Your marketing campaigns are only as effective as the content calendar tools you use to manage them. All the research and planning in the world won't do you much good if you lack the software necessary to make your strategies come to life.
Fortunately, you have plenty of options when choosing the best content calendar tool. The problem is zeroing in on the right application.
Many popular content calendar tools isolate your channels and silo your marketing teams. For example, you have widespread social media marketing tools like Sprout Social, Buffer, ContentCal, Hootsuite, and Loomly, but these applications only let you plan your social media calendar. With these tools alone, you have no idea when blog posts will go live or email marketing campaigns plan to launch.
That works fine and dandy for solo marketing efforts, but what if you want to organize an omnichannel marketing presence? What if you want to align the following channels:
- Social media
- Paid ads
- Public relations
- Influencer marketing
While that's a big ol' wish list, there are content calendar tools up to the task. Some might require a bit of setup and customization, but these omnichannel calendar tools have the capabilities to house all your team's content marketing efforts under one roof.
We'll get into our favorite content calendar tools soon, but let's first get on the same page about what a content calendar is and why it matters.
What is content calendar software?
Content calendar software lets you organize all your content marketing and distribution efforts on a single application. Containing all this information in one place allows you to:
- View upcoming campaigns on all channels
- Collaborate across teams and projects
- Manage campaigns with tasks and assignees
- Monitor metrics with personalized analytics
Marketers often throw around the terms content calendar and editorial calendar interchangeably, but these terms aren't quite the same. Editorial calendars provide a big-picture look at your content strategy over the coming months, quarters, and years, while a content calendar provides day-to-day and week-to-week information.
Ideally, you want your content calendar tool to provide both editorial calendar and content calendar features. You should be able to see all your marketing tactics at a glance and zoom in and out where necessary.
Why is a content calendar important?
A content calendar provides structure to all your grand marketing ideas. Without a content calendar, your ideas are, well, ideas. The ideas just haven't been brought to life, nor do you have a realistic plan to execute them.
Your content calendar lets you plug all your activities into a fixed schedule that works for everyone. Based on your goals, you can see which campaigns are coming up and what you need to prioritize. This way, everyone can work together to ensure everything gets shipped to the right place on time.
Teams that don't have content calendars often run into a few hiccups:
- Scheduling conflicts: Your social media manager has to turn away teams because they've already posted too many promotions this week, and your email marketing manager debates whether to send 2 emails in one day or delay a campaign to give subscribers breathing room.
- Lack of focus: You find it hard to know the priority when there's no calendar to keep everyone on track. Teams begin pumping out content and hitting publish without any discernible system or process.
- No alignment: You might see a grand email campaign launch promoting a new product, but not a single social media post talking about it across all your channels.
- Unfulfilled goals: You might realize reaching your goals is hard when you don't have teams aligned and working together.
What should you look for in a content calendar tool?
Not every content calendar tool is equal. Some provide nifty drag-and-drop content calendar builders, while others feature impressive visual displays and integrations.
However, it doesn't matter how shiny and fancy your content calendar tool is if nobody uses it. You need to find an easy-to-use tool that all your marketing teams can collaborate on—and it should make their jobs easier (please, don't make them harder).
Here's what you should look for in a content calendar tool:
- Easy to use: Your senior leadership, your brand-new intern, and everyone in between should be able to use your content calendar tool without watching a 15-minute how-to demo.
- Integrations: You should be able to post to WordPress or send emails using whatever publishing and distribution tools without leaving your content calendar.
- Multichannel functionality: You want to create a one-stop shop for all your content, so your tool should have the capabilities to house everything from your blog to your SMS campaigns. After all, you don't want teams creating calendars in silos because yours won't host or integrate with their workflows and processes.
- Different views: You should be able to view your content calendar from high-level calendar, project, Gantt chart, and assignee views. Filters and search functions should also allow you to find exactly what you're looking for (and fast).
- Automation: You should be able to add automation and custom rules to allow the software to perform trivial tasks without your input—after all, more automation means less work for you.
- Customization: You should be able to change color schemes and labels to personalize the content calendar to your individual needs.
- Collaboration: Your users and teams on the platform should be able to comment, tag, share, and message without taking conversations off the application to another channel.
9 best content calendar tools
Now you know what to look for, but there are still dozens of options for you to find across the internet. Don't worry—we've done the hard work and narrowed down your search. Below, you'll find 9 of the best content calendar tools that provide the must-have functionality we outlined above.
StoryChief bundles content planning, blogging, social media, SEO, and more into a single dashboard. You can integrate your favorite file storage apps, email marketing services, blogging platforms, and messengers to see all your marketing efforts on a single calendar.
Its integrations let you schedule, publish, and distribute content straight from its application. StoryChief even adds an employee advocacy element by empowering your staff to share social media messages across their networks.
Airtable is a low-code platform that you can use for everything from database management to your marketing team's content calendar (and everything in between). It feels like an easy-to-use Excel with drag-and-drop features and simple tables, but it has complex integrations, automations, and application programming interfaces (APIs) to power just about any use case.
It's not completely out-of-the-box ready for marketing teams, but once you get Airtable set up for your teams and processes, it can manage practically any campaign or project at any scale.
Asana is a project management platform best described as an all-around content calendar workhorse. It doesn't necessarily specialize in any specific department (e.g., design, content, website, social media, etc.), but it allows everyone to build the workflows and processes they need to collaborate and ship better content.
You can view your calendars from a kanban-style board view, list view, calendar view, or even timeline. The timeline view is especially helpful for complex campaigns with overlapping tasks and many dependencies. In short, if you want all your teams to be happy, Asana is a great content calendar tool to get the job done.
Trello shares much in common with Asana, but it's more for those who like to organize and process things visually. So if you love putting sticky notes all over your desk or whiteboard, Trello will provide the best content calendar tool for you.
At its core, Trello is a kanban planning tool. However, it has nifty built-in automation features that help teams build out workflows. We'd recommend Trello for smaller groups and organizations—upgrade to Asana if you have more size and campaign complexities.
monday.com is a visual platform for managing projects and organizing content calendars. However, it stands apart from the competition in its automation capabilities and workflows. Building out your ideal processes on monday.com is easy, making it simple for any team to get up and running on the platform.
In the end, monday.com gives you the freedom to build the exact workflow you want without making you fit its exact frameworks. You have the freedom to build your boards from scratch to create a truly custom-made content planning experience for your organization.
Optimizely recently purchased Welcome, a digital marketing planner, and it's a game changer for marketing teams. Rather than just providing a content calendar or project-management features, Optimizely strives to provide an all-in-one application for all your marketing needs.
Do everything from outlining to drafting to SEO review from within Optimizely. Plus, publish straight to your content management system, and share on your social media accounts automatically. All this means Optimizely's intelligent routing rules and built-in tools allow you to collaborate with more teams and ship more content with fewer tabs on your browser.
Notion feels less like a project management tool and more like a beautiful combination of documents and sheets. Sure, it's not as robust as tools like Asana or monday.com, but it gives you the freedom to centralize your projects exactly how you want. And thanks to its simplicity, Notion works well for just about any team, whether that's your blogging, public relations, website, or the development crew.
One good thing about Notion is that it’s not trying to replace project management applications, making it an excellent solution for late-stage teams. For example, you can integrate Asana and Trello into Notion to manage your tasks within Notion, so you don't have to migrate everyone off the platforms they already use.
CoSchedule intentionally built its work management software for marketers, and you can tell. Rather than feeling like a platform for everyone, it feels organized and purpose-made for blogs, events, social campaigns, and email marketing.
While it's the perfect tool for marketing teams, it'll be hard to get other departments collaboratively using the tool. So if your marketing team is solely responsible for the content calendar, consider using CoSchedule to bring it to life. If that's not the case, consider one of the other options.
9. Google Sheets
Google Sheets is a classic when it comes to content planning. Marketing teams can't resist it—even when they have other pieces of planning software, they always find themselves opening Google Sheets to outline or plan a project.
And it's not hard to understand why. Google Sheets is comfortable and easy to use, and everyone, from your brand-new intern to your retired parents, knows how to use it. However, Google Sheets is even more powerful when you unlock the power of APIs, functions, and automations.
How to create a content calendar (best practices)
Finding the right content calendar tool for your marketing organization is crucial, but it's just a single step in aligning your content efforts. Now, it's time to get everyone involved and use the calendar.
Here are a few best practices we recommend when creating your content calendar:
- Get leadership buy-in: Your executives and managers need convincing that a unified content calendar will work. Without their buy-in, you'll have a hard time keeping teams committed to the calendar.
- Align with teams: You’ll need to meet with teams to discuss how best to use your content calendar to execute campaigns. Some teams might do well by adding comments to tasks and tagging users, while others might prefer automations to take care of most of the administrative work.
- Create a content calendar playbook: Your teams will need rules for how to work cross-functionally together. Some teams can make processes for how they collaborate, but there needs to be a broader playbook for how contributors add and edit projects and tasks and who's responsible for what.
- Collaborate from the get-go: Your teams need to be on the same page sooner rather than later. For example, if you wait to merge workflows and collaborate, you might have to fix habits and change individual's workflows.
- Keep it up to date: Your calendar is absolutely useless if it's not complete and up to date. Every important task and campaign needs to be in your calendar, and it needs to stay current. Otherwise, if your calendar becomes outdated, users will lose faith in the system, and your calendar will collapse.
Deliver the best content with Twilio
Now that you've found the best content calendar tool, it's time to pair it with a top-notch distribution system. I'm talking email, SMS, voice, video, live streaming, WhatsApp, chat, and more. And, of course, I'm talking about Twilio.
Just because you build content does not mean they'll come. You’ll need to get your content in front of the right people, at the right time, on the right channel, and with the right message.
Fortunately, we've got you covered on all fronts. Sign up for a free Twilio SendGrid account to start sending transactional and marketing email campaigns and get yourself a free Twilio account for access to text, voice, video, and more.