How to create a content schedule and actually stick to it

This is the final post in a series designed to help you launch a content marketing strategy for your business. While you needn’t start with the first post to learn from this one, you can find that article here: what’s the difference between blogging and content marketing?

Your website needs freshly updated content to perform well. In most cases, a blog with new posts on a regular basis is the easiest way to keep your content fresh, though there are a couple of other strategies that work.

Newly updated content helps your site rank better in search engines, and each new post is a new chance for your potential customers to find you. Keep in mind that your content marketing strategy also includes all the stuff that gets posted in places other than your website, like social media pages. The more that stuff is updated, the more attention you’ll get.

Creating new content all the time can be hard to do. Let’s explore some strategies to choose the right schedule, and then stick to it without running out of ideas.

Creating a content schedule

How often should you write blog posts?

Should you be posting on Instagram a couple of times each week, or a few times every day?

Do you need to post on every platform where your business has a presence?

In content marketing, consistency is far more important than frequency. The right amount of posts for you is the amount that you can publish consistently. That might be daily blog posts and a stream of social media updates, or that might be an update or two each month, or even one post every quarter. This is important, so I’ll say it again: how often you post isn’t important. What matters is whether or not you post consistently.

As you plan your schedule, consider all of the different types of content for which you’re responsible. A blog post every day might sound perfectly feasible, but a blog post, 8 social media updates, 4 or 5 responses to customer emails, a newsletter, an ad set, and a few new product descriptions every day probably isn’t practical. Consider your entire content strategy and schedule all of it.

Also remember that you don’t necessarily have to create all of that content yourself. Later in this post, we’ll talk about strategies that don’t involve you writing and designing everything alone. Like the rest of your life, scheduling content creation is a matter of priorities.

A planner helps you visualize this, so if you have one, take it out. Block out all the time where you have to be focused on your top priorities, including time that you have to be in a store serving customers, any time you have to spend at a day job, and family time you’re not willing to give up. Next, block out all the other things you know you must do, like important appointments and time at the gym.

Once you have all your top priorities on the schedule, you know how much time you have left for lower priority tasks. It’s probably more time than you think, too. Looking realistically at everything you need to do, decide how often you can create and share content, and then commit to sticking with it!

Never run out of ideas again

Most people who create their own content worry that they’re going to run out of things to talk about. You won’t. Ideas aren’t actually the hard part of content creation. If you’re having trouble writing a blog post or composing a tweet, lack of motivation is more likely to be the problem. After some time, working on your own business gets a bit boring. You could come up with ideas if you were excited, couldn’t you?

Unfortunately, that’s part of the reality of owning and running a company. It’s simply not fun all the time, and when it gets tedious and repetitive and awfully dull, you’re just going to have to do the work without particularly enjoying it. Sorry. That’s life. There are things you can do to draw inspiration and get through those dry patches, though.

Keep your focus narrow

Content drift happens to everyone, and it will happen to you. As you write and post and tweet and share every day, your own interests will naturally evolve and drift. Soon, you may find yourself blogging about city infrastructures in southern India, even though your blog is supposed to be about kitchen remodels. Beware the drift.

New online entrepreneurs often believe that the more topics they talk about, the more people they can attract to their website. The opposite is true, though: the more topics you talk about on your site, the more you’ll turn your readers off by telling them stuff they don’t care about. To put it another way, imagine you have a website that talks about healthy cooking. If you’re also interested in model trains, you might be tempted to add model train information to your site, assuming that you’re now talking to people who like healthy cooking AND to people who like model trains.

Actually, your website is now for people who like both healthy cooking and model trains, which is a smaller audience than people who like healthy cooking without any qualifiers.

For each new topic you introduce, you shrink your audience to include only the people with that entire set of interests. You also lose focus, drift more, and have trouble coming up with ideas because your site’s focus is too vague. Stay tightly focused on a single topic, and you’ll have an easier time coming up with things to say. Trust me, it works, even though it sounds like it wouldn’t.

Read a lot

You’re not the only person in the world talking about your industry or topic. If you were, your site would never see any traffic at all. Participate in your community by reading other blogs, journals, magazines, books, etc. in your field. When you have something interesting to say, leave comments. When other people ask questions in your area of expertise, answer them.

By seeing what other people are saying, doing, and asking, you’ll have a steady stream of topic ideas and you’ll keep up your own momentum. This also makes your content more relevant because you’re working with current trends, and that’s a great thing.

When you’re inspired, let it flow

Sometimes, you’ll get a burst of inspiration and you’ll feel as if you can write all night. So do that. Taking advantage of moments of inspiration will make your life so much easier. Don’t just post things as you finish, though. Stick to your schedule and only publish when you’re expected to do so. For all of that other stuff you made during your creative sprint, use scheduling features to get ahead on your work.

A good plan for any blog is to write at least 2 months worth of posts when you launch, schedule them, and then continue writing and scheduling new posts according to your original plan. You want to stay ahead as much as you can. That way, if someone is sick, or you go on holiday, or you just have a dry spell and can’t find the energy to write one more stupid post, your audience doesn’t suffer and you have some room to work.

Content doesn’t have to come from you personally

Your brand needs content, but that does not mean that you must create it by yourself. Depending on the size of your businesses, the amount of time you have to invest, your skills, and your preferences, you can use any combination of strategies to generate new content for your site.

Staff

Hiring writers, designers, photographers, social media specialists, videographers, sound engineers, and any number of creative content professionals is a great
choice. Staff can be rather expensive though, so you might have to start with one multi-skilled content marketer and grow from there.

Freelancers

Working with freelancers is less expensive than staff, and the quality of work can often be the same. Freelancers usually take some wrangling, and the good ones have incredibly busy schedules so they may not be around when you need them. It takes a special set of skills to find and manage good freelancers, and the time investment tends to be as high as having a full time employee.

Guest posters

In essence, guest posting is like freelancing, but without payment. You’ll sometimes find established bloggers or writers that will write guest posts in exchange for a mention and a backlink. More often, you’ll find newer writers and bloggers who haven’t been published much and want a chance to get their name on your site.

Having a staff editor makes accepting guest posts more practical, as the editor can evaluate writers, handle the logistics, and adjust posts to better suit your needs.

Curation

Curating content means that you are sharing things from other websites and adding your own comments. Be careful if this is your strategy and make sure you do this correctly. Curated content is not taken from someone else’s website and added to yours. Properly curated content is still hosted on the website where it was originally posted, and shared to your channels via a link or a tool that connects with their RSS feed.

In WordPress, you can use plugins to curate content. If you’re not on a WordPress site, ask your developer for help curating correctly. Simply putting that content on your own site, even if you say the site name and include a link, is considered stealing and can get your site taken down.

User generated content

If you’re good at building communities, this is the best kind of content you can get. Your followers and customers can submit pictures, videos, or other types of content that show them interacting with your brand. This is so valuable, and it’s difficult to achieve.

Try running a contest asking your followers to enter by submitting and sharing videos of themselves using your products. Some brands have great success getting user generated content simply by featuring user-uploaded pictures on their website and social media pages. People love being recognized – it’s almost like being famous.

Strategies that centre on user generated content take longer to produce results, and they’re also very effective as a marketing tool. It’s worth trying, even though it’s hard.

 

What if you fall behind anyway?

Even with great content strategies and a practical content schedule, life happens and you might fall behind. It’s okay. You haven’t done any permanent damage to your brand. Get back to work and you can catch up. If you find yourself scrambling to keep up and missing your scheduled posts, there are a few questions to ask yourself:

Is this a temporary problem, or is this my new normal?

Short-term challenges come up sometimes, and that’s okay. You can reduce post frequency temporarily and get back on schedule when things even out, or you can back-date posts and catch up later. A few missing updates isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. However, you might have fallen behind because your content schedule was too aggressive, or circumstances have changed and you have less time.

In that case, you can either adjust your content schedule, or you can use some of the strategies above to create more content in less time. Decide which is best for you based on the next question:

How is your website traffic?

Was your traffic great before you fell behind? More importantly, has falling behind negatively impacted your readership and business goals?

Each audience is a little different, so look at your analytics (see my previous post ‘You’ve got website traffic. Now what?’ for more info) to figure out what kind of impact your reduced posting is having. If you’re not losing any money, it’s reasonable to adjust your posting schedule. If your income took a hit when your posts slowed down, you should reshuffle your priorities or use one of the strategies in this post to get caught up.

You might be falling behind because of something fixable, though.

Has your content drifted?

Remember, a lack of motivation is usually a bigger problem than a lack of ideas. Content drift is a sign that you’re not focused closely on your topic, and it’s often a symptom of flagging interest in your core ideas. Get back on track by deleting any off-topic content and starting fresh with renewed focus. Getting rid of the extra noise is often a great motivator to get back in the trenches!

 

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