I often get emails about social media tools. Most of them I don’t even see. They’re buried beneath similar emails and never see the light of day. Occasionally I catch one, but most of the tools offer mediocre features, lack depth and are poorly designed. However, there is a tool that I was emailed about recently that pleasantly surprised me, and that’s ContentCal.io.
Despite the fact I’ve recently switched my career focus, I’m still very much a social media manager. I single handedly plan and manage all social media and digital marketing for the tattoo shop I now work in. It’s unlike any other business I’ve marketed, so I wanted to take a different approach. As I knew we would have a constant stream of fresh content, there was no need to schedule weeks in advance as I often do, and aside from a few general promotional posts, I’d have no need to re-use content like I do with Edgar – my usual tool of choice. I also wanted to use a different app to my usual ones to keep everything separate from my freelance work. It was around the time that I took on these new responsibilities that I gave ContentCal a try. As a shop, we have a Twitter, Instagram and Facebook page as well as a mailing list that we update daily from the information on our consent forms. ContentCal was able to accommodate this quite nicely – even in the free version! However, after using the free version I did mention a few first impression suggestions to Andy over at ContentCal and it turned out most of the features I needed were available in the VIP version, so he kindly upgraded my account so I could try them out first hand.
ContentCal is essentially a social media planning tool in calendar format. The free version allows you to have one calendar which you can connect to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can gain the ability to add additional calendars by upgrading your plan, and this also gives you access to planning only channels such as Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. The VIP package also allows you to collaborate with team members and assign them roles and implement approval schemes for posts, but as a one woman team I haven’t been able to try this feature out.
For the purposes of this review I’m going to go through what makes it a great tool and what could be done to make it better.
ContentCal’s user interface makes it perfect for the job. It’s simple and easy to work with, but in particular for me having a calendar format made it really easy to plan content around what artists are in, what projects are being worked for etc. as the layout allows me to easily compare our social calendar to our appointment calendar. Although I don’t post all social media content through ContentCal (as I’m a big fan of using Twitter’s thread feature when it comes to things like ongoing sleeves), the planning only channels are a great place to add little reminders so no content planned goes unposted. What I love about ContentCal more than anything else is the ability to move social media posts around through drag and drop functionality. In particular, the ability to draft a backlog of posts and drag them onto the desired networks/days makes planning consistent social media activity a breeze as I can see where the content gaps are and easily fill them in. Also, the VIP upgrade allowed me to plan content for Instagram and two other channels. With so much going on in the studio, it’s easy to forget to do these little things, especially when everything else is posted automatically. However, I’ve found having the little content reminder and even the ability to plan future posts has really helped with keeping our Instagram up to date. I use the other unnamed channels as reminders too. At the end of each day we send out aftercare emails, so these slots serve as a way of reminded me to add all new customers to MailChimp and send out the email. Of course, you could use them for something completely different and that’s why it’s so useful. You could plan in a document or on a piece of paper but you’re way more likely to do it if it’s right in front of you with the rest of your planning.
While content cal appears to be a pretty simple tool, its user interface greatly broadens its capabilities. In the VIP package, you can create multiple content calendars and connect one of each offered social network to each one. This is perfect for social media managers and agencies as not only is it 100x easier to read and explain to your client/boss/intern if needed, but it reduces the chance of accidentally posting content on a different client’s social network (which admittedly has happened a couple of times for me when using tools like Hootsuite).
Another feature I love, is the Re-Use post feature. I generally try and plan the shop’s social media so that apart from actual tattoos, nothing is posted on the same day on both Facebook and Twitter. The re-use post feature is not essential. I could select a post to post to both network and then drag one of them to a different day, but I’d probably still need to go back into the post after that if I want to change the time. I could just copy and paste the message on one network into a new post for another, but that’s a little clunky. The re-use post feature doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do otherwise, but it makes the whole process a lot smoother. I’m a big fan of evergreen content, and this feature allows me to reuse ever green content again and again while making sure it’s spread out enough on the visual calendar layout that it doesn’t get repetitive.
Additionally, the ability to add posts as placeholders means that you can plan content without fear of it being published before it’s been polished. I imagine it would also come in handy for big events when there are two possible outcomes as you can plan a post for each outcome and publish the one that becomes reality (E.g. sports matches, presidential vote, brexit vote etc.).
ContentCal is quite simple compared to other tools I’ve used, but that is by no means a criticism. In fact, it’s probably one of its greatest qualities. ContentCal’s simplicity and usability makes it a tool accessible to those small one-man social media teams and freelancers just starting out, but also a tool for the more advanced. Having a visual image of my content calendar and where the gaps were definitely made me create better content more efficiently.
The main thing I feel ContentCal is lacking is a mobile app. I don’t think it needs to be fully featured or anything fancy, but the ability to see planned social posts in both a calendar and list format for each of your calendars and the ability to add/cancel posts would make the tool a lot more usable. While cheaper and not as bad as they used to be, mobile-friendly websites are inconvenient and at times clunky to use. Without a mobile app I was left running back to Hootsuite to schedule one off posts I thought of on the fly (which is not something I want to do because I dislike Hoosuite’s interface).
EDIT: I’ve now been told an app is on the way!
Other than that, there’s not much more I’d like to see other than better analytics, but their analytics are in beta at the moment so I expect that will come in time.
ContentCal is definitely one of my favourite social media tools and I can’t wait to use it on other projects for more thorough social media planning! It’s perfect for visual thinkers such as myself, having everything laid out in front of me makes it much more efficient. ContentCal is now the only social media tool I use on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re unsure about the VIP package, sign up for the free version and see if it’s a good fit for you first or give the VIP trial a go.