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Short Course

How to Build a Content Strategy in 5 Steps

About the author

Kirstie is the founder of Social Circle, a networking group for social media lovers to share ideas and inspiration. She won Social Media Marketer Of The Year in 2019.

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In this short course, Kirstie Smith outlines how you can boost your digital marketing efforts by thinking like a content strategist as well as a content creator. Create usable content to power your strategy in 5 steps. Watch the video above or read on for a full round up of the course.


By definition, content marketing is creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. A content strategy allows you to track and measure performance, have a streamlined marketing workflow, and apply your brand's unique tone of voice to everything you produce.

Creating a content strategy can be broken down into 5 actionable steps:

1. Purpose and goals: Why you are creating content and what value it will provide

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This is the reason why you're creating content and the value it will provide. A really good tool to use is the HubSpot positioning methodology which looks at what value you want to bring to your audience and how you’re going to provide that. It’s then about brainstorming what your approach will be and being clear on the reason you're creating content in the first place. What are you aiming to achieve with your content and how does that contribute to your business goals?

Once you’ve aligned your positioning, go a bit deeper by mapping out who you want to reach and the best channels for reaching them. It’s great to do this at the start of the year or the start of a new quarter to get a sense of your long-term plans, decide how to track them, and the possibilities to scale.

Key questions to ask:

  • How are you going to raise awareness for your campaign or meet your objective?
  • How do you use the campaign to generate acquisitions?
  • How do you turn acquired leads into sales or conversions? (Dependent on what a conversion is to you)
  • How are you going to keep people engaged long-term?

For example, if your objective is to inspire people, you might want to invite them to a free networking event. Then, over time, you can develop the relationship and build trust to convert them into paying delegates.

Having a vision of the full customer/lead acquisition journey allows you to put smart goals alongside activity to help you get there.

Your goal in this instance may be to engage with X amount of current customers and X amount of new consumers by a certain date.

2. Audience: Who are you creating content for and how will they benefit

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Who are you trying to target and what will that group gain from interacting with your content? Have a clear, detailed description of who your key buyer persona is. Consider demographics like gender, age, job title, hobbies, etc., and identify what locations, platforms or publications they are actively using, as well as when they are most likely to use these.

You can't have enough detail when it comes to building a buyer persona, ultimately this is what you're centering all of your content around.

A great approach to capturing persona data is to use Instagram Stories to ask questions or get people to vote on polls, giving you a real sense of the types of content that your audience enjoys.

Other key tools to consider:

  • Google Trends (which has a consumer barometer)
  • Uber Suggest

3. Story: What specific, unique and valuable ideas will you build your content assets around

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Your story is the unique and valuable ideas that you build content around.

When creating content themes, start by identifying what subjects you're brand is passionate about, while ensuring these topics crossover with the content your audience needs/wants to hear.

A simple way of establishing your story is to write a list of everything that your business/brand is passionate about, and a separate list of everything your audience is currently engaging with and cares about. Anything that is on both of those lists becomes a content theme.

Kirsty’s content tree is a great way to map out your story:

  • Know your purpose, and overlap your personas with it. You can do this by physically drawing out a persona on a whiteboard, piece of paper or PowerPoint slide - starting with something all your potential buyers have in common. Perhaps, the audience you're engaging with is social media managers.

  • Consider the interests of your buyer persona. Social media managers want to stay relevant, they want to know about social media innovation, and use a lot of social media platforms.

  • Take each of those common factors and use them as topics for content. Once you’ve decided on content topics, you can think about the format. Where are you publishing content - are you creating blog posts, a LinkedIn live video, an evergreen Instagram post? Consider the channels your persona will be using and how they use them.

4. Process: How you will structure and manage your operations in order to activate your plans

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Your process will enable you to manage your content and structure your operations to be able to deliver your content marketing strategies.

Strategy is only as good as execution. Pick a content planning and management tool (such as ContentCal!) that you can stick to and use for all aspects of your content process - from planning your editorial calendar to creation, delivery and governance.

In ContentCal you can immediately start storing high-level themes at the top of the calendar as reference points to go back to. It can also be used for internal communication to help other members of your business understand the roots of your content. You can also use category tags to organize your content and color code individual topics.

It's not just social media that ContentCal supports - you can plan email campaigns, blog copy, events and then publish through ContentCal too.

5. Analyze: How you will gauge performance and continually optimize your efforts

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Measure the success of your efforts so you can adapt and improve your strategy going forward. When you use ContentCal, all posts published through the platform have analytics attached to them, so you can measure the performance of every piece of content you put out.

There are an overwhelming amount of metrics available across social channels. Make sure you only track the metrics that matter by keeping measurements aligned to your key objectives.

Move away from big spreadsheets of data and really think about what matters to your business. For instance, if you are reporting back to your client, or you're reporting back to your senior management team, what are those key performance indicators that they're interested in?

Use a scorecard to keep track of how your performance has gone up or down based on the previous month, and use this data to spot patterns that can inform future changes to your strategy. You can schedule a monthly or weekly report to show you this through ContentCal.

To build your own organic social strategy, make sure you’ve downloaded our free social media strategy template - it’s super easy to fill in and will help streamline your content creation.


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