We manage lots of blogs and social media accounts for clients, and there is one huge key for ensuring that everything gets done on schedule and with the right focus: editorial calendars. If you're just starting to blog or schedule social media for your business, or you feel you've had a hard time being consistent with your blogging or social media posting, an editorial calendar is key to your success.
What is an Editorial Calendar?
In its most basic form, an editorial calendar is simply a list of the topics you'll be covering and the dates you'll be covering them. It can be as detailed or as high-level as works for you. We like to keep our calendars in Excel spreadsheets (more on what we track later!) but you could also simply enter them into your Google Calendar, your to-do list software, keep them on a whiteboard or in a Word document - whatever works for you.
The key is that you are planning out your content in advance. Whether it's a week, a month or a year, this planning process is the key to successful and consistent content.
Why Keep an Editorial Calendar?
We wouldn't dream of creating content without an editorial calendar. Here's why:
- It keeps you organized. An ed cal means that topics or important milestones (ex., a holiday that ties into your product or service) aren't forgotten, and that your deadlines are set forth.
- It staves off writer's block. If you haven't been consistent about writing blog or social content, we'd be willing to bet that the main reason is you dread sitting down at the computer and figuring out what to write about. By having that set up for you in advance, you simply have to sit down and create content - much less intimidating!
- It saves time. Like anything else, batching is key here. If you sit down and plan out a month or two of content at a time while you're in the right mindset, the process will go much more quickly than if you try to spend 20 minutes every day or week trying to do the same thing. At some point, you simply get into the flow.
- It allows you to outsource. If you are planning to outsource any of your content, having a solid editorial calendar helps you do that easily while still maintaining control over the content.
What Should Your Editorial Calendar Look Like?
Like anything else in life, you've got to make this work for you. We're sharing our editorial calendar strategy here, but if this is too detailed - or not detailed enough! - for you, or you'd prefer having your ed cal in something other than a spreadsheet, make this work for you. The important part is having a process. Here's how we do it for both blogging and social:
Blog Editorial Calendar
For a blog editorial calendar, we use a spreadsheet with the following details:
- Posting date (the date the blog will go live)
- Deadline date (the date by which the content needs to be complete for approval by the relevant parties)
- Topic (we use general topic tags here so we can be sure we are diversifying content)
- Title (we plan out the blog title - like "5 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Followers")
- Keywords (we often include keywords that will double as the tags for the post)
- Category (if the client is using Categories on the blog, we may also include the categories that will be tagged)
- Notes (this is the place we put miscellaneous details on the topic that we need to remember)
Social Media Editorial Calendar
For a social ed cal, we are less detailed on each item because the content is shorter, but still recording as much helpful info as possible to get the posts batched quickly. (And when we are done with the ed cal in the spreadsheet, we simply copy/paste the posts into our social scheduling system like HootSuite.)
- Post Date
- Post Day of Week
- Topic (ex., "Tip Tuesday" or "Taco Tuesday" if it's a food client, "Promo" or "Shared Content")
- Content (the actual copy we're posting)
- Image (if applicable - we include the file name of the image so we can find it quickly. We store all our social files in a specific folder for fast posting and we get these done during the editorial process)
- Notes (again, if there's anything we need to remember when posting, like "tag XYZ on Facebook")
How to Use Your Editorial Calendar
Once you've set up your calendars, using them is simple. First, you've got to be consistent about batching your content. Whether you do it weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly, you need to set that task in your calendar and sit down to do it.
Then, you've got to set your deadlines (whether that is scheduling social or writing blog content) into your to do manager or calendar so that you follow through with the tasks on your editorial calendar.
And finally, you've just got to do it. You'll have your content mapped out for you, and now's the time to just get that content done. Give it a try and let us know how it works - does creating an editorial calendar help you get more done when it comes to content?