How do you create a great content calendar that your target audience will love? In today's episode I am talking with Emma Bradley about how you can create the best content calendar possible for your business. We answer questions like: How do you find interesting content? How often should I talk about my products? What tools can I use to create my content calendar? And more!
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It's not just about the product itself, I would say. I think in all the industries I've worked in, there's still a very important like educational piece, which is not necessarily promoting a product itself, but the importance of educating people about whatever you specialize in is to show them that you're an expert in that field or that industry.
I am Jasper Meurs and you are listening to Growth Journal, the podcast where I talk about everything I am learning while I am growing my business. Today, I have a special episode for you where I am joined by a co-host, Emma Bradley, to talk about content calendars. We talk about how it makes your life easier, and we will also mention some examples of how to create the right mix of content. Enjoy. Our guest today is Emma Bradley. She's a community manager, content creator, and lifestyle coach at Reconnected, and she has a burning passion for travel and is an avid foodie. Hi, Emma.
Thanks so much for joining me.
Thanks for having me.
How are you doing today?
I'm doing well. Thank you. And yourself?
I'm doing great. Today, I want to talk a little bit about content creation and more specifically about the content calendar. As far as I understood, you are working with content quite often yourself. Maybe you can tell me what is your experience with content so far.
Okay. When I was in university, I started out basically doing social media management for a couple different small businesses. A lot of the people that I was working with, they were entrepreneurs themselves, females. My first internship that I ever had was working for an eCommerce company and they hired me to basically run their operations, their social media, and their email marketing. A big thing that we did for content was at the time... This was before like TikTok was really big, so we were still focusing just on Instagram. I don't even think Instagram, like Reels, had been out at the time. This was a couple years ago. What we did basically for them is we had... What was really helpful for our content planning was we started with like content buckets.
Every post that we did, it had to be like somehow valuable to our audience, whether that was like either promoting the product itself, or giving them like helpful wellness tips. It was an eCommerce lingerie company so that was something that was like... There was inherently like a link like female wellness and lingerie. Our posts, we had different content buckets saying like, "Okay, this is promotional. This is inspiration. This is styling advice. This is gift ideas for either yourself or gifting for another female friend." And then basically we would have like themes each day of the week, or maybe we were posting like three times a week, so like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for example. But we'd have like a Monday post, there would be a theme like motivational Monday or like on Wednesday would be like wellness Wednesday.
Basically that was the first internship, like social media management job I kind of ever had. I took that experience with me to continue to have other work experience while I was in university. For other companies and small businesses that I worked for when I was doing their social media management, I basically replicated those same ideas no matter what industry I was working in. At one point, I worked with a woman. She was a pretty big makeup artist in Boston. She did weddings and professional photography shoots. She would do the hair and makeup for that. I did all of her social media marketing for her and social media management.
When I would build out her content calendars as well, I replicated the same experience I had with the eCommerce company, which was essentially creating the different types of content and saying like, this is how it is valuable and relevant to our audience, but also with the intention of growing our audience. We wanted to be able to make very aesthetic looking Instagram feeds as well to get more people interested in either like buying services or buying products. I basically just replicated that wherever I went. And now I'm finally at Reconnected where we also had to... When I say we, I mean me. I'm doing it all on my own. I had to fill out their content calendars for their Instagram. But now at this day and age... And that's really funny to say, this day and age, but if you think about it, it is like...
This is four years later, right? I've built up now, at 23, I've built up at least like four to five years of work experience at this point. And now at this day and age, we also have TikTok and we have Instagram Reels and short form video content that we have to add into our content calendars. Yeah, sorry.
One of the things that I find quite interesting and I wonder what your experience is with this is, do you find it easy to convince clients that the content that you create is not just about their products, but also about like bringing value to their target audience basically?
It's not just about the product itself, I would say. I think in all the industries I've worked in, there's still a very important educational piece, which is not necessarily promoting a product itself, but educating people for certain things. If it's like I'm working for Reconnected in like the dating and life coaching industry, that it's still promoting advice.
But I think the most important advice that I get from this is that it's indeed about bringing them value and educating them on something that is relevant to your business, but it's not necessarily the same as like constantly selling your product.
No, but I think the importance of educating people about, I guess, whatever you specialize in is to show them that you're an expert in that field or that industry. And so then when perhaps they want to buy a product or purchase services from you, they go back to you because they trust you.
Absolutely. It's basically what I'm usually like evangelizing, I guess, to clients, but not all of them usually get it. A lot of people are still a little bit stuck in the traditional way of doing marketing/advertising where they just basically buy ads to promote their product. But these days, it's not really working anymore. You really need to build that trust with people before you can actually sell something to them.
Yes. I think that also is the same... It's like a similar concept when people say like they're just marketing for the sake of marketing. That's not helpful to anybody either, because you're just pushing a product out to people when they don't necessarily have any context as to who you are or what your relevance is to them. I think that can end up really being like a huge waste of time as well. I think it would be better if people focused on not just pushing the product. Let's say you want to post five days a week. That doesn't necessarily mean all of the five days you need to be promoting the product itself.
I think you need to be doing something else in addition to product promotion. You need to be like inspiring people somehow, grabbing their attention either through like education or like motivation to show that you actually have some credibility and then saying, "Because you can trust me, I also have this product and you should use it or buy it because I know what I'm talking about," which you've already shown them through the content itself.
Yes, I agree. I think the main message here is that we need to provide this value to people, but this is also a nice segue into like why do you think it's important to have a content calendar?
I think for me, the importance of the content calendar based on my own experience was that we want to make sure first of all... There are a couple of reasons. The first being is that you want to make sure that the content you are producing is on brand and it aligns with like the brand's values. You're not coming up with something totally random off the cuff, I think, is the expression, so that you're staying true to the brand's values. It aligns with the company itself. The second one is for organizational purposes as well. Like I said, it's really nice to be able to have a variety of content types. Whether it is you're promoting a product or you're doing something educational, having that variety planned out in advance is like very helpful.
For me, I will tend to schedule like monthly content one to two, sometimes even three weeks in advance, depending on how my work schedule has been that month. I think it's really nice to have things like planned in advance. One of the things that I feel like we always did when it came to selling actual products themselves is that you had to be really aware of like ho... This is in the US, by the way, so I'm going to reference things like US holidays. A lot of the times though there would be like these promotional periods that people have whether it's like a 4th of July sale or Black Friday, and so oftentimes those would be promotional periods and you want your content around that. You want to ramp up to those promotional periods essentially. That is when you're going to be pushing your product the most.
Sometimes to have content that is relevant to those events or even content... I remember I was working for I guess you could say like she was a financial literacy coach for women who wanted to get into finance and investing essentially. It's what she was to them. The content we produced for her was often... If something relevant had happened in the media related to women in like business, in finance or something, then we could create content around those events. Especially, for example, like when Kamala Harris was the first female president... Sorry, that is my bad. Bad American.
The first female vice president.
The first female vice president. That is exactly what I'm saying. For example like that, then that was a really good time to make a post about feminism and female independence, that kind of stuff. It's good to have content counters so that you are aware of the relevancy of your marketing to greater society and what is happening around you, but also to be able to be very organized. For example, if you need someone to approve your work as well, they can also see what you are working on so that they can approve it in a timely manner. It's not very helpful to have the month start and you have a whole content calendar planned out and it doesn't get approved until after the first of that month. That's very frustrating and it's not helpful to anyone.
I can imagine.
Yes. I unfortunately do speak from experience when I use that example. I would say it's always good to have your planning done in advance. You also can have... Sometimes what we do is... What I do now in my current job with Reconnected is that each month you can kind of change a bit of your theme or the messaging that you want to do. Like for example, maybe one month we were more focused on creating content that was really solely around dating advice, whereas maybe in another month we would say, "Okay, the dating stuff didn't resonate as much. Let's try to focus on content that is just focused on building social skills and making friends versus dating."
I think it also helps to have a content calendar to kind of know what your objectives are for each month, I would say. If you are going to be changing those month to month to try different things, it's nice to have the calendar planned in advance for that reason.
You also know how to evaluate afterwards because you can see like, this was always what we were going for this month and did it work? Didn't it work? Where do we need to change some things for the next month?
Yeah, exactly. That's kind of... I guess, the hard thing is that sometimes like content will do well on one platform, but it won't do well on another. There's obviously a lot of variables that go into that. But I think as long as you're somehow pushing people down a funnel, which is the goal to start with, usually some of the content has like a call to action, whether it's like visiting your link in bio or having people apply to your membership program, if you're still getting those results, then you know something's working. But it's okay if you get bad results. You just keep making iterations and changing things, and that's okay too.
Do you think that the content needs to be linked to the business results as well, or that it should be something separate and that it should have like its own targets? Like for example, do you think that the content should be judged on its own, so like how people are interacting with it, rather than trying to see how much revenue actually came out of this content? Do you think it should be separate from the business goals and the business targets, or that it should flow into each other?
I think it kind of depends on the type of content you're creating. For example, if you're just creating content to... Let's say with Reconnected, we're just creating content that is like giving advice to people or trying to inspire them or motivate them somehow. That's really just to increase our brand awareness. There's not really another goal that we have in mind other than to kind of grow with a brand presence itself. Whereas if we were specifically promoting like a limited... When I was working for another company, when I was working for the eCommerce company, for example, if we were promoting for a very limited time, a special edition bridal box with our content, that would be very different. In that case, we would be measuring it and saying like, "Did people actually interact with this?
Did this actually push people to buy the product or not? Did it push people to visit the website? Did they click through to look at the product itself?" I think it depends on what your goal is with the content on how it should be measured.
I agree. The reason why I asked the question is because I hear some people saying like in the future, I see companies who would have like a totally separate media department, like separate from the business department. The CEO wouldn't really influence the media part of it. They're really saying like they should be able to have their autonomy to do what works best for their audience and not be influenced as much by any business targets that might be said by the CEO. That's why I think it's something interesting to think about because I can indeed see that like some CEOs tend to judge their media, their marketing departments in a different way that's not always good for that department. But to get back to the content calendar itself, what are the benefits of really having one?
I already heard you talking about that you plan different themes on different dates, but you also keep some space for the occasional topical events. You can jump on that as well. I think one other benefit could be that you are able to have like batches of work. You can batch the creative work of like the ideating of the content in one day. You can really have a creative day where you are thinking about all these different topics. If you didn't have your calendar for let's say a month, then you would also be able to... Let's say you need some video content, to make sure that video content is recorded in one day. Maybe that the editing can be done in another day. You can already get the graphic designers started on getting some images ready.
I think the batch processing that can go along with a content calendar is one of the additional benefits of having a content calendar, other than the benefit you already mentioned, like actually knowing what you need to post and getting approval from like the manager, if needed.
Yes. I would agree with that because I actually do that myself. I try to get it done within like a one week timeframe. Because usually over the course of that week, I am collecting ideas and inspiration for the content that I need to create. It's also like once you're kind of in a creative head space, I guess, it's much easier to just keep going with it. Sometimes I'll feel like I've recently collected a lot of inspiration that has motivated me to create content within like a 24 to 36 hour period and I can just get it all done then, and it makes it much easier. I don't have to think about it again. Or in that case, as far as like planning the content batch itself, you then know, okay, I have time set aside for this week, in this month and I have a couple of days in advance to prepare for it, and then you're ready to go. I would agree with that.
Are there any things that you think that are really important to have in your content calendar, like information that you really should include? Like for example, do you already at the different channels in there where you will be posting content? Do you use like different colors to say like, okay, this is a blog post that we will publish, this is a podcast that we will publish, this is a video that will be there, maybe already linked different pieces together, like saying, okay, we have this video, but then we also need four Instagram Reels posts from this video, already visually linked this together in the content calendar?
I think that depends on the types of posts you are creating, whether it's like... For example, you could be creating a short video or you could be creating like a carousel, so that depends. For me, I've had to sometimes say like, okay, on Mondays, we're posting a cut of a YouTube video to promote the YouTube video itself on Instagram, whereas maybe on Wednesday, it's going to be a carousel. And then Friday, it's going to be more of like a personal photo. Depending on what your goal is, sometimes if you want to just create like more cohesiveness in your feed, it's nice to have those very set days of saying like, this the type of content you're posting on this day and you're posting a different type of content on another day, so that you have like a very aesthetic looking feed.
But I also know that there are certainly a lot of like very successful brands that will just do Reels only. You'll just look at their content pages, just Reels and it doesn't look very aesthetically pleasing at all. But at this point in time, that's the kind of content that everybody really likes. So that also works as well.
Do you like the trend?
Of the reels?
I certainly think Reels and short content if it is under 15 seconds. I personally don't have a very long attention span. I think if it's valuable and relevant, then it can do very well. Otherwise, if you're going for variety, there's not much variety you can do when you just have a bunch of Reels. I don't know if I like it or not. I think a lot of people say it works for TikTok because that's what TikTok is supposed to be, from my understanding. It's like just that.
TikTok videos these days apparently go up to 10 minutes, maybe even 30. They're pushing into long form content.
Oh, in that case, I'm not sure why they would choose TikTok over YouTube because you can watch a YouTube video for that length. For me, I like the division of YouTube serves its purpose, TikTok serves its purpose, and Instagram serves its purpose. They don't need to be all doing the same thing in my opinion.
But unfortunately they are.
And people are complaining about it.
I know. I've seen it. As far as like the attention spend goes though, I think it's a little bit interesting because like, for example, I do know that you also follow the account of Gstaad Guy and his content can be a little bit longer usually. It can go like approach to like a minute or even longer. Why do you think that you would watch those videos from beginning to end?
I think for me, Gstaad Guy is purely entertainment. I think of it as like it's comedy and I don't mind watching something longer like that. Whereas if it was just a Reel about like outfit inspiration, I don't need more than five seconds to absorb that.
Indeed I think that when something is like either entertaining or educational, those are basically the two buckets that things go in to get people's attention. There's not that much else on the spectrum. Or do you think that we're missing something here?
No, I think that covers...
I think as long as you nail one of those or maybe do like both, be entertaining while you are being educational, I think you can really get people's attention as long as you are relevant to your audience. There's always the factor of relevance because we might find Gstaad Guy entertaining, but other people might be like, "What an earth is this?" And just scroll further. It's really about either entertainment or educational and then also having the relevance to your target audience. If you can nail those things, I feel that you are like golden with your content.
I would agree. I think relevancy is really important. I personally do not like it when Instagram recommends me things that I don't find relevant. For example, if people are... Despite being fond of travel, I don't necessarily want to see every single travel Reel that is out there. They all look the same to me. I guess the one issue I have with like Reels is that people are also using like the same templates for everything. And maybe for someone like Gstaad Guy, he's kind of doing something different, so it captures people's attention more. And I like that.
I agree that Instagram sometimes goes a little bit too far in like, as they would say, like the filter feeds or like creating the filter bubble. As soon as they notice that you like some type of content, they will really just like push your feed full with like that same kind of content. Whereas sometimes I am more like... I like a little bit of variation in my content as well. So please don't show me the exact same thing all the time. TikTok also has the same thing. If you watched a video or like a TikTok video that's built on like a popular song on TikTok at that time, they will start showing you basically all the videos that are based on that song. That's something that I personally hate because I like to see some variation.
I don't like to see the same thing over and over again just performed by different people. Now, how far do you think you should plan your content ahead? For example, I'm currently working on a what I call six week content sprints, where I basically want to plan all the content for six weeks starting August 15th. The reason for it is that I would basically know what I am posting each and every day, but also that I can plan ahead and make sure that any content that needs to be created is also really ready for it.
In that case, I would say it also depends on the type of content you're going to be producing. In my opinion, I think that if you're going for a six week content sprint and you haven't already created the content for it, for example, if you're going to be promoting like a podcast or YouTube video and you need to actually already... Those haven't been filmed yet, if you need to film those, then you want to give yourself like at least a month in advance. Whereas if a lot of the times you're just repurposing content that already exists, for example, if I was working with clients who already had a bunch of portfolio photos that they could just have reposted with like a different caption or whatever, or like a different motivational quote, then those are very easy to do within like a week or even a couple of days.
But I would always say like I think more time is better so that you give yourself a little wiggle room. Ideally, even if you're just doing repurposed content, to give yourself at least like two weeks in advance to do that.
I agree. One of the things that I tried recently that wasn't really working is I was seeing how I can promote my podcast. I just went for the easy way let's say. I took my podcast cover, created some social ads to my audience with the podcast cover, and just adding a description of basically what I'm talking about on the podcast. Obviously, this didn't work, but I still wanted to try it. This also goes into like a content calendar because it's doesn't really work anymore to just tell people like, "Hey, I have a podcast and this is what my podcast is about. Please come and listen."
They are scrolling through a media feed basically wherever they are scrolling, being it like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and just showing them like, "This is what I have to offer. Please come out of this platform and go follow me on my podcast on whatever channel they listen to their podcast." Instead, I feel that this is where the content calendar comes in and you need to take like bits and pieces of what you are already creating. For the podcast, take little snippets out of there and actually push that into their feeds.
That's actually what we tried to do at Reconnected with our YouTube channel is we just promoted little snippets of our YouTube videos on Instagram essentially to get people to go watch our YouTube videos like on YouTube itself.
Funny enough, I've also seen the same thing happen on podcasts now. Actually, I've just seen one person who did this. I don't know if you ever saw a video of him, but it's Ali Abdaal. He has these videos about like productivity and he also has like a YouTube academy. I see that these... You already had this like long form podcast format where you would interview people for one hour or one and a half hours, two hours sometimes. I think just this week or maybe last week, I saw that they are starting to just publish like small snippets of those longer formats now and adding them as like bonus episodes. Now, to go back to the content calendar for a bit, what are some good tools to create your calendar?
Are there like any tools that you are using, being it like digital tools, or maybe just like how you are doing it with pen and paper or are you like sticking Post-its through the wall or something?
I've used a couple different tools. The ones that I can think of off the top of my head were like Planoly and Loomly. I think I'm saying that correctly.
I know Loomly.
I think I'm saying that correctly. Those are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head, but right now what I use and I actually enjoy the most is just using a Google Sheet because...
We always go back to Excel or Google Sheets for this matter.
Not Excel, that's a battlefield, but Google Sheets is okay. What I like about that is I want to be able to see every... I do want to see everything in a grid every single month, but I also just like being able to have it look like a physical calendar. You know how you can have a desk calendar?
It looks exactly like that. For me, that works best for my brain. I can just like edit it one month and then duplicate it and then wipe it so that it's set up for the right month. I think that's the easiest. I don't have anybody who needs to approve my work though either. I actually found that using those tools would sometimes slow down the process if you're working with people who are not timely managers exactly. Now, like for me, since I don't need any approval on the content that I create, Google Sheets is my best friend. It's simple, it's easy, and it works. It's a system that works for me.
I can see that. Google Sheet is something that a lot of people tend to go back to or just like go to for that matter. Sometimes I also like to joke about this, basically all SaaS companies or like almost all SaaS companies are actually just in competition with Excel. Because so many of these tools, let's say like a CRM tool or like this week I saw a tool that basically manages UDM text for you, these are all things that people actually just built themselves in Excel or Google Sheets. If I say Excel, I mean Google Sheets as well. The same goes for like content calendars. There are tools to like really fancy create your content calendar, but then there's also good old Google Sheets where you can basically create a tool specifically for your needs. If you need an extra field, you just add in an extra row and we're ready.
Yeah. I feel like the problem with some of the specific content calendar tools is that they overcomplicate it so that it's actually not as efficient. There's always going to be something wrong as in like only certain ones are like you can post a carousel, but other ones are like you can't post any video content to it. I think it just makes it more complicated. Whereas if you're just doing everything in Google Sheets, as long as you're really on top of everything and you can manage all the different things, like perhaps you're managing like different hashtags, you're managing different people you want to tag and a post, or you need to have a separate folder with all the videos that you need to manually post perhaps, that can be a little bit more cumbersome, I suppose.
But I would say at least with Google Sheets, you can do everything you need to do usually, versus a lot of the actual separate tools, they can't do everything that you want to be able to do. Maybe they'll only post automatically to Instagram and Facebook, but they can't automatically post to TikTok, which then defeats the purpose because you need to use a different tool for TikTok then.
Yes. I've heard people saying that if you post through TikTok or through Instagram through a tool that the reach would be less than when you would post it like on the tool itself, so like actually opening Instagram and creating your post there. I heard the same for like TikTok that TikTok really prefers the Tiktoks that are created within TikTok in itself, so not creating with like Premiere Pro in advance and then upload it to TikTok, but just like really create it on the platform itself. I think that that's also something to keep in mind here. The way that I build it myself these days is I really took the time to create this kind of tool for myself within Asana. I have one project in Asana that's in a calendar view by default, which is then linked or like the tasks themselves are linked to different projects.
I have the content calendar where everything comes together and it's color coded based on the medium that it will be posted. So like podcast will be a certain color, an Instagram post will be a certain color, a blog post will be a certain color. And then I have these separate projects for my blog, for my podcast, for my YouTube, for my I call it micro content where the Instagram posts go and the TikTok and LinkedIn posts, et cetera. I basically can always see like if I'm working on my podcast, for example, I open my podcast project, I have my task templates in there and I create a podcast using the task template and it will automatically be added to the content calendar as well.
I have my overview, but I also still have my different channels where I can see like, okay, today I'm working on the podcast. These are the podcasts that are planned right now. These are some ideas that I have. These podcasts are ready to be edited. These are ready to be published. I feel that this is like more or less the best of both worlds that I could create right now, but it's something that's working for me right now, but it's different for everyone, of course.
That sounds really complicated.
Oh, does it?
Or it sounds very complex. But if it works for you, then it works for you.
Indeed. As I said, it's different for every person I think. But the most important part here is that you actually have your content calendar so that you know what are we creating over the coming weeks, and that you can actually get a head start for creating that content so you don't have to do these things last minute. Because if your content calendar is basically done ad hoc, then more often than not, you will just fail at some point with posting and nothing will be there at all.
Yeah. I think if you are the kind of person who's going to be like, "I'll just create content day by day, or I'll just leave it until the last minute to do," then you're just going to be frustrated with having like such a tight deadline. You won't be able to create something in time because you're going to feel the pressure of the deadline. And then at some point, you're just going to be like, "Oh, you know what? I'll just try again tomorrow." But there is always a tomorrow to say, "I'll just do it tomorrow," and you may never get anything out, which defeats the entire purpose.
Exactly. The most important part is to actually just do it. And if you're always like, "I'll just do it tomorrow," you will learn fast enough that that's not working for you and that you need to like adjust the way that you are going about these things. That brings us to the end of this episode. In short, a content calendar will make sure you always stay on track and that you keep an eye on the broader picture of the content that you are publishing. Thank you, Emma, for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed it as well.
Thank you for having me. This was a very nice conversation.
You can find her on Instagram as @emmabradleygoldman. And as always, thank you for listening to Growth Journal. If you enjoy our show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Until next week.