Web, Social Media, and Content Strategy

It’s kind of an amazing thing when all of the floating bits in your brain come together.

So, there’s this “social media” thing. This thing that allows people to connect, to build community, to engage with each other or causes or companies. This thing that gives voice to all of the people. And I love it. This girl who spent so many hours on message boards in 1999 is now spending even more hours online, doing all that she can to listen. We who integrate social media with marketing have an uncommon vantage point from within the community we aim to reach—and an obligation, I think, to ensure that the voices of that community are heard. It’s the beauty of the social media, really. We all get to be heard.

Meanwhile, there’s this other thing. I’ll call it “web.” While I’ve spent the past few years immersing myself into social media, I’ve been consistently wooed by this (as I saw it) divergent path. Where there were needs, I filled in, particularly when it came to project management and organization of web content. My team now finds itself at the beginning of a website redesign and content management system transition. There’s so much to do, and I care so very much about making sure this thing goes the way it should. This is our chance to do things right. What else can I do but devote all of my time to researching content strategy, usability, responsive web design, and all of those other concepts that “web” people must know?

Alas, there are only so many hours in a day and only so much space in my head. For months, the battle between social media and web has raged with no clear winner. Now, with so much web work to be done, there is little choice for me to make. Most days I have to spend more time on content inventories than social media analytics. Then there is guilt.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wondered, “How do I reconcile the web with the social media? Why do I have to pick?” When my job description was changed from special events manager to social media specialist (or a variation thereof), I was ready for a new direction. I was excited about the challenge and fascinated by all it had in store for me. Today I find myself in a different place. First, I have no desire to abandon my work with social media. Second, I can’t. I need to find a way to make social media and web play well together, and to make time for all the work that needs to be done.

Enter “content strategy.”

Well, I suppose it’s unfair to say, “enter,” as though content strategy is brand new and I’ve only recently heard of it. The concept was long ago introduced to me by some combination of HighEdWeb and Georgy Cohen, and later reinforced by MeetContent and the Web Conference at Penn State. Always intriguing and inspiring, content strategy has been something I added to my list of things to learn more about. Had I been listening more closely, I might have realized that I’ve been striving for a better content strategy for some time.

One day, I found myself in possession of Erin Kissane’s “The Elements of Content Strategy.” You guys, she was talking to me! You may have read the book and thought it resonated with you, etc. But that book was written for me. I’m now waist-deep into Kristina Halvorson’s “Content Strategy for the Web” and, funny enough, that book was written for me, too. I’m not sure how either of these women knew that I was struggling to connect all of the web and social media and content and structure and strategy, but they did. It turns out then when we are strategic about content, we consider all of the channels and messages. Yes, this means the web and the social media. Can you believe it?

Why did this not occur to me a year ago?

I have so much more to learn, and so much work to do. I can’t wait. After all, Halvorson tells me, “You can do this. You can make things right.”

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