Digital Content Strategy: How to make a content plan - Matchstick Creative
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How to make a content plan

We live by our content plan at Matchstick Creative and for good reason. Not only do we want to offer problem-solving content that helps our customers, we also want to ease our own workload and deliver effective marketing month on month. Planning your content in advance enables you to do the same. By planning ahead and adjusting iteratively you can work smarter and make sure you are meeting your business goals.

Still not convinced? A content plan can help you to:

  • Effectively  promote your services
  • Strategically solve problems for your customers
  • Carve out valuable time in your day to create new content
  • Envisage your workload on a macro scale
  • Generate leads using inbound marketing

A content plan is worth its weight in your time. Dedicate a few hours to thinking over the steps in this post and you’ll save time later on. Now let’s get to it, there’s the rest of your to-do list to get through yet.

Step 1: Define your goals

Content without a clear goal in mind is just noise. If you’re dedicating some of your precious time to making content, make sure it’s adding value to your business and helping your customers.

Let’s look at a real-life example from our own content plan. To set this goal we did three things; unearthed an insight (looked at our website’s analytics), created a tangible action point and set the desired outcome (our goal).

Example goal: Increase referral traffic to our site

INSIGHT: From looking at our analytics we can see that Twitter produces high-value dwell time. When readers click through from an article shared on Twitter they spend longer on our site than other referral sources – they also click around our site more, reading further content. We can also see that shares of our content are highest on Twitter.

ACTION: Because of this, we are going to increase our Twitter activity at peak times, engaging with influencers in our industry. We will implement a Twitter-first strategy, creating content specifically for the platform.

DESIRED RESULT: A 10% increase YoY (year on year) in referral traffic from Twitter and higher engagement rates per piece of content shared.

This SMART goal setting will have a huge influence on our content plan. Thanks to diving into Google Analytics and seeing what has worked in the past, we’re able to make an informed decision about content in the future. It’s also made our planning significantly easier.

From this one goal, we now know that our content plan will need:

  • Click-worthy content such as visuals, infographics, videos and blog posts
  • Significant content will need to be hosted on our website with snappier, bite-sized content made just for Twitter, such as illustrations, GIFs and quotes

TASK: Set your own goals by following the below steps

Create three goals to start. When setting goals for your own business, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are my business goals? What are we trying to achieve in sales and how can our marketing support this?
  2. Which content has performed best and worst over the past 6- 12 months? What do our readers enjoy the most? (You can find this in Google analytics under Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages and then set your date range)
  3. What influences content performance? Length? Visuals used? Influencers? The use of video? Where we share it?
  4. If I set this goal, what resources will I need to achieve my desired outcome? Be realistic and be prepared to get in outside help if it’s needed and budget allows.

Step 2: Your audience; who are you speaking to and how can you help them?

Defining your audience is crucial for planning your content, otherwise, who are you making content for? To help define your audience, we recommend Social Baker’s Buyer Persona Template. Sketch out who your ideal content consumer is and tailor your content to them.

From your Buyer Personas, you’ll be able to define lots of useful information about the content you should be making. To help you build your own personas ask yourself some of the following questions, specifically to do with content. After each one we’ve pointed out why you need to think about these questions:

  • What time of day are they’re most likely to consume your content? (Scheduling)
  • How much time do they have to watch/read/listen to my content? (Content-length)
  • Where are they most likely to see my content? (Promotion)
  • What have they shared previously that we can emulate and add value to? (Competitor research)

TASK: Create your own buyer personas

Step 3: What form should your content take to best serve your audience?

Now that you’ve thought about why you’re making your content and who you are making it for, it’s time to think about what your content will look like.

Content can take many different forms and it’s crucial you create content in response to your specific business and audience needs, otherwise, it’s just more noise. Take a look at the list below (which is in no way finite) and apply it to your previous steps – what feels right for you? We’ve categorised them a little to help your brainstorming.

Quick/bite-sized content

  • GIFs
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Tweets and posts
  • 5/10 second edits of videos
  • Illustrations
  • Instagram stories
  • Company news; hires, promotions and significant milestones
  • Blog posts under 500 words
  • Testimonials
  • Emails

In-depth/expert content

  • Case studies
  • Blog posts over 1000 words
  • Videos over 30 seconds
  • Podcasts
  • Guest posts
  • A long-running blog series
  • Product walkthroughs and tutorials

TASK: Decide the form your content should take and think about the timescales for each; are you ambitions achievable? Will you need more resource?

Step 4: Promotion; where will your audience see your content?

Planning for where your content will appear is just as important as the content itself! There’s no point dedicating all of that time and resource if no one will see your content and be able to share it.

So, with that in mind, think about where your content will live and remember – link it back to your business, sales and marketing goals:

  • Your website
  • Your social channels
  • Guest hosted on another site (press coverage, guest posts etc.)
  • Microsites (for specific projects)
  • Offline (brochures, sales materials)

For every piece of content you make you should think about how you are going to share it and get more eyes on it.

TASK: Brainstorm all of the different places your content can appear and include it as part of your content workflow. Content isn’t just making something – it’s promoting it as well.

Step 5: Responsibility; who will make sure this work happens?

As a small business, we can almost guarantee two things that will be top of mind for you when it comes to content; time and budget. You want to get as much bang for your buck as possible which is why it’s important to consider how many resources you can dedicate to your content creation. Write this into your plan and you won’t have any nasty surprises when it comes to making your awesome content.

Even with a small budget, you can achieve big things, here are some of the techniques we’ve used to do just that:

  • Partnered with freelancers to deliver illustrations and infographics. Create a realistic budget and find a freelancer who suits your needs.
  • Mentored junior writers and PR students to help develop their skills and create content with value. Adding to your team doesn’t have to cost the earth, and they get great work for their portfolios.
  • Created diary events for blogging and content creation. We’re all busy, so set the out of office and allow yourself time to work on your content. It’s how I’m writing this post right now.

TASK: For every piece of content you plan think of all the other people involved in delivering it; list their names with their contact details to make your job easier. Sometimes, it’ll be just you, other times you’ll need a little extra help and expertise.

Step 6: Tools, what will make your planning, creation and promotion easier?

To get the most out of your content, you’re going to need automate a few areas. Here are the tools we live by when planning, creating and promoting our content:

  • Planning: Google Sheets, Freedcamp, email
  • Scheduling: Buffer, WordPress
  • Creation: Google Docs, WordPress, freelancers, InDesign

By thinking ahead and being aware you need these tools you can budget appropriately (almost all of them are free) and factor it into your workflow. Make sure there are processes in place for editing and reviewing as well, you don’t want to send content out with errors or basic mistakes.

TASK: Identify which tools you need to reach your goals – is there a cost associated with it? Plan for it.

Well, that was dead helpful, can I have some more content?

Yes, yes you can. If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll also like our ebook; The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing. Or, you can always follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with our latest articles (see what we did there?).