Content matters most in social interaction

Updated on: Mar 23, 2011
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Do people read blogs and interact on social networking platforms simply for the information there? No, says Tom Asacker in A Little Less Conversation: Connecting with Customers in a Noisy World (

Give people social value

These activities, as the author adds, give people social value, something to talk about, a way to signal social status, a way to garner attention and recognition, and to enhance their reputations. “It provides them with the means to interact with each other, and feel accepted and good about themselves.”

To those who then wonder how to go about weaving social value into brands, in the online world, the author reminds that it is not really that much different from doing that in the offline world. Give people something fun, funny, or interesting to share with their family and friends, he advises. “It could be valuable news, images, stories, or ideas. Remember, content will always matter most when it comes to social interaction.”

Brand as the enabler

Drawing an analogy with ‘the terrestrial world', where if you're bored with your relationships you will eventually move on to something new, Asacker observes that the bottom line is that we want our friends to be interested in us, and we also want them to be interesting; ditto with the businesses we associate with and the places we frequent.

His counsel, therefore, is to make sure to provide customers with rich, stimulating environments – ones where they're comfortable and can easily connect and interact with like-minded people and draw the attention of people they're interested in.

Our own stories

It may upset many to read about the folly of the commonly accepted view that brands tell us their stories with various products, pricing, people, online presence, facilities, and communications. Calling that a ‘misguided view,' the author explains that in reality we use our interaction with brands – their sceneries, props, set decorations, scripts, and actors – to construct our own stories, ones that we want to tell about ourselves. “And since we define ourselves both according to what we identify with and what we reject, and given the abundance of marketplace choice, we now choose interactions which we feel will produce the best story possible. And we reject the others.”

An apt anecdote narrated in the book is from the 1950s, about David Ogilvy, the advertising icon, who used to stroll through New York City's Central Park on his way to his office. “One beautiful April morning, he witnessed a man begging beside a sign that read, ‘I am blind.' By evidence of the man's near empty cup, he was not doing very well.”

It is spring…

What did Ogilvy do? He took a marker from his briefcase and changed the sign to read, ‘It is spring and I am blind.' After the change, money poured in! While it may be simplistic to infer that Ogilvy changed the message to make it more persuasive, the subtler and the more powerful message, as Asacker decodes, is that Ogilvy changed the prop and made it different, desirable, real, and interesting, and by doing so, he influenced the scene and the story creation of every passer-by.

“By strategically adding those three simple words – ‘It is spring' – he brought life to the scene, encouraged empathy in the actors, and helped them create a story about themselves: a story that made them feel good about themselves and their actions.”

Recommended addition to the professional marketer's shelf.

Published on March 23, 2011

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