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7 Steps to a More Strategic Editorial Calendar

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7 Steps to a More Strategic Editorial Calendar


Updated January 6, 2022

Too many companies focus on the logistics of their editorial calendar – what days content is publishing, at what times, and at what cadence – and ignore the strategic elements. Anyone can schedule blog posts regularly, but the best content marketers create robust, strategic editorial calendars.

Instead of thinking of your editorial calendar as a schedule of content, consider it the implementation plan for your documented content marketing strategy. While the strategy most likely won’t change dramatically over a year, your editorial calendar will. Plan content in quarterly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry and content based on real-time performance.

Plan #content in quarterly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

This seven-step guide details how to build an effective editorial calendar by:

  • Determining who needs to be included
  • Identifying goals for the quarter
  • Deciding the content mix and publishing cadence to support those goals
  • Documenting your mix and cadence decisions on the editorial calendar
  • Brainstorming topics
  • Planning for flexibility
  • Measuring results to determine the success of your plan.

Step 1: Plan content creation capacity by determining who is involved

The best content assets should be influenced by a range of viewpoints, not just one person in the marketing department. The people involved should include subject-matter experts, writers, editors, graphic designers, distribution specialists, and potentially an outsourced content creation partner.

The best #content assets should be influenced by a range of viewpoints, not just one person in the marketing department, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

While most of these roles represent the content creators and distributors, subject-matter experts are different. Their primary duties are not about creating content. Build relationships with subject-matter experts who can offer specialized insight into relevant topics for your editorial calendar. These individuals should make sense as the “faces” of your company. They also should be willing (or required) to make time to serve as a subject-matter expert.

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TIP: I’ve seen great results from interviewing subject-matter experts on topics, then writing the content and getting their approval on the draft. You and your marketing team are the experts on writing engaging content. Leave the writing to your team and use the SMEs to share unique insights.

Once you decide who will be involved, you need to determine how much time each can devote to the content over the quarter. (And later, you’ll use that information to detail the quantity and type of content assets to be created and distributed over the three months.)

In practice, you’ll need to decide how many SMEs you can rely on and how many hours they can devote across the quarter.

If each of three SMEs can devote six hours over the quarter, for example, you could create nine pieces of long-form content. Figure one hour of the SME’s time per article for an interview, then one hour per article to review and approve the draft. (That’s two hours per article and three articles per expert.) You would end up with nine articles by the end of the quarter.

If you have 10 additional SMEs and each can devote two hours over the quarter, each SME could do a two 30-minute interviews and 30-minute draft reviews. You would end up with 20 blog posts at the end of the quarter.

Then consider how many additional content pieces your team can create without SME involvement. The total (SME-supported pieces plus the pieces your team can create on its own) is your capacity for the quarter.

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Step 2: Identify your goals for the quarter

Now that you’ve determined your content marketing capacity, think through your goals this quarter and how content plays into them.

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I’ve found most companies have one of these three goals for their content marketing:

  • Improving brand awareness through thought leadership
  • Increasing leads generated through content
  • Improving search rankings for targeted keywords (SEO)

Pick your primary goal for the quarter. It will give you a clearer view of the content types that should be created and the topics to focus on. Consider these examples:

  • Goal: Improving brand awareness through thought leadership

Content mix: Heavy on guest articles in relevant publications and videos; topics geared toward areas of subject-matter expertise

Content mix: A new piece of gated content; guest-contributed articles that include landing page links to your site

Content mix: Topics determined by a keyword research report; heavily geared toward on-site content with some guest-contributed articles with backlinks

Step 3: Determine your content mix for the quarter

Use the insights you’ve gained from identifying your team’s capacity and goal to develop your ideal content mix for the quarter. You can create dozens of content types, including guest-contributed articles, videos, case studies, and static or interactive infographics. If you’re tight on capacity, stick with written content because it’s the least expensive to produce and the easiest to create with a small team.

Create your ideal #content mix based on available resources and a single goal, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Using the team capacity described above with a goal of lead generation, here’s what a well-aligned content mix would look like:

  • Six unique-topic, guest-contributed articles with backlinks targeted to publications visited by prospective customers
  • 18 blog posts on your site – three posts for each topic addressed in the six guest-contributed articles
  • Two gated pieces of content (white papers) – each long-form guide aligned with nine blog posts
  • Two drip campaigns (one for each white paper)

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Step 4: Specify details on the editorial calendar

This fourth step is where a lot of people start the editorial calendar process – plotting the calendar. But this step involves more than plotting the day each content asset publishes.

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Work backward from the ideal publishing date and schedule the following dates on the calendar:

  • Topics confirmed
  • Author assigned
  • Questions submitted to subject-matter expert (or outline created for the writer)
  • Answers submitted from subject-matter experts
  • Content piece draft completed
  • Content piece edited
  • Content piece approved (also note who is the final approver for the piece)
  • Content piece uploaded to a platform or submitted to a publication

By including each of these dates on the calendar, you’ve taken what was once a vision – “we hope we can publish this many pieces of content in a quarter” – and turned it into a plan of what you can do based on the timeline you’ve laid out.

This calendar also serves as a one-stop shop that enables everyone involved to stay up to date on progress and due dates.

Make sure to assess other priorities and activities – those which you control and those which you can’t, such as product launches, big company events, holidays, guest publication dates, etc. Figure those into your planning process too.

By thinking through all of this on the front end, you’re less likely to end up with an editorial calendar that needs to keep changing. Though some things will change, plotting the deadlines you do control will help you and your team stay sane.

Step 5: Brainstorm to finalize the topics for each content piece

Now that you’ve scheduled the content for the quarter, it’s time to determine what you’ll be writing about. This step comes late in the process because brainstorming is more focused when you’ve accounted for your available resources, overall goal, and quantity of content pieces.

Brainstorming is better as a later step. After you know resources, goal, & content mix, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Using our example, we now know:

  • The content campaign needs two overarching themes to create the two cornerstone pieces — the white papers.
  • Those two broad themes must be broken down into nine naturally aligned blog posts.
  • Those themes and blog posts also must relate to six relevant and engaging guest-contributed articles.

You also know who is going to author each piece of content as well as which subject-matter experts are involved. You can vet a brainstormed topic by asking “Can this person speak to this?” or “Is this person an expert on the topic?” This procedure will ensure that you end up with the best content.

A free-for-all brainstorming session can be fun, but it doesn’t result in the most productive meeting. Create a structure for your brainstorming sessions to ensure that they stay on track. Here’s an agenda for my company’s 60-minute brainstorming meetings:

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  • 10 minutes – update on what’s in progress
  • 20 minutes – brainstorming relevant blog ideas
  • 20 minutes – brainstorming guest-contributed article ideas
  • 10 minutes – confirming deadlines and responsibilities and updating the editorial calendar

The important thing is to brainstorm a group of topics at once to ensure that they align. This is the difference between a plan to produce a bunch of content and a strategic content marketing plan.

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Step 6: Practice consistency and build flexibility into the plan

Companies make their biggest mistakes with their editorial calendars by putting in a ton of work on the front end and not following through. This happens for a lot of reasons. A boss pops in at the last minute with random content requests. Another executive needs a blog post to cover a conference where he or she is speaking, or news in the industry demands a fresh guest-contributed article commenting on the impact.

Companies make their biggest mistakes with their #editorial calendars by putting in a ton of work on the front end and not following through, says @Kelsey_M_Meyer via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You can handle this two ways:

  • Throw the editorial calendar out the window and change focus every week based on the whims of the team. (I don’t recommend this.)
  • Build flexibility into the editorial calendar. (I recommend this.)

You might have noticed that our example content mix doesn’t use the team’s capacity for the quarter. This is intentional.

Based on the resources available, the team could produce up to 17 more pieces of content. But by not building out the plan to capacity, I built in flexibility to work on other pieces of content as they arise.

TIP: If one person in your company is known for coming up with a different, must-do random thing every week, build that into the plan. Simply schedule a spot for “Joe’s Crazy Content Idea” each week.

The important thing is to let your content plan set up your brand for success. When an unexpected request pops up, it doesn’t distract the team from the planned content mix because you built in a capacity for flexibility.

Step 7: Measure your content success

The metrics to gauge the success of your editorial calendar are based on your content marketing goals. However, I recommend tracking these bare minimum metrics to see how well your content is performing against your goal:

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  • Metrics for brand awareness – social shares on published guest-contributed articles, clicks back to your website, new connections on LinkedIn, and people reaching out to your subject-matter experts
  • Metrics for lead generation – clicks back to your website from published guest-contributed content, the conversion rate for blog posts, new leads generated from gated content
  • Metrics for SEOlinks earned through published guest-contributed content, traffic from organic search, rankings for your target keywords

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Be strategic from the first step

Following a strategic approach to your editorial calendar is a never-ending process. But that ongoing work should be affected by your evaluation process. Review your key metrics toward the end of the quarter as you begin to plan for your next three months.

It gets easier each time you plan the editorial calendar for the next quarter because you’re simply tweaking your previous plan rather than starting from scratch. Let me know in the comments how this seven-step guide to creating your next editorial calendar works for you.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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What You Need to be Doing NOW to Get Your Shop Ready for Black Friday

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What You Need to be Doing NOW to Get Your Shop Ready for Black Friday

Did you know that 130 million users use Facebook and Instagram to discover sales and buy products during Black Friday weekend alone? 

This means that setting your shop up for success is an excellent way to attract all shopaholics into your business and make serious money. But, with so little time, how can you know what you’re supposed to do? 

Well, after talking with Meta experts, I’ve put together an easy-to-follow checklist with everything you need to do AHEAD of Black Friday if you want your Instagram or Facebook Shop to be a huge success this holiday. 

So read on, and start planning now!

11 Things you need to do to get your shop Black Friday ready

The key to a successful Black Friday is reaching the right audience with the right products. In years past, this meant a well-placed ad in the local newspaper or a spot on the radio. But today, the best way to reach potential shoppers is through social media. And of all the social media platforms out there, Instagram and Facebook offer the best buying experience. 

Facebook and Instagram Shops provide an easy way for businesses to showcase their products and reach a wide audience, and offer a convenient way to browse and purchase items with just a few clicks. Plus, since most users are already using these social media platforms *we’re talking about more than 3 billion*, it has become a natural way to shop. 

So if you’re a business owner looking to take advantage of Black Friday, setting up an Instagram or Facebook shop is a must, and here are the best tips to do so: 

1. Start planning your holiday strategies if you haven’t already

For many businesses, Black Friday is make-or-break time, when they can either turn a profit or end up in the red. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid plan in place for dealing with traffic. 

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By mapping out a strategy beforehand, businesses can avoid being overwhelmed by the high demand and ensure that everyone has a positive experience. This means, planning your offer and deals ahead of time, placing your ads budget, doing product inventory, organizing customer service, etc. 

Regarding offers, Instagram and Facebook Shops allow businesses to set up coupons and discount codes during checkout, and timely offers to display their deals. Offer parity with your site is key. So be sure to review #7!

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2. Update your Meta Shop banners 

In order for retailers to lure customers into their shops, they need to make sure their signage is up-to-date and eye-catching. This is especially true for banners, which are the first thing people see when hunting for good deals and promotions. 

A well-designed banner can help to create a sense of urgency and excitement, convincing shoppers that they need to act now in order to get the best deals. These act as hero images from a traditional site, but for your Instagram Shop.

Additionally, they can be used to highlight specific sales or promotions, making it easy for shoppers to find the products they’re looking for. After all, what good is a sale if no one knows about it?

So if you’re looking to make the most of this busy shopping day, don’t forget to update your social shop banners with eye-catching designs. It could make all the difference in attracting customers to purchase in your store.

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3. Make your organic media is shoppable

Facebook and Instagram Shops allow you to tag a product every time you post a picture, reel, story, or video. This is especially relevant because it drives users from an organic publication to your shop where they can check all the information about the item they’re interested in. 

Plus, tagging can give you clean insights to how they’re interacting with products and creatives. 

Hat tip: Did you know that you can tag your products in the description of your feed posts? No more using ‘link in bio’ in your copy for your organic posts. Use the @ symbol and choose ‘products’, once you have found your product select it and BAM, your product is now linkable in your Instagram post’s description!

4. Set your products up for success

Each product description should contain anything and everything a user needs in order to buy. This includes: 

  • Engaging and informative product descriptions

Standing out from the crowd of sellers can be especially hard during the holidays. However, a great way to do that is to make sure your product descriptions are clear, concise, and compelling. 

No matter if you’re selling clothes, accessories, or home decor, a good product description will tell potential customers everything they need to know about a product, including its features, benefits, etc. Plus,  it should also be engaging, so that shoppers are tempted to click “add to cart”, so don’t forget about the call to action and use strong and convincing language to urge the buyers to take your deal. 

Be sure to exclude urls in your product description because it’s not allowed. Keep your product descriptions centered on benefits and remember, users often have 1-3 seconds to evaluate the efficacy and interest in a product from a product description.

Images that are well-lit and clearly show the product details can be the difference between a customer clicking “add to cart” or moving on to the next item on their list.

For Instagram and Facebook Shops, images need to be at least 500×500 pixels. Additionally, it’s important that you include more than just one image and focus on features. 

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Extra tip: according to Meta experts, if your product is in the lifestyle category, detailed product images can help you increase your possibilities of making a sale by 6-8%. 

Extra extra tip: Include an image of a customer’s selfie with the product. Showcasing real customers using or holding your product makes a big difference with your conversions.

  • Include price, availability, and sizes

No one will buy anything from your shop if you don’t have this information! So check your products and make sure that all of them include the deal price, pieces in stock, and sizes (this one applies only for items that are in categories like: Clothing Accessories, Newborn & Baby Fashion Accessories, and Costume Accessories)

Regarding sizes, you can (and should) add a size chart to help users feel confident in the purchase decisions and potentially reduce return rates. 

Bear in mind: July 2022, Meta changed the basic information each item showcased in their shops needs to have in order to be displayed, so click here to discover everything your products need to have!

5. Update your catalog

An outdated catalog will make it difficult for them to find what they’re looking for, and they may decide to do their shopping elsewhere. 

So, it’s important that you check and update your catalog to display all the products that are on sale to help your customers make important purchase decisions and drive sales. 

Taking this into account, your catalog should: 

  • Have all the products displayed with their variants
  • Include product details: complete all data fields (materials, ingredients, multiple images, videos, and size charts where applicable)
  • Be maintained: update collections with new items and inventory quantity. Regarding this, you can use Meta Pixel to automatically update your catalog and reduce operational load. 

6. Enable checkout on Facebook and Instagram Shops

Redirecting users to your own website or another platform in order to complete a sale is inconvenient and can lead to lost sales. So, it’s HIGHLY recommended that you set up your shop with checkout, if you’re allowed,to help potential customers discover and buy your products on one platform. 

**For eligible stores in the US, all fees are waived through the end of 2022 for enabled checkouts.

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Onsite checkout can be set up in Commerce Manager and it’s available for US shops only; it will give insights into shopper demographic and full-funnel conversion data which, in return, can help you optimize your campaigns. 

7. Offer Parity

An Instagram or Facebook Shop is an extension of your store, but in a more consumable form that doesn’t require users to go from a place to another in order to buy something. This means that both should offer the same data: from prices and deals, to contact information and banners. 

Why? Because some people may find your social shop and make their purchase there, meanwhile others would prefer to go to your website to get more information about you, so offer parity is a must if you want to build trust with potential customers. After all, no one wants to find mismatched prices!

8. Enable product reviews 

By reading reviews, users can get an idea of what other shoppers thought of a particular item before they make a purchase and it can help them make informed decisions. That’s why they’re a key player when it comes to driving sales during Black Friday. 

Regarding this, US shops with onsite checkouts have access to ratings and reviews and can manage them in Commerce Manager, which will allow you to check customer feedback and answer them. 

Remember this: you need to have a shop with onsite checkout to enable product reviews and ratings. 

Moreover, it’s possible to import reviews from 3rd parties! For now, Yotpo and Bazarro are active, meanwhile, Okendo and Stamped.io will be available with the reviews section in the next quarter. 

9. Don’t forget about user-generated content

User-generated content has the added benefit of being more authentic and relatable than traditional marketing materials. It’s this human element that can be critical in helping persuade undecided shoppers to make a purchase. In fact, UGC drives a 9% increase in CTA clicks for buy now or view on the website

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During Black Friday, this type of content can be a valuable tool for helping brands connect with consumers and build trust, so it’s important to include it in your strategy. 

For this, you can use images and videos of different customers using, wearing, and loving your products or provide buyers with information like “how to use” or tips that can help them make the most out of an item. 

If you go to the UGC section of your commerce account, you can find UGC that’s ready for potential use in your stories and in your Meta Shops. You can find any images that tagged your handle or used one of your branded hashtags. When you find images that you’d like to use, you can send a request to that user’s profile for permission of usage of that media in your store.

It’s really that easy!

10. Leverage Shopping Ads and Catalog Ads

Instagram shopping ads allow businesses to showcase their products directly in the Instagram feed. 

By tagging product photos with relevant information, businesses can create ads that include pricing, product descriptions, and a link to purchase the product. These ads are designed to be highly visual and engaging, and they provide a convenient way for users to learn about and purchase products without ever leaving Instagram. 

On the other hand, Advantage+ Catalog Ads are a must-try for those businesses that have a large catalog of products and don’t want to be bothered by having to create a different ad per product. Instead, this type of ad helps you to create one campaign for all your products and show it to people that are interested in even one item from your catalog by creating an individual ad. 

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By integrating Catalog and Shop Ads into your paid media plan for Black Friday, you can attract possible customers and take them through your sales funnel all in one platform. 

If you’re not familiar with these types of ads, you should start experimenting and scaling them as you see fit from now on! Also, don’t forget to set up your CPA!

*** Black Friday ad ramp up should begin by September 20th. October 15th is the BIG day when everyone enters the Meta Ads marketplace and auction pressure increase***

11. Prepare your customer support service

Answering questions from possible customers in less than 24 hours increases their possibility to make a purchase by 50%, that’s why it’s important to invest in effective customer service to help users get a clear understanding of your business and build trust. 

With Facebook and Instagram Shops, you can get an email every time someone asks specific questions and reply by using the feedback tag on Commerce Manager. These replies become publicly available helping future customers see that social proof to make better buying decisions.

However, this feature is only available if you have enabled checkout and are an admin to the commerce account.

When should you start?

The peak of users eager to get Black Friday deals starts from October 15th to the big date *yes, more than a month before Black Friday*, so it’s crucial that you start optimizing your Instagram and Facebook Shops ASAP. 

And, if you feel like this long list may overwhelm you and already give you a headache, at Mongoose Media we have a team of experts that will take this task from you and make the most out of your shop to go from plan to bestselling during the holidays!

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