BOOK REVIEW: Global Content Strategy: A Primer by Val Swisher

I discovered this handbook on Twitter through a discussion with The Content Wrangler, a member of the content strategy community. This is a group of writers and strategists dedicated to improving the stuff we see on the web. Specifically, the stuff that brands and businesses put on the web, in the hopes that it’s seen by an intended audience. In a way, we’re all in the business of turning hope into reality. How beautiful.


Global Content Strategy: A Primer is good crash course on a complex topic. Ideal for pitching senior management on a strategic approach to large-scale website translation.

Global Content Strategy by Val Swisher

I’d recommend Global Content Strategy as a useful handbook for anyone working with global audiences in need of a multi-lingual website. Specifically, anyone tasked with managing the translation of multiple languages. The information is not relevant for small sites with a few pages or sites translated into just one or two other languages; it’s for companies with large websites and a global audience, interested in translating web content using a cost- and time-efficient approach, without sacrificing on quality. If you want your content understood by lots of people in lots of different languages, here’s a breakdown of how to manage that process.

It covers the basic tenets of content strategy (audience definition, voice and style considerations, having a multi-cultural approach to icons and symbols) as well as technical, project management advice (choosing translation vendors, maintaining a central database of TM, which stands for Translation Memory, and more). It was a good refresh of the basics and a succinct overview of the complexities of large-scale translation projects. Val Swisher definitely knows her stuff when it comes to executing and managing (wrangling!) what can seem an insurmountable mess, known as Global Content Strategy.

 A Content Strategy Rallying Cry

The internet makes it simultaneously easier and more difficult to have your words heard.

The trash heap of shitty content increases by the millisecond. We all have the ability to write (technically speaking) and access to the marketplace (social media, blogs, ads, etc.). Because of this radical democratization of communication it’s more crucial than ever to start with why when considering whether to produce content.

The distinction between ads or “sponsored content” and editorial content is becoming so blurry it’s like we’re all swimming underwater, and we all need to clean our goggles with that goggle-cleaner fluid but no one wants to miss out by taking the time to emerge on the surface, clean his or her goggles, and see more clearly. Brands instead choose to churn water, pushing forward with mediocre, unnecessary, uninspiring and even self-defeating content that actually does more damage than good (and is an incredible waste of resources).

Brand managers and content strategists are generals in the battle for authenticity in modern advertising. Social media is where the bloodiest squirmishes are lost, in the form of dull content that falls on deaf ears; no one sees it. At least no one valuable to your bottom line sees it. If they do, they aren’t persuaded to do or think in any meaningfully different way.

If a shitty Facebook post gets no reach, does it make a sound?

The answer is yes – in the form of a digital footprint. It’s easy for competitors or prospective business partners to check out a brand’s Facebook page only to find tumbleweeds. You don’t delete posts that fall flat; they remain there for all to see.

Savvy and strategic thinkers already know this; the problem is getting through to the masses. Fortunately, this means there will always be work for content strategists. Unfortunately, everyone with opposable thumbs and an internet connection fancies him/herself a content strategist.

All we can do is stay calm and carry on.

Check out the (7!) books closely/loosely relevant to this topic I bought yesterday. Reviews to follow!

books on branding



Advice for Brands on Chasing the Facebook Dragon


Chasing the Facebook Dragon

Determining the ROI on a Facebook ad campaign is one of the most frustrating parts of social media marketing. And it’s just getting worse. Brands have signed onto the notion that Facebook serves a silver platter of highly targeted, engaged audience members. But it’s not a bright and shiny platter; it’s an oxidized platter with the kind of stains that might not be stains but might just be oxidation but you can’t really tell.

You put up a Page Likes ad to jump-start your page’s growth, you get a sudden spike of fans, and you’re hooked. Then you chase that dragon down a wormhole of News Feed algorithm updates, revised campaign structures and increasingly hard-to-decipher reports.

Integrated Marketing AssClownery: Confusing the Medium for the Message

A comparison can be made between the pitfalls of Facebook advertising and SEO methods in wide use a few years ago. Brands who wanted to rank in search engines relied too heavily on “gaming the system”. Massive amounts of low-quality content combined with keyword stuffing was the formula to success. But Google was smarter, and updated its algorithm to detect websites relying on spammy, superficial methods that don’t actually do any good for real human beings . . . rendering those methods obsolete.

The same holds true with Facebook content and advertising. Relying on the platform won’t get you far. It’s just a method of delivery. It’s not a sustainable strategy.

Three key problems from focusing on advertising (i.e. the medium) instead of your content (i.e. the message):

1) The medium changes on a dime.

Facebook is constantly changing. “Improving”. They roll out changes to their ad platform so frequently that I’ve had instances where the coworker sitting next to me has access to different features in Power Editor than I do. Nothing’s more irritating than convincing a client to invest in a certain type of ad only to discover that ad type was discontinued, and was only offered as a test for a short period of time.

2) Access isn’t guaranteed.

If your ad sucks, guess what? No one will click on it. And Facebook will stop showing it. With more brands than ever competing with each other for ad space, shitty ads that don’t speak to their target audience with tailored messaging and a bit of creativity just don’t get shown. This is why “Ad Optimization” is a key component of a successful ad campaign.

3) Not all impressions are worth the same.

Do you want Fans? Website visitors? Post engagement? Or just impressions? Picking a metric and sticking with it gets complicated when too much focus is placed on the medium, as opposed to your content or your bottom-line. Figure out if it’s brand awareness, community engagement or visits to your website you’re after. Write it on a piece of paper. Stick it on your forehead. Turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about.


The Path to Recovery

The true goldmine of opportunity on Facebook lies in getting your fans to share your content with their friends. For free! Having someone Like, Comment or actually Share content you post on your page is what leads to organic, viral success. Lots of people get this; Gary Vaynerchuk and Jonah Berger are two examples. Brands like Magnolia, Martha Stewart and Seamless take advantage of the image-based UI. Does this mean your financial services client should post high-res closeups of tax forms and accounting sheets? Limited resources are better spent elsewhere. Like on providing content that’s actually useful for your existing audience. Thinking creatively about ways to engage people who have already indicated they care about what you’re saying. User surveys with real insight.

  1. Put users first. Understand their needs. Who are they? What are their problems?
  2. Consider your company or product. How does it solve the problems you just listed?
  3. Think creatively. Focus on the message. Then figure out if you’re going to translate this into Facebook ads or posts. Whether you post something as an ad, a post, a link, a photo or a nosehair really doesn’t matter; what are you trying to say!


It’s too easy to focus on the medium at the expense of the message, and pour money into advertising something with low-quality content. X dollars doesn’t equal Y sales. Focus on your users, your content and your objectives. Use Facebook Advertising to boost that effort – not drive it. A sustainable strategy puts users before robots, platforms and delivery channels. A sustainable strategy involves tapping into real, human insights and developing interesting and engaging content.


Gap Analysis


I took this on a subway platform somewhere in New York. Don’t remember where. Feels like something I could hang up in a home office. Could inspire me to either fill in blanks, or just encourage the birth of a new one. Could be a personalized daily glass-half-empty question to myself, to gauge my creativity levels.

There are always gaps I am trying to mind. Recently it was called to my attention that I have two tiny spaces between two of the same pairs of teeth on either side of my mouth. The distance between me and those around me is another gap I feel hyper-aware of.

Gap analysis is a core component of content strategy…I now feel qualified to classify myself as “experienced with gap analysis.”

ConFab2012: Observations by a First-Timer

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