Social Media and the Myth of “The Conversation”

Yesterday someone pointed me to a new post titled “Six Visual Solutions To Complex Digital Marketing/Analytics Challenges,” on Avinash Kaushik’s Occam’s Razor blog.

My first reaction was:

“He’s still blogging?”

Yes, of course he is.  I must have just been preoccupied for the last year or two and forgot to check his always amazing blog.

As you would expect from Kaushik, there’s a lot of great stuff in this post, but I wanted to just focus on one of his six points.  And that would be:

#2: The Secret to Content Marketing Success.

As Kaushik states, the truth is that

“…most content deployed in the service of content marketing sucks. For two simple reasons: 1. It is actually really hard to create good content … [and]  2. We simply can’t help pimping ourselves/our products/our services.”


Social media.  “It’s all about the conversation.”

This is something that’s been bugging me for years.

In addition to blogging regularly on several different sites, I also Tweet a fair amount for work.  It’s not something I relish–spending hours a day on social media is, for me, a fairly mundane chore–but it’s part of the job, and I give it my all.

Does it work?  Is it worth my valuable time to spend so much of my work day on Twitter?  Well, my following continues to increase, and I get a lot of re-Tweets, thank yous, and other positive feedback.  Yet most people (and by people, I mean marketing professionals) will look at what I’m doing and tell me that I just don’t “get” Twitter.  That I’m doing it wrong.  That Twitter is about “the conversation,” and that my Tweets are anything but.

What’s a content marketer to do?


Obviously there’s some kind of disconnect here between how the average content marketer thinks that people use social media, and how actual users of social media prefer to consume content.  At least based on my own personal experience.

So I decided to just go ahead and continue doing it the way I’ve been doing it.  For one simple reason: it seems to be working.

I’ve struggled with how to communicate why it works, but have been unsuccessful.  I couldn’t articulate my success…which, for a writer, was a problem…until yesterday.  In his current blog post, Kaushik’s second point, The Secret to Content Marketing Success, finally brought some clarity to my internal struggle.

So much of marketing is simple pimping.  For many people, in many industries, maybe that’s OK.  Besides, when everyone else is doing it, it’s hard for you to rise above–because if you’re not doing what all of the other “professionals” are doing, then you must be “doing it wrong.”

And if everyone else jumped off the bridge…

The truth is that most marketing is actually not very good.  It’s trite, shallow, and clever (as opposed to creative).  And despite most of what you see out there on social media, the mythical “conversation” that we are supposed to all be engaged in during this new age of social media and content marketing is in fact not just a combination of selling and small talk.

Kaushik again:

“Only post content that is 1. incredible 2. of value to the audience and 3. sans pimping.”

It’s a simple formula that has proven successful for him, and for other enlightened content marketers.  I think that every marketer should print out Kaushik’s simple graphic accompanying this point and past it on their wall.

The only part about this statement that makes me slightly uncomfortable is the word “incredible.”  Sure, incredible is awesome and it’s something we should all strive for.  But we can’t always produce something incredible, every day–and Kaushik talks about this in his post (which I assume you’ve already read, if you made it this far).  Maybe what I’m trying to say is that incredible things are not the only things that have value.  So if you can’t give your audience something incredible today, at least give them something they find interesting–and of course make sure it has some value and is not just “pimping.”


Of course, the other myth about “the conversation” is that it has to be personal.  I’m sorry, but our employers pay us to be a professional, to add value to our organizations, and in some small way to help make the world a better place.  If the only way you feel comfortable interacting with me is when I interspersing my professional Twitter updates with posts about what’s wrong with Syria and/or Mylie Cyrus and/or Obamacare, blurry sideways Instagram photos of every meal I eat, and links to funny videos of drunk middle-aged men trying to maintain their balance while twerking … well with all due respect you might just want to consider unfollowing me.  I’m cool with that.  No hard feelings.  There are plenty of other people out there on the Interwebs who can provide you with all of that rich content you’re looking for.  By 3 o’clock this afternoon.  With nail polish.

With Nail Polish


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