Accounting For Context In Content Strategy

I’m tickled pink to see more and more Content Strategists finding their way onto twitter, and getting involved in CS forums. And I’m glad to see that more and more clients seem to be asking for Content Strategy by name, even if they don’t seem to understand entirely why they need it.

You can’t have a content strategy without content planning and it won’t be good strategy without the Ménage à trois between CS, an information architect and your content team. That’s all fine and good. Now, where where the hell is the context?

Just starting to think about and plan for content is a huge step in making Web sites more usable, but it’s troubling to me that as content strategy seems to become more popular and more and more people are calling themselves content strategists that this practice becomes more and more divorced from usability and information architecture.

I don’t like to get hung up on definitions and I’m not against people calling themselves content strategists even if they have no or only limited usability background, but I am very bothered that many people simply see content strategy as another exercise in content planning for random audiences who “could” potentially be users. We owe these people context as well as good content.

I think that’s a content strategist’s job and I think we’ve been skirting the issue for too long. So, for the next four Wednesdays, I’m going to try to explain why content strategists need to start paying closer attention to context and how they can start to do that.

I hope you’ll join me and I hope you’ll comment, because context is something I think way too many content strategists and digital strategists ignore when it comes to planning and executing their content strategies. I started this conversation at Internet User Experience 2010, but in 2011 I’ve vowed to go bigger or get the hell out of the conversation. Please help me make it an intelligent discourse.

Ménage à trois Photo Used Via: WikiCommons

Contextual Delivery: How To Hit The Moving (And Evolving) Mobile Target

In the current landscape, strategies for mobile content are obsolete by the time you get blessing to start using them. It seems a lot of technology is discarded almost as quickly as it is adopted, making content delivery for the mobile set a bit of a moving target. So when we think about mobile strategies, I’d argue it’s smarter to think about content delivery in a contextual fashion versus relying too heavily on the new what’s next in emerging mobile technology.

So, what types of technology and what practices in mobile are stable enough to invest your time and money in when it comes to your content? Here’s three must do’s when you start thinking about contextual content strategy when it comes to the mobile user.

1. Start by strengthening what you’ve got.
If you already have a Web site, for crying out loud, optimize it for mobile already. If you’re saying, “My site isn’t flash so I’m good to go,” you’re fooling yourself. Start thinking about mobile users differently. They’re leaned forward and they’re on the go, meaning their attention is even more limited than the average laptop or desktop user.

The screen is smaller and these users rely on their fingers and thumbs to navigate your content. That means you want linkable buttons and calls to action that are appropriate to the pinching, pulling and tapping that comes with mobile keyboards and touch screens. (Note: tablet computers like the iPad are a completely different beast, so please just consider handsets as being the focal point of this discussion.)

The service your site provides will also dictate how you’ll want to present on mobile as well. If you’re selling cars, your site should look very different on a mobile device than it does on a laptop. If you’re a blogger, the content should be even more varied and different in presentation as the automaker.

The smartphone market is growing at an exponential rate. As you can see by the comScore data above, use is on the rise as price points become lower and the age begins skewing higher for smart phone use (see data below). That means more and more people will be accessing your content on their mobile phone. And remember, making the experience unique and rewarding based on the device your user chooses as their primary method to access your content will always be looked upon favorably by brand loyalists.

2. Start thinking about where and when consumers are accessing your content (read as: Think GEO!)
This proliferation in Geo Specific services and content is not a fad. It’s not going away. It’s high time to start accepting the fact that you need to start thinking about the where and the when in regards to your content delivery methods. If you can vary content by time of day, (eg: virtual tours or walkthrough videos of homes via QR code on real estate signs during off hours) or serve specific content by region, whether that’s by app or through site detection, you’ll be better able to serve your users’ most immediate needs based on their physical location.

Geotagged content is certainly not a new thing, but the rise of the smartphone and mobile computing have made it a necessary evil to consider and code for moving forward.
Companies with larger national and global footprints stand to benefit greatly from the geolocation phenomena, but even small companies and local establishments can benefit from a smart Geotagging strategy. Coding for it is easy (sometimes as simple as dropping in a meta tag) and there are a variety of services that offer ways to deliver custom content to those open to sharing their location data, whether it be through a tweet, a check in or through their smartphone’s GPS technology.

Location and time help create context for information, and makes data much more consumable. For instance, if I’m hiking through the El Yunque National Rainforest in Puerto Rico and I have my Trails App open on my iPhone, it would be great to come across someone who may have blogged about that elusive waterfall I keep missing out on. And I could do it had the blogger simply added geo.position meta tag to his data.

While you may not need to go so far as partnering with a major geolocation vendor like Foursquare, thinking of the ways that your user’s location influences your content is an absolute must when it comes to mobile delivery and how it’s perceived contextually. Even if you just start thinking of adding your own photos and information to Google Maps, you’re off to a better start than ignoring Geo Data altogether.

3. Make it easy and keep it simple.
If you’re a brand, don’t make it too difficult to complete a transaction through your mobile site or app. Ultimately, you want content that helps make the user or consumer’s goal easier, essentially bridging the gap between online and brand centric experiences. While they may not be in your store or interacting directly with you, your mobile content serves as the conduit to bring the online and offline experiences together.

Any content that you create for mobile should be optimized and quick to load. Mobile users have high, if not slightly unreasonable expectations, due to the fact that mobile apps and sites are supposed to have streamlined features, which should, in theory, offer speed in return.

The key takeaway is to get your head in the game. If you don’t, you’re going to miss the first part of a major revolution in digital and you’ll miss a key opportunity to have your content make good contextual sense to your potential users, customers or supporters.

Want to discuss it further? Drop me a comment and we can hash it out.

Photo used under Creative Commons License courtesy: Gare and Kitty