If you aspire to be a successful content strategist or marketer, here are nine things you should plan to learn. And the sooner you do, the better!
1. User experience is as big a part of your job as anything else
Yes, there are professionals who are paid solely to think about the user experience, and how it can be made as seamless as possible. But that doesn't mean you can sit back and forget about it. Each content piece needs to have some thought behind how the user will experience, consume, and act on it.
Speaking of users...
2. Chances are you are not your target audience
As a content strategist, you need to understand that you are most likely not creating content for people like you. Great content strategists should repeat the following phrases often:
- "I am not a typical Internet user."
- "My expectations of the content I consume is different from those of others."
- "My intent when consuming this content is also not the same as a user's."
3. Create content for audience intent
Creating content for the intent of a user may seem obvious, but in actuality it happens less than we think. I'm not talking about simply knowing your target audience; it goes beyond that. If your users aren't ready to buy a product, don't shove a sales piece down their throat.
For example, REI designs content to audience intent better than a most retailers. With any given search, users are shown various content types:
Doing so allows REI to target users who may be in different stages.
To determine intent, use your audience personas to figure out their challenges and the goals they want to achieve on your website or page. Then create content around that intent.
4. A good CMS has a content strategist's mind behind it
Content management systems (CMSs) were created for those who produce and manage content. Successful content strategists will have often expressed frustrations with their CMS; that's a reason for them to work collaboratively with those in charge of creating the CMS.
Developers are vital to the creation of a CMS; unless they are responsible for managing the content on a site, however, they may miss what are crucial elements for the actual users of the CMS. Our jobs as content strategists is to work closely with the developers to ensure the CMS meets development, production, and executional needs.
If you are using an open source CMS such as WordPress or Drupal, challenge your developers to build plug-ins that can enhance the content production process. In the long run, such collaboration will make your site that much more efficient and ultimately successful.
5. It takes only one great piece of content
Content quality vs. quantity is a common issue. Although finding a healthy balance between the two is crucial, it's also important to realize that sometime just one piece of content can make all of the difference.
Consider Hootsuite's Game of Social Thrones video, which took advantage of the conversation about the imminent release of the show in April 2014. Within a few days, the video was featured in Time, Fast Company, and AdAge. Now, the video has been viewed nearly a million times, making it Hootsuite's most successful piece of content.
The company took advantage of keyword volume and subject-matter relevance to create a kick-ass piece of content that uses both creativity and SEO.
6. A content strategist and SEO specialist make for a dynamic duo
Throw the egos out the window, because once a content strategist and an SEO specialist find the perfect balance, magic is bound to happen. Content should not be created to simply hit SEO metrics, but it should also not be created just for the sake of quantity. Once content strategy and SEO are on the same page, a whole new world opens up.
Just ask Perrin Carrell, who created Chewie Says (now HerePup) when he realized zero awesome content was being created on the best dog food available. Within six weeks of publishing his first "guestographic," his organic traffic increased 963%, according to Backlinko.
Content is created to solve a problem for users, in turn answering an industry need—and making it more likely to be shared. The result: great content with ROI tied to it.
7. Revenue isn't the only form of ROI
If a content piece that you created results in $10K in revenue, you deserve a round of applause. However, that doesn't mean revenue is the only return you should measure. Knowing what you hope to accomplish with each piece is key to helping you determine how and what you should measure. Content pieces may be created for a variety of ROI metrics:
- Brand awareness
- Email signups
- Social presence
- Brand-advocate input
- Website exposure
And many others!
Being able to create pieces that focus on different types of ROI can help to differentiate you from your competitors because, believe it or not, users do get sick of just sales-centric content.
8. Don't be afraid to stand up to stakeholders
Telling senior-level executives that money isn't everything is easier said than done. And don't get me wrong, having a website that generates revenue is certainly the goal. But to get to that point, you have to have the guts to convince stakeholders that other ROI measures are also important.
To show how valuable other metrics can be, learn to speak in terms they use and understand. Remember that content development is usually slow to achieve success. If you can prove that an investment in SEO, brand awareness, social campaigns, etc. will lead to monetary returns in the long run, then you are golden.
9. Wash, rinse, repeat
When you find something that works, stick with it. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel each time. But be warned, it may take some time to find something that works. What makes content strategy so amazing is the ability to play with new ideas, without huge revenue losses, until you hit on the one thing that works well.
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The role of content strategist will differ from company to company, but keeping these nine things in mind will help you to better adapt and thrive in all types of situations. Enjoy the ride!