Discussion With Jay Baer From Convince And Convert

Blogger Jay Baer who keeps a site named Convince and Convert didn’t convince me of much today.   He wrote a post asking the deceptively simple question: is content marketing a necessity for your brand?  I say deceptively simple because while Jay tries to answer this with a simple graphic, it’s poor attempt at distilling the concept at best, misinformation at worst.

If customers and prospects are already chattering about your brand on the social Web, your social media initiative can focus primarily on becoming an authentic part of those existing conversations.

My response to this is a tentative maybe.  That’s one approach, but depending on what people are saying, you may or may not wish to be a part of those conversations – they may or may not warrant brand involvement.  I have worked with clients where we were far better able to accomplish their marketing objectives through social media by sparking their own narratives and conversations through original content, leaving more personal stuff alone.  Just because they’re talking doesn’t mean you should respond, in many cases it’s inappropriate to get involved.  It all depends on both what the discussions and even what your goals are.

Further, and I’ll get into this more in a minute, it’s premature to say “can focus primarily on being a part of existing conversations” without knowing more about the business objectives of that brand or even what that brand is.  Jay is offering generic advice in a situation where generic should not be applied.

If someone throws you a surprise party, you just need to show up – you don’t have to go plan a bunch of other parties too.

Not sure this analogy makes sense.  If you want to plan things on the social web to delight or encourage your biggest fans, they’re not going to be upset that you are doing more.  Let’s go with the party analogy for a minute because I have a good example here.  I helped guide a brand who does throw parties – Dairy Queen – into their foray into social media when they were still nascent to the space years ago (nascent as in a total of zero social participation at the corporate level).  There were already many conversations happening (hundreds weekly) but no consolidated presence for the brand.

We were able to create a brand presence and start content marketing as one element of a larger strategy.  Ultimately this helped attract (organically) millions of fans and followers across platforms including one of the largest restaurant fan pages on Facebook with 1.7 million+ fans.  Content tactics developed under their larger strategy included video, blog posts, user generated content contests and even mobile/real-time content.  SmartBrief has just a short overview and actually only covered a piece of what DQ does in the social web.  The point though, is that without creating content for focused outcomes in addition to encouraging others to do so, they wouldn’t be close to where they are today.  Just the opposite, their fans would be wondering why they aren’t being lead.  Knowing this brand’s fans pretty well from working with them for 3+ years and helping develop initial social strategies strategies – I’ll say with confidence their fans do want to be lead.

Jay continues…

However, for many small, B2B or less inherently interesting brands, the current level of social media chatter is essentially zero. It’s difficult to make listening and opportunistic engagement the nucleus of your approach when there’s nothing to listen or respond to in the first place.

He’s right, if you’re only listening for branded terms.  Of course if your social media monitoring strategy only involves branded terms – you’re doing it wrong.  There is plenty to respond to from a keyword, industry/category-level or even influencer-level standpoint if you’ve done your research and understand the current situation.  If you have the right listening program in place, even a company without any brand mentions can still engage in a potent response strategy as part of a larger mix.

That’s why content marketing becomes steadily more important for brands that don’t have existing social chatter.

Hesitant to say this either – it can be equally important for both.  If you’re a large brand, you can leverage your size to make sure your content within social channels really spreads.  Major brands can and should take advantage of their size and name recognition here, just like small brands should leverage creativity.  Content marketing isn’t something that’s “for” brands of a certain size.  Actually, content marketing is likely for anyone who wants to be heard.  Mike Masnick explains this clearly – the concept that every company is a media company, in his post –  advertising is content, content is advertising:

The captive audience is dead. There is no captive audience online. Everyone surfing the web has billions of choices on what they can be viewing, and they don’t want to be viewing intrusive and annoying ads. They’ll either ignore them, block them or go elsewhere.

Advertising is content. You can’t think of ads as separate things any more. Without a captive audience, there’s no such thing as “advertising” any more. It’s just content. And it needs to be good/interesting/relevant content if you want to get anyone to pay attention to it.

Content is advertising. Might sound like a repeat of the point above, and in some way it is — but it’s highlighting the flip side. Any content is advertising. It’s advertising something.

Jay is right in one part of his post:  that content marketing might not be for everyone.  But that has little to do with the size and type of a company and far more to do with specific marketing and business objectives, which would flavor the strategic approach.  Ultimately his post and graphic make generalizations and sell short how unique, useful and interesting content published by a company affect search and social metrics.