topics that can cover a wide variety of businesses.

Think about seasons and monthly holidays, and see if your business can base a theme off of that.

Or maybe your business has a “National X awareness month.” I would suggest using that to your advantage and focusing your content around that.

More than anything, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. If you know that your audience really responds to something at a certain time of the year, stick to that! If it works, use it!

Using your content calendar

Share, share, share!! You’ve put a lot of time and effort into this, so don’t just keep it all to yourself!

Share what the calendar you’ve created with your team, so everyone is on the same page. This way someone won’t blog about the wrong thing in the wrong month.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to have due dates and publishing dates in place. This will help to ensure your content is released in a timely manner.

Actually, add stuff to it. This is a living and breathing document. You can’t expect to just “set it and forget it.” You need to add to it, fill it in, make notes about how certain posts or blogs did.

The point of this is to look back in December, and see how the year went, so you can plan for the next.

Get to work, and if you need a blank content calendar, you can download one here: