Getting Started in Content Strategy

Content strategy is a rapidly growing field dedicated to planning, creating and managing content in all its forms. My fellow content strategists and I care about how information is communicated — and we focus specifically on the role words play in shaping people’s online experiences.

Before joining Facebook in 2016, I had done things like graduate in law, work as a music journalist, and write some of GOV.UK’s content on subjects like tax, benefits and immigration. The common strands were communication and simplicity; no matter the context, I realized I got a kick out of cutting through complex information in order to analyze it, develop patterns and communicate it back out to the world.

I came to content strategy (or content design, as it’s known in the UK government) by trying my hand at lots of different things. The newness of the field energizes me; I love thinking about what a content strategy role might look like in, say, 5 or 10 years’ time — and who my new colleagues might be in a discipline evolving so quickly.

If you work with words on the web or mobile devices, it’s possible you already have some of the skills needed to be a content strategist. Or maybe you’re learning them in school or in a different job. Like me, most content strategists don’t start out in the role: we come from diverse backgrounds like journalism, UX design, technical writing, marketing, library science and a host of others. So what makes our job distinct from those?

At Facebook, content strategists are responsible for creating experiences that are clear, consistent and compassionate. We maintain simple, straightforward and human language to talk to our community across all of our products, and to do this we get involved early on in the product design process.

As a content strategist, I work closely with product designers, UX researchers, engineers, data scientists, product managers and others to identify and synthesize people problems. Everything from the tone the content strategy team uses to the way we share our work with one another helps to create better, more meaningful experiences for the people using our products.

Another part of my role is to apply consistent standards and elevate the overall quality of our work, mixing high-level strategy with hands-on writing and editing.

If you’re curious about the field of content strategy and think that it might be for you, I’ve put together some resources to help you see if it’s a good fit — and help ground you with enough knowledge to put yourself out there and get some experience.

1. Every content strategist is different — think about your strengths

Because the field is relatively new, content strategists tend to come from different backgrounds. This means that each content strategist at Facebook comes with their own mix of skills, including UX design, journalism, copywriting, high-level strategy or other communication-focused abilities.

2. Start to explore the world through a content strategy lens

Look back at work you’ve already done (school, work or internship projects) through a content strategy lens to start framing your skills in that way. Think holistically about the role of communication within the larger system, and consider the implications of seemingly minor choices.

Think about things like:

  • product or feature names
  • error messages
  • consistency
  • tone
  • whether the content will help guide people through an experience, no matter what they’re going through
  • whether the content meets people where they are

You might come across possible improvements you’d make or start to notice patterns. Note these things down, and practice how you might articulate what you’re seeing. When you’re thinking about ways you might improve a particular product, think about how you could articulate your suggestions.

3. Home in on people problems

Look again at the apps and products you use every day. Think about the goals of the people who use these products, and whether the user experience is able to meet those goals.

This will involve taking a step back from your own experience — and might sound like a huge cognitive leap — but it’s an essential skill in thinking like a content strategist. It’s also extremely empowering as a communication tool once you’re used to thinking about other people’s experiences over your own.

4. Enroll in online courses

Look out for UX design and content strategy courses to do in your spare time through websites like Coursera, Lynda or General Assembly.

You might also want to look out for courses on subjects related to content strategy like copywriting, business and design strategy, service design and customer experience, agile project management and communication.

5. Find your local content strategy community

See if there are any content strategy meetups in your area. Meetup.com is a great resource for finding communities in places around the world like Singapore, Auckland, Dallas, London, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Minneapolis–Saint Paul.

Meetups are great ways to get inspired, make new friends, join the conversation and learn from people around you. Because of the breadth of the field, meetups can be focused on different parts of content strategy — be it voice and tone, workflow, UX design, content marketing, collaboration across disciplines or something else entirely.

There’s also a Facebook group for content strategists, so if you’re interested in the field, please join!

6. Volunteer

Nonprofits in particular tend to want help with content strategy. It’s a quick, easy way to start getting experience.

You could look for opportunities through places like The Taproot Foundation, Craigslist and Gumtree.

7. Check our careers site

The Facebook content strategy team offers two programs for university and graduate students:

  1. Content strategy fellowship. Fellows attend Confab Central, a weeklong conference in Minneapolis, to learn more about the field.
  2. Summer internship. This is a paid, 3-month summer internship. Interns get matched with an intern manager and work on a content strategy project for the summer.

8. Read, read and read some more

Finally, my coworker Jonathon Colman has put together a reading list to get you learn about content strategy. Here are a few great examples:

Thanks to Valerie Ross and Sara Getz.