What if I told you that I had my holiday content planned out already? Oh! and by holiday I don’t mean Easter (at the time of writing that’s three months away). I’m talking about Christmas 2019.
I’m here to tell you there is a way. There are also heaps of techniques to save you time and the frustration you experience when fast-tracking your content for an entire year.
Listen, I know the helplessness you feeI when thinking about your content strategy and more importantly I see you. I see you, brand manager, working for a major company, frustrated with the agency you’ve hired because they don’t ‘get’ your voice. And I see you, small business owner, sharing your gifts and talents with the world and wondering how the heck you can tell the same story in multiple ways while keeping it fresh and not getting lost in the digital abyss. Finally, I see you career driven #bossbabe with the side hustle you market on social media; it keeps calling for a commitment that you’re not quite willing to give…yet.
I see you because I was you and I’m here to share that it is possible to create content so far in advance that you can rest, find balance and reap the rewards that come with intentional planning. So let’s get started with this no secrets barred content planning guide that you (and by extension your tribe) will love. Do you have your coffee at hand? Good. Let’s get started.
Let’s start with the definition. What’s content? You would think it’s simple (an article you write, a video you produce etc.) but content involves an ecosystem that flows effortlessly between the macro and micro worlds. You can’t just see it as a singular article you’re writing.
In fact when it comes to social media, content creation is far more complex and more deeply integrated. Let’s take this story you’re reading now, because it’s a long-form piece and the base from which I start, I’ll call it a macro piece of content.
Chances are I’ll take this article on content creation and record it as a video for my Monday Digital Moment series (that’s 5-7 minute video of tips I record with my I phone). I will also more than likely pull some phrases from the video to create a series of quote cards (about 10) for my IG account.
If I wanted to, I could even record this very article as a podcast, take some great images of me recording it and voila, I’ll have an audio recording and some still images. I could also produce a GIF and some Facebook and IG stories to direct my followers to the blog to read the article. Oh, and how about LinkedIn, this article and all the other micro content would crush it on that platform.
See what I mean about content being part of an ecosystem that is integrated? Just like that, one article has given me about 30 different pieces of content that can last over two-three months, once I sprinkle it strategically over my feeds.
The coolest part? Once you empower your team or yourself, (this is for those of you steering a solo ship) to see what pieces of content resonate (metrics matter), you can create content around what works for a long period of time.
Go back to that last paragraph. Re-read it again. Got it? Creating content around what works will be your lifesaver when it comes to keeping your content fresh for an entire year but it only happens when you make metrics your Queen.
By the way, every platform allows you to measure what’s working and what’s not, so as content creators you have no excuse to create tangible media outputs mindlessly.
Let me give you an example of how my team and I discovered a fresh stream of content that will allow us to level up our style content over the next year. As some of you know, I recently bought a home which I am renovating and also building an attached content studio which I will offer to other creatives. We have never created content about my home, it has simply been used as a backdrop for filming our web series, Forward Forty TV. However, late last year we posted a couple of decor inspiration photos on Instagram, which got so many generous comments on how the rooms looked, we decided to do another and another, all of which ended of being the most popular posts of the week.
That got me thinking; maybe there is a part of our ever-expanding community who loves sharing ideas about home décor? Orlando (my videographer) and I later record this vlog, posted it on Facebook and noted the positive reactions.
Home décor stories have now become a subset of our style section. Something that started out really simple went levels deeper and created streams of content that were exciting and new.
The by-products of your content matters. When we listen carefully to our audience we can provide more in terms of quality and quantity to our readers, which brings me to the next question you’ll probably ask. How on earth can you produce content for an entire year? The answer is predicated on understanding your distribution rhythm, from strategy to schedule.
If you follow along on any one of our platforms you’d know we create a ton of content with a tiny team of four (we also rely on a committed, outsourced team). Sometimes when I tell people the amount of creative talent on the Forward Forty team I’m fascinated by the surprise and awe crossing their faces.
Here is the run-down on what we create but first, you must understand that to make our content manageable and meaningful, we divided our entire lifestyle portfolio (travel, wellness, style, success, business, food) into themes that we could distribute on social media 365 days of the year.
We post content on the blog 2-3 days a week. Mondays are devoted to Monday Digital Moment, Tuesdays are for travel. Wednesdays are for wellness and fitness pieces. On Thursday we start finalising our Sunday newsletter and on Fridays, we post style content. We interchange what we post each week and we repurpose content every seven days.
Every other Sunday we do a deep dive into a topic that provides tangible takeaways that our audience can apply to their businesses and lives. This goes out as a weekly newsletter only to our email subscribers. We decided to create this membership area to provide extraordinary value to those people who decided to opt-in to receive our newsletter. It’s a space where subscribers can get exclusive information on how to grow their businesses and brands. We also offer a ton of freebies to our members and focus on stories around digital marketing especially within the creative community.
On Instagram, I personally post once-twice a day and I plan posts in advance via Planoly. These vary in topics from inspirational posts, sponsored posts, life+ style inspiration, our photography work to personal updates. I also tweet several times a day.
YES, we are creating A LOT of content each and every week and that’s just our work alone. We also produce content for other brands. So how do we actually accomplish this and actually stick to the schedule I’ve outlined?
As I mentioned, mastering content creation and distribution for your brand on social media is difficult and a long process. When you think of scheduling content months in advance it seems impossible. But that’s not the case when you understand how the soul of your brand connects to the heart of the stories you share on social media.
Once you have the clarity, creating content is strategic and clear because you understand your audience, your channels and your priorities.
This 8-step guide I created will help with all of that, from both a macro and micro perspective. It links your strategy to your objectives; your objectives to your stories; your stories to your channels and your channels to your tribe. It allows you to create a content map that will guide your thinking and your approach to storytelling. Best of all, it will keep you focused especially since creating content for 12 months ahead can seem overwhelming.
I have already written on the apps that I love which allow me to create a ton of content and publish more effectively. You can find that here.
There are a few more tools for content creation I never go without.
First up, The Social Media Planner is my bible. I created it when I became exhausted producing and distributing all our clients’ content and of course, Forward Forty’s work and recognised that there were limited options in the market for someone who was using social media in a serious and strategic way.
The Social Media Planner is a master content calendar. I see my plans in front of me. It spells out each week’s blog posts, emails, episodes, stories and focuses me in ways I could only hope for. Using it allows everyone on my team to know what is coming up, who is doing what, and how everything is working towards a defined purpose. There are no question marks, no creating content on the fly, and we all feel freed up to work ahead, stay creative, and try different things because we are aligned to to our main goals. The Planner has a logical flow, place for reflection and ample room to connect the dots among yearly goals, monthly tactics and daily actions. It also helps me and my team with batching, which is the single most important thing you can do to plan out a twelve-month calendar.
Secondly, our content distribution system does not work without Planoly and HootSuite, two platforms, which allow for the seamless promotion of content. I never want you to forget that the proper distribution of what you create is as important as the thing you create.
The link that designer Jessica at JNLMedia makes to cookie baking and batching is brilliant. “When you make a batch of cookies,” writes Jessica, “you are making a lot of cookies at once using the same ingredients.” You would never mix all the ingredients, make one cookie, and then have to start all over again to make another cookie that uses the same ingredients. Right?
The same concept applies to creating all your content. When you focus on producing material for your media channels for a specific amount of time you’re more effective with your hours.
Do not write your posts and post them on the same day. Amalgamate like with like to save yourself time. We shoot 4 videos in one day, I can write three blog post per day and I can easily block off an entire long weekend and write 6 weeks worth of content. By batching you won’t experience the stress of hitting publish the same day you write, and the distractions of a million tabs opening and being distracted by emails or posting notices. Batching is your game changer. It’s the only reason why I have my Christmas 2019 content planned (though not written) already.
When you think about planning out your content in advance, you want to focus on its strategic creation — not just creating for the sake of creating. Each piece of content you produce should serve a purpose! When you can take a step back and see where you are headed it’s a lot easier to create a content map and an ecosystem that will get you closer to the bigger goals that you have in mind. Remember, don’t just stop at the creation of your stories and other output, promote it, share it, and get the word out. Content creation and content marketing are twins, devote equal time and thought to each.
I hope all of my tips helped. I can’t wait to hear which tips you will use (not everything is for everyone) and how you will use my suggestions to slay your goals. Start where you are. There is plenty of time to begin anew.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
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