Strip away a digital marketer's myriad skill sets, and a single kernel remains: content. Today's marketer is quintessentially a content expert who whips ups emails, writes blog posts and participates in social networking conversations. They're moving from traditional messaging to online relationship building via content.
This doesn't mean, however, that they're any good at it.
"Shifting to creating meaningful dialogue -- as opposed to talking at your audience -- should be the most natural thing in the world," says Hana Abaza, vice president of marketing at Uberflip, a content-marketing automation software vendor. "After all, it's about being a human being and having open conversations with people. But in the context of branded content, marketers still struggle with this."
Abaza says marketers slip up with digital content in all sorts of ways. Instead of treating potential customers as people and being part of the social media conversation, marketers tend to inject marketing jargon and sales blather as if they still own the conversation. (Hint: you don't.) They'll even push messages to the wrong people.
In worst case scenarios, marketers posting bad content might end up on CIO.com's list of shockingly stupid social media misfires. Brands such as American Apparel, CVS, DHL, Malaysia Airlines, Outback, Smuckers, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, all had the honor of landing on the list.
No time for IT
Part of the problem is that digital marketers need to create or aggregate content faster than ever before. Marketers can't be a part of a conversation if they have to wait for IT to approve and post every piece of content. Abaza says marketers need some tech skills to perform content tasks quickly, such as editing source code in a blog post or creating a landing page for an e-book.
"Some basic HTML and CSS as well as a solid understanding of various marketing tools and technologies can help you get more done without the inevitable delay of waiting for your IT team," Abaza says.
Abaza, though, isn't suggesting going behind IT's back.
"A balanced approach that allows CMOs and CIOs to stay aligned is ideal, ensuring the teams work together to create the right balance," Abaza says. "The reality is that simple things that -- if delayed -- will impair the marketing teams ability to execute should be in the hands of the marketer, while the CIO can focus on broader organization-wide objectives."
Content done faster, better, cheaper
There's clearly a need to streamline marketing content creation and distribution in today's rapid-fire dialogue over social networks. According to Forrester, marketing agencies recognize this and are building in-house production arms to produce content quickly and cheaply. Some creative teams act more like software developers, in order to create and launch content faster.
"For Kmart, the FCB Chicago team worked with the big-box retailer to rapidly extend its holiday commercial by creating additional content to respond to each of the 4,000 customer comments that showed up in social media," writes Forrester analyst Sarah Sikowitz, in a report.
So what does a modern-day content marketer look like? Abaza has created an infographic showing 13 characteristics. Here it is: