Content marketing is exhausting work. From ideation to production and the near-ending content tweaks and strategy adjustments, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

As such, it’s very easy to do the bare minimum for the sake of time – especially from a tech standpoint. You have your content management system, obviously, but are you making the most of the many software tools available to content marketers?

Considering the sheer breadth of content management software out there today, and the fact that many of them are either free to use or modestly priced, there’s no reason to skimp on the other CMS.

What are the best CMS options? Slow your role, pal, we’ll get to that. But first, we need to clear up any confusion regarding what, exactly, is content management software.

Breaking down the 2 CMSes

Acronyms are great shorthands for those in the know, just as long as they’re unique. Unfortunately, in the case of content management software, it’s overshadowed by its much more widely recognized fellow CMS, content management system.

The two could not be more different, so it’s very important that you understand what distinguishes one CMS from the other.

The CMS we all know and love, content management system, is the platform used to create, upload, publish and manage your digital content. Think WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

Content management software, on the other hand, can refer to any application that supports or enhances the content management and marketing process.

Confused? OK, here’s the ELI5 version: That thing you publish content through? That’s your content management system. Everything else? That’s content management software.

Let’s say, for instance, your team writes and edits content in Google Docs and shares content calendars in Google Spreadsheets. Well, congratulations, you’ve got yourself content management software.

At the end of the day, a CMS is any piece of software that helps a company manage the content it produces, whether it’s published online or not.

From this standpoint, content management software can be virtually anything, which makes picking the best solutions even more difficult. How do you even begin combing through all of your available options and finding the right software for your content marketing needs? That’s what we’re here for – to help guide you through the ins and outs of content management software and come away with applications and platforms that provide real, tangible business value.

Enterprise content management

Your organization produces a lot more content than what’s used for your digital marketing campaigns: internal documents, product specs and information, images, web pages, etc. Content marketing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of material produced by the average business.

Keeping track of all of that collateral and ensuring that it is properly stored, tracked and secured, while also making it available for collaborative purposes, is a pretty tall task. But it’s one that the best enterprise content management (ECM) solutions will be more than able to tackle.

Broadly speaking, any ECM software worth its salt should be able to effortlessly handle:

  • Storing large quantities of content in various formats.
  • Supporting both content creation and stakeholder collaboration.
  • Organizing data so all content is readily available, easy to find, manage accordingly and distribute when necessary.
  • Keeping associated data and content secure through the use of access controls.

The best platforms will be able to meet all of these criteria, while also providing an intuitive interface to create an excellent user experience. That’s not asking too much is it?

Which ECM should I buy?

There are plenty of high-quality ECM platforms out there, so it’s not like you’ll be up the creek if you go against our recommendation. That being said, if you want a can’t-miss ECM solution, Confluence earns high marks across the board.

Its strong suit is definitely content collaboration, providing a shared workspace for project stakeholders to share material and provide feedback in real time. That’s one of the benefits of using a cloud-based ECM platform: Communication and collaboration happen instantaneously, regardless where your team members are located.

Confluence also offers top-of-the-line authentication controls, so you can protect the integrity of your content without getting in the way of your project teams.

Then there’s the fact that Confluence integrates seamlessly with the popular Atlassian platform, letting organizations tap into a whole host of other business applications. Confluence is the safe bet, and for good reason: It balances all of the core ECM criteria and provides additional features and benefits that you may not be able to find elsewhere.

Enterprise document management

As far as we’re concerned, there’s only one EDM worth discussing, and that’s enterprise document management (sorry, Skrillex).

EDM software includes the management of all electronic documents and digital content (see, it’s not just a clever name). That includes everything from digital media and PowerPoint slide decks to emails and scanned documents.

EDM software has always been a pretty big deal, but in the age of data privacy compliance, with regulatory heavy hitters like HIPAA and GDPR running around, it’s taken on even greater importance.

Businesses need to be able to demonstrate where specific documents are stored, who has access to them, what changes have been made to them over the years, when they were originally created and recorded and what safeguards are in place to recover lost files in the event of a disaster. For our purposes, “disaster” can refer to a catastrophic event like a hurricane and something a little more mundane – say, a data center outage. Although, try telling an IT guy that a data center outage is mundane.

Your EDM platform is your end-to-end record of every document your business has produced, giving you coverage in the event of an audit and making your life a whole lot easier if you need to track down a particular file or piece of content.

Which EDM should I buy?

There are a few key factors to keep an eye on when vetting your EDM candidates. For instance, how are files structured? If your EDM software doesn’t organize documents in a way that’s intuitive for most users, they’re going to have a hell of a time finding anything – which kind of defeats the purpose of EDM in the first place, wouldn’t you say?

Other major features to look for include:

  • Searchability – Some EDM platforms only search for file names, which is a big problem for most of us who don’t commit to memory that kind of thing.
  • Mobility – With more employees doing work on the go, your EDM solution should support mobile devices and displays.
  • Integration – Want to make your life easier? Get EDM software that integrates with your most-used business applications so you can quickly and painlessly record documents.

Which magical EDM platform can do all of that and more? Well, there are a couple to consider.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Microsoft SharePoint is a natural choice here. It even grabbed an “Editor’s Choice” accolodate from PCMag recently, thanks to its combination of online and offline functionality, audit logs and comprehensive revision history. You can’t go wrong with that.

Another option to consider is M-Files, which ably handles everything you need from an EDM solution while adding some pretty handy duplication detection capabilities. If your databases and systems are clogged with multiple copies of the same documents, M-Files might be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Web content management

Here’s where things get a little bit tricky. If you had trouble distinguishing between content management systems and content management software, web content management (WCM) might just make your head explode.

There’s a lot of overlap with content management systems and WCM. In fact, many of the most popular CMS platforms – WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. – are also readily recognized as WCM solutions.

So what’s the difference? (Hint: It’s the “W” in WCM)

WCM platforms are specifically designed to distribute your website’s content. Now, Drupal does that, of course, but that’s not all Drupal does. So, in that way, it functions both as a CMS and a WCM platform.

Are we splitting hairs here? Perhaps, but these are the kinds of distinctions you need to be aware of when buying content management software.

Which WCM should I buy?

The answer hasn’t changed much since the last time we covered this topic. It really boils down to which platform your dev team is most familiar with. Do they know Joomla like the back of their hand? Then, that’s probably the way to go.

However, seeing as WordPress is the undisputed king of WCM solutions at the moment, odds are your team will be more comfortable with that than any other platform.

Digital asset management

Businesses create a lot of multimedia content these days, and that’s all gotta live somewhere. Images, videos, audio recordings, webinars – these things add up. Throw duplicate entries into the mix, and you’ve got a mess on your hands.

Digital asset management (DAM) software catalogs all of these files and documents so you can easily find a specific image or video whenever you need to. It also creates a historic record of all company collateral and material, so nothing is ever misplaced or lost completely.

And then there are the permissions controls. We all know people can play it pretty fast and loose as far as using other companies’ media on the internet. It’s tough to crack down on that sort of thing unless you’re a certain fitness guru (seriously, don’t even try mentioning them by name, buddy).

Richard Simmons is less discerning.

DAM software provides all the tools needed to manage media rights and permissions for external use, giving you one less headache to deal with.

Which DAM should I buy?

Pound for pound, IntelligenceBank is one of the best DAM platforms out there. It offers all the centralization and permission controls you could ever want, plus cool features that add extra performance perks. For example, creative approvals clamp down on rogue designers who let their personal vision supercede your brand guidelines. Nothing gets released to the public until all stakeholders have their say and give the thumbs-up.

We hope this has helped clear up any confusion about what content management software is and the kind of value it offers. Content management isn’t restricted to the Drupals and Joomlas of the world. It extends into virtually every corner of your organization, so be sure you have the technological muscle to support it from end to end.

Jeff Keleher is a writer and editor at Brafton. A man of simple tastes, he enjoys playing guitar, playing video games and playing with his dog - sometimes all at once. He still hasn't gotten over Illinois' loss in the 2005 NCAA National Championship game, and he probably never will.