Content is the critical ingredient in today’s digital environment. For businesses that want to get the most out of their content, drive visitors to their websites and convert those visitors into paying customers, they need the right team in place. The most important part of that team is the digital content manager.
The digital content manager is the content team leader and orchestrates content across multiple channels, organizes and plans content activities, and ensures that the other members of the content team are entirely on track. If you aspire to the role of content manager in your career, the following attributes will help you focus your efforts. Or if you’re in the market to hire a digital content manager, you need to know some of the key characteristics they should have.
What Do Digital Content Managers Do?
Before diving into the characteristics of a digital content manager, we should first explain what a content manager does. Content has evolved tremendously over the years, and now companies have a host of channels at their disposal, from blogs and multiple social media platforms to mobile devices and more. However, despite this wealth of channels, a digital content manager essentially does one thing. They oversee content development, distribution, and strategy, ensuring that the organization has the right messaging to inform and engage its audience.
It seems simple enough, but a content manager must know a variety of tools, marketing methods, and more. It’s a content manager’s job to ensure that the right content gets created for the right platform and that it’s sent to the audience promptly. A content manager also ensures that every piece of content developed aligns with the organization’s voice and brand guidelines.
Content managers are experienced professionals with a few years under their belts in the marketing industry. This way, they’ve had time to develop many of the necessary skills a content manager needs to succeed. So what exactly are those traits? They can be broken down into soft skills that speak to the type of person in the role and then technical skills that are often honed on the job and specific to the position.
These soft skills might not initially get a content manager hired when they walk through the door, but they are absolutely necessary for success in the role.
Content managers can’t fold under pressure, and they must be resilient even in the face of executing challenging marketing campaigns that are driving little to no traffic. “Being a manager requires being able to stay motivated and focused even when bad things happen. They need to be able to bounce back when strategies fail, or issues arise,” says Karl Hughes, CEO of technical marketing agency Draft.dev.
When battling against frequently changing social media algorithms, dips in traffic due to unknown reasons, or the inability to find the proper channels where customers are located, resilience can help content managers find another alternative and soldier on.
From writing to design, there are numerous tasks that content managers may have had to do while they were in the early stages of their career. These skills require creativity, which is another critical element of the content manager role, especially as customers are bombarded with many of the same things from different brands.
Jae Jun of GorillaROI explains that this might mean seeing what’s working in another industry or niche and adjusting it to fit your current industry. “One of our main websites is a SaaS, where we found an investment website using freebies as part of their content marketing. The content manager was able to figure out how the funnels worked, and we recreated something similar to match our SaaS audience,” he said.
For a content manager, good communication is another vital trait they should have. Modern enterprises are vast with multiple departments, sometimes spanning different countries. Additionally, many organizations are operating remotely, yet their team members still need to communicate with each other. The content manager needs to be able to connect with other team members and properly explain what needs to be done to meet certain objectives.
Managing up is also a necessity, and they need the ability to outline plans to the CMO clearly. In other instances, a content manager may frequently communicate with members of the development team to ensure that a new channel campaign is delivered correctly or that their team has the tools it needs.
Today’s content managers need exceptional leadership skills. That means they need to be able to explain to the other members of the content team what the objectives are and come up with a plan for how to meet them. “The content manager is the captain of the ship. They’re the ones who guide the content team and everyone around them, from other marketers to writers and designers,” said Deepak Shukla, CEO of Pearl Lemon.
Soft skills are critical, but that doesn’t mean a content manager can get away with not having the technical chops required for the role.
“Being someone who can analyze information and make a strategy from it will make a strong digital content manager. Being able to pick out details in information is crucial to success with content,” said Hughes.
With the number of channels that make up the customer experience, and the number of tools and technologies that are integrated with today’s marketing tech stacks, a content manager needs to know their way around the data. Every channel and device provides some data that can be used to adjust or improve the content strategy, and a content manager needs to be able to pick what will work best for their company. For example, familiarity with Google Analytics and/or similar web analytics tools for web content is a must.
Content Planning, Organization, and Project Management
We already mentioned the sheer number of channels that content managers need to oversee. To find success in this area they need project management skills, especially related to content planning and organization. Proper organization is crucial for a successful content strategy as managers need to manage a calendar, schedule content, and more, or at least be able to delegate tasks to other team members and ensure everything goes according to plan.
Jun provided an example of how much content managers in the digital space may have to do. “With 5 websites to manage, we need to create a minimum of 3 articles a week for the standards we maintain for each site. That’s 15 articles a week and 60 articles a month of quality content. Without an organized person who can see the big picture to plan topics and content types across different niches, the entire content strategy fails,” said Jun.
For web content management, if your content is not ranking on the first page of Google’s search results, then you are not going to be found. Today’s content managers need to know the fundamentals of search engine optimization. Knowing how Google ranks content based on its quality, keywords, mobile-friendliness, metadata, backlinks and such are crucial for achieving a high return on investment of your content management efforts. Site performance is another important factor, which depends on the quality of your CMS. Content managers should have a firm grasp of the performance capabilities of their CMS, and should also be well-versed with SEO tools such as Semrush, Ahrefs, Moz and others.
Another crucial technical skill required by content managers is knowledge of multiple channels and platforms. This doesn’t mean that they need to be experts. Still, they do need a sound understanding of IoT devices like smart speakers and watches, multiple social media platforms from Twitter and LinkedIn to Facebook and Instagram, as well as the CMS platform they primarily use. Emerging experiences to put on your radar include OTT video, Augmented/Virtual Reality, Web3 and the metaverse.
Being a successful content manager can be challenging as everything has gone digital, and there is an ever-growing number of touchpoints to interact with customers. However, companies looking for their next superstar to take them to the next level will benefit from individuals who have the aforementioned skills.