Are Content Calendars for Social Out of Date?

To plan or not to plan, that’s the question. Develop a content calendar, or not? There is certainly a risk that a content calendar takes all spontaneity out of social media, making the sender one of the most boring people at the party, but is the answer really to stop planning?

How can a company be interesting every day? How can a blogger? Let’s face it: It’s difficult to come up with new smart and interesting content every day. So we were told to make content plans. And we did. And now the problem is that every company and every blogger make great content plans filling social media channels around the clock, but quality of the content isn’t always what it should be. Quantity over Quality.

According to Brian Solis in his blog The 10 Commandments of Content Marketing (worth reading!), the answer is to stop operating against a content marketing calendar as they make us think quantity, not quality, and as consumers are already overwhelmed with mediocrity. Solis clearly has a point, but knowing how hard it can be to come up with new great content every day, I think content calendars still have a role to play. They’re a way to ensure that a company continue to build its brand also between campaigns, that a team working on the same social channels are aligned, and I actually believe that they can be a way to ensure the quality of the content. It’s only a matter of not letting the plan rule one’s life.

To get the overview, allow time for content quality improvements, and yet open for spontaneous additions, I’d suggest to work with the calendar like this:

  1. The theme plan: 3-6 months’ sketch of what themes will be the most relevant to talk about. List what’s already known in terms of content releases, e.g. new campaign material, release of reports relevant to the area of business, major events and speaker opportunities, new customer reference cases, planned white papers, etc. Visualise as a simple table/calendar showing the theme and its level of priority over the coming few months. Update once a month and make sure to share the plan with relevant people in the company.
  2. The game plan: Outline of ideas for posts over the coming 2 weeks. The game plan aligns with the theme plan in terms of prioritized themes and content releases during the two weeks, but adds more details as well as social-media specific activities such as recurring #series of posts. The most important role of this plan is to identify the true content priorities: What piece of info is the most important to share with followers next Tuesday?
    If a new content opportunity turns up on Tuesday, the new piece of info should be measured against the priority of the plan: Which one would serve the brand in the best way – the planned or the spontaneous piece?
    The second most important role of the plan is to identify the gaps: Are there days when there is nothing to publish? Going back to Solis’ point, there is no reason to fill gaps with crap – it’s ok to be quiet now and then, but these gaps may also be opportunities to re-use/re-fresh some old content and thereby reach a few more people.
  3. The daily work: Spend some time in the morning questioning the game plan, considering what’s happening in the world and in the company. Something better to talk about today than what’s listed in the plan? If so, make the change. Then schedule your posts to allow time for the real spontaneity: The socializing. Listen – like – share – comment what others are saying. In combination with planned content, active management of social media is the easiest way to make your content flow both current and interesting. Being an active social media friend is probably the best way for any company to stay relevant to the followers.

Going back to my starting point, I must correct myself: To plan or not to plan, isnot the question. The question is rather how to ensure that the plan, i.e. the agreed content calendar, doesn’t become a strict rule. The answer is not to stop planning, but rather to keep looking for fresh content also when the plan is done. And just as in your personal calendar, dare to cancel an appointment when a better alternative turns up.

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