Increasingly, interactive products are platforms for content delivery. From retail sites to mobile apps, every screen contains content, and that content will only be effective if it is fresh, relevant, and supports a positive user experience. Unfortunately, many software companies and tech startups don’t think of content as a key factor to the success of their product. In far too many cases, content is created ad hoc, by team members who have no creative content expertise.
The result can be confusing. Content supports an intuitive UX, and it also integrates the voice and philosophy of the brand into every element of that experience, if done well.
When people bandy about the term “content strategy” they often mean “content marketing strategy.” Producing and promoting great content is at the core of a comprehensive marketing strategy. To put it simply, traditional marketing no longer works. You need engaging content. You need conversation, something people can share, and a platform for brand advocacy.
I love producing high quality content and initiating content marketing programs for demand generation, but that’s not what I mean when I talk about Content Strategy for interactive products.
Having worked with software companies and tech startups on interactive products for over a decade, I am uniquely positioned to understand their content challenges. When I’m working on a Content Strategy, I consider the following:
In most cases, you want users to be engaged with and delighted by your product or website. This means that every screen should make clear what they can do on that screen, and where to go next. Building in strategic calls to action and “delighters” (or rewards) can improve engagement and create an experience people want to have again, and to share with others.
It’s a mobile-first world these days, and the key to an effective Content Strategy is understanding how users engage with content on mobile devices. Interactive products often need to work on various platforms and support content such as system notifications. Content should be easy to digest and to share, on all of its target platforms.
Marketing departments think about audience a lot, but their focused segmentation is often diluted by the time designers and developers begin defining the user experience (if there is a Marketing department at all, which is often not the case for young startups). They forget who they’re serving and make decisions based on personal preferences, or simply what’s easiest. Focused, targeted content helps keep the end user in the picture from start to finish.
Curation vs. Creation
Tech companies get nervous about employing an editorial staff if they have a content-rich product. It’s always best to have someone on staff who owns the Content Strategy, but in some cases the kind of content you need can be licensed. Part of developing a Content Strategy is identifying those reputable third party sources. External agencies and freelancers can also be great resources for producing content, and a good Content Strategist will have experience managing vendors and creative teams.
Ad hoc content is often baked into the code in an entirely unstructured way, if there’s not a Content Strategy in place. Creating a taxonomy and data structure for content is critical if you have a complex or content-heavy product. This kind of structure will keep the UI organized in an intuitive way. Indexed content is searchable, and easy to update. Tagged, structured content is valuable for reporting and understanding engagement metrics.
Content Management Systems are becoming ubiquitous, as static content becomes a thing of the past. A CMS allows non-technical people to update content on the fly. There are numerous good CMS products on the market, and which one is right for you depends largely on your Content Strategy (Are there special requirements like personalized content? How often will content be updated?), as well as dev resources available to implement and maintain a CMS.
Content is only as good as it is effective. You might have the world’s best writers and content producers, but if the content is not consumed, or if the desired behavior is not happening, you’re not getting ROI. Part of a Content Strategy is defining metrics for success and implementing tools required to measure them. Monitoring results weekly means your strategy can be flexible and focus on what works.
When it comes to content, venturing into international markets is never a simple prospect. If that’s part of your product plan, your Content Strategy should take this into consideration. Structured content that is easily exported will simplify the localization process. Deciding in advance which markets and languages to support will influence the guidelines for how to organize content, character counts, and the use of special characters.
It’s important to think about content early and often if you’re building an app, website, or software product. Content often refers to copy, but it might also be videos, images, infographics, etc. All of these ingredients are worth considering as integral to your interactive product, as well as your marketing strategy.