To compete successfully and imaginatively within the world of social media and digital marketing, a well-crafted strategy is required. Success is not accidental. Within the fast-moving field of social media is a job called content strategist.
What is a content strategist and what is the pathway to becoming a content strategist? Get the answers in this in-depth career guide and consider taking the first step by earning your social media degree.
The Importance of Content Strategy
To learn what a content strategist is, it’s helpful to first understand content strategy. All organizations need a clear and comprehensive content strategy that drives their engagement with current and potential customers. A company’s content strategy is the approach they take to use content to reach their short-term or long-term objectives.
Content strategy is about more than simply writing sales copy. Rather, it’s the higher-level understanding of content that examines how the company will use it to drive demand for products or services. If a content marketer or copywriter is an individual player in a symphony orchestra, then the content strategist is the conductor.
Content strategizing involves planning, implementing, promoting and maintaining content through its lifecycle. It’s a roadmap for how the business will use content to get from Point A to Point B. A company with a well-developed content strategy can reap the following rewards:
- Improved search engine rankings
- More traffic to the company’s internet properties
- Increased customer engagement on social media
- Enhanced brand awareness
- Higher conversion rates (potential customers converting to actual customers)
- Better brand trust and loyalty
Now that you have a clearer idea of what content strategy is, it’s time to take a closer look at what a content strategist is. A content strategist is a mid- to senior-level professional. They have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of digital marketing and a keen grasp of the business’ mission, values and objectives. They must also generally understand consumer psychology. The content strategist’s job is to develop a content strategy that aligns with the organization’s mission and values while furthering its objectives.
Content strategists often work for for-profit businesses. However, a strong content strategy is also crucial for nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies. In other words, this profession offers a wealth of employment possibilities.
The Role of a Content Strategist
A typical day in the life of a content strategist can vary depending on the organization. If the organization needs a brand-new content strategy, the content strategist will:
- Identify the audience(s) – Organizations typically speak to multiple demographics. This means that a content strategist may need to develop different content strategies for varying audiences. For example, one strategy may apply to the 18-29 demographic, while another may apply to the 65+ demographic.
- Identify the problem – Every product or service should solve a common problem for the audience. For example, if a content strategist is responsible for marketing a high-tech baby stroller with a built-in smartphone charging port, the content strategy will likely prioritize busy moms and dads who are constantly on the go and often run out of cellphone “juice” at inconvenient times. If the content strategist is marketing a travel agency, then the problem to be solved is usually the boredom and stress of daily life that can be temporarily alleviated with a carefree vacation.
- Establish the unique attribute – Very few companies are truly unique. For example, there are 1,806 vitamin and supplement manufacturers in the U.S. alone, constituting a $36-billion-dollar industry.1 However, content strategists must strive to identify an attribute that sets their company apart from its competition, such as a commitment to green business practices or a unique quality assurance program.
- Determine the content platforms – It’s uncommon for an organization to be active on every single content publishing platform. Instead, content strategists must identify the content platforms on which their target audience is most active and that make the most sense for the company. For instance, if an arts and crafts company is marketing to a demographic of older women, Pinterest may be a better choice than TikTok.
- Establish the content forms – Deciding which form the content should take goes hand-in-hand with determining the ideal platforms. For some companies, video marketing on YouTube makes sense. Other companies will lean more heavily toward white papers, eBooks and long-form instructional blogs published on their own website.
- Develop an editorial calendar – An editorial calendar is a schedule of all of the content that will be written by various people and scheduled for publication on digital platforms. At this stage, the content strategist may also delve into search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, such as identifying the most appropriate keywords to include in various pieces of content.
Periodically, a content strategist may need to revisit the content strategy if the results aren’t what the company desired. It may be necessary to explore how best to speak to the target audience, for example, and whether the company needs to shift to a new digital platform. The editorial calendar will need to be regularly maintained as content is developed and published.
In addition to developing and maintaining the organization’s content strategy, these professionals may also do the following tasks:
- Review and analyze data on the target audience and the audience’s engagement with the company
- Create and manage social media campaigns
- Manage a team of content creators, providing feedback and mentorship
- Write and edit content that is aligned with the organization’s mission, values and content strategy and implements SEO best practices
- Schedule content for publication
- Liaise with managers from other departments and executives to identify new company objectives and learn about new products or services that are in development and will need marketing campaigns
Note that some content strategists work within the marketing department of one company. Others work for marketing agencies where they may handle multiple client accounts and develop content strategies for a handful of different companies. Those who work for marketing agencies are generally expected to liaise regularly with their points of contact at their client companies.
How To Become a Content Strategist
Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is a content strategist?” it’s time to investigate the process of becoming a content strategist. If you’re still in high school, consider talking to your guidance counselor about your career plans. They may be able to help you adjust your course load to reflect your aspirations.
Taking plenty of humanities courses is helpful, as these teach critical thinking, analytical reasoning and communication skills, including writing. However, you shouldn’t ignore STEM courses, either. Computer courses, in particular, will prove useful. After all, content strategists need to be proficient with digital tools, such as cloud-based apps.
You’ll need to plan to earn a bachelor’s degree after high school. There is considerable flexibility in the type of bachelor’s degree you can earn for this profession; however, it’s generally preferable to choose one that focuses on new media. Most content strategists do not have graduate degrees.
After you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, you can pursue an entry-level role in the marketing field. You’ll need at least a few years of full-time work experience before you can pursue a content strategist role with a company’s marketing department or marketing agency.
Should You Earn an English Degree or a Social Media Degree?
A bachelor’s degree is considered a necessity to pursue a career as a content strategist or other marketing professional. However, the specific type of degree isn’t quite as important as you might think. Many students think that an English degree is appropriate because content strategists tend to do a lot of writing.
An English degree is one possibility, although it may not give you as much exposure to new media as you’ll need. Other options include degrees in communications, journalism and marketing or advertising. Still another option is to earn a social media degree.
A social media degree is particularly beneficial for students who would like to become content strategists because the curriculum will generally be writing-intensive, like an English or journalism degree, but will emphasize the role of new media. Students will gain competencies in various digital platforms and these skills will be immediately applicable in the field.
If you decide to earn a social media degree, your specific curriculum will vary depending on the school you choose. In general, however, social media degree students may study any of the following:
- The use of social media tools and techniques and the development of social media content strategies
- The collection and analysis of social media data for social media campaigns
- Best practices for marketing and public relations writing and design
- The development of marketing messages, including visual, written, video, and animated content, for various digital media platforms
While you’re working toward your degree, it will be helpful to pursue one or more internship opportunities. These days, many internship programs can be completed remotely, which will be easier to fit around your class schedule. You’ll be able to practice your skills in real-world contexts and gain feedback from industry professionals.
Do Aspiring Content Strategists Need a Master’s Degree?
Aspiring content strategists do not need to earn a master’s degree. You can get started in the marketing field with a bachelor’s degree. Some organizations, such as professional associations, may prefer to hire content strategists with master’s degrees.
Common Entry-Level Jobs for Future Content Strategists
The content strategist role is not entry-level. Typically, aspiring content strategists will start out in a lower-level role within a company or marketing agency. You may be able to work your way up after acquiring a few years of experience.
It’s not unusual for future content strategists to start as content creators or copywriters. They will take direction from the content strategist or marketing manager for their writing assignments. Aspiring content strategists may also work as content editors, SEO specialists or social media managers before acquiring the necessary years of work experience to apply for content strategy roles.
You can improve your chances of promotion by demonstrating a solid work ethic, strong sense of professionalism and commitment to furthering the objectives and mission of the company. You may also consider asking about opportunities for professional development. For example, your organization may arrange to have you take online courses to improve your understanding of digital marketing.
Essential Skills and Qualities for Content Strategy Professionals
Content strategy professionals can benefit from a few key skills and characteristics. You can actively cultivate these throughout your time in college and during your first few years of professional work experience. They include:
- Communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills
- Creativity and innovation
- Multitasking and organizational skills
In addition, project management skills are highly desirable for content strategists. These professionals must be able to juggle many different projects at once, often amid shifting priorities.
Is There a Demand for Content Strategists?
It’s always helpful to assess the job growth rate for a profession you’re thinking of pursuing.
As print media continues to decline, there is a growing need for digital marketing professionals who can position organizations for long-term success. In addition, new technologies will continue to emerge, potentially creating new avenues for organizations’ content strategies.
Take your first step toward pursuing a 21st-century career by applying for enrollment to the College of Arts and Media at Grand Canyon University. The College of Arts and Media is proud to offer the Bachelor of Arts in Social Media degree program to students who are passionate about high-tech communications and effective messaging for all types of organizations. Graduates will emerge with strong competencies in new media design fundamentals, digital advertising communication and social media data analytics.
Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more about becoming a student at the College of Arts and Media at GCU.
1Retrieved from IBISWorld, Industry Research Reports, Vitamin & Supplement Manufacturing Industry in the US - Market Research Report in January 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.