If I were a betting woman, I’d wager a tall stack of black chips that you, dear Reader, are a content marketer.
How’d I do?
Odds are this baby gets a new pair of shoes (maybe two) because in today’s business world we’re all content marketers – creators, curators, and peddlers of what Webster’s defines as “something expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or a work of art.”
Content marketing remains one of the most prevalent – and searched on – keywords in marketing for good reason: Content is still king and, as such, directly or indirectly tied to our business success.
Which can be mighty stressful.
And according to Scott Abel, content strategist and professor of Digital Publishing at UC Berkeley, the stress will only intensify because marketers are overwhelmed by the endless onslaught of new, new, new … channels, opportunities, demands, expectations, responsibilities, devices, technologies, markets, competitors, and the list keeps growing.
As content marketers, we need to make some changes in how we approach our craft, including the tools we use to design our content, produce it, and ensure it works optimally to hit our targets.
In a recent conversation with Act-On and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), Scott addressed this topic and laid out five specific tools – technologies – that content marketers should not ignore.
Here’s a brief overview of each.
1. Automated Translation
This is using software to translate verbiage (your written content) from one language to another; for example, English to Spanish or Norwegian to Braille. It’s also known as machine translation but, says Scott, “is much more than Google Translate which, by the way, is a great example of horrible translation.”
Automated translation is critical in a global market. Consider, for example:
Less than 6% of the world’s population speaks English well enough to converse comfortably, and/or to understand the reading level of most English-language marketing content.
96% of consumers do not live in the United States.
Human translation – the way we normally take content from one language to another – is too expensive and not scalable (there are approximately 7,000 spoken languages on the planet).
How do you get started?
According to Scott, we must recognize that language-arts-oriented writing rules are flawed in today’s day and age. In other words,
Our content must be written first for machines, and then for humans.
“Okay. Yes, of course, of course, of course we write for humans first,” says Scott. “Our content is destined for humans, so we must write for them. But in between the content and the human reader, there are gatekeepers: those are the machines. They have software and services and rules and processes … requirements that we have to write for.”
So begin by looking at your content from the point of view of a rules-processing engine, which is what an automated translation service is. Depending on the service you use, you would write your content using rules that the machine understands.
2. Automated Transcription
This is using software to translate speech to text, and it’s important for a very real reason: Getting your videos found by the search engines.
Search engines are keyword indexers. They need text to discern the context and value of your content. Videos are often valuable, popular, sought after … and completely invisible to the search engines without an accompanying transcription of what’s being said in them.
So as marketers, we need to not only think about translation, but continue the thread into transcription; that is, leveraging a translation system to also transcribe your high-value video content.
By doing so, you’ll not only increase your quantity of search-engine-optimized content, you’ll be able to provide multilingual content because the transcript can be plugged into your translation engine and parsed into many other languages.
How do you get started?
Begin by searching for “automated transcriptions” and “video translation” in order to find a list of software providers.
3. Terminology Management
“Terminology management is a big bucket,” says Scott.
“It’s a process of controlling the words and terms you use by organizing them in a central repository – a single location – that includes both the words/terms and the rules for how they can be used in your organization for purposes of creating content.”
Ummm … can we try that one more time, Scott?
“The goal of terminology management is to ensure that words most closely associated with your brand are used consistently in your marketing messages.”
Done right, terminology management becomes your company’s lexicon, effectively bridging the divide between sales and marketing teams as well as other siloed departments, because it imposes consistency across a company’s messaging.
The benefit? Improved customer experiences with your brand, because consistency helps prospects and customers better understand your company.
As an added bonus, it also helps to ensure legal, regulatory consistency; that is, mitigating the chances someone uses words or terms that your company has been sued for in the past.
How do you get started?
Scott recommends one of two paths:
If this section feels completely foreign, start by finding a global content strategist who can look at your content and help you craft a strategy for how to standardize your content-creation processes and get everyone working from the same playbook – aka, the same words and terms.
If this section makes total sense and you’re ready to put the wheels in motion, search on terminology management systems to uncover the current technology providers. Scott uses Acrolinx, though there are others.
4. Adaptive Content
Adaptive content is designed from the start to adjust to the needs of the customer. It’s created specifically so machines can (1) interpret it and (2) change parts of it to better reflect the needs of the Reader.
To be clear, adaptive content is not responsive content; that is, it is not solely a cosmetic change wherein the content automatically resizes to read well on any device, from the big screen to the smartphone. (Though, according to Scott, it always should.)
Rather, adaptive content changes in both substance and capabilities based on things such as:
Where a person is
What they’re doing
What device they’re using
What platform they’re using
What language they speak
What they’re trying to accomplish at the moment they tackle your content
And it can do so either automatically or on-demand.
For example, let’s say you’re providing online instructions on how to use a new product. Traditionally, you’d most likely use a word like “Click” to instruct the reader – no matter which device the reader was using to access your content.
With adaptive content, if your reader was looking at the same content on, say, a touchscreen device, the word “Click” would automatically change to “Touch”. If your reader was driving a car, the command would adapt to voice control.
The hallmark of adaptive content is consistent structure that is separated from its formatting.
Says Scott, “You wouldn’t want somebody to use an old-school telephone book and have all the authors structure the content any way they wanted. One author would put last name first, another author would put the address first, and so on. The phone book would not be functional and you wouldn’t be able to use it because the predictability would be gone.”
Decoupling structure from formatting provides a predictable experience to the reader (your customer), and allows authors to do what they do best: create content, not format documents.
How do you get started?
You have to rethink how you create, manage, and deliver content. If you don’t have in-house experience with this concept, you’ll likely need to bring in a consultant who can provide guidance.
Unfortunately “there’s no easy button,” says Scott. “No software you can buy that magically makes traditional content into adaptive content. Trust me when I tell you that moving to adaptive content requires work. But ROI can be realized really quickly.”
5. Component Content Management
This is both a new way of thinking about content, and it’s also a category of tools.
Let’s start with the new way of thinking, which is to visualize your content as unique pieces – chunks or ingredients – that can be reused. These could be single characters (like a trademark symbol), fragments (an opening sentence with a colon), or weighty paragraphs (value props or entire product descriptions). By storing and managing content “pieces”, we can assemble and deliver the different pieces to different humans.
Says Scott, “We keep the stuff that’s the same the same, and the things that need to be different get automatically changed, based on what we know about the people we’re trying to entice with our content.”
For example, let’s say you’re a conference organizer. You need to put together registration microsites, presentations, email invitations, printed materials, signage, webinars, etc. The usage of all this content is different … but many of the pieces included in each file type are identical. Manually putting all these files together is both time-consuming and error-prone.
But if you have a system wherein the content pieces are stored and managed, you can quickly create – and update – all of your content pieces from a single tool. It’s called single sourcing.
Component content management is about managing content, not managing files, so you can get the most mileage out of that content.
And think about this: If you combine some of these technologies – say adaptive content with component content management – you can significantly up the ante on creating personalized content, as well as improve campaign performance.
How do you get started?
Component content management is not a new idea; it’s been used by the technical communications industry to create software manuals since the mid-90’s. But it’s often unfamiliar to content marketers. So Scott recommends finding a consultant who can look at how your company does things today, and then help you find a system that can help you meet your goals.
Note that there are currently very few vendors of component content management systems. Among the limited list, Scott suggests taking a look at Astoria Software and Vasont Systems.
Honing the Craft
Content creation is an evolving discipline; in fact, the term “content marketing” is newer than the iPhone. Improvement and expansion in today’s world requires new approaches.
“We need to start thinking more like engineers,” says Scott. “We need to start thinking about the science of language. Because we’re going to coexist with these machines … these rules-processing engines that are going to rank and sort and help our customers find content. It’s an enormous opportunity.”
You can bet on it.
“Faro Card Game” source: Wikipedia.
“Hello World in Several Languages” by openclipart.org.
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