Journalism Tips: You Need A Social Media Content Calendar

Hello, everyone! Welcome back from what I hope was a long and fun Thanksgiving holiday. We have gained a few pounds and slept several naps since our paths last crossed, but through it all we were itching for another opportunity to discuss the music industry. Today we’re sharing an editorial from our own team member James Shotwell and the importance of content calendars and the many ways they can simplify your blogging efforts. If you have any question, feel free to contact him via Twitter.

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It’s sometimes hard to imagine how anyone developed a strong digital following in the days before social media, but if I had to guess I would say great content was – as it remains today – a major key to success. You need great content in order to build a great website, and you need to know how to properly market that content if you want to see your efforts continue to grow in popularity. My time in the music industry has taught me that most music bloggers are good at one of these things, and generally speaking they have a decent grasp on how the other one should work. Those who succeed the quickest are often those with a strong understanding of both areas, but as much as I would like to say I can transform you into someone with every skill needed for success that is simply not the case. What I can do, however, is tell you about the one tool every successful site utilizes on a regular basis that the vast majority of blogs never think to create: A social media content calendar.

What am I talking about? A social media content calendar is a tool used by small business and bloggers to help create and curate content, as well as develop editorial strategy. It’s a time-saving creation that not only allows you to better understand your audience, but also to better allocate your resources, such as time and talent, without jeopardizing the quality or consistency of your work.

The design of a social media content calendar will be different for every site, but generally speaking they should be easy to read and contain all the information needed to understand you overall content strategy. You can organize your time by days or hours, depending on how much content you plan to create. You will want to come up with a system for identifying your individual writers as well, as your calendar should explain who is responsible for writing, publishing, and promoting each piece of content. Likewise, you will want to find icons to represent the various social media network you plan to promote on. You may choose to have each person responsible for every step of the process that pertains to their content, or you may decide to assign various aspects of the content distribution process to different individuals. The choice is yours, and either way this calendar will make it possible to convey your decision to team members with ease.

I spent the first five years of my professional writing life working without any type of content plan, let alone a calendar such as the one described above. I did manage to find a lot of success along the way, but having learned the benefits of calendars and content planning in recent months I now realize I could have done a lot more in far less time if I were better prepared for each new day. Content calendars allow you to not only plan for today and tomorrow, but also weeks and months down the line. As a result, you feel more confident in the content being created and your team has more time to research their creations. 

My own experiences may not be enough to persuade you to carve out a little time for social media content calendar planning, and that’s something I can completely understand. I thought I knew what was best for me when I was starting out as well, and as much as I appreciated advice from those who came before me I also couldn’t help feeling that they didn’t get what it was like to start out in the modern day. I’m still relatively young, but I have no doubt starting a site today is a lot different than it was over half a decade ago when I started my blog. What has remained the same, however, is the fact planning ahead will do a lot more for you than waking up every morning and hoping to create something great. 

So, instead of just telling you how my life has been changed by this process, I’ve gathered three reasons why you absolutely must introduce social media content calendars to your music site:

Content calendars help you avoid posting content that performs poorly

If your site is like most music blogs in existence today, you have a number of writers covering a wide array of topics who are geographically scattered around the globe. Most probably don’t earn a dime writing either, but remain dedicated nonetheless because they love music and they believe in their work. This is great, and as a site owner you will no doubt want to stoke the flames of their passion, but without a system of checks and balances even the site with the most dedicated writers will struggle to build an audience. 

A lot of people who start sites today make the classic mistake of putting all their time and resources into what they believe will be great content without ever taking a moment to consider what their audience may want. If you don’t have a target audience in mind for your work, then you risk inconsistent performance for your content, and over time your growth – regardless of how often you post – will begin to plateau. The best way to prevent this from happening and know what kind of content to plan for the future is to perform routine checks on what kind of content is well-liked by your audience, and make regular adjustments based on these insights. Services like Google Analytics and their numerous competitors will provide you with data so that you can better understand things like which of your posts get the most readers, which ones are good for generating leads, and what social channel is referring the majority of your readers. You can then use this information to adjust your publishing schedule, realign the network where your efforts are focused, and better plan what content will be created in the future. 

Content calendars prevent you from overwhelming your writers

Time and talent are two of the most limited resources in music writing today. Any site owner hoping to making a big impact on the world of music needs to learn how to best utilize these recources in a meaningful way, and that includes doing so without jeopardizing the health and/or happiness of their content creators. Having everyone write about whatever they please can provide you with a great amount of diverse content, but it can also cause many headaches relating to timely news coverage and even what it is that constitutes as news to you and your readers. If everyone is expected to do everything you can almost guarantee nothing will be done right. Why should it? Everyone can rely on everyone else, so why should any one person feel solely responsible for something’s success? If it doesn’t work, oh well, at least they did their part. 

In order to refrain from overwhelming your writers while still promoting a teamwork mentality, use content calendars as a way to assign content and bring everyone together. As soon as you review the data gathered from following the point above, use that information to brainstorm and plan the content that will appear on your site in the future. From here, start assigning that content to writers based on their schedule, strengths and level of skill. You can also allow writers to choose what content they wish to create from a list of topics, of course, but ultimately you will still want to get that information outlined on a content calendar so that there is no confusion moving forward. This will allow your writers to have additional time to research and craft their content, as well as ensuring that you have the most capable writer working o each piece of content. If there are writers who are working on content without an imminent deadline, consider refocusing their efforts on social media promotion or brainstorming ideas for the future.

Content Calendars Help Ensure No Network Is Spammed/Neglected

Amidst the flurry of content being created, content being edited, content being published, and content being promoted, it can often be hard to keep track of where the majority of your marketing efforts are focused. By outlining your social media plans on a calendar, not to mention revisiting them after posts have gone live, you will be more and informed and therefore capable of making better decisions about how you allocate time and resources to social media. Perhaps you’ve been sending 30 tweets a day and only posting to FB once, or maybe you haven’t updated your Instagram since summer. What about that Tumblr your intern in the spring launched? Is anyone still updating that? 

Every account you have on every social networks is a mini-representation of your entire site. By leveraging the clarity provided by planning your social media content in advance you will be more informed than ever before on what works, what fails, and what still needs a lot of help.

If you would like to learn more about the power of content calendars, as well as download a free example to help get you started, click here. Additional questions and comments can sent to us on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.