If you've ever managed a single blog, you'll know that sometimes you can't keep track of all the good ideas you have, let alone write them. And if you've managed a multi-author blog, knowing who's publishing what when can be a nightmare. One way to solve both of those problems and get strategic about your blogging is with an editorial calendar.
I've tried a few WordPress editorial calendars over the years, but none of them really stuck. Then I started using CoSchedule, a blog editorial calendar that costs $10 per month per blog. Six months after my original review (which netted me a one year trial account), I'm still using it – and it's because of one killer feature: the integration of social publishing with the editorial calendar. I'll get back to that in a while, but let's have a look at how the rest of CoSchedule works.
Things have changed a bit since my original review. One thing that's improved is the process of getting your blog connected to CoSchedule. This used to be a complicated, multi-step process, but now you can be up and running in a couple of minutes. Sign up for CoSchedule, then return to the site and fill out a one-page form with your URL and blog login details. CoSchedule automatically creates an editorial calendar, imports your posts into it, and adds the CoSchedule plug-in to your WordPress installation. I like the fact that old posts are imported because it gives an at-a-glance view of what you have published, something that I've missed in other plugins I've tried.
Once the CoSchedule plugin is installed, you can manage your account either from the WordPress dashboard (there's a calendar icon and menu on the right) or the web interface, which are virtually identical. I find it easiest to use WordPress since I'm writing and publishing there anyway.
Use the Team sub-menu to manage roles and team members (or access it via the settings menu item). When I tried it, CoSchedule imported all the authors on my blog at setup, but grouped them under my name. For me, adding them as team members and matching their WordPress roles to CoSchedule roles would have been a better option.
CoSchedule also allows you to invite new team members and set roles. By default the blog owner is the owner, with complete administrative access to all CoSchedule functions. The other roles of contributor, author, editor and admin have various permissions relating to editing, publishing and calendar viewing. The plugin includes an activity tracker to notify you of upcoming tasks and posts. There are also flyout menus around the calendar to help you search existing content.
Social Profiles and Integrations
If you want to make the most of CoSchedule, you need to integrate it with your social media profiles via the Social Profiles menu item. You can connect Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages and groups), LinkedIn (profiles, groups and company pages), Tumblr, Pinterest and Google+ (via Buffer).
The Buffer integration is a recent and welcome feature, allowing you to benefit from Buffer analytics for your scheduled social posts and to share to additional sites not yet supported natively in CoSchedule.
The integrations menu allows you to plug CoSchedule into Bitly, Google Analytics or another analytics tool via custom query strings, giving you more insight into what's happening with your posts. You can also integrate your social and blog publishing into Google Calendar. For my taste, this makes my calendar a little crowded and complicated so I prefer to work with the dashboard calendar within WordPress. Here's a quick video overview.
Writing and Publishing
Writing posts works as normal. I use an offline blog editor for this, then upload it to WordPress. Every new post or post draft automatically appears in the CoSchedule calendar with automatic color coding helping you to distinguish among draft, scheduled and published posts.
I like to optimize my post title and description with WordPress SEO before turning to the CoSchedule box below the post to handle social publishing.
Social Publishing with CoSchedule
As I mentioned earlier, CoSchedule's social publishing is one of its best features. While you can click the pencil icon in the calendar view to publish a stand-alone social message, I tend to follow CoSchedule's own example and schedule messages along with posts. Here's how that works:
1. Click the “new message” button to create a new social message. While this used to be very time-consuming you can now click on each social network in the drop-down menu in turn to see them all appear across the top and handle all of them at once.
2. Choose your post type – text, image or link post. CoSchedule automatically pulls in the title, permalink and image (if appropriate) and lets you preview the message.
3. Choose timing. I love the fact that you can use relative timing, scheduling social posts for set intervals after your blog post goes live. You can also schedule social posts for fixed times if you wish. Either way, you can cascade your blog post promotion and maintain an active social content schedule with little effort.
Simple, isn't it? I'm enjoying the ability to share image posts and have seen good social results from doing so.
Using CoSchedule – 6 Months On
Since using CoSchedule, I've gradually reduced my use of other social sharing tools as I no longer need an external tool to share my own blog's content. I still use Buffer to share other people's content, and unless CoSchedule gets a browser sharing tool (which would be awesome, but probably complicated) I'll keep doing that.
Is CoSchedule perfect? No tool is. One of my social messages failed to publish and I only found out when I checked the calendar. However, the developers have now addressed this and users should get an email notification on the rare occasions when this happens.
That aside, CoSchedule is the single most useful plugin I have installed on my WordPress blog within the last year and I highly recommend it for bloggers looking to streamline blog management.
Have you used CoSchedule or another blog editorial calendar? What did you think?