Traditional marketing formats like TV commercials, billboards, and magazine ads have been largely replaced by a web of social media, search engines, and digital storefronts. Whenever a customer seeks to fill a need, the first place they turn to is (of course) the internet.
Organizations have adapted to this new set of customer behaviors by building social media presences, rising through the ranks of search engine results, and finding ways to create direct touchpoints with their customers. This adaptation created a demand for professional communicators capable of creating and distributing digital assets. Thus the content marketing manager was born!
To understand this new form of marketing, we should first define what we mean by content. Content marketers are tasked with a huge range of communication channels and formats, including websites, social media accounts, blog posts, podcasts, product reviews, case studies, infographics, videos, tutorials, and more. Building a coherent strategy and clear messaging across these various channels is the raison d’être of the modern content marketing manager.
This means that the modern (and future) digital marketer needs to develop core competencies in all things digital media distribution. Let’s explore what that means.
A Competence in Content
Content marketing management is a mid-to-high level organizational role, as it requires both functional expertise and big-picture strategic thinking. About half of hiring managers require candidates to demonstrate 3 to 5 years of professional marketing and/or writing experience in a similar role, not to mention plenty of familiarity with social media and search engine optimization (SEO).
Getting hired into a digital marketing role relies on a few key skills, all of which an aspiring content marketing specialist will want to invest some time in:
- Writing: Content marketers need to be masterful communicators, with a particular focus on the written word. Great writers are well-equipped to craft and communicate a clear and consistent message across the huge swath of digital content channels.
- Tech-savviness: A familiarity with technology, particularly how to navigate basic web development environments and social media platforms, is going to be another critical skill to getting a message across. The media is the message in many instances, and knowing how to access and navigate digital environments is another useful skill for the content marketer.
- Data & Analytics: Online marketplaces often speak to huge numbers of prospective customers at once. This means that measuring the efficacy of a given piece of content will require the ability to play with numbers and data to discern patterns and trends. In short, the content marketer must also be comfortable with statistics.
- Decisiveness: As a final point for content marketing managers in particular, setting a strategy and experimenting with tons of different content requires a fair bit of confidence. As this is a management role, professionals must be able to take accountability and criticism, and use that input to update their decision-making process.
Acquiring these skills will probably require some combination of self-learning and official instruction. For most professionals in the field, a good place to start is a degree in digital marketing. Let’s explore some academic opportunities to test your marketing mettle.
Content Marketing Degree
As content marketing is a fairly new concentration in the broader business school environment, most hiring managers will consider degrees in marketing, communications, writing, and/or digital media. Roughly 60 percent of job postings for content marketing managers expect an undergraduate degree. If that doesn’t match your resume, don’t lose hope just yet. There are plenty of affordable university programs, online courses, and professional certifications to spruce up that CV.
Folks just starting out in marketing will want to consider an undergraduate program geared at digital marketing specifically. Most business schools have adapted their marketing programs to focus on the digital landscape. To get you started, this list outlines some of the best digital marketing degree programs by state for the students who prefer taking classes in a real-world classroom.
There are also plenty of good online options, and it’s well worth putting in a little research to find the best fit. To save you some time, here are three highly recommended online degree options for prospective content marketers:
- Arizona State University: This is an online Bachelor of Arts in mass communication and media studies, which is designed to align marketing communications with the changing nature of media. Tuition is $555 per credit hour.
- Appalachian State University: This BA in advertising communications is extremely affordable, coming in at $224 per credit hour. The primary focus is how to adapt one’s communications methods to the modern digital world.
- Oregon State University: This online BA in Digital Marketing comes in at $337 per credit hour, and covers a wide range of business disciplines with a final concentration on skill development in digital content marketing.
There are plenty of universities that offer degree programs with a specialization in digital marketing strategies. For professionals that already have a degree and just need a little resume boost, pursuing an online certification from well-known online courses like edX or Coursera is a great option for customizing your skills towards the content marketing job requirements.
Content Marketing Jobs
Once you’ve got the skills (and the certifications to prove it), the next step is finding the proper career path to get where you want to go. The best way to get started is searching through job opportunities that match your current experience level. Let’s walk through the full career path from entry-level to executive:
- Content Specialist: The content specialist is a great starting point to learn the ropes. In this role, content managers or content strategists will delegate tasks to you based on organizational strategy. The content specialist will create and distribute these digital assets. The median salary for a content specialist is about $51k/year.
- Content Strategist: A content strategist focuses more on the broader digital marketing engagement plan, linking analytical research with content creation approaches to build a pipeline of high performing content. This is a mid-to-high level organizational role, often delegating tasks to other content marketing professionals. Media salary is $66k/year.
- Content Marketing Manager: The role of content marketing manager combines content strategy with a team of content specialists, social media managers, analysts, and digital asset creators (typically copywriters and graphic designers). This role is largely leadership-based, delegating a production pipeline of digital assets. The average salary comes in around $80k/year.
- VP of Digital Marketing: As a final note, successful content marketing managers will be well-positioned for executive leadership roles. The typical job title at this level will be a CMO (chief marketing officer) or a VP of Digital Marketing. These roles are typically found at very large organizations, managing multiple departments and product lines. Average salary is around $150k/year.
Once you get a foot in the door, what does the day-to-day look like for the typical content marketer?
What do Content Marketing Managers Do?
Content marketers manage a huge number of digital assets and media platforms, which means that the first task is getting organized. A content marketer will want to start by building out a plan, and then integrating that plan with a content calendar and an asset creation pipeline. To put it more simply, the first task is deciding what to produce, where to post it, and how often.
Once the ball gets rolling, the content manager will need to put on their data and analytics hat. Assessing what content is working, then promoting the good and discarding the bad, is a critical iterative step that content professionals can expect to repeat fairly regularly. As learnings build up over time, they should be used to update the original content strategy. This iterative cycle of designing a content plan, selecting distribution platforms, creating and distributing digital assets, and analyzing the results, is the primary responsibility of the content marketing manager.
It’s also worth noting that leading teams of creative writers, graphic designers, analysts, and SEO specialists will be a significant part of the job as well. Creatives often need help aligning their work with the core content strategy, and a content marketing manager will want to clear some time in their schedules to check in with team members a few times a week.
Learning from experience and evolving an organization’s digital marketing strategy is a bit like battling a hydra – as every success is only ever a temporary reprieve before the landscape changes. So how will the field of content marketing change over time?
The Future of Content
Predicting the future of content will go hand-in-hand with predicting the future of communication. Content is, in essence, people seeking out information which informs them on the products and services that may (or may not) fulfill their needs. This means that the way people engage with information is going to be the best predictor of the relevance and responsibilities of a content marketing manager.
The best way to future-proof your content marketing plan is to carefully observe which platforms are taking the internet by storm (TikTok being a current example), and which are destined to disappear in the near future (MySpace, anyone?). The good news is that regardless of which platforms and methods are used by customers to communicate, there will always be an organizational need to strategically navigate these evolving digital spaces.