How is it possible to know whether or not content strategy has changed over the past decade when many people do not even understand the term content strategy to begin with?
Kristina Halvorson writes that content strategy “plans for the creation, publication and governance of useful, usable content.” It is the content strategist’s job to come up with the content that will accompany any web design and that will attract the most viewers to stick onto the site as long as possible. While the concept of content strategy has been around for a few decades by now, it did not begin to gain traction towards the public eye until around 2008.
Since 2008, social media has encapsulated the world, and web browsing can be done from just about anywhere with a smart device. Due to these rapid changes in how humans operate and communicate with technology, it is vital that companies adapt or risk losing their customer base, and that includes changing their content strategy practices.
When you are thinking about what content you want to create, you are trying to “deliver a particular message” to your audience (“Between Data”). This means that in order to keep your audience engaged with your site, you need to deliver content that will tell a powerful story, yet get straight to the point. Back when websites could only be accessed via desktop computers, content strategists simply had to focus on the message their content was sending to their audience – which may have allowed for longer articles and the inclusion of about pages and mission pages. Due to the mobile and social revolution of the past decade, however, our attention spans have become much shorter, forcing companies to present their content much more efficiently. Jakob Nielsen writes that even though longer articles may be more informative, “if it takes too long to read, users will abandon the website and read shorter, easier pieces elsewhere.” These shorter and easier pieces will give the users exactly what they need, and if they wish to look more into it, then using hyperlinks to provide users more in-depth articles will maximize the time they spend on the site.
The technological advancements over the past decade have also “transformed the relationship between brands and their customers, placing the power firmly back in the hands of the latter” (Weisbeck). Customers have become needier and more impatient than ever, and if they cannot access or receive the information they want from your site within a very short timeframe, then they are going to bounce. Therefore, not only do content strategists need to figure out what type of content they are publishing, but how the content will be presented to the user. Daniel Weisbeck references Responsive Web Design (RWD), which is a design strategy that allows code that was intended for desktop websites to automatically “respond to” whichever device it is being presented on, and thus allow the users to have an optimized experience no matter which device they are using. Web designers and content strategists did not have to think about mobile devices as a source for internet browsing a decade ago, and its introduction is a major contributor to content strategists having to change their practices a bit.
The last factor that shows changes in the practice of content strategy is the implementation of storytelling weaved within a brand’s journey in order to appear more engaging to the user. Storytelling is a great way for brands to “not only market their products and services but to become relatable and to build trust” (Bowman). If the story is capped with a gripping hook (such as a quote or statistic) and is filled with media such as video or images, then users will be much more likely to stick around as they continue listening to the rest of your story. In order to keep the users coming back to the story, the content strategists must continue supporting the content even after they have already published it, such as including new milestones into the story as the comapny hit them. This is why content strategists are tasked with not only creating and publishing their content, but with governing it once it is already out in the public.
All in all, the core fundamentals of content strategy may not have changed. Content strategists still have to focus on creating content, and making sure it is capturing the users’ attention in the most efficient way possible, but the rise of new technology and social communication have paved the way for new methods for content strategists to go about completing their job.
“A Brief History of Content Marketing.” GetApp, https://www.smartinsights.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Infographic-History-Content-Marketing-Final.png
“Between data, information and content.” Excolo, 2014, http://excolo.com/information-v-content/
Bowman, Matt. “Make Storytelling a Part of Your Content Strategy in 2018.” Forbes, 24 May, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/05/24/make-storytelling-a-part-of-your-content-strategy-in-2018/#1f3070dd2a61
Halvorson, Kristina. “The Discipline of Content Strategy.” A List Apart, 16 Dec, 2008, https://alistapart.com/article/thedisciplineofcontentstrategy/
Kissane, Erin. “A Checklist for Content Work.” A List Apart, 8 Mar, 2011, https://alistapart.com/article/a-checklist-for-content-work/
Nielsen, Jakob. “Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy.” Nielsen Norman Group, 11 Nov, 2007, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/content-strategy-long-vs-short/?lm=content-strategy&pt=course
Weisbeck, Daneil. “Context is King – Long Live the King” WIRED, 2018, https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/01/context-king-long-live-king/