A while back I did a blog post on social media management tools. I have a new one to add to this list, and it’s a goodie.

Talk to any Social Media Manager and I can almost guarantee that they will, at some point, have had the challenge of how to plan, format and schedule content. It’s been one of the biggest frustrations of my career. Most social media management tools are very expensive (circa £800-£1,500 a month) or they’re low cost but don’t quite ever deliver what you need them do without extra complication and functionality you don’t need. Then we have the agencies, trying to find a way to send content to clients for simple approvals. Finally, the local businesses and SME’s looking for a way to manage their content schedules.

Sometimes you don’t need all the frills; the analytics, the listening, the dashboards that come with the big tools. Sometimes, you just need something to help you write, manage and schedule your content in a more time efficient way. That’s where ContentCal comes in.

Functionality

The calendar format is dreamy. No more having to create Excel spreadsheets or Google Sheets in a calendar format – I can’t begin to tell you the hours I’ve spent sometimes trying to get these formatted correctly. The standard Excel or Google Sheets I’ve used has needed to contain the following:

  • Day
  • Date
  • Time of post
  • Written content
  • Link
  • Image
  • Character counts
  • Paid boost amounts
  • Approved/Not Approved

That’s a lot to get into a spreadsheet. The result is often something bordering on unreadable and hurts the eyes.

The calendar formatting is my favourite part of this tool. One look and you can see what posts are scheduled that day, for what time, the accompanying image and which channel. It’s simple, and it works. If there are too many posts for one day, you can simply pick them up and drag them to a different day. Simple! Everything in that list is covered off.

Scheduling itself is easy and self-explanatory. It defaults to 9:00 for the time, and goes in increments of 5 minutes if you want to simply click and choose, but if you wanted 8:59 for example, you can also type that in. One missing element, which is more of a ‘nice to have’, would be to be able to pre-determine say, 3 or 4 different times for content to be published, so you have those as an option when scheduling. Otherwise, it works and publishes as you see it within the tool.

Side note: Surprisingly, I found myself more inspired and motivated to write content using this tool. Not needing to duplicate work I think was one major factor, but something about its simplicity makes everything else zone out, and focuses your attention

 

Another nifty feature is the ability to see what the post will look like on each platform. In the below example, I can see that my image isn’t going to fit on Twitter, so I can go back and edit it, then preview again, whereas on Facebook it fits into the space and I’m able to update the link preview messaging – big bonus!

 

Channels

Although the tool doesn’t support all channels yet (currently it’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with some form of Instagram integration apparently on the way), it does have a feature where you can add content for a channel, article or blog.

This is handy if you regularly write blogs, articles or LinkedIn Pulse articles for clients, or as a part of your own strategy. They can be added into this section still for approval from clients, or, for you to have to hand with the rest of your content in one place.

There’s a “Plan” and campaigns feature to group content together as well. I haven’t needed to use this yet, but from the demo I got it’s worth checking out if you run campaigns or specific themes on your social channels.

Approving process

This takes me onto the approval process which is another feature I’ve used a lot. Once you’ve added your clients and users into the platform and assigned an approval process, all you need to do it select the new content you’ve written and ‘send to approver’.

If you don’t need approval, great, you can publish straight to the channel. Otherwise, approval is done with a simple click in a tick box. No more 38MB spreadsheets, or Google Sheets that jump about with multiple images and duplication of work. A nice simple process.

Usability

ContentCal is easy on the eyes and simple to use – a difficult combination sometimes. I often have run-throughs of tools or platforms, but need to refer to training notes to remind myself how to do certain things. That hasn’t been the case whilst using this tool – it’s self-explanatory and in a logical format.

Is this the tool for you?

If you’re looking for an all-round tool providing a content feed, reporting, analytics and listening dashboards… then right now, this isn’t for you. There isn’t a Buffer style RSS feed option, or basic listening like Hootsuite, but, what it does is manage your content considerably better than both of those options. Insights and analytics are increasingly available on platforms themselves now, providing quite sophisticated data – so I don’t think this is a missing element for the moment on the free or VIP Platform plan. A content or RSS feed of some description might be nice, or a way to integrate content into ContentCal, but again this is a nice to have.

Needless to say, I’m impressed

So, who is this tool great for?

In my opinion, ContentCal as it currently stands is great for:

  • Small to medium sized agencies, freelancers or contractors looking to provide content in a presentable, simple format and send to clients for approvals
  • Small and local businesses to help manage their content calendars and scheduling tools
  • With an upgrade to the VIP Platform + Services, I believe ContentCal has scope to be of more interest to larger agencies managing multiple clients, but I can't comment too much on this.

With a B2B Marketing Award under their belts already, I think great things are coming to this tool – and I’m pretty excited at being a part of the ride!

NB. I have been provided with free access to the VIP Platform version of ContentCal in exchange for my honest professional opinion and review of the product.