Dethroning Content as King

Content is Not King (or Queen)

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

As soon as you read the title of this post, you thought of Chris Brogan’s post with a similar title. My starting point is the same. But my conclusion is different. Why? Because while content isn’t King, you aren’t King (or Queen) either.

So here’s a question: What’s the number one rule of social media? If you’re just getting started with this whole social media thing, you’ve surely read somewhere that “Content is King.” From Six Pixels to Junta42 to Drake & Company to SEOmoz to Boagworld, social media and web influentials alike are all trumpeting their allegiance to the reigning king, Content.

But there’s a mutiny brewing. If you ask us, content isn’t King. Great content doesn’t mean great influence.

3 Major Reasons for Revolution

What’s wrong with content, you ask? Frankly, the answer is nothing. Nothing’s wrong with content.

But crowning content the king of media strategy is making a good thing a great thing. And that’s a bad thing.

Content, while vitally important to any company, individual, or organization wishing to create influence on the new web, is not the thing that we should keep primary. Here are some reasons:

  • Before looking for content, people will look for relationship. That is, people gravitate towards people they know, regardless of what they are saying…or how well they are saying it. And this is obvious. Hypothetically speaking, even if Comcast is more influential and is doing a better job with providing content and support, but Suddenlink is my provider, then of course I’m following what Suddenlink says and does.
  • People also gravitate towards individuals rather than corporations. In our society, people are often skeptical of companies, regardless of the content they are creating. Even if the individuals within the companies are great people with great content, consumers are still skeptical. An example of this is the Digital Nomads blog. The Dell people running DN has realized that people are skeptical of anything content-related that has its origin in Corporate America. Even the word “nomad” has the connotation that “we’re on our own, independent from our umbrella company”. Run a quick search and you’ll find that there’s only one mention of Dell on the homepage: in the lower right hand corner of the footer.
  • This reason may be the hardest to swallow: when online, people are primarily looking not for content, but for influence. Sure, content is a component of being influential. Absolutely. But there is so much more that goes into being influential than great content. In fact, we like to think of influence having three components:

    Content + Community +  Culture = Influence

There are three reasons to revolt against King Content. So what do we turn to next?

Crowning Others as King

Trust me, I know. This isn’t the great “ta-da!” you were hoping for. Not a mind-blowing announcement: Others are king. The mind-blowing thing is this: if you’re focused on content, you’re not focusing on people. You’re focusing on yourself. Your thought, your writing ability, your ideas. But social media…dare I say it…is social. The endgame here is not to produce great content to promote yourself. The endgame is to equip and lead other people via content, community, and culture.

Content, community, and culture are all good things. But they are the means, not the end. Influencing and helping people is what we’re after.

Don’t lose sight of others. They sit on the throne, not your content, and certainly not you.

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4 Comments

  1. Eric Goldman says:

    This is a thought=provoking idea. Thanks for the post!
    I guess I sit on the fence in the debate: yes I believe social media are a form of being social which does indeed involve forming relationships with people. But yes, too, relationships between people are formed when they share ideas or ideals or… something, whatever it is which brings them together. And when you’re talking about B2B relationships, that usually means the intellectual property in question. The customer wants to understand it, the business wants to sell it, and the best way for both to achieve their goals is via the content on the site which should be designed to promote an ever increasing level of trust on the buyers part.
    So in the beginning stages of what I now call the buying-cycle, as opposed to the sales-cycle (reflecting who is in charge), one must design one’s content to be educational only, informative only, without being specific to one’s solution. In other words to raise awareness of the technology, but not interest (yet) in your solution. That comes later in the relationship.
    For anyone interested in moving from the theoretical to the practical, the link below describes the actual Process we use to run a Social Media Marketing campaign – I give it here as it reflects the practicalities of how to put both your ideas, and our own, into effect.
    http://bit.ly/cEc0ln

  2. Smarter Biz says:

    The thing for us here at SB is that sometimes, people come together over social media…around bad content. That evidence alone shows to us that content isn’t what gathers people. People gather people.

    You’re definitely right in that the practical side of this is a little more tricky.

    If content is king, the practical side is simple: produce great content. (And this is why I think so many people like content as king: it makes things easy)

    If others people are king, the “next steps” in terms of practicality is a bit more ambiguous.

    Thanks for the great comment, Eric!

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