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In 2011 do they want content or relationships in social media?

relationship pic for social media content/relationship blogA theme I’ve spotted in a lot of social media presentations recently is that there’s a claim being made that the ever-mythical they - that group out there that marketeers, PRs, politicians and everyone else wants to reach – want relationships. Just as we’re no longer about print or TV content/ads (nonsense) or just providing PR (nonsense), it’s now about the relationship. Content was 2010, 2011 is relationships.

To which I say, if that’s the case someone’s divorced from reality.
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Relationships are lovely, they can be a source of a lot of joy, they can be a lot of fun. In the marketing and comms world, the best tenets of marketing are based on relationships – the longer someone spends with your brand(s), the higher the chance they will feel a connection with it, the more likely they are to spend. It’s an empathy and interest thing. Basic psychology and totally understandable.

And it’s been hijacked to an extent by the social media world. Now it’s not a bad thing, but here’s the two flaws:

You don’t always want a relationship

If we stretch the analogue, consider that sometimes you want a one-night stand, sometimes you want a marriage. You don’t want the same thing from every relationship. I’ve been doing a lot of studies and surveys over the last few months and there’s a large amount of people out there who don’t want a big full-blown relationship, they just want a decent product thank you very much. If there’s a problem, then the brand can step in and sort it out. But then they want it to leave again. It’s a one-off invite.

Does this mean social media is useless in these cases? Anything but. You sort out the complaint well and that’s a person you’ve at least kept thinking positively about your brand instead of letting them turn negative.

Relationships are two way

A relationship isn’t just being nice to someone until they buy from you. It’s about being far more than that, but it’s a two-way process and in an age where the customer has all the power and is deemed ‘always right’ (another fallacy BTW but that’s a blog for another day) that can’t happen.

Again, does that mean it’s a waste of time? No. But go into it with your eyes open.

Which brings us to content

Power of Content

Good content can be engaging and enjoyable without the conversation. It can have a lot more longevity in it that a conversation and – in an age when the majority of digital users define themselves as consumers instead of creators – it reaches more people as it doesn’t require any (or much) input from the other party.

Good content can also be reused time and time again. You wouldn’t do that with your conversation (not online anyway. The chat-up lines you use on a Saturday night are your own affair).

So who wins?

There is no winner, there is no loser. As with all things involving a true digital social media strategy you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You allocate time to the conversation (which is, in iteself content) – and the platforms best suited to it – and you allocate time to good content.

This is 2011 after all. You don’t just go onto one digital platform or newspaper do you? You plan across everything and have material to suit.
Feel free to discuss the article in the comments section below or drop Craig McGill an email at

  1. Jason Wassell


    Can I just disagree with you? It is Monday lunchtime and I just feel its good fun. You said that there were two flaws – you don’t always want a relationship and relationships are two-way.

    You don’t always want a relationship. But surely that is all about the definition of a relationship.

    In terms of PR you always want a relationship with the people that have an impact on your success or failure. You suggest that sometimes that is a one-night stand and sometimes that is a marriage. But I would say they are both relationships. So even if they buy the product and you never see them again (or are involved in that one-night stand), you still have a relationship because they take with them their experience of the product and a relationship to you (oops the analogy is getting tricky).

    Even if the connection is short lived. They can take away a wonderful lasting perception, or you can shamefully avoid each other and never seek to be reminded of the experience. But you still have an ongoing relationship of one type or another…

    • Dammit, I’m going to have to agree with you here aren’t I? Yes, both are relationships of differing time lengths and it’s still a connection, but I think if you say the word ‘relationship’ to most people they think of something long-term and not a one-off.

      But the point is perfectly valid: are engagements are relationships of various lengths. Now go back to your lunchtime soup :-)

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