For every business online come an almost limitless number of areas to learn about, become proficient in and continually work on. Many people end up good in an area because repetition and the “school of hard knocks” teaches them a workable path. And while some areas are no brainers (knowing your product, for example), they still can present legitimate challenges to a business. Areas like Usability often get talked about, but are just as often overlooked, underfunded or skipped entirely for a lack of thorough understanding of the topic.
Creating content is a hot topic these days, but the “how you create content” side of things is tougher than many people realize. The sheer amount of work involved in writing anything becomes overwhelming to many, which is why understanding the process and focus behind the content become so important. This naturally leads to the notion of creating a calendar for planning content creation to help streamline the work.
Let’s take a look at these three areas in a bit more detail. While not definitive, hopefully this information will get folks pointed in the right direction.
Usability — within the context of your Web site — refers to how easy or difficult it is for a visitor to interact with your site and accomplish their goals. For example, if you run a online sneaker store and they are looking for sneakers in a particular size and color, how easy is it for them to find all of the products you have that meet their needs?
According to this definition by Jakob Nielsen:
“Usability is defined by 5 quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?”
Digital marketing is a content driven endeavor. Content is the way you share your value proposition and your story repeatedly with your audience.
While there are many elements incorporated to create an effective content strategy for your digital marketing plan, they can be generally aligned by answering the following questions:
- who your target audience is
- what are the best venues to reach them
- what resources you have available to create content
One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is creating content that is compelling based on the resources (staff, skillset, budget, time) that they have available. You’ve identified blogging as a great way to reach your target audience but you’re not a great writer. Through your research you’ve discovered Facebook is the ideal place to reach your customer but you don’t have the time to post regularly or the skills to create eye-catching images and write enticing copy.
Content comes in essentially four forms:
- Plain Text
- “Designed” or specially formatted text
First you want to prioritize which types of content will be most valuable for you to reach your audience, then determine whether you already have the resources available to create it and if not if you have the budget to hire those resources. If video is the ideal way to reach your customer but you don’t have/are unable to fit video production into your budget, you have two options: either create lower quality videos or move to the next best way to reach your audience. Only you, from your research, will know whether a low-quality video will hurt or help your business.
At some point you have to make the hard choices and decide whether to invest in the skills and tools needed for the ideal approach or whether to try a different method based on the skills and tools you already have available.
They next question is determining what kinds of content you will create. Here is a helpful list of the kinds of content that are shared in digital marketing campaigns whether it’s emails, social media posts, search results or banner ads:
Throughout your content strategy, you want to ensure that you are weaving a story about your business and staying true to the message that makes the most sense to deliver to your potential customer and in the tone and words that will most resonate with them.
Creating a calendar for your digital marketing campaigns is a fantastic way to stay on track and ensure that you’ve created a plan that is reasonable and comprehensive.
Because digital marketing is so content driven, a calendar is important for ensuring:
- Your content is consistent, on brand and on message and supports your business goals
- Your frequency is consistent – avoiding large gaps or lags in your communication with clients, potential clients and stakeholders
- Everyone on the team understands what is being published when
- There is structure around the publishing process
- You can assign content to different team members and everyone knows who is posting what, where.
- It’s clear what resources you need – by understanding that you plan to post a 300-word article every day instead you can ensure you have set aside the resources you need for the research, writing and publishing of that content.
- Your content is comprehensive – you are able to compare your content or marketing calendar against other activities in your business –upcoming events, product launches, new hire announcements, expected press, shopping related holidays, seasonal sales etc.
- You are able to track results from your content – embedding tracking methods and even tracking code in your calendar will ensure that you’ve planned for this important step and it becomes a part of your process
- You are able to plan for landing pages where appropriate – including landing pages in your calendar ensures that you’ve considered what the call to action is for each piece of content you’re publishing. Some content (some social media posts for example) will not have a landing page on your Web site but anything that is meant to lead to a conversion should have a landing page.
- You are able to recognize gaps in your content – are there key messages that you have not covered? Products you have not promoted but should?
- You are able to allocate the appropriate amount of time for your campaigns – very often not enough content is posted to generate the needed response. An email or two is sent, a post or two on Facebook. Typically a campaign is much, much bigger including pre, during and post communications which may be ongoing. Having a calendar allows you to expand your communication around a specific campaign and clearly see the benefit of doing more around less. Fewer campaigns with better communication for each campaign often works better.
Content Calendars come in many forms but most are maintained in a spreadsheet like Excel and include columns similar to these:
- Publish date
- Creation Deadline
- Content Type
- Content source
- Content creator
- Content publisher
- Platform (blog, social site etc.)
- Tracking code/method
- Landing page if applicable. You can also consider including a column for “Goal” as in – what are you trying to accomplish with the publishing of this piece of content? It could be as simple as establishing mindshare which may be the case for your social media posts but ensure you have a healthy mix of non-sales and sales related content.
There is more to each topic obviously, and in the coming months we’ll be adding some content to fill in the blanks and explore more areas related to running an online business. Hopefully this post will help some folks come up with ideas about how creating content and managing a calendar for content might look at their own businesses.
Sr. Program Manager