Guest post by Mark Schaefer, author of {grow}.

I was reading a blog post the other day and this comment captured my attention: “Content is NOT king. It is the conversation around that content that is king.”

I recently wrote about how many of these conversations we THINK are occurring on the social web that are not occurring at all. A blog comment is not a conversation. A tweet or a status update is not a conversation. Pushing a “like” button is not a conversation.

So if you accept that we rarely have real conversations around here, what ARE we doing and does it have any affect on sales? Yes, I said sales. Marketers do not exist to drive re-tweets or page views. We exist to sell more stuff to more people for more money.

It’s difficult to make a hardwired correlation between most social activity and sales. However this is a familiar marketing dilemma. It is also nearly impossible, or at least prohibitively expensive, to correlate the affect of a billboard on sales, or a PR campaign on sales, yet we do these things anyway in hopes of driving that mysterious goal of brand awareness.

The ultimate aim of marketing is to create some connection between your product and your customers that will incent them to buy. That’s where the power of social becomes magical. Sure, viral content might increase awareness, but more importantly, social interaction gives your customers a way to ENGAGE with you and your products … to suggest to you, and snip at you, and celebrate their love (or hate) of all things YOU.

Wow. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it?

For decades, marketers have been “talking” to customers through ads, and now for the first time in human history, the people on the other side are talking back! No, it isn’t a conversation, but it IS engagement, and that is truly the Holy Grail for a marketer.

Mark Schaefer is a consultant, author, and college educator who blogs at {grow}.