Welcome to Digital Homesteading.
This collection of resources from 9 Clouds helps you build your business and community.
Last January, during my first week at 9 Clouds, I sat around some pushed-together bar tables with my band of new coworkers, discussing our roles at the company. “What even are we?” I asked my fellow writers. “Like, what is our official title?”
“We don’t have one,” John replied. “Content writer? Digital marketing strategist? Whatever you want it to be.”
To this day, those words have shaped the way I view my position at 9 Clouds.
While we eventually settled on “creative content specialist” for my business cards (we had to pick something), I feel as though my role is much more multifaceted than that. You see, we “creative content specialists” wear many hats. We’ve got a bit of a Mr. Spats thing going on here.
If you’re thinking about donning some of those hats yourself, first you might want to see if they fit. Here are the five key qualities you need to be a creative content specialist at 9 Clouds.
1. A Writer’s Creativity
First and foremost, you need to be an excellent writer.
Perhaps my writing background is swaying me, but I think the most important skill in content strategy is the ability to express yourself well in print. Words are, after all, our lifeblood. They’re the tools we use to attract — and keep — the attention of our audience.
But a good content strategist is not just a copywriter. In addition to executing the tasks you’re assigned, you need to be able to come up with new ideas as well.
In fact, that’s why we rarely refer to ourselves as “creative content specialists” at 9 Clouds. Instead, we call ourselves “creatives.”
Our staff is divided into two teams: project managers (PMs) and creative members. As creatives, we’re responsible for devising strategies, spitballing theories, sharing progress, and — most importantly — continuously striving for progress.
Because true creativity is driven by a desire to not only succeed, but also improve.
In the field of digital marketing, it’s important to be familiar with the best inbound marketing techniques. That means a solid understanding of search engine optimization, blogging for business, social media, digital advertising, popular inbound marketing tools, and current industry trends.
Yeah, I know — that’s a lot to take in.
Fortunately, most of those skills are able to be taught. If you work for an awesome digital marketing agency like I do, your colleagues will be patient and helpful as you learn the (ever-moving) ropes.
What can’t be taught so easily is the mindset of digital marketing. As a content specialist, you need to think like a marketer — what sort of value you can offer your customers, how you can persuade them your brand is the one to beat.
Whatever product or service you’re pushing, you need to be able to sell it.
3. A Journalist’s Gumption
Writing for the web is a far cry from writing for the news, but the techniques used for both styles are similar.
As a content strategist, you need to be in research mode at almost all times. At 9 Clouds, we’re always scouring the Internet for interesting articles that affect the way we live and work. In fact, most of our content for this blog comes from the fact that our eyes are permanently peeled for news.
Just like a journalist, you need to find a unique angle on each piece you write. And just like a journalist, you need to take the initiative to go get that angle — whatever it takes.
As creatives, we’re often emailing and calling our clients to get the information we need. We’re looking up credible sources online, asking each other for help, and even conducting experiments to test our own hypotheses.
Once we’ve got a wealth of material to work with, we whittle it down to only the most important details. In journalism and in content strategy, brevity is key.
4. An Analyst’s Precision
In addition to writing, strategizing, and performing under pressure, content specialists need to be able to analyze their work.
This is the part where most of us get tripped up.
As a self-professed artist, I have a hate-hate relationship with numbers. Spreadsheets scare the shit out of me. Even colorful, clearly labeled pie charts are enough to send me into a tizzy.
Still, I understand the importance of data in digital marketing. Without evaluating our work, how would we measure success? How would we ever improve?
To be an effective content strategist, you need to be testing your work constantly. That means checking the stats of your blog posts, conducting A/B tests of your emails, and refining the targeting of your digital ads — daily.
And as any analyst will tell you, details matter. Every choice you make, from the size of your images to the placement of your calls to action, should be intentional.
5. A Team Member’s Mentality
Last but certainly not least, if you want to be a content specialist, you need to be a team player.
At 9 Clouds, so much of our work is collaboration. While we sometimes get silo-ed into our individual assignments, we know we couldn’t achieve much without the help of our coworkers.
Whether I’m Slacking Ryan about Facebook ads, asking Allen for help with source code, or bouncing ideas back and forth with the team in our weekly creative meeting, I lean on my fellow content specialists every day.
I also lean on my PMs. Since they manage my workload (and since they’re cool people), I want to maintain healthy relationships with them. That means mutual appreciation for one another, shared expectations about my responsibilities, and an open mind to trying new things.
Above all, communication is essential — not only to getting along with your team, but also to getting along as a content strategist. If you’re too timid (or too bossy), your job is going to be a lot harder.
If you’ve been adding hats to your head as we’ve gone along, 1) please send me a picture, and 2) it sounds like you’d make a perfect creative content specialist (or whatever you want to call us).
We’re often on the lookout for good creative talent at 9 Clouds, so feel free to contact us if you’re interested in applying.
If we’re not hiring, you can still brush up on your creative skills by subscribing to our blog. We post daily on marketing, community, and more.