If you’re ever at a loss what to post on social media today, what to blog about this week, or what to include in this month’s newsletter, you need to start planning a content calendar.
Successful content requires planning, flexibility, and knowledge – something difficult to muster up at the beginning of each and every day. These six tools for planning a content calendar can help you to create relevant, engaging, and effective content throughout the rest of the year.
Why plan a content calendar?
Hootsuite describes the content calendar as the Marie Kondo of your content marketing strategy, and we have to agree.
While the initial effort of creating and coordinating a calendar full of content sounds like a lot, the benefits are more than worth it. A content calendar brings efficiency, quality, coordination, relevance, and strategy to your marketing efforts.
The more time you spend planning your content in advance, the less time you spend panicking about what to write at the last minute. You also plan and organize your content ahead of time, ensuring less duplicate efforts and a more organized link profile.
The less time you spend panicking about what to write, the more time you have to invest in proper content curation and creation, ensuring that your content is of the highest quality and well-optimized for your audience and SEO.
By planning your content in advance, you can coordinate your blog, newsletter, and social media content to complement and drive cross-traffic. You can also coordinate your resources at the same time, ensuring that your content remains consistent regardless of who is on vacation.
A content calendar enables you to plan content around key dates, events, and product launches so that your content is always fresh and relevant to your audience and business.
By working in advance with your content curation and scheduling, you can implement a strategic content marketing strategy that builds knowledge, links, and audience engagement over time, driving specific actions and results.
6 Tools for planning a content calendar
As mentioned, successful content requires planning, flexibility, and knowledge. Therefore, planning your content calendar requires much more than a ballpoint pen and desktop diary.
You need tools for creating, coordinating, and scheduling your content.
1. Google Sheets: Calendar planning
Google Sheets is an online spreadsheet tool that can be used to create a visual content calendar tailored to your channels.
You can use worksheets for different months, color coding for different topics, and separate cells to visually plan your social, blog, newsletter, and other content.
One of the biggest benefits of using Google Sheets for content planning is that you can share the document with internal team members and external freelancers, for collaboration and the allocation of tasks.
Download one of the following free Google Sheet and Excel content calendar templates to get started with your own.
- HootSuite social media calendar template (Google Sheets)
- CoSchedule content calendar template (Excel)
- HubSpot editorial calendar templates (Excel)
- SmartSheet content calendar template (Google Sheets)
2. BuzzSumo: Content curation
BuzzSumo is an online tool for discovering popular and trending topics in your niche. This insight can be used to brainstorm content ideas for your audience and plan future themes, topics, and titles for posts, blogs, and long-form content.
You can also look back at previously popular topics, enabling you to predict trending content for different times of the year.
Similar tools for content curation include:
3. HubSpot: Holiday and events tracking
HubSpot’s holiday calendar displays all national and social media holidays for the year ahead. You can use these holidays to create relevant content that takes advantage of the increased search activity and trending hashtags that result. Hashtag holidays are also great if you’re running out of content curation ideas for a particular month.
You can download HubSpot’s entire holiday calendar directly to your own, or click on relevant events to save them individually.
Don’t forget internal events too, such as webinars, business birthdays, and industry-relevant dates.
Other national and social media holiday calendars include:
4. Trello: Creation and coordination
Trello is a project management tool that uses visual boards, lists, and cards to create an overall content calendar, team planner, and individual to-do lists.
Cards can be used to allocate content and set deadlines. Workflow lists can be used to take content from outline, creation, review, and sign off. Trello also has a calendar view to help keep everyone on track.
Another beauty of Trello is its fluidity. If an unexpected event means that you need to shuffle content dates around, you can quickly amend deadlines and drag-and-drop cards to update everyone accordingly.
Similar tools to Trello include:
5. Hootsuite: Content scheduling
Hootsuite is a social media management tool with a variety of features for planning your social media content calendar. You can create and schedule posts from within the interactive calendar, discover new content by creating hashtag, location, or keyword streams, and quickly move and re-schedule content when required.
Similar tools to HootSuite include:
Tip: If you’re planning Instagram content, tools such as Planoly and Later allow you to drag and drop draft posts so you can plan the visuals of your feed as well as the content.
6. Google Alerts: News alerts
It’s important that your content calendar is flexible and reacts to different news, audience, and brand events when necessary. Google Alerts is an excellent tool for keeping you and your team up-to-date with the latest news relevant to your industry.
You create alerts for different topics and keywords, and then Google emails you when any relevant information is added to the Internet. You can then alter your content calendar accordingly to distribute timely and relevant content.
Alternatives to Google Alerts include:
The saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is absolutely applicable when it comes to content planning.
A content calendar allows you to strategically plan your content so that your content marketing efforts perform better, resonate with your audience, and drive relevant action.
Start with the six simple, affordable tools above (or their alternatives) and see where they take you.