Michael Brito
November 14, 2014

Relationships Matter but Good Content Trumps All

Before you cast judgment, please read on.

As I write this, I am reminded of an online conversation that happened over six years ago. It was way back when Jeremiah Owyang was an analyst at Forrester. He wrote a blog post that asked a very simple question. Are you a purist or a corporatist?

To recap, a purist is someone who believes that people will always prevail and that all companies can do is watch, listen and respond. Their employees can participate, but only as independent people and that corporate efforts are doomed to fail.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are corporatists. They believe that corporations have power because they have money; and that if situations get out of hand, the can open their pocket books and control it through advertising.

I was a purist.

Fast forward six years later and things have changed. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about counseling my clients to “engage”, “be authentic” and “join the conversation” (promise not to say that again) because it’s the human thing to do. It’s good for business.

In fact, I have helped numerous clients over the years to build command centers, integrate social customer service and operationalize brand advocacy programs. These are all necessary to do as brands move through the social adoption curve.

A friend of mine who I admire talks consistently about #RonR – Return on Relationship. You probably know him as Ted Rubin anROR-Book-logod he even wrote a book about it. He’s a fantastic person, a gentleman for sure. Mountains of wisdom. I admire his passion and I relate to his personal updates he shares publicly about his daughters.

He probably ranks a little closer to a purist, I think.

His recent update prompted me to think long and hard about this topic and do a self assessment of where I actually stand when it comes to customer relationships, content and social media in general. Here is what he posted:

Conversation is the ultimate content… #RonR

While I understand Ted’s point, I would word it differently and say “good content results in the ultimate conversation.” You may or may not agree with me and that’s fine. Maybe it’s just a matter of semantics. But I believe that good content must add value to customer’s wants, needs and emotions; and that content must be measurable.

Let me explain a little further.

First, brands are not human beings. They certainly have human qualities (tone of voice, personality, etc.) but they are corporate entities. Now, me personally, I don’t relate to a corporate entity. I don’t relate to a logo or a Twitter account. I don’t relate to billboards; advertisements or status updates either … unless it tells a story that I can relate to. I also relate to products for how they make me feel emotionally and/or rationally. I certainly relate to a community manager if I know them and “yes” they are an extension of the brand but they are not the brand.

I am all about personal relationships. Although it’s extremely difficult to scale them with the rise of social media, I try my best to engage everyone I come in contact with online or offline. But I am just a guy with a few followers and it’s not easy. What about a brand with millions of friends, fans and followers? How do you actually scale all of those “relationships?”

In my mind, as long as a brand can deliver a good product, service or experience, I could care less how human they are online. But that’s just me.

Secondly, I don’t think that you can actually measure the value of a relationship. I am not the smartest guy on the planet so if someone already figured this out; I missed the memo. But really, how would I place a value on my relationship with my mom, wife or kids? I know in my heart that it’s valuable. I can tell you all day that it’s valuable. And if we were friends on Facebook, you would know what I find valuable due to my sharing habits. Some have certainly tried to measure the value of a “Facebook fan” but that’s not what I am talking about here.

I can’t walk into the office of a CMO and say, “Hey, CMO, we have outstanding relationships with our customers. They love us and we love them too!” without he/she wanting some quantifiable evidence that these “relationships” are actually moving the needle – driving sales, capturing leads, creating brand engagement, etc. Likes, comments, shares, retweets, clicks and a random sample of conversations do not measure relationships. They measure performance.

CMOs don’t make decisions based on hunches or emotions. They make decisions based on data.

Don’t get me wrong. Relationships matter. I believe that to my core. But good content will result in great conversations. That is how relationships are formed. That is how you sell products. That is how you reach new people. And, that is how you deliver business value. At WCG, we ensure that all content follow some very basic rules and deliver on the following:

  • Utility —-> helps me “do” something
  • Education —-> makes me smarter
  • Entertainment —-> makes me laugh, inspires me
  • Access —-> connects me to others
  • Altruism —-> facilitates my sense of purpose
  • Emotion —-> elicits a visceral reaction
  • Exclusivity —-> makes me feel special
  • Information —-> news
  • Financial —-> sale, rebate, coupons

Look, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying to ignore your customers at all. In fact, I would conclude that your content strategy MUST be built on what your customers care about, talk about, share and link to.



0eee787This piece was originally titled “Relationships Do Matter but Good Content Trumps All” and published on Linkedin . It is republished here  with permission.

Michael Brito is a Group Director at WCG and also an Adjunct Professor at San Jose State University and UC Berkeley. He is the author of two books: Smart Business, Social Business and Your Brand: The Next Media Company. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+.

About the book: There is a content surplus and an attention deficit in the minds of consumers today. They are highly influential and aiding others down the purchase funnel using organic conversations about the products they care about and the ones they don’t. In order to reach these consumers, brands must create recent, relevant and value add content in order to break through the clutter and successfully change their behavior. Order here from Amazon.



Additional Image: tedrubin.com/return-on-employees-roe/

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