If you want to win, kill your content calendar

The days of high volume, always-on social media content is over. It's time to ditch the meticulous calendar for a new strategy. Alex Sol Watts, executive director of strategy and social at Poem, explores.

The social media environment that demanded high volume, always on content from every brand on the planet is long gone.

So drag that shared Excel of perfectly planned content against your lovely pillars to the bin. Delete it from your Google Drive. Unsend your approval emails. Unsubscribe from Sked, Sprout Social, or Hootsuite. It’s time.

Kill your content calendar.


Because it doesn’t work anymore. And maybe it never did.

The reality of social in 2024

It’s a pretty wild time to be working in communications, let alone social and digital. We’re seeing a wholesale disruption of how people engage with brands and businesses, a huge emphasis on value, and some pretty needed examination of the efficacy and efficiency of all kinds.

I could spend a lot of time dissecting the overall status of the industry, but I think it’s worth drilling down into why I’m so anti-content calendar. It comes down to one approach that so many of us are beholden to – Always on.

Always on has been a huge focus of social content creation for more than a decade. For many brands, carving out your space on the social internet for most was a brute force effort defined by high volume content and an approach best described asspray and pray”, supported by reactive layers of work that tried to claw out space in more unexpected moments.

Andrew Tindall, of System1 fame, summed this up pretty neatly this week, sayingmarketers spend so much time planning and optimising the quantity of advertising but so little time thinking about the quality”.

While there are other offenders, social people have been some of the most egregious advocates for the quantity pathway. That includes me, so I guess I should apologise for my mistakes, and for not being noisy enough about why it didn’t quite work the same as Oreo or Wendy’s. In my defence, I had a couple of pretty successful case studies to lean on.

Perhaps the biggest problem here is how dramatically the industry assumed there was a one-size-fits-all approach to social media, and that we could use the same tools in the same ways and expect to have meaningful cut-through impact.

Beyond the sins of our past, as we prepare for the next phase of the internet – featuring a GenAI-facilitated content avalanche and radically democratised creation tools thanks to TikTok, Canva, and others – means we need more than volume to stand out.

I can hear some of you sayingBut what about this brand, they post 12 times a day and every one of them is a viral hit”.

You’re probably right! The list of incredibly successful, incredibly socially invested brands is long. Some of them follow high volume, always on approaches. They might emphasise following trends, producing multi-channel content multiple times a day, or deploying at high frequency – and they might be the best in the world at making it happen. To be cliché, they’re exceptions that prove the rule.

What I generally find is that those teams haven’t arrived at that by accident. Through experimentation and creativity, brands like RyanAir and Duolingo have found a justified role for high-frequency content that is ultimately connected to much higher-order business needs or product experiences.

It makes sense for them both tactically and strategically to be as present as they are in people’s lives. But for many brands, continually running at this approach is a waste of effort, time and money. If you’ve tried it, and it’s not having a meaningful and measurable impact on your awareness, or shifting the dial on saliency, or just driving traffic (foot, web, or otherwise) – it’s time to move on.

On the wind, I can hear others sayingBut I have a whole social team/agency/department and the only thing I see from them is the content calendar – am I wasting my money?”. The answer is potentially, yes, probably, not all of it. So much of what makes social teams invaluable assets to agencies and businesses is above and beyond the content that is seen as their primary output.

Great social teams, internal or external, derive frontline insight from the people who are most primed to buy your product.Yes, they produce, curate and create content. They manage, build, and drive communities – something that has been proven to have a genuine and lasting impact on brands of all sizes (Zoe Scaman has done some truly incredible work specific to the impact of the community if you want a little further information).

The reality is, given the chance, most great social people would switch things up when it comes to their outputs. They’dbe willing to experiment, and to have the opportunity to solve problems further up the pipe thanWe need 6 postsorgive this campaign a social element”. And chances are, they’d crush it because they’re so close to the consumer that drives your brand and the market you’re trying to crack.

There’s one last, smaller voice sayingHey, be quiet, content calendars are our whole business model”. Yes, I know. It’sprobably time to diversify.

So what should we do instead?  

At the end of the day, all that is just a rant without some practical advice. Obviously, everyone has their own approach and belief about what social can and should be, but here are the four things I’d be starting with, no matter what, to make the work better. As I said above, though, one size does not fit all – and so your mileage may vary.

1. Kill your content calendar

The headline of all this, and maybe why you read this article. Kill your content calendar. Free yourself, and instead of building your social strategy based on a number of posts to service a benchmark, build a strategy that works for your needs.

If you can’t do it alone, ask for help. And if you really want to keep your Hootsuite subscription, that’s probably okay, but don’t expect it to solve all your problems.

2. Understand your business problem

This one probably goes without saying but a lot of the time it’s the one social forgets. It’s worth obsessing over how communications can help solve a business problem. That means, at the end of the day, understanding the problem itself. If you can do that, you have fertile soil for whatever approach you take to grow from – and, in all likelihood, it won’t be an always-on-content calendar.

3: Embrace real relevance.

On the other side of the coin to the business need is meaningful, scalable, and relevance. That doesn’t mean making everything you do work for everyone with a mouth, but instead making sure the work you’re doing is built from genuine insight into the humans you’re trying to move.

If you truly embrace understanding your audience, you’ll be able to find moments, communities or activities that work exceptionally hard for you.

4: Expect social to deliver more

Social has gotten away with being a hygiene or vanity channel for too long – and the softness of metrics likeviewsandengagementhave propped up a $200 billion industry. The good news? The best and brightest in the market know what to measure (and how) to demonstrate the real value of great social. As you rebuild for what’s next, you should expect social to deliver more than it has in the past – and ask questions when it doesn’t.

5: Don’t forget the C word

Mark Ritson, don’t at me, but we have to remember the role of creativity in making truly great work. Not just creativity asevidenced in the ads we write and campaigns we develop, but in all its forms. Creativity of approach, of strategy, of tactic. Of who we choose to target, and of product, and how it shows up. Mark is right saying that creativity is not enough – butcreative thinking, applied broadly, can go a long way.

That’s it, really. Let’s go out and make it happen. 

Alex Sol Watts is the executive director of strategy and social at Poem.


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