Baer Facts, Content Marketing

Don’t Ignore Content in Favor of Engagement

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In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about whether you should be spending more time on content creation, or on engagement via social media. Evidently, Kyle heard a statement at an event recently that brands should be spending 90% of their time on engaging with customers, and 10% of their time on content creation. The example used was Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV, the long-running video blog that made him a business star. 

Content is the Enabling Agent for Engagement

I have a few reactions to this notion of 90/10 time spent on engagement, but my summation is that it’s both wrong, and dangerously poor advice.

First, while I like Gary and very much respect his abilities, he is the exception that proves the rule. Indeed, Gary devoted a majority of his time to answering emails, tweets, and forum posts, and used that 1:1 engagement to connect and build a following. Just because he did it, doesn’t mean you could or should do it. Gary has an insane work ethic and drive, routinely clocking 120 hour weeks when Wine Library TV was in full roar (and before he started a family). Is that what you want? Also, with the exception of a couple of part-time assistants, Gary created the content and handled 100% of the engagement himself. There was no “team”. Is that what you want? Is that even viable for your company? And lastly, to suggest that by answering emails round-the-clock like a post-modern John Henry (the folk hero, not the Red Sox owner) Gary was able to create his success, is a massive confusion of correlation and causation, and a slap in the face to the man’s innate talent to boot.

Second, Gary was able to engage BECAUSE of his content, not in spite of it. The more content you create – and the more time you spend building and polishing it – the more engagement opportunities you create for yourself, and for your brand. I’m no Gary Vaynerchuk, but why do you think I publish five blog posts a week at C&C, plus create a weekly Baer Facts video, plus send out a daily email newsletter, plus record a weekly Social Pros podcast, plus write books, publish ebooks, and give speeches all around the world? It’s because EVERY one of those pieces of content creates interactions between me and people who consume my work. I probably spend 70% of my non-consulting time on content creation, and 30% on engagement because without the former, the latter would shrivel up like the Jets’ quarterback situation.

Third, by focusing so much on engagement and comparatively little on content, you rob your organization of top-of-the-funnel attention. You know who engages with you? People who already know you. Content is useful not only to convince and convert people whom have already been introduced to your brand, but is also informational chum that brings new potential customers to your front door. Spending 90% of your time on engagement will diminish your Youtility, undercut your inbound marketing considerably, and ensures that you’ll spin your wheels having Twitter and email conversations with the same group of customers and fans ad infinitum.

I’m a big proponent of answering just about every question asked of a brand in social media, but if being responsive in that way is taking up 90% of your time, you need to rework your effort allocation.

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Thanks for your insights, Jay! This is a question we’ve been trying to answer for a while: content or engagement? We’ve always chosen content, maybe in an 80%-20%. The problem comes when people who are more “socially relevant” than you in social networks seem to have better results in business. I think good content lets you get long-term results, while engagement brings you short-term business perception.

  2. Graciousstore says

    I’m not sure if there should be an exact mathematical proportion for time brands spend in the different marketing strategies. What is important is that brands create awareness of their existence through as many channels as possible, in social networks, forums and content creation. It is up to brands to determine which of these channels are more likely to generate leads for them and then spend more time on it

  3. says

    reserved contention- I’ve spoken a number of times about how the “content is king” mantra ignores a number of social truths. content remains, relationships sustain. Relationships are what draw people to content, just as much as content drawing people to form a relationship. However, when content brings them in, the relationship is shaky. There’s little loyalty unless the content remains relevant specifically to them. If you start with a relationship, people feel vested, they feel insider, they are more likely to stick through content that may not always be hyper relevant. Its the difference between reading a friend’s blog vs a vertical blog.

    In the examples above, the relationships that Gary built had a better foundation and traveled with his brand and could carry to whatever Gary did next. A great example of this is Scott Monty, at Ford. His content is about Ford, but the relationship is to a degree, with him and will travel with him. Sure, its less work to just put it out there and hope its so good people always want to listen, but that is not the nature of people. If it was, customer relations departments would not exist.

    I guess my issue with this post is that it seems to suggest that there should be an imbalance in favor of content, when I’d argue this is a chicken and egg situation, and equal attention should be paid to both.

  4. says

    It’s really easy to look to the success of people like Gary, or brands like Amazon and believe that following their formula or approach will result in the same. But it’s just as easy to forget where they came from and how they got to where they are today. Gary was a true hustler. He hustled day and night to produce, deliver & engage.

    The most important point in this post is that the content gives people a way to know who you are and what you stand for, and that sparks engagement. The math is different for every brand .

  5. says

    Interesting article. I don’t know if there is a universal equation or formula that can be used to split up time between content and engagement. I believe that will vary from company to company. And I do agree that a lot of engagement comes “because of content, not in spite of it.” Thanks for sharing!

  6. says

    Jay, if you’re 70-30 (content creation to social engagement) I’ll understand if you don’t reply to me (while you’re banging out a piece of epic copy!). But just wanted to agree with the priority of content. What in the world would the followers engage about, if it wasn’t the story, the message, the CONTENT!? Social engagement without content is like a traffic cop standing at an abandoned intersection!

    • says

      That’s how I see it. Content creates engagement opportunities. There are some industries, however, where engagement reigns. Restaurant for example.

  7. says

    Jay, I think either of two extremes are wasteful. Engagement is content in itself and an online network is comprised of that ‘social interaction’. Of course, typical content plays as a instigator of that conversation but quite honestly, I would like to have brands focus on providing ‘actual value’ through content and engagement. Content alone will never achieve the results. It needs to be ‘found’.

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