According to Google search figures, interest in Content Strategy has been growing steadily since early 2009. It’s a relatively new term in web strategy circles, but not that new: it has a year up on Social Media Strategy, for example.
I’ve been watching the Content Strategy Twitter Trends tool over the last week and was surprised to see that Content Strategy tweets are frequently confined to a narrow window of time, especially compared with User Experience.
I extracted two weeks of data from the tool and plotted the times of content strategy and user experience tweets, ignoring automated tweets where possible.
The results show that content strategy (CS) tweets are more localized in time than user experience (UX) tweets. About 2% of the daily UX tweets are made during the least active hour, and about 6.5% in the busiest hour. CS tweets exhibit a significantly greater variation: only 1% in the quietest hour, and up to 9% of the daily tweets in the most active hour. Put another way, CS exhibits roughly twice the variation of the UX tweet rate throughout the day.
The most obvious explanation for this is that interest in CS is more geographically localized. So where are these tweets coming from?
Although research suggests that the majority of tweets are published between 21:00 and 22:00, this is heavily influenced by social tweets. When I run statistical tests on Twitter Search data for tweets that contain “professional” words and phrases (e.g. “strategy”), it points to a peak professional tweeting time of between 09:00 and 12:00.
The above graph hints at a strong correlation between content strategy and the East-coast US peak tweet time, and between user experience and the West-coast US peak tweet time, though the UX tweets are more evenly geographically spread.
This hypothesis is supported by Google search data, which identifies a strong geographical focus for content strategy searches: 100% search volume for the US, about 70% for the UK, and 0% for everywhere else. Inside the US, the contrast is just as stark: 100% in New York, about 70% in California, and 0% elsewhere. In the UK, searches show 100% volume from London, 0% elsewhere.
Conversely, user experience searches are more global, and more evenly distributed within countries. This wider spread supports the flatter variation in tweet rate.
I haven’t included a graph for social media strategy – which we discussed earlier as a newer topic than content strategy – but even this topic exhibits a greater spread in the US, with 40%+ search volume in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, Texas and California.
Let’s also take a look at LinkedIn data. It may be US-biased, but we can use the relative numbers of content strategy compared with user experience to draw some geographical conclusions.
In the LinkedIn database, there are 18,534 members with the phrase user experience in their job title, and 2,415 members with content strategy or content strategist. No surprises here: content strategy isn’t as mature, at least as a job title.
If we look at share of members by country, it gets more interesting. About 60% of (LinkedIn-registered) UX professionals are located in the US, but a whopping 76% of all content strategists are located in the US.
In the US, about 23% of content strategists are located in New York, and about 16% in the San Francisco area. If you include just a few more coastal cities – Boston, LA, Seattle – you’ve already covered over 65% of US content strategists, and more surprisingly about half of all the content strategists in the world.
The east-/west-coast content strategy divide is almost the exact opposite for user experience: 22% are located in San Francisco and about 14% in New York. This difference would suggest that UX is heavily influenced by the San Francisco start-up scene, and content strategy by the New York media giants and advertising agencies. According to LinkedIn, the “Marketing and Advertising” industry employs the largest chunk of content strategists in New York: 20% of them.
What does this mean for content strategy? Is it limited to geographical areas where large content publishers can support it as a profession? What can we do to make it as integral a part of website development as user experience, no matter what the size of the website or organization?
Perhaps I’m being premature. After all, two years after Jesse James Garrett published the seminal The Elements of User Experience in 2002, Google was showing a glowing California for user experience searches, and nothing elsewhere. It’s only just coming up to two years since Kristina Halvorson’s equivalent Content Strategy for the Web, so perhaps the limited global interest in the topic is nothing to worry about.
I’m not so sure. The social media strategy searches show that new ideas can spread within two years (at least within a country), and the presence of Twitter should allow content strategy to proliferate among web professionals faster than user experience in Twitter-less 2002-2004.
As content strategists it is our job to worry about this. Are we creating relevant content for our audience? Are there greater international language barriers in the adoption of content strategy that weren’t as difficult for the more-visual spread of user experience? Do we need to dumb-it-down and sex-it-up to get a wider audience?
Should we not worry about who is using content strategy, and let it naturally unfold in the web industry; or should we pro-actively tweak how we promote and explain the profession to expedite acceptance?
As usual, your thoughts on the matter are very much welcomed.
A Quick Footnote
I chose to compare content strategy to user experience because a) I had the data from the trending tool, and b) they seem to share similar beginnings and similar trajectories, but more on that in a later post.