Is Content More Important than Conversation?

By: Guest | February 6, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Brian Carter

I bet you’ve heard plenty about the importance of conversation in social media.

We’ve all heard companies must engage their customers online. We’ve probably said it ourselves.

But is conversation the most important thing in social media?

What’s The Value of Conversation?

Few will question the value of conversation. It extends customer service and makes PR more personal. But does conversation improve the bottom line?

Case studies suggest social companies do better than their non-social competitors.

If we’ve proven conversational companies are more profitable, is it because conversation made them more visible?

There are more reliable ways to reach the masses.

You could advertise on Facebook for $0.25 per thousand views, and you wouldn’t be subject to that notoriously unreliable viral phenomenon.

Did companies who got social first simply get media (and its associated benefits) because they were first?

Can late-adopters get the same benefits?

Will we always have to do something novel to get noticed?

Do social prospects buy more because we talked to them?

Or was it because they already liked our brand more anyway, and that’s why they talked to us?

Have you really tracked how many of your new customers heard about you because you got their attention first from a social media platform?

What Are We Talking About, Anyway?

Business card cartoonist Hugh McLeod wrote a post about social objects years ago. Let me paraphrase: People need something to talk about. Let’s give them something to talk about.

In day-to-day life, we talk about art, TV shows, movies, fashion accessories, and sports games – all creations or performances. Businesses use blog posts, whitepapers, and infographics to create conversation or get a lead form filled out.

That’s content marketing. It’s not the same as conversation. Conversations without any content are less likely to go anywhere. Your executive suite cares where conversations go- they want them to go toward the bottom line.

Conversation Isn’t Enough

Talk is cheap. Conversation is ephemeral, substanceless, too easy, not as valuable. Quantity conversation doesn’t make up for lack of quality content. And yes, content is harder to do than conversation.

You have to create value with content. This is why books are valued. This is why people love infographics- they look valuable and usually they are valuable. It’s not easy to do, because it’s hard to create value out of nothing.

Quality content creates better conversations. If your search and social popularity aren’t great, you may not have enough content, or your content may not be good enough for people to care about.

If They Aren’t Talking To You, You’re Invisible

I hope you paid attention to Facebook marketing in 2010 and 2011, because even being generous to Twitter in estimating its active user base, Facebook reaches at least four times as many people. You probably heard about EdgeRank, the algorithm Facebook uses to filter what posts people see in their newsfeed.

Do you know only three percent of fans ever return to your business’s facebook page after liking it?

Are you aware your Facebook page fans, if they aren’t liking and commenting on your posts, will stop seeing your posts?

Did you know the average Facebook page reaches just 17 percent of its fans?

The average page’s posts are not being seen by 83 percent of their fans.

Mediocre engagement leads to horrible visibility.

We must get more likes and comments on our Facebook posts if we want more of our fans to see them. We already wanted more retweets and clicks so we could demonstrate an impressive number of visits to websites from social media.

Now we need to go figure out what content is most engaging and viral, figure out why that content works, and then reproduce that success. We need to use tools such as Infinigraph to discover what content is working best for us and our competitors.

Then we need to monitor which content creates the most leads and sales for the company, because controversy doesn’t necessarily create sales. Oh shoot- this social media thing has to be connected to direct marketing and sales? Is it PR or is it marketing? I’m not sure there’s a line anymore. Everyone needs to learn new skills.

Start Caring About Which Content Is Most Engaging and Viral

Google’s “Search Plus Your World” makes all search results more social. You’re more likely to see search results for things your friends have shared or created. One of the biggest effects this will have in the next couple years is to move more of the search experts away from link building and more toward content creation.

These guys live on analytics. They get off on turning a 250 percent ROI campaign into a 700 percent ROI campaign. They’ll bring their nerdy analytics focus to the task and make sure the content they share gets lots of tweets, likes, plus-ones, shares, and comments. In other words, if you don’t get quantitative about your content, these geeks are going to beat the pants off you.

Brian Carter is the author of the bestselling books The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook’s Features For Your Marketing Campaigns (3rd edition).


  • pocojuan

    @ginidietrich @briancarter the Content In the Conversation driven by activ responsive listening, it’s not Either/Or but And not pre-recorded

  • Good stuff to think about. Content should create conversation. But then conversation becomes content.

    Though I’ve found most of EdgeRank’s data to be horribly low, mostly because of the terms they use when defining engagement.

    • @KenMueller You mean likes, comments, shares, clicks? What else would you want to see included in EdgeRank?

  • Steveology

    @ginidietrich I spread rumors an innuendos about you all the time. FYI.

    • ginidietrich

      @Steveology Funny. I just wrote your phone number in the women’s restroom at the hot new club in the Loop

      • Steveology

        @ginidietrich Thanks for passing on my number. I was wondering where I was getting all those calls from. 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @yourgreatlifetv Where have you been?!?

    • yourgreatlifetv

      @ginidietrich Hello Friend, I’ve been here 🙂 how are you? sending you a big hug. -Bern

      • ginidietrich

        @yourgreatlifetv I miss yoU!

        • yourgreatlifetv

          @ginidietrich I miss you too my friend let’s catch up soon 🙂 sweet dreams -Bern

  • Trace_Cohen

    All you are online is content. Creating content is hard enough and then you have to drive people to that content by becoming an influencer and expert in that area. Then people will start to engage with you. So I would say content is more important than the conversation because you can’t have a conversation around nothing.

    I worst though is when I comment on an article, facebook page or even @reply someone and don’t hear back from them. I feel like I’m yelling at a screen…

    • keithepetri

      @Trace_Cohen@reply I am always listening, Trace… And joking aside, I completely agree. You cannot have a conversation around sub-par content.

    • ginidietrich

      @Trace_Cohen I had a visual of you yelling at your computer screen and it made me LOL!

      • Trace_Cohen

        @ginidietrich Hah I have sometimes when I read something and think WTF is this person thinking? In this case, I always find it odd when the writer doesn’t comment on comments… such a waste and discourages me from ever commenting again. But Brian did reply, so I will be back!

    • @Trace_Cohen@reply I am here for you, Trace

      • Trace_Cohen

        @BrianCarter Thanks! I would actually love your thoughts on something I’m working on that is completely centered around content that creates conversation.

  • WineFolly

    @lamiki @briancarter @Spinsucks – wouldn’t the most important thing be content -> conversion? btw. I love abracadabra. as a side note.

  • cbmatthews

    @ProfessorKScrog Thanks for the RT! Thought it was a great post.

  • briancarter

    @jsperber @philbaumann slightly circular = ovoid? swirly?

    • jsperber

      @briancarter @PhilBaumann ha – I’d go with ovoid. Perhaps Apollonian.

  • I dig that. I think content is how you get into the conversation that already exists. No need to manufacture a new one. Listen. Find pain. Create a pill for the pain in the form of content. Insert pill into conversation. Listen to how the content curves the conversation towards you (or not). Rinse. Listen. Repeat.

    • @Tinu I like that 🙂 Only exception I can think of is problems we have that people have yet to really voice. Rare, but possible.

      • @BrianCarter I can think of another – problems people have that they don’t talk about. Not in the embarrassing sense of “could this be more than a bladder infection”. More in the “I have a guy I order my jet engine parts from” sense.Not that I’ve ever, EVER ordered jet engine parts.

  • ginidietrich

    I went over to “the” book review to copy and paste something from it for my comment. But I just couldn’t do it. That guy is a tool and nothing about it makes my comment more funny.

    I agree with @Trace_Cohen . You can’t have a conversation without compelling content. Take us for instance. NO ONE was talking about us three years ago. Then we started creating content people want and suddenly we’re playing in the same ballpark as the big agencies. There would still be no conversation without the content.

    • @ginidietrich @Trace_Cohen Thanks for not quoting the tool. SpinSucks definitely does not suck.

  • WarrenWhitlock

    RT @briancarter Is your content marketing ready for 2012?

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  • jorgebarba

    Conversation can become content. It doesn’t necessarily have to begin with a video, infographic, photo, blog post, etc. It can just be a conversation. That can then fuel someone to create a piece of content. Also I think all this thinking about content creation creates a never ending loop crappiness. Just look at all those infographics out there. How many can you honestly say are valuable?

  • Usually when someone searches on the net uses keywords and phrases, these phrases get you to content so it’s surely more important content than conversation,. Someone can have zero comments and no social stuff and after some time can still arrive at page 1 on Google. Conversation keeps content fresh and also helps the blogger to not to feel always writing alone; something that could lead to begin talking with the screen. Content is what makes your site to be found and read, conversation help spreading the word and keeps things alive. Also in the case Google throws you out of the index for whatever reason it’s the only thing that can help a site to survive.

    As for the social thing I still have Stumbleupon as n°1 for traffic after search engines but given that I don’t use really FB, Twitter and G+ it’s not such a reliable measure. But I doubt the real efficiency of Facebook to drive both traffic and money beside a bunch of businesses. And I’d really like to know the real ROI of Facebook users, considering also the time spent which could be used to comment or write, things which have a pretty good ROI.

    Very interesting post from a different but intriguing angle. 🙂

  • __Shashank

    @AnnTran_ @infinigraph @SpinSucks @ChaseMcMichael may be conversation creates a real content? #smw12

  • Liron_Segev

    @idale @DonoWhite definalty ! need to have a reason for a fan to come back. Not a case of “build it and they will come”

    • idale

      @Liron_Segev precisely. @donowhite

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