How To Create a Content Marketing Calendar With AirTable
Getting all your content organized can feel like pure insanity. Maybe you even tell yourself you’re just not cut out for being “that person”. And we all know that one person who is oddly specific about where everything goes.
My grandmother is that person for me. Every food product in her kitchen, from the yogurt to the tuna cans, must have the labels perfectly aligned and facing you. God forbid one of her tuna can’s nutrition labels is facing outward.
Growing up with my grandma to compare myself to, I never thought of myself as a neat freak. In fact, just this morning, I finally put away the laundry I paid to have washed, dried, and folded for me after a week of it still being inside the bag. Gosh, that’s embarrassing to admit. I can’t be the only one, right?
In my mind, I had labeled myself as a messy person. But one day, at my former agency job, one of the interns I worked closely with stared at my desktop’s wallpaper. I had designed a computer wallpaper to help me categorize my folders on my desktop so I knew where our client folders, agency internal files, and miscellaneous stuff were sitting. It had labeled rectangular shapes to serve as buckets to drag and drop folders falling within these categories. We ended up talking about how I organize everything from my files to my workday to my digital marketing. I came to a realization that day. Turns out, I’m quite the lazy shit at home, but my computer, web browser bookmarks, and my marketing are meticulously organized just like my grandmother’s pantry and fridge.
You might think it’s a given how I’m organized with my work considering my career path. But it wasn’t always like that. I was once a bright-eyed intern full of hopes, dreams, ambition, and no sense of a structured workflow.
I learned early on, from making mistakes, how getting myself organized might take a lot of work to set up, but it makes life easier in the long run. So if you think you don’t have what it takes for whatever reason, think again. Winging it will drive you insane, especially as you begin to introduce new online platforms into your marketing as a new business owner. Content marketing with no organization is like playing a five-round game of telephone with 30 people — it’s impossible to keep the message properly structured. So today, I’m going to teach you how to use Airtable, my current program of choice, to organize my content creation, publishing, and distribution. We’ll even touch on using Zapier, an automation tool, as a handy Airtable integration.
Benefits of Having a Content Marketing Editorial Calendar on Airtable
This organization method for managing my content has presented several key benefits for me:
- I’m able to easily see all my content so I can quickly create and connect content themes throughout multiple platforms.
- I can see what I wrote for one post and quickly pull from it to repurpose text from an article into copy for a social media caption.
- You can add more tabs to your document in case you want to start a section to jot down ideas, SEO, and content collaborations.
- I can’t stand looking at excel spreadsheets. Airtable makes visualizing data both beautiful, powerful, and versatile with different view options.
Setting Up Your Content Marketing Airtable Template
Once you’ve created an Airtable account, you’ll notice they have a bunch of pre-made templates. But we’re going to build one from scratch. This is so you can not just understand the features but also better customize it later if needed. First, you’ll want to click on the plus sign to create a new base. Make sure to title your base something clear such as “Content Marketing Calendar” so you always know what’s inside.
Create, label, and classify your spreadsheet rows
Next up, we’re going to create rows, label them, and classify them with their functionality. The classifications are used to better represent the information on the table. For example, the row for copy is intended for lengthy writing, while the platform row has a dropdown function allowing you to pick where the content is going. You are welcome to add or remove rows, based on your own business’ needs, to make your document as simple or complex as you’d like it to be.
Here are the rows we’ll be creating and the type of row they should be classified as:
- Topic (single-line text)
- Platform (single select)
- Publish Date, date format
- Status (single select)
- Copy (long text)
- DropBox Link (URL)
- Quarter (single select)
Create options within the rows
All of your single select classified rows will need options to actually select from. This means you’ll need to think of which platforms you’ll post on, add in labels for annual quarters, and add labels for the production status of a post.
If you’re using the free version of Airtable, you can opt for no color or the limited lighter color palette options. No big deal, you can do this whole tutorial with the free version. However, if you want additional features such as more colors, higher storage capacity, and the ability to use block views, you’ll need to upgrade.
Creating Different Views to Visualize Content
The grid view allows you to view everything at a glance. I absolutely love this because, with a filled-in calendar, you’re easily able to create and view themes carried over into content in multiple platforms. For example, I recently wrote an article about the biggest mistake creatives make on social media. I then made sure to convert that article into a micro-blog carousel post for Instagram, and an update for other sites, such as LinkedIn.
Once I’m done doing the planning, writing, and linking content assets in the grid view, I like to switch to a calendar view. The calendar view gives me a clear daily overview of what is going out.
You can even alternate from daily, three-day, weekly, two-week, and monthly views by selecting your preference in the upper right-hand corner (see below).
How to Fill In the Sheet Once You’ve Set Up
Whew, you did it! I promise the more you use Airtable — or any app for that matter — the more comfortable you’ll become with your content planning. You might even come to enjoy it as I have. If you want to dive even deeper, there are even formulas you can add in for character count!
Start with pillar content
Now that you’re set up with a brand spanking new document, you’ll need to fill it in. The most simple way to begin is by filling in the document with your pillar content. Pillar content is a large piece of content than can usually become different, often small, pieces of content. Articles, YouTube videos, and podcasts are just a few examples of pillar content.
Say, for example, you publish a podcast every Monday. That means if you publish year-round, you’ll have 52 episodes to plug into your document. If you have a YouTube channel and post every Wednesday, you could take video recording you’ve shot of your podcast with your guest and plug it into YouTube. That makes for another 52 pieces of content stemming from a single initiative. If we take it even further into smaller pieces of content, you could create IGTV clips from the video, micro-blog PDF slide decks for LinkedIn based on the episode, or a tweet. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Grouping information on Airtable
Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I felt like a kid in a candy store when I discovered how to group and sort data. That big overwhelming view of all your content can be neatly organized in batches grouped by the quarter and then grouped by date.
Make sure to go from largest to smallest when grouping data. If you sort by date first then you’ll create a bunch of tiny groups. But if you group by quarter, then you create four buckets of information that you can further narrow down by adding an addition grouping option. In here, we’re grouping it by quarter and then by publishing date so you can view the data for each quarter neatly organized by when it will go out during the grouped timeframe.
Remember that row for the copy you write for each piece of content? Our goal is to now pull some copy from it to create native content for other platforms.
Native content is content whose formatting and purpose matches the platform on which it is posted. A meme containing NSFW (not safe for work) content might not be proper native content on LinkedIn, but an eloquently worded slideshow or article would be.
The wording or lengthiness of your caption copy could also be subject to critique on whether it’s done in native format — think short and witty tweets vs. profound and lengthy Instagram captions. Be aware of the content ecosystem your content will live in so it makes sense for the platform.
If your pillar content is a blog article, you could use the headline as the first sentence of an Instagram caption and pull main ideas from the piece to form the caption. You might even pull a thought-provoking sentence and convert it into a tweet or as a question you ask your audience on LinkedIn.
In a study conducted by the European Journal of Social Psychology, 96 people chose to build one new habit over the span of 12 weeks all while reporting whether they performed the new behavior and if it began feeling automatic.
It takes over two months on average before a behavior becomes automatic. Even then, it varies greatly depending on the person, circumstances, and type of behavior. This study also proved that missing an opportunity doesn’t affect the habit-forming process. If you mess up here and there it’s no big deal as long as you aim to get right back on track.
You may assume creating lengthy content or even organizing it would be too much work. But, with time and practice, you’ll come to realize it expedites the rest of your content workflow. You’re building a new habit of getting your content in order. If after a week you feel stuck or incapable of doing this, don’t take it as a sign that it is not meant to be. Similar to the study on habit-forming, this is a process and you will make mistakes from time to time, such as forgetting to fill in your sheet. Work through this with a “practice makes progress” mindset rather than a “practice makes perfect” mindset.
Suggested Apps That Integrate Well With Airtable
Ever wish you could publish content directly from your Airtable document? If you don’t already wish that, you will once you start using it. Luckily, I have a few options here that can automate your publishing or, at the very least, simplify your process.
Zapier Airtable integration for automation
Think of Zapier like the affordable virtual assistant you needed, like, yesterday. Zapier is an online automation tool that helps your apps “talk” to each other so they can work nicely together. Here are some examples of automated actions, or Zaps, I have set up:
- Airtable to Twitter: Zapier pulls copy I write in the post copy row and sends out a Tweet. You can also have it pull images into the Tweet.
- Honeybook to Trello: Zapier creates a Trello workspace with the client project name every time I get a 50% deposit paid to begin work.
- Calendly to Airtable: Whenever I get an introductory call scheduled via my Calendly link Zapier pulls the data into my Airtable sales pipeline document.
Later social media scheduling tool
Zapier isn’t yet able to automate posting for every social platform. I love using Later Media to post to Instagram. I’ll simply copy and paste the copy I wrote on Airtable and assign it to the image or video going out along with it. If you don’t need the analytics, feed preview, and other features that Later Media provides, you can always use Facebook Creator Studio for free.
You Did It! Now What?
Now you can do a happy dance because you’ve got a brand new tool in your toolbox to help you protect your sanity! Content marketing can become quite complex. You’ll find it’s normal to make adjustments to your planned content because, hey, life and innovation happens. But without proper systems in place to manage your ever-changing content ecosystem, things can become overwhelming.
Remember to be patient with yourself, especially if you are new to this topic. You’re building a brand new habit that with time and practice will become a natural part of your process. You’ve got this!