Interview with a… Web Content Manager

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Ever wanted to know what a web content manager does, how much the job pays or how to break into content management? We asked Stefan Halley, a web content manager for a company with a global web presence, all about his work and how he got into it. (For other content and comms roles, check out more of Firehead’s job insight series.)

What is your job title?

Web content manager for Alfa Laval, which is an international company making equipment, systems and services for heat transfer, separation and fluid handling. I’m currently based in Malmö, Sweden, but I am responsible for all online content.

What does your work involve?

I’m in charge of setting the standards that we use online. I train people in web standards, analytics and software. And I work with corporate and local communicators to help increase Alfa Laval’s online presence.

In practice, this means…

This means I provide support to the different communication channels. I perform SEO audits of different marketing groups to help them become more search engine friendly. I do a lot of teaching and educating because understanding how to write for the web, what makes good content and how to position themselves is a process most people do not have training for. I also work with web editors in multiple languages and work with them to tailor the message to their market.

How did you get into web content management?

Via a long and winding road! I have a degree in computer animation because I wanted to make movies. I freelanced on corporate videos and infomercials for a few years before doing photo touch-ups for a real estate information company. Then got into IT support, which helped me understand technology. From there I did software support and started my own websites.

Between these two backgrounds I learned how to manage people, budgets and time. I eventually ended up as the online brand manager for Accor North America (a large hotel operator).

When I moved to Sweden the social media boom was just starting and I was able to use my knowledge of websites and brand management to get a job as a social media marketer for an ad agency. After a few years of that, I wanted to get back into the corporate sector and found Alfa Laval.

What kind of background is useful?

If I was going to start over again and pick college courses to help me, I would look at user experience, psychology and journalism courses. Being a web content manager is a blend of technology and psychology. It involves understanding how people use websites, what motivates visitors to come to a site and knowing how to write in a persuasive way that is web-friendly.

What’s your biggest work challenge?

I like to stay on the cutting edge of online trends. Things move fast and trying to stay ahead of the curve can be daunting. The good news is most large companies don’t move quickly so it doesn’t take much to be ahead of the game. The average company is three to five years behind the current trends. If you can see how SEO, social media and user experience trends will change, guiding your business in that direction is much easier.

And what do you most enjoy?

For me, it’s working with people. I like to share knowledge and get other people excited about the web. Getting to understand the needs and concerns of people in India versus people in the US, and how corporate needs differ from local needs, keeps me excited and constantly exploring how to make our user experience useful and interesting.

What is the rate of pay?

For a position like mine, expect mid-to-high 30s sek (around 4,000 euros) a month.

Is there job mobility/security?

Web content management is still a new field. People are just beginning to understand how it works. There is lots of potential for this position in many different areas and industries.

What advice would you give to a newbie?

Read, read, read. Books, magazines, blogs. Listen to podcasts. There is always something to learn and new tricks to discover. Also, networking is important. Get to know other people doing your job. It makes benchmarking against others much easier and helps you find out what skills you need to move into a new position.

Any advice on training and development options?

I would recommend reading Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? by Susan Weinschenk, The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly and Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions by Guy Kawasaki. I also recommend listening to podcasts like The Bean Cast, i can haz podcast and Marketing Over Coffee to stay up on current trends and analysis.

There are lots of self-training books and online resources these days. It’s much easier to learn new skills than it was five years ago. [See our post on how Firehead’s web manager self-trains using cake! – Ed.]

Where do you see yourself in five years?

That’s a great question. Everything evolves so rapidly. If you were to tell me five years ago, I would be where I am today, I would laugh. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in five years. The future is pretty open with possibilities.

Any final advice?

If my career path has taught me anything, it’s ‘if you don’t like what you are doing, then figure out how to do what you like’. Ten years ago, I was a project manager for a building controls company; I didn’t enjoy that job. I knew I wanted to do PR and web building. I slowly built my experience and knowledge over time, and was able to transition out of one career and into another.

Keep your mind open to what is out there. Find out what you want to do and then make the changes in your life to get there.

Stefan Halley has been working on the web for 15 years and in online marketing for more than six years. He currently works as a web content manager for international company Alfa Laval and you can hear him each week on i can haz podcast, a social media marketing advice podcast. He tweets – he says ‘way too much’ – at @lostinsweden.

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