Chances are you know content strategists have something to do with making matrixes. Sadly, we don’t strut in long leather coats or don slick aviator-style glasses (while at work) like Keanu and his band of friends in The Matrix (leather is in, but that’s so 2003). But like the characters in The Matrix, content strategists are often misunderstood, their purpose shrouded in mystery.
Just what are content strategists doing with those Content Audits and Content Gaps? If you didn’t know better, you’d worry that these words describe accounting software. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Audits, analyses and gaps – these words mask the true nature of content strategy. Which is? To create dazzlingly persuasive user experiences – experiences that accomplish a user's or a brand’s mission: to research a purchase, foster connectedness and ultimately engage in a transaction.
Content Strategy plans for and supports the über experience: discover, engage, transact, applaud and measure. What do I mean? Just think about yourself. Let’s say you’re seeking to engage in cool content X (cool is relevant, it’s what you make it). You find and engage in said content, the content spurs you to transact (a transaction could be a purchase or, in a social environment, the desire to interact), and based on the experience, you’re so happy with that experience that you tell others about it in some manner (blogging, word of mouth, reviews, tweeting it, pinning it, commenting, etc.). And when all is said and done, we substantiate – with metrics – that our strategies were, yes, that persuasive.
Yesterday’s content strategists had it a lot easier. There were a few basic content types in the collective online vocabulary: text in various flavors (product descriptions, FAQs, about us descriptions, news, etc.), audio, a little video and a few webinars – and fewer metrics.
Today the available content vocabulary has become infinitely more complex – with infographics, slideshows, social media content, communities content, UGC, social data, data visualizations and more…and – thanks to device diversification and adaptive web design – at least four distinctly different screen sizes (mobile, tablet, desktop and TV) on which we can deliver these persuasive and engaging experiences.
With 2012 in the rearview mirror, 2013 will see engaging trends rising everywhere. The core and emergent trends to have on the radar include:
- Adaptive Web Design
- Video: One Size Does Not Fit All
- Social Design: Increasing Content Consumption
In the weeks to come we’ll talk about the good, the bad and the new trends. For now, let’s get started and talk about the adaptive movement.
Winners and Losers in the Multiplatform Content Olympics
Its popularity and potential could be massive, but at this stage, adaptive web design (also referred to as responsive web design) is a leading cause of major brain cramps in content strategy circles. How do we address all those white papers and that “important marketing-speak copy"? Clients have a lot of long-form assets and deep attachments to the desktop experience.
How will content evolve in this brave new world of one-site-to-rule-them-all, adaptive web design? Despite the natural fear of change, adaptive web design’s ramifications require internal teams to revisit and address content and its relevancy. This is a good thing. A very, very good thing.
Nice adaptive site experiences that you can check out include the Boston Globe, for it’s thoughtful design and content hierarchy and ShopWiki, for its purposeful ecommerce design, which has seen significant mobile usage by its users, whether they are in stores or out and about.
What this means for Content Strategists
An opportunity to create an Adaptive Content Strategy? We can get out in front of the curve and design content experiences that fully capitalize on content types that swing both ways – those that are truly cross-platform compatible.
What are the content types that span this multiplatform universe? We can all vote in this contest (and please do, via comments). Good candidates include Slideshares, infographics and videos. Slideshows play well on mobile, tablets and desktops. Keep in mind that that your content needs to be self-contained and self-explanatory, like Google’s howtogomo.com.
Multiplatform losers are white papers (could they get a Slideshare-esque makeover?) and other lengthy text assets. Details still matter, but so do device screen sizes. Not to mention that in 2013, it’s not just the common cell phone and tablet small screens that we need to be mindful of but also web-enabled dashboards in cars, which will take the concept of multitasking to a whole new level. And then when you go big, how will you ensure that your content translates to boardrooms or family-rooms, where in today’s world, 40- to 60-inch screens are de rigueur? Bottom line: your content has to be more flexible than a game of Twister.
Doubling, tripling or quadrupling up on the ways the same information can be consumed (white paper, slideshow, infographic, audio and video) may help us get detailed information across the Content Olympics finish line – satisfying clients’ needs to get the details out there and the buyers’ need to pick and choose, based on their device, attention level and physical environment.
This is a conversation that will be on the radar for a long time, so we invite you to join the discussion now and over the coming weeks. Share your thoughts on adaptive web design, where you see it going, what it means for you in your role and/or any cool sites that you think are leading the charter.