I first heard the term “content strategy” at a talk at South by Southwest in 2011. Kristina Halvorson was talking about the next generation of CEOs—Chief Editorial Officers—and I was beyond excited. This was the second-biggest AHA! moment of my career.
At the time I was just a few years into a big career evolution from writing—the journalistic kind (newspapers, magazines, books)—to online marketing. When a friend first told me about the job, I thought, “I don’t know anything about online marketing.” Thankfully I applied for the job anyway. And as it turned out, I did know a lot about online marketing. I knew how to write—create content—and that has turned out to be invaluable.
I’m telling you all of this because I just want to say the thing most people, in my online marketing career so far, don’t want to hear: you need to have a content strategy before you set up a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram account for your company.
Be strong. Resist the pressure! Whether you’re running a small business or directing a marketing team, don’t assume you’ll be able to easily create compelling, strategic content that meets your business’ goals across the major social media platforms—and keep creating that content—without a thoughtful strategy. You won’t for very long. You will get frustrated quickly.
Content Strategy Basics
Speaking of frustration, here are a few key things I’ve learned (some the hard way) that will make or break content strategies:
- Leadership buy-in: You must educate your leadership. You do this by aligning your goals with company goals and revenue targets.
- No one will care as much as you do about style guides, company mission statements, and editorial calendars. And that’s OK. You still need all of these things to do your job well.
- Speaking of editorial calendars, a basic, unsexy Excel spreadsheet or Google calendar will do to start with; once you reach some goals, then think about an upgrade.
- Keep a close eye on your competition and a closer eye on your customer.
- Adopt and sustain a “live, learn, and try something new” mindset. You need to be comfortable with a lot of small failures that will eventually lead to your success.
Remember, all social media platforms are your powerful megaphones. You don’t put your mouth to your megaphone until you know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.