Businesses should be using a Message Calendar to ensure that their advertising and marketing messages are consistent and planned. (See Using a Message Calendar for Social Media for more information on how and why to use a message calendar with your website and online business.) While there are a number of tools that you can use to actually manage what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, this guide will walk you through setting up iCal as your message calendar.
What is iCal?
iCal is the calendaring application that comes with Apple’s laptops, desktops and mobile devices. With iCal, you can create separate calendars — one for home, another for school, a third for work, and so on. You can see all your calendars in a single window or choose to see only the calendars you want. iCal also works with iCloud, Yahoo!, and Google. And when you use iCloud, every iCal edit you make on your Mac automatically appears on your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
At The Social Media Hat, we chose to use iCal for a number of reasons. We could have used an Excel spreadsheet, but a tool that is designed to actually function as a calendar seemed more appropriate. We also could have opted to use Microsoft Outlook since it does have an integrated calendar. However, we were very attracted to the idea that our iCal events would automatically be visible on all our devices. We can have a “calendar” just for Messaging, and we can share it with others.
Yes, we know that if you don’t own a Mac or any Apple devices, you won’t be able to use iCal. While you could have a similar setup using Outlook on a Windows system, maybe this is a good reason to consider improving your business technology by investing in a MacBook!
We found that while we could have used our iPad or iPhone to set this up, it was far easier on our MacBook Pro.
We started by deciding our message schedule. We looked at our blog archive and determined that we could divide our blogs and stories into 5 major categories: Social Media, SEO, Blogging, Marketing and Technology (miscellaneous). This division lends itself to one week’s worth of articles for each topic, so that each week we are focusing on messages from one specific category, and every five weeks we start over.
Once we had our blogs categorized, we then organized each category’s blogs in a way that made sense for that specific week. For instance, blogs that provide an overview are shared earlier in the week, while articles that are more advanced or specific are shared later. How much you share on a particular day, and whether or not you do any sharing at all on weekends and holidays, is up to you and how much you have to share. We’ve been blogging long enough to have enough articles where we can share at least one or two every day, so that’s how we scheduled our calendar.
However you decide to schedule your posts, once you’ve determined what you’re going to promote and when, it’s time to get them into your calendar.
Open iCal and right-mouse click on your first day to post and click on New Event. For our calendar, we start scheduling posts on a Monday, and the date itself didn’t matter, since we’re scheduling by week. You can choose to start on whatever day or date makes sense for you and your business. (Keep in mind that once you have an event scheduled, if you need to change it later, it’s easy to drag them around or edit them).
When you click New Event, a new event will automatically appear on that date with your default calendar color and will be waiting for you to name it. We chose to use a Green calendar just for Messaging, and use the naming convention of “Message: <category>” where <category> was replaced with one of our 5 categories like “Social Media” for each event. This helps us instantly know just by looking at our calendar what today’s message needs to be on. Type in your name for that date and hit enter to save.
Next, right-mouse click your new event and click on Get Info. This will open your new event in a pop-up box which will allow you to edit the name if you want to, as well as edit repeat settings and notes.
Set the Repeat settings to repeat this event as often as your calendar dictates. For us, each of our messaging events is set to repeat every 5 weeks.
You can change the calendar here if you wish, as well as set an alert if you want one.
Finally, we used the Notes section to paste in the complete URLs for every blog post and article we wanted to share that day. This allows us to open each day’s calendar event and click through to the entry we’re supposed to promoting that day.
Once you’ve created and saved all of your messaging calendar events, review your calendar view and make sure that your events are repeating as intended. Now, each day, you can quickly glance at your calendar and see what you need to share or talk about. You can also bring it up on your iPhone or iPad if you’re not in the office. This has proved very convenient for us on weekends and holidays so that we can quickly update our Facebook Page and Twitter accounts with new posts.
As you add new blog entries to your website, don’t forget to get your new content into your message calendar so that you promote those posts again in the future.