The term content strategy is used to describe a lot of different aspects of content creation: content marketing strategy, content planning, and social media content strategy, to name a few.
So before diving into any content-related project, it’s essential to get everyone on the same page with the vocabulary.
The four questions in this article are those often asked when brands are exploring and implementing a content strategy. Let’s clarify each of these — and let’s see if we can make you a content strategy expert in three minutes or less.
Ready? And go!
What Is Content Strategy?
Webster’s Dictionary defines content strategy as — I’m just kidding. The best way to get a clear definition of a content strategy is to talk about and give you examples of what it is and what it isn’t.
What Content Strategy Is Not
First of all, it’s not SEO. Content marketing and content creation have come a long way from the days of fluffy articles and keyword stuffing.
Don’t get me wrong. Search engine optimization is still essential, but the process of researching topics, primary keywords, and secondary keywords is just one part of your overall strategy.
Your content strategy isn’t your digital content marketing strategy, either. Again, that’s just one piece of the overall content puzzle. Your digital content marketing strategy covers the blog posts, videos, infographics, and other content pieces used to draw visitors to your site and put yourself forward as a thought leader.
But before you can figure out the kinds of content you need for that strategy, you should have an overall content strategy in place.
Finally, content strategy and content planning are not the same things. Content planning is the process of sitting down with your team, including stakeholders from across your company, and mapping out the content you will create for the quarter (or even year). Details in this plan include how you’ll acquire content, how much you will produce, its cost, etc.
Before starting, you need a clear content strategy upon which all interested parties agree.
What Content Strategy Is
Okay, now let’s get to what your content strategy truly is.
Your content strategy is the set of rules and guidelines you put in place to plan, develop and manage all of your company’s content, whether that be industry white papers, blog posts, a set of how-to-videos, Pinterest boards…the list goes on and on.
It’s the content for your web landing pages, the marketing materials for your conference booth, and the slideshow presentations your sales team takes out in the field.
Your content strategy addresses the goal you have in mind for your brand, whether that be differentiating yourself from your competition or making your brand more approachable. It creates a consistent message, voice, and style so that content created across teams conveys the same business objectives, fulfills the right purpose, and talks to the right audience.
Wendy’s is a great example of a well-honed, overarching content strategy. And while the content they create varies by platform, it all serves the same purpose.
To create a solid content strategy, you have to start with a goal. In the case of Wendy’s, that goal is to differentiate itself from its fast-food competitors as a quality restaurant that cares about people.
They’ve taken that goal and applied it across their content channels.
Their Twitter account is the crown jewel of their social media marketing strategy. Currently, it has 3.3 million followers, and its tagline reflects its content strategy: “We like our tweets the same way we like to make hamburgers: better than anyone expects from a fast food joint.”
Their tweets take the voice of Wendy herself, who has become famous for trolling McDonald’s and other competitors, live-tweeting during events like the Game of Thrones finale and talking directly to followers. They even created a rap mixtape, songs rapped by Wendy about their fresh burgers while dissing their competitors.
They also use Twitter to promote their food, but it’s always done in the same sassy tone followers have come to expect.
Meanwhile, their blog, The Square Deal, takes on much more of a peer-to-peer tone. It still promotes their menu items, but it puts a lot more focus on the restaurants as socially responsible community partners.
Finally, their investor information speaks to a more financially minded audience, posting quarterly reports, and even an earnings webcast. But there is still information about new food and events.
Everything Wendy’s creates focuses on the quality of their food and the emphasis they put on the community, whether it be Twitter followers or local patrons. With that in mind, they tailor each piece of content for the right audience and sub-goal.
And that’s what content strategy is. It’s putting in place a goal and a framework that every part of your content planning can use as guidance.
What Is a Content Marketing Strategy?
Your content marketing strategy is the framework for everything you put online to draw users to your site and market your products or services.
That includes blog posts, videos, infographics, and, to some degree, your social media. It’s the search-engine-optimized content that helps you rank on search, and the shareable content you hope your users will pass on through their social networks.
This content you really want to research and cover fully to put yourself forward as a thought leader that users and search engines trust.
A great example is diaper brand Pampers. Their content strategy completely focuses on supporting pregnant and new moms with the support and information they need. Their articles cover precisely the kinds of topics mom search for online, from a due-date calculator tool, to information on bathing your baby for the first time, to sleep schedules.
Doctors write some of their content. Each blog post is a long-form article that covers not only the topic at hand but all of the subtopics associated. Every post contains internal links to related content, as well.
They also provide videos by nurses and printables like contraction charts and pregnancy announcement cards.
It’s all tailored toward, what we call in the biz, micro-moments; those moments when something happens, and you need quick information. Like when you realize you have to pick out a name for your baby and you have no idea where to start.
You google baby names and Pampers, among other sites, pops up.
This digital content strategy is excellent. The site publishes articles and tools that make it easy for new and expecting moms to find information (and reassurance) easily. It’s the kind of content users come back to again and again.
What Is Content Strategy for Social Media?
Your social media content strategy is just like it sounds. It is the framework for everything you put on social.
Now, your content marketing and social media strategies can overlap, particularly if you’re a brand that uses social media as the sole vehicle for your content marketing.
Red Bull is probably one of the best examples of a solid social media strategy that drives content across its many platforms.
Red Bull focuses entirely on their customers and what interests them. That one simple decision, to become a customer-centric brand, making their product almost secondary in their marketing, has created the template for all of their online content.
That content focuses primarily on extreme and alternative sports.
But Red Bull took it a step further. Instead of setting up a few social media accounts that simply cover extreme sports, they’ve become a significant sponsor and influencer, with their own games, events, and athletes.
Essentially, what they’ve done is create their own media that they themselves, as well as other social media and news outlets, cover.
Once they knew what they were focusing on, they had to find the right social media platform to promote their content. While they do have Twitter and copious Facebook pages for all types of sports, their focus seems to be (and rightly so) on video and YouTube. They even have their own branded Red Bull TV.
So, in a nutshell, Red Bull took their overall content strategy — to become a customer-centric brand — and applied it to their social media content strategy — to create and promote social content in which their audience is interested.
Then, they determined which outlet best suit their needs (video) and put all of their efforts there.
And that’s how you put together a social media strategy that complements your overall content strategy.
What Is Content Strategy in UX?
UX content strategy covers how visitors discover your content and how your site moves users down the sales funnel. It’s everything you do to enhance the user experience. It still complements your overall strategy, but it addresses more of the nuts-and-bolts of content rather than the content creation itself.
For this, I’m going to call on Pampers again.
We already know that their content strategy focuses on new moms and the information they need.
But what if you don’t google something in one of those micro-moments. What if you just arrived at pampers.com? They’ve thought of that, too.
If you look at the homepage, you’ll see at the very top that they’ve split their information into natural stages of new-parenthood. This design makes it easy to start the user journey and find the information tailored to a new mom’s particular situation.
Below that, they have a coupon and then links to their tools.
All of this is carefully planned to guide users from the homepage to the content (or the coupon). Then it gets them to convert from users to customers, and finally to loyal customers.
If you clicked through to one of these landing pages, you would see several subcategories, which would lead you to specific articles.
Again, this has all been mapped out with the brand’s strategy in mind: to provide information that supports new moms and turns them into loyal customers.
So that’s it. Your content strategy is the umbrella under which all those other terms fall. By putting a fully fleshed-out content strategy in place, you’re setting up the framework for all content you create, whether that be online, social, or even printed.
Start with a content strategy, and you’ll keep everything else on track and focused on the one goal you set to make your brand successful.
Written by Laurie Mega