Content Has Been Dethroned (Another Throwback Blog Post – September 29, 2010)

Last throwback post…  promise!

I just love how some of these assumptions, written almost two years ago, are becoming more and more relevant and are being recommended more and more commonly as “best practices” in the social media world. Ironically, it seems the most represented “finding” is that social media is proving to be the preferred medium of conversation over… uh, blogs just like this one!

Anyway, you can be the judge.. enjoy!

Content has been Dethroned

Dan Cubero                            September 29, 2010

For years we have been taught that the way to attract people to our products and services — using web, newspaper, magazines, etc. – was to have the best stuff, the coolest STUFF, the primo STUFF, the most original STUFF. “Content is King” has dominated the way we understand media and the way we use media outlets to communicate.
This fundamental assumption — that having the best stuff will inevitably attract the correct demographic and ultimately lead to an engaged audience – is flawed. Sorry to those of you who spent countless hours finding statistics to create in-depth reports on various subjects, to those of you who poured your focused attention into editing paragraph 3, sentence 2 of that press release. We have entered a new age of marketing and public relations. It’s time to ditch our safety net and embrace the fact that “Content Is No Longer King.” A new contender is ready to assume the throne. “Conversation is King.”

Now I first heard about this concept from some guys over at LaunchPad INWAllen Battle and Bill Kalivas and then again from Brian Burrows at a MarCom Breakfast on September 10th, 2010. What I found, is that this concept intrigues people – it’s easy to find “heads nods of approval” or “thinking hard” facial expressions when the concept is mentioned. It’s agreeable and it’s catching on fast, largely because it is so intuitive.

The message is not that content is irrelevant, but that it can be. It’s not that content is NEVER important. There is a reason as to why content has made it this far as the driver of many modern media advances, especially in areas like SEOSEM and database marketing. For example, it is obviously important to have content that is recognizable by Google in order to be seen, but as many of us in marketing and public relations fields should know by now, being seen is only half the battle: who cares about the message if it is irrelevant, or worse, boring?

To all those focused on creating great pieces of literature I send a warning: If Twitter has taught us anything about mass customization, with its 140 character limit and personalized news feeds, it is that people have learned to value simplicity and relevance. Maybe most importantly, they just want to participate. Why not let them?

Just as traditional marketing is less acceptable to the modern audience — essentially, presenting your best side and hoping for the best – content be created with this mindset. It’s no longer a secret that online conversations are being held about your brand. Businesses are finally beginning to understand that it is essential to monitor these conversations, even better to participate in them, as appropriate. It is time to take it one step further and start to generate pieces of that discussion. Basically, don’t just create content for conversation, but foster the conversation around it as well.

Companies putting the idea to the test, largely using social media, are Pepsi (the Pepsi Refresh project, on Twitter), Starbucks (MyStarbucksIdea, on Twitter) and Dell (IdeaStorm, on Twitter). These companies no longer provide only information on products and services being offered, they ask customers what problems they are seeing with these products or services and ask for ideas on how to fix them, usually using incentives to drive broader participation.

It’s like this: don’t write your website assuming someone is going to read all of it – they’re probably just skimming. Don’t Tweet that you’re taking out the garbage – no one cares. If you want to be successful in the new era of marketing and public relations, just remember the fundamentals of normal dialogue: don’t make it all about you. Take the time to understand your demographic, their interests and then prove your value by providing the appropriate and relevant questions and information they desire. Only after you have taken these steps, and if you can adequately fill your audience’s hunger for participation, will a feeling of engagement and brand loyalty follow. Not all customers will fit the profile, but certainly your most engaged and involved customers will.

Let’s give a hats off to those smart guys at LaunchPad and others for the slogan “Conversation is King.” After all, content is just something to talk about.

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