There’s a river that runs through my hometown. As a kid, I spent whole summers in that chilly water, never worrying about the creepy-crawlies I was splashing around with. Turns out this isn’t a universal experience. If you didn’t spend a lot of time with my river, you might be a little more hesitant to jump in.
Strangely enough, the same is true of content marketing. I’ve been doing it for years now — and when I see others lingering on the bank, unsure whether to get their toes wet, I know what I have to do. That’s right: It’s time for swimming lessons.
Grab your goggles, pull on your favorite arm-floaties and let’s dive into the fast-moving current of a great content marketing career.
What is Content Marketing?
Before you jump into any river — metaphorical or otherwise — you need to learn about the conditions. So while you pick out your favorite swimsuit, let’s go over the basics of content marketing and what it really means.
According to Oxford Languages, content marketing is “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material […] that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.” It’s similar to an inbound marketing strategy, which is all about getting potential customers to come to you instead of the other way around.
You can break this definition into 2 basic categories:
- Business-to-business: B2B content marketing is used when your business primarily sells to other companies. That would include organizations such as Salesforce or IBM.
- Business-to-consumer: You might be more familiar with B2C content marketing, where your favorite consumer brands such as Nike, Starbucks or Netflix try to get attention from individual shoppers.
Remember that most content is part of a digital marketing strategy because it’s distributed through social media, email or even a blog post. Printing pamphlets and cramming them in your neighbors’ mailboxes might technically be content marketing, but it’s surely not the most efficient approach — and you’re probably not going to land a job doing it, either.
The Content Marketer
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How Today’s Companies Approach Content Marketing
About 53% of surveyed companies spend more than $3,000 on content marketing every month, and 69% expect to increase that budget throughout 2023. Where do content marketers spend that money? Here are just a few examples:
- 51% use paid social media ads.
- 53% use email marketing.
- 25% use influencer marketing.
- 11% use guest posting.
(Want to know more about this river’s conditions? Check out our big list of content marketing statistics.)
Content Marketing Examples
Because digital marketing can take so many forms, it’s often helpful to have a couple content marketing examples:
B2C: Spotify Wrapped
From top artists and listening trends to personalized rankings of your favorite songs, Spotify Wrapped has become more than a content strategy; it’s a digital time capsule. This brilliant piece of marketing magic won listeners’ hearts by putting the spotlight on them — and, along the way, encouraging them to interact with more of Spotify’s features and offerings.
B2B: Spotify Wrapped for Advertisers
You thought I was done talking about Spotify? Guess again!
While this B2B take on the popular B2C campaign wasn’t as well-known or long-running, it’s a great example of how a single idea can appeal to multiple audiences. Instead of focusing on listeners, this content puts the spotlight on their habits and notes valuable takeaways on consumer sentiment.
What Does a Content Marketer Do?
Now that we know the river’s conditions, it’s safe to jump. But what happens next? When you get in, what are you supposed to do? That’s where different swimming strokes and techniques come in handy.
Here’s how an expert content marketer moves through the water:
It should come as no surprise that content marketers create content (or help others make it happen). In fact, this is the doggy paddle of the digital marketing world — not because it’s easy or even remotely dog-like, but because content creation is one of the first things you learn on this career path.
If you’re a whiz with words or a genius with graphic design, this might come easily to you. If not, don’t worry — you can still learn a lot about digital marketing by watching how it all comes together.
To build out a solid content marketing strategy, you might be asked to create or oversee any of these assets:
- Written content: Blog posts, emails, white papers.
- Video content: Explainer videos, animations, live shoots.
- Social media content: Platform-specific posts and images.
- Audio content: Podcasts and voiceovers.
- Graphic content: Illustrations, infographics, eBook design.
Remember that every individual asset involves a lot of smaller tasks. Say you’re writing a blog post; to do that, you’ll need to:
- Perform background research.
- Gather any quotes or directions from subject matter experts.
- Create an outline.
- Write 1 or more drafts.
- Make revisions based on internal and client-requested edits.
- Deliver a final, polished copy on or before the due date.
You also have a list of goals to achieve along the way, such as:
- Aligning with brand style, tone and voice.
- Improving brand awareness, customer engagement or other important metrics.
- Including certain internal links to help users spend more time on the site.
- Promoting a product or service without being “too salesy.”
- Creating convincing calls-to-action (CTAs) that will get readers to click or share their contact information.
And that’s just 1 blog.
Of course, most non-super humans can only juggle 1 or 2 of these content types — so unless you’ve been swimming in some kind of radioactive river, you’ll probably be part of a larger team. For example, you might be a writer in a larger Editorial department, or you might be a marketing manager who oversees these teams.
No matter where you land, rest assured that content will become your past, present and future.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If content creation is the doggy paddle, SEO is the form and posture that helps you go as fast as possible. It’s a process that ensures your great content is seen, understood and ranked appropriately by search engines. This, in turn, increases the chances that you’ll be the first result when a user searches for a particular term.
SEO can include everything from surfing the SERP (search engine results page) to performing preliminary keyword research. A content marketing specialist is generally responsible for these tasks — but even if you don’t land a job as an SEO expert, your content marketing career will still involve lots of talk about title tags, rankings, algorithms and analytics.
You don’t have to be a grammar guru to make it as a content marketer. But I speak from experience: When you’re 2,000 words deep in your latest blog post and don’t have time to look up the difference between “affect” and “effect,” a little editing experience doesn’t hurt.
Remember that not every role will be directly involved in daily content and copyediting. However, if you want a job as a content marketing manager, SEO expert or even social media strategist, you’ll be expected to excel in proofreading written content. After all, even if you’re not the one doggy paddling, you’re the lifeguard on duty.
Whether it’s a time-sensitive campaign or a cross-departmental effort with lots of tricky due dates, project management will always play a role in content marketing. You might get a job as a dedicated project manager — but even if you don’t, timelines and task planning are guaranteed a spot in your day.
Say you’re a humble little content writer listening to your favorite cello music while you craft a new blog post. (OK, yes — I’m talking about me.) It would be great if I was the only one I had to worry about — but content marketing is more like synchronized swimming than a solo act. SEO specialists, account managers and other experts already did their part to give me the information I need for content creation; now I have to finish the job and hand it to the editor, who will send it to the graphic designer, who will let the publishing team know everything’s ready.
Every one of those steps includes tasks, deadlines and stakeholders. That’s why project management — and the content marketing platforms that make it possible — should always be on your radar as a prospective content marketer. (It’s also why Brafton built our own Content Marketing Platform to help ourselves and others stay afloat no matter how rough the water gets).
To create truly valuable content, you should know where it’s going, what it needs to accomplish and how you’ll know when it’s been successful. Unless you’re an in-house marketer, you’ll likely need to get all this information from your client — the business whose story you’re telling.
Most client communication is limited to certain roles such as an account, project or marketing manager. However, creative teams occasionally need to get instructions, ask questions or have conversations in client-facing meetings.
Most of this back-and-forth will include:
- Setting up an effective content marketing campaign.
- Establishing due dates.
- Clarifying expectations.
- Securing any necessary resources or assets.
- Getting feedback and making revisions.
- Defining ideal outcomes and measurements of success.
Content Marketing Skills and Requirements
You checked the conditions and you’ve learned all the strokes — is it finally time to have some fun in the sun? Not quite. There’s one more thing to learn before I let you loose on the river, and that’s how to stay afloat no matter what the water throws at you.
Here’s the thing: This river has a lot of entry points. Many of them seem slow and mellow at first. But the current of content marketing picks up fast — and if you aren’t ready, your feet could get swept right out from under you.
Luckily, you can master this river. Just prepare yourself with a little homework:
Education for Content Marketers
Depending on what kind of content marketing career you want, it’s wise to pursue education in a relevant field such as communication, digital marketing, creative writing, journalism, graphic design or business. Many positions require a Bachelor’s degree, but others accept Associate’s degrees and/or equivalent experience.
Top Soft Skills for Content Marketers
In general, a content marketer should excel at:
- Communication: Even if you don’t talk directly to clients, you’ll need to share ideas, voice your concerns, team up on processes and work with all different types of people. That goes for written and verbal communication.
- Organization: Time management, delegation, multitasking, problem-solving and other organization-related skills will be helpful as you create, oversee or manage effective content.
- Creativity: From designing a new content strategy to brainstorming infographic topics, you’ll have plenty of chances to work those creative muscles.
- Research: I can’t stress this one enough. Remember those high school essays that taught you how to evaluate sources and use digital databases? Yeah — you’ll be doing that all over again.
What Does a Career in Content Marketing Look Like?
Now that you’re ready to really start swimming, I should warn you about all the paths this river can take.
See, my river has a lot of turns, twists and forks that make it exciting to explore from different angles. Content marketing is the same. You can jump in from a lot of places, but you might end up on a different bank — and that’s OK.
Check out these different types of content marketing careers:
As a freelance content marketer, you work for yourself but essentially “partner” with companies to do their marketing work. If you’re a writer or graphic designer, you might complete projects on a contract basis. This often allows you to set your own schedules and choose the work that interests you the most, but you also have to be your own project manager, hunting down opportunities and organizing them based on your available time.
When you’re employed at an agency, you’re one of many digital marketing professionals working to deliver engaging content for your clients. You’ll have set schedules and tasks, but you still get the experience of creating assets, crafting strategies or managing projects for all different kinds of customers.
As an in-house content marketer, you’d only be telling stories for one particular brand. That means you might have less variation in subject matter, but you’d get to take a much deeper dive into a single topic or area of expertise.
How to Become a Content Marketer
The time has come, young grasshopper. (Actually, I don’t think grasshoppers like swimming. Let’s go with “water strider.”)
The time has come, young water strider. I’ve taken your arm-floaties and you’re free to jump into my river. Go confidently into the depths of this water, knowing you can swim.
And if you’re not sure where you’re going in this content marketing current, well, start with a plan like this:
- Get an education: If you don’t want to start with a full degree, try courses in content promotion, SEO or even traditional marketing.
- Practice your skills: Brush up on search engine algorithms, content marketing trends and more niche topics such as pay-per-click campaigns and display ads. Look for entry-level or internship opportunities that will help you practice in the real world.
- Create a portfolio: Keep track of your projects and save them in a portfolio you can send to employers. This is proof of what you can do and how well you can do it.
- Grow your network: Reach out to professionals in your ideal company or position. Connect with recruiters or others who might be able to recommend you for a job.
- Take chances: Even if you don’t feel like the perfect fit for a particular content marketing role, give it a shot. This is your chance to cannonball right into the river.
Catch a Content Marketing Wave
Are you ready to dive in? Whether you want to be the mastermind behind the next great content marketing campaign or just enjoy making stuff happen, this could be the perfect career for you. There are plenty of spots to get in the water — just make sure you’re prepared before you snap on those goggles.
If you find yourself in need of a raft, you can always turn to the experts. Subscribe to our content marketing newsletter for help riding that current.
And always remember, young water strider: