Social Media Is About Content, Not Platforms

You've joined the conversation. Now what?

It's time to start fueling it.

We got a unique glimpse into fueling conversation yesterday when Groupon launched its first-ever nationwide deal to the Gap and created a buying frenzy by offering a $50 gift card for $25. At the peak of the day, the site was selling 10 Groupons per second and having trouble keeping up with the traffic.

Last month, it was the Old Spice Guy. The highly interactive YouTube video campaign drew audiences in not only because the content was clever, but also because we were all in awe that it was being published in near-real time without sacrificing quality.

On the surface, these two examples look nothing alike. One was purely branding, while the other was purely promotional. Old Spice was delivered through video on YouTube. Groupon was delivered through email. But dig deeper and we see that while neither was initiated through Facebook or Twitter, these channels played a critical role in both cases.



Old Spice drove awareness through Facebook and Twitter as the Old Spice Guy responded directly to what consumers (and a few celebrities) were posting and Tweeting about him.

Groupon's emails are sent to customers based on the time zone they live in so that subscribers will get them all early in the morning, but not too early. Evidence of the social media effect on the campaign was clear when consumers on the West Coast started posting questions online asking why they hadn't received their email yet. They couldn't wait after seeing the deal being shared by people on the East Coast.

These examples show us something critical for the modern marketer: social media is about content, not platforms.

Facebook has made it easy for consumers to stop brand messages from hitting their walls by allowing users to "remove" it (BTW, I believe this is a good thing). Twitter can be chaotic and consumers may miss your "perfect tweet." Delivering content and messages to your consumers through these channels is only going to get more difficult as Gen Y ages. But great content draws consumers in. They will re-distribute, remix, and engage with it through social networks as they see fit.

Consumers drive your success in social media. Brands direct their destiny through content.

The Content Challenge

Marketing seems to go in cycles, where we bounce back and forth between which is more important. Left-brain marketing focused on analytics, segmentation, etc? Or right-brain marketing, focused on creative?

They're both needed. Creative pulls people into your message. Creative gets people talking. But the same creative doesn't appeal to everyone.

For example, we recently released the Social Profile Interactive Tool, which provides information on how consumers' personal interests and motivations drive which channels they use, what types of content they create, and which types of content they consume.

Among Gen Y consumers, we identified two groups with that use Facebook and Twitter about the same amount. "Enthusiasts" go online in search of information that supports their offline hobbies and interests such as food, sports, travel, music, etc. "Deal Seekers" go online in search of freebies, discounts, and coupons.

Each uses Facebook and Twitter about the same amount, but their social media activities beyond these networks differ. Deal Seekers are more likely to spend time in coupon forums and telling others about the great deals they have found. Enthusiasts are more likely to be reading and writing blogs or watching online video about their favorite topic. Deal Seekers drove Groupon's success, while Enthusiasts fueled the Old Spice Guy's rise to fame.

The challenge facing us hit home the other day, talking about a client struggling to generate relevant creative across its client base. They know the key criterion for segmentation, they have the tools in place to deliver creative to these segments, they just can't figure out how to get relevant content produced on a regular basis without driving production costs through the roof.

Consumers know that brands can develop interesting content suited to their personal interests if they make the investment. Gen Y consumers expect this more than others before them. Both Groupon and the Old Spice Guy serve as examples of what it takes to make relevant content creation possible.

Setting the Gap promotion aside, Groupon's daily success is based on delivering highly tailored offers to markets across the country. It has a huge editorial staff dedicated to making this happen. It also took a large team to pull off the Old Spice Guy campaign.

Regardless of what social media tools consumers are using, our real job is to give them something worth talking about, which leads me to believe we'll all have plenty of work to do for years to come.

12 comments about "Social Media Is About Content, Not Platforms ".
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  1. Gordon Plutsky from 21 Advisors, August 20, 2010 at 11:31 a.m.

    Great article - could not agree more. Compelling original content is both a traffic driver and a conversation starter with customers. We recently completed a piece of research among marketers and they clearly felt that content, not platform nor technology was the key to social media success.

    The study is avaliable for free download if interested:

  2. Pamela Tournier from Focus: Productivity, Inc., August 20, 2010 at 12:40 p.m.

    Terrific post, exactly on target! :]
    LOVE the imaginative and involving interactive way you've serve up the segmentation research.

  3. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, August 20, 2010 at 2:58 p.m.

    Nice article. To add my two cents, Social Media has greatly changed the face of online advertising. How? Many companies who use to advertise online now are going to PR agencies to place offers at Social Media sites. There is not a day that goes by that I don't see at least 2 PR agency emails ask me to post for free their sweepstakes or contest. I tell them I don't work for free. However they keep sending. With one of the biggest PR agencies this practice got so bad that I told them the next email they sent me I would start a boycott against their sponsor. They stopped and I wasn't bluffing either.

  4. Kenneth Rohman from archer>malmo, August 20, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.

    Well done! Great to see the age old tenets of right message/offer, right medium, right time hold up over the years. As a digital professional, I (and my ilk) sometimes get caught up in the latest and greatest widget. Nice to be reminded that content (as always) is king!

  5. Howard Brodwin from Sports and Social Change, August 20, 2010 at 5:54 p.m.

    A brilliant and well thought-out piece - 100% on point.

    I know the phrase "content is king" gets bashed a lot these days, but still rings true. The active social media user base reacts to good content - promotions, entertainment, news, controversy - and shares it. There's no magic spell here.

    Saving $25 on clothes is valuable content. The Old Spice guy is entertaining content. Two weeks from now, there will be something else that "goes viral" because it's good content.

  6. Eric Broyles from megree, Inc., August 20, 2010 at 6 p.m.

    Right on point. Engaging content is critical to being relevant in the conversation.

  7. Jamie Dunham from Jamie Dunham | Brand Solutions, August 20, 2010 at 6:31 p.m.

    This is a wonderful explanation of why some campaigns work and others don't. You have to really know you audience. The importance of understanding a deal seeker versus an enthusiast is really critical. Both of these products were also high involvement products that reflect on the self-expression of the target.

  8. Morgan Stewart from Trendline Interactive, August 20, 2010 at 9:10 p.m.

    Thanks all for the positive feedback.

    @Craig - ouch, that is painful. Obviously, some people don't get that people only do things for 2 reasons: 1) personal relationships and 2) personal interests.

    @Pamela - Glad you like to tool. I do data, not crazy cool flash tools. That was Optiem ( and they rock.

    @Howard - couldn't agree more. Another is already in the works somewhere, only question is who's gonna be the next rock star?

    @Jamie - I didn't go down the "self-expression" route in this article, but definitely something that is top of mind these days. SELF-PROMOTIONAL TEASER ALERT: sign up for the Subscribers, Fans, Followers research series at to get the reports as they are released - Facebook X Factors comes out next Wednesday and "self-expression" is one of the keys we heard consumers talk about for why they FAN/LIKE brands on Facebook.

  9. Amy Moore from AmysWinningWays, August 21, 2010 at 4:11 p.m.

    This really is a great article. However, creating great content doesn't have to be a budget killer. It's just a matter of knowing where to look. Content comes in many different forms. And, as far as social media goes, sometimes all it takes is a conversation starter. Basically, SAY SOMETHING! It's amazing how many people completely today still miss the point of the term "social" media.

  10. Bill Flitter from, August 23, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

    Left-brain marketing focused on analytics, segmentation. Right-brain marketing, focused on creative. Content comes from the heart. Creating content that adds value is what is important - adding value to each communication if you expect a connection and a response from your audience.

    -Bill Flitter

  11. Annie Heckenberger from Digitas Health, August 23, 2010 at 2:58 p.m.

    "Creative pulls people into your message." Exactly.

  12. Brian Gillard from Disperse Interactive, September 8, 2010 at 1:15 p.m.

    Love the fact that you touched on the notion that digital contet has to appeal to consumers' left and right brains. I feel that some marketers only try to appeal to the left-brain because they feel that the web is still a numbers game and want their messages to generate ROI and want to know where to attribute an increase or decrease in sales. Thinking this way usually causes messages that are very logical or feature/benefit-heavy and lack emotion.


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