Editorial Calendar Continued: Twitter Editorial Calendars

In previous posts I’ve covered blog editorial calendars and programming blog content.  Let’s move on to Twitter for a bit and look at how to structure an editorial calendar for Twitter.

In reality, a Twitter editorial calendar is less “editorial” and more “planning.”  Given that you’ve only got 140 characters to play with (only 120 if you want to leave room for ReTweets), it’s not like you’re going to create groundbreaking editorial content for your Twitter stream.  Therefore, what I use Twitter for, and what many of the people I follow seem to do, is to curate links to content I feel that my Twitter audience will be interested in receiving.  This can include my own content, of course, but will also include links to others’ content.  I also make use of Twitter to get questions answered, take the pulse of my followers, and to do some (very limited) self-promotion.

Here are the steps for developing a consistent, easy-to-manage Twitter stream:

1. Determine who your audience is and what you want to tweet about

As with your blog, you should first listen to what your audience (followers) or potential audience (people you’d like to have following you) are saying and responding to on Twitter.  A great tool to listen in on conversations quickly is Twitter For Busy People (t4bp) – from here you can read the last tweet of each of the people you’re following – or type in anyone else’s Twitter name to see who they’re following and what they’re talking about.  So if you want to capture the same audience as, say, Chris Brogan, why not look to see what the people he’s following are saying (though with 120k+ friends there’s a lot to process!).

2. Choose a Twitter platform that allows you to schedule

twitter editorial calendar

Twitter tools like HootSuiteTweetDeck and Co-Tweet will all allow you to schedule Tweets for sometime in the future and to manage your schedule efficiently.  I prefer HootSuite for the online interface; they provide useful stats when you shorten links using their Ow.ly link shortener (built into their interface), and they also have fantastic customer service.

3. Determine a rough schedule for tweeting

Perhaps based on the tweet volume of people you’ve investigated in step one, figure out how often you want to send a message to your audience.  For my own @socialologist tweets, I aim to tweet 3-5 times per day on weekdays, mainly between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm ET.  I’ve done similar schedules for clients, sometimes including weekends (if it’s a highly consumer-oriented brand) and sometimes considering other time zones (scheduling later in the day ET to capture West Coast, or overnight ET to get mornings in Europe).

4. Start populating your Pending Tweets with content

Using your Twitter platform, start to program out your tweets in the system.  The example above is my own Pending Tweets list from a couple of days ago.  I try to queue up roughly a week’s worth of posts at a time, though not necessarily all of the posts I’ll send throughout the week.  I leave some room for adding in breaking news, topical posts, or the best of the day.  I will also reschedule a post for a later time if I find something more relevant/timely to post close to a prescheduled post.

5. Continually add, revise, refresh

I revisit my Pending Tweets most days to make sure that the links I’m sending are still relevant (what if new news superseded the info you’ve queued up?), and to adjust out if I’ve tweeted anything that wasn’t on the schedule.

In Thursday’s post I’ll cover sources for content to curate for your Twitter stream.  In the meantime, please let me know in the comments if this is similar to how you manage your Twitter efforts, or if you do something different.

blog calendar template

Editorial Calendar Continued: Blog Calendar Template

blog calendar template

I’ve had a couple of requests for a copy of the spreadsheet I’m using to track my blog editorial calendar, so I’ve created a Google Docs version that anyone can view and download.

In the spreadsheet I’ve included what I consider to be the most important fields that you should fill out while creating your calendar, as well as some columns for tracking your results afterward.

I’ve used similar structures in various ways with different clients, depending on their style and needs. Here are some of the things I think about when I’m crafting and updating my blog calendar:

  • You can either program far in advance with “evergreen” topics that you know will be relevant a month or two from now, or you can program out a week or two and move posts around as new topics and ideas come up.  I mostly do the latter, though I do have a couple of posts queued up that could get slotted in anywhere.
  • I use the Topic Notes column like a scratch pad, and initially include everything I think could be relevant to a topic or post.  I then continue to add to that topic over time until I’m close to that  date and actually sit down to write the post.  It’s then that I often realize that the topic might be too broad, in which case I split out some of the notes onto a new day in the future.  That is sometimes how a topic series develops – I determine that I have more to say on a particular topic than one post will contain, so I then program out one or more future posts as part of a series.
  • When I sit down to update the editorial calendar I give myself an hour or 90  minutes so that I can be as comprehensive as possible.  I do this once every week or two, plus quick updates most days to reflect actual posted information.
  • I also program out time to write the actual posts, striving to have the posts completed at least a day or two before they’re scheduled to be posted so that I can sit with them a while and copyedit without time pressure.  Of course, this doesn’t always happen (I do write plenty of same-day posts), but it’s nice to do when I can.
  • Of course, part of the raison d’etre for most blogs is to be able to authentically participate in an conversation, so keeping your calendar loose enough to accommodate spur-of-the-minute posts on hot topics or in response to someone else’s blog, Tweet or article is key.  I never hesitate to push a scheduled post to a future date if I’ve got something I just have to blog about immediately.

This calendar template is for my personal blogs and may be too casual for some brands.  For agency clients I formalize the process a great deal more, scheduling weekly editorial calendar meetings with the blog team (which also go into the calendar), programming out dates that blog drafts are due to a central editor or blog wrangler, and even building in senior management approval time if necessary – just add in columns for those dates.

You may have other ideas and needs for your editorial calendar; I’d love for you to tell us how you’re modifying this in the comments below.

 

program blog content

Editorial Calendar Continued: 9 Ways to Program Out Blog Content

program blog content

Hopefully now you’ve got a structure for your editorial calendar.  But it’s empty.  How do you determine what content to include in your blog?

The first place to start is to listen.  I’ve said before that I’m a huge proponent of social media listening, as that’s where you’re going to find the topics that are of interest to your audience.  You’ll want to also understand how you’re telling your brand story – what’s your voice, who’s speaking on your behalf.

So assuming that you know who your audience is, you know what you want your voice to be, and you know who’s writing (if it’s a multi-author blog), let’s look at some of the various ways to flesh out your editorial calendar for your blog.  These may not all be appropriate for you, just pick and choose to get the right balance of content for your brand.

Cover regular topics

Program out your calendar to reflect your company’s products or services, to ensure that you’re providing content that covers your most important products or speaking to the different types of people in your audience.  The PurinaCare blog does this well, ensuring that they post about cats as well as dogs, and also including content that’s relevant to veterinarians who may be selling their product.

Use themes or memes

Choose to designate certain days for various themes, whether serious or whimsical.  Graco Baby, a former client, does this with their Bundles Bumps and Babies series, which runs each Wednesday and always includes a wonderful photo.  Many blogs adhere to broader memes like  “Wordless Wednesdays” where they only run photos or “Friday Fun” where they go off-topic a bit and post something amusing.

Create a series of posts

Develop running series, like this post, which develop a topic over time.  My editorial calendar series is currently programmed out to include a total of four posts, but I’m leaving the door open for more.

Interview people

Create a series of interview posts featuring relevant interviewees for your topic.  Rubbermaid’s blog includes regular Q&As and tips from professional organizers – exactly the kinds of people Rubbermaid consumers want to hear from.  Interviewing people is sometimes easier for the interviewee than asking them to guest blog….

Invite guest bloggers

Get guest bloggers to provide content for you.  Tamar Weinberg uses guest bloggers to enhance the content on Techipedia and to give herself a writing break now and then.  Tamar also believes that giving guest bloggers a voice on her blog gives them a way to be discovered by her community.

Stalk celebrities (sort of)

A popular blog meme for product blogs is to capture news items about celebrities using the product. Bigelow Tea recently wrote about Michelle Obama’s high-profile White House teas and runs celebrity stories as an occasional series.  You can find these items in celeb magazines or online.

Promote your own media

Did you get a great media hit in print, in a blog, or on television? Write it up, humbly, for your blog. Your readers may not have seen it, and someone else’s endorsement of your brand is always more valuable than your own.

Promote your products

Running contests, promotions and giveways will increase engagement on your blog and bring new readers in through viral pass-along, if the offers are valuable.  Be sure to include easy ways that people can share your promotional content – buttons to tweet out the post and post it to Facebook, and an “email this” link to quickly send to friends by email.  Graco Baby takes the concept even further with their “Get One, Give One” program, allowing the contest winner to also give the same item to a mom or organization in need, establishing brand goodwill all around.

Build around your authors

If you have multiple authors for your blog, that may be a natural way to break down the content – assign “columns” or focus areas to each person based on their interest or passion, and program out the calendar from there.

What are the other ways you generate content to fill your editorial calendar?  What other blog memes could new (or established) bloggers consider following?  Please help flesh out this topic by posting your comments below.

social media editorial calendar

Basics of the Social Media Editorial Calendar

social media editorial calendar

As you may know, we’re huge fans of editorial calendars around here. We use them for all of our client work, plus our own internal content creation efforts and social media scheduling. Here’s a look at how we approach using a social media editorial calendar.

Audience

Before beginning to plan an editorial calendar, you need to determine who you are expecting to attract to your content so that you can tailor your content and voice to that audience. In our case, we are publishing content for both people that we hope will become clients (small- to medium-sized businesses) as well as those in the social media blog community that we consider ourselves to be a part of.

Platforms

We’ve determined which platforms we’re planning to publish in – at least for now. We currently publish content on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and on our LinkedIn company page. You or your company may also publish in other places – YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.  For the purposes of this post we’re going to focus on the blog calendar; we’ve written about an editorial calendar for Twitter in another post. It’s different, but the principles of planning in advance are exactly the same.

Calendar

For our blog, we schedule out a calendar in a Google Doc that outlines our posting schedule.  We don’t plan to post on weekends or national holidays, and we are currently posting on 1 to 2 weekdays per week. Our assumption is that most of our intended audience will do the majority of their reading during the business week. If your audience is mainly a consumer audience, you may want to schedule posts on the weekends, too. The best way to determine the posting schedule that works for you is to test, test, and test some more: start by posting on a particular day of the week, then look at Google Analytics 48 hours later to see how many views that post has. Then post on a different day and compare.

We typically have our calendar setup for a rolling six-week period, and we add to it frequently to be sure we never get too far behind.  We also set aside time every week to update the calendar and to make sure that it stays on track. And if cool ideas come to us that aren’t part of the calendar, we can always move a post out further and insert the hot topic or new idea anytime.

It’s also important to note that we do most of our writing pretty far in advance of the days designated on the calendar. For our own blog, but especially for our clients’ blogs, we typically have at least two to three posts queued up in advance. For clients’ blogs, we’re sometimes six to ten posts ahead! This is especially important when we need to get client approval or feedback on blog posts; we batch them and send them to the client all at once, thereby minimizing their time needed to review them, and keeping our process on track.

Content

Use our social media editorial calendar to organize your blog and social media efforts

In our Google Doc, on the Blog Editorial Calendar tab, you’ll see the following columns:

  • Day/Date
  • Holidays/events
  • Post status (written, approved, scheduled, published)
  • Content type (we may include video, audio, infographics or other content in our blog)
  • Theme/category (for a handy dandy way to develop themes and topics for your blog, check out our Content Creation Worksheet)
  • Topic/title
  • Blog notes and inspiration
  • Keywords
  • Writer
  • Author/byline (because the author may not always be the writer…such as when you have a ghostwriter writing for someone in your organization)

These are all the fields that we fill out for each post in our calendar. For each post, we often make a few notes on the content and choose the keywords we’re using for the post (for SEO purposes) pretty far in advance, then we refine the calendar as we write the content. For some tips on how to choose SEO keywords for your content, our friend Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media has a great guide.

Getting this all set up in advance is really the secret to our success, and comprises editorial calendar basics; it’s how we organize for maximum, power-fueled content creation. It’s not all that complicated; it’s merely a question of setting a schedule and sticking to it. But oof, isn’t that the hardest part? (Is this the right time to ask when was the last time you went to the gym?!)

We’d love to hear from you if you’re using our editorial calendar or any others…and how it works for you. Please tweet at us @crackerjackmktg or leave a comment.

 

brands working with bloggers

Brands Working With Bloggers – It’s Confusing

brands working with bloggers

While I was busy last week getting my new site up and running, a major conversation was happening in the blogosphere about compensation for mommybloggers. This is a topic that I’m pretty passionate about, having recently moderated a panel about how PR and bloggers can work together, and as a long-time liaison between brands and bloggers.

From the brand side, there is certainly a great deal of confusion (and, dare I say, ignorance) about how to work with bloggers (of any type, not just moms). Here are the issues from my perspective.

Public Relations and Bloggers

If you’re coming from the PR side, you’re used to working with editorial content, and calling up or emailing journalists to place stories about products and services you represent. You would never think to compensate those journalists, and even if you did send product samples you often get them back. And your budget does not extend into payments for anything editorially related; you may have budget for events or stunts, but not for paying people to evangelize your brand.

Why this works in “old media”: Journalists are paid by their publications (whether they’re paper or online), and the publications monetize based on subscriptions and ad revenue. The two are, in theory, held (more or less) strictly separate (more on that below).

Why this doesn’t work for bloggers: Bloggers don’t have “publications” paying them, they are the publications. Some are monetizing their site via advertising, others are not. Those that have worked hard to build up their readerships to a level where they’re valuable to a brand have probably done most of it uncompensated. They therefore often (but not always) want to find ways to generate revenue from their blogs/sites.

Advertising/Media and Bloggers

If you’re an advertising or media buying person, you’ve got a budget. You’re used to finding places to put your ads and paying those places to take them. So now you want to attract niche demographics, like moms, to your brand, and so you assume you can just pay bloggers with those readerships to get the exposure you’re looking for. While you don’t necessarily expect editorial coverage to accompany your ads, in practice there is absolutely an unwritten code that makes it more likely that a publication (particularly magazines) will cover your product if you’re advertising frequently.

Why this works in “old media”: It’s a pretty simple equation. Advertisers want to put their product in front of people who will care about it, and publishers have space to sell, online or off. And hey, if it does encourage editorial coverage here and there, all the better.

Why this doesn’t work for bloggers: Marketers and advertisers are now more than willing to compensate bloggers for product reviews, as if they were just another ad buy – whether that compensation is in cash or product. This is complex territory all around, clouding the notion of what a product review is (or at least should be). Bloggers who remain editorially neutral and/or provide full disclosures may not be as attractive to advertisers who want their reviews to look as organic as possible.

Additionally, although many bloggers do take paid advertising, as a persistent online publication it’s more difficult to straddle the line between advertising and editorial. What if you really love a product and write about it one week, then the brand offers you advertising dollars the next? That post lives forever and may be featured alongside that advertising, murking up the waters of integrity.

So What’s a Brand To Do?

No doubt this debate will continue, as marketers need to break out of their “old media’ models and bloggers further assert themselves as hardworking assets to brands. Others have written eloquently about great ways to compensate bloggers without paying for posts and how agencies should evolve.

Here’s my advice: Start with the assumption that you’re going to need to compensate bloggers in some way. If you’re PR, make sure your bosses or clients are aware that there will be costs involved in blogger outreach – to compensate bloggers as paid brand ambassadors, to create customized content for your site, or to test your product or service and write a properly disclosed review. Then be pleasantly surprised if your product or service is cool enough that your pitch gets met with a warm editorial reception, without compensation.

If you’re advertising/media, don’t expect more than what you pay for. If you’re buying advertising, that’s what you’ll get. If you want bloggers to do other things for you, plan to compensate them accordingly.

And, brand marketers, put yourself in the bloggers’ shoes. Take the time to communicate with the blogger and understand their motivations. Are they blogging for their community, and just trying to pay the hosting bills? Are they building readership to attract more (and more valuable) paid advertising? Do they have other skills they can bring to the table for you – are they trained marketers themselves who can add a new perspective to your marketing team? Once bloggers become your true marketing partners, everyone will win.