If you’ve bought into content marketing (as you should), you’ve probably also been looking for a tool to help you manage the planning, creation and distribution of your content, especially if you work with a team.
With a growing number of solutions on the marketing, how do you know which is right for you? To help, we asked professional content creator and digital product reviewer Sharon Hurley Hall to take a look at ContentCloud.
Here’s what she has to say…
Looking for a new way to enhance your marketing? A company called BetaOut aims to help you reduce administrative headaches in content marketing with a tool called ContentCloud. Having recently reviewed CoSchedule, I was anxious to see what ContentCloud had to offer so I headed to the site to check it out.
According to its site, ContentCloud is a full solution for content ideation, planning, production and distribution.
The web-based tool (which also works on mobile devices) available in a number of packages, priced according to the number of team members, the number of sites and a few other features, including the ability to use an Amazon S3 CDN, team analytics and email support.
There is also a free plan for a single site which gives you access to the editorial calendar, idea room, idea and content discussions, assignment templates, document attachments and team analytics. All plans include a 14-day free trial.
Content Cloud: The Promise
Having checked out the plans, the next stop was the web-based tour, which gave a little more detail on some of the features. The tour highlighted six features:
- The editor’s dashboard, where you can see who is assigned to write an assignment, what its status is, who is working on it and which blog or website it is assigned to. You can also add new assignments or ideas here.
- The task list, for tracking assigned tasks, current and future.
- The editorial calendar, where you can switch between assignments and tasks, add tasks to your Google Calendar and see whether assignments and tasks are completed, due or overdue.
- The idea room, for brainstorming content ideas, which you can either keep private or share with team members.
- The rich text editor, which includes a discussion feed.
- A user insights page, which includes a timeline and task tracking.
On Test: Content Cloud
How would all this work together to help marketers? I put it to the test by creating an account and downloading and installing the WordPress plugin to connect my site to ContentCloud.
Once installed, I clicked on the BetaOut link in the WordPress dashboard. There was a message stating that I needed an API key, which also promised a 27-second delay between signing up and being able to enter the key.
For me, it took 1 minute and 48 seconds (because it took a while to figure out where the information was located on the ContentCloud web dashboard) , but that was still pretty quick.
Connecting the blog worked seamlessly. It was impressive that the minute I entered the API information, it imported my blog categories into ContentCloud. However, it did not import the multiple authors who contribute to my blog, which means I’d have to invite them separately if I wanted to use ContentCloud long term.
Handling Content Tasks
The ContentCloud training was well thought through. Connecting the blog creates a project called “Explore Content Cloud,” along with associated tasks that help you get used to the interface.
After the initial blog setup task, it was difficult at first to figure out how to mark a task as complete. As it turned out, the gear icon at the top gives you options to delete an assignment or submit a task. You can also add team members from the same interface.
Hitting the submit button gives additional options which all WordPress users would find familiar. I could publish it as a post or page, edit permalinks, choose my byline, choose a publication date, and add tags, categories and a featured image.
The page also included SEO information, allowing you to set a title and description and carry out a page analysis, similar to the features in the WordPress SEO plugin.
I eventually deleted this task to avoid accidentally publishing it on my blog.
Dealing with Assignments
The second automatically created task showed how to publish a new assignment. Clicking on the “create assignment” page gave you a place to write the assignment, and you could also add guidelines and tasks, attach any necessary files, set a start and end date and decide whether the content would be a post or page. You could also choose to add focus keywords and categories at the same time.
Another place to create assignments is from the navigation menu at the top of the ContentCloud interface. This is available on every page.
Content Creation and Collaboration
A useful feature for the content creation process is that ContentCloud tracks version history, color coding anything that has been added, modified or deleted. This could be very useful for a team of people working on the same document.
Another useful feature is the comments box that is available via a flyout menu on the right of the ideas or assignments screen. This allows team members to discuss what they are working on.
The calendar view also gives a useful at-a-glance overview of upcoming, due and overdue tasks and content.
Unlike CoSchedule, it did not automatically pull recently published content into the calendar. This is a useful feature for strategic planning which I’d like to see included.
Ideas and Templates
The idea creation tool, which is accessible from every page, lets you write a number of notes in a card-like interface and rearrange those. You can play with your idea and discuss it with others before converting it to an assignment for a team member.
Finally, there’s a templates icon, allowing you to create a content template for reuse. This includes pre-defined tasks, which would be useful if you have a standard workflow when creating content.
The ContentCloud interface provides analytics on tasks and assignments, though to me this seems less useful than tracking tasks through the tasks interface. There’s also a file box icon for the repository, which tracks all activity for multiple users. This could provide a useful overview for content managers.
As a WordPress user, I would have liked to see the ContentCloud functionality available within the WordPress dashboard as it is with other editorial calendars, though this is not a deal-breaker.
The tool includes some useful features for content marketers and editors (inline discussion and assignment templates being just two of the ones that stand out for me) but would be even better if it allowed you to manage social publishing from the same interface as well.
While it’s not as easy to use as some content management interfaces, as a tool that’s still in beta, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Have you tried ContentCloud? What are your must-have features in an editorial calendar?
Read other Crazy Egg posts by Sharon Hurley Hall.