When Content Is Not King
When Content Is Not King
When Content Is Not King

You’ve done your homework, listened to customers, provided thought leadership and created great content.  You’re offering relevant, valuable information to your audience.  Now, if content were king that would be enough. But it’s not.

Isn’t providing information that leads people to know, like and trust you the essence of marketing? What more is there?

For one thing, there’s conversion.  Conversion tells you if your content moves people to act.  Did all that content drive people’s behavior in some way?

Content that doesn’t move people to ultimately take some kind of action doesn’t count. 

The action may be three months or a year away, but your messages should result in people making a decision and acting on it.  Do they eventually buy, donate, sign up for a newsletter, join your community, or review your product?

So now you might think that I was going to say conversion is king. But no, conversion is only a result. Sales, subscriptions and downloads are a result.

What is the essence of the process? What is “king” is communication.

When great communication happens, people don’t feel they were convinced to do something—they are moved to do something.  They act on their own, from an energy that comes from them. You become a facilitator. 

One of the most memorable stories I heard as a child is the story of how the wind and the sun competed to try to get a man to take off his coat.  The wind went first. He blew and blew as hard as he could, but he couldn’t get the man’s coat off.  In fact, the harder he blew, the tighter that man wrapped the coat around him. Then it was the sun’s turn. The sun rose high in the sky and warmed up everything below. The man eagerly removed his coat.

I had a front row seat to great communication recently in New York City when I attended a presentation by Simon Sinek.  He spoke about how important it is for a business to have a purpose. Having a higher purpose inspires people to go above and beyond.  Being part of a mission that is bigger than selling a product motivates people to persist and overcome the inevitable challenges. Passion drives people to extraordinary heights.  That was the essence of Simon’s talk.

I’ve heard it before and you probably have too.

But Simon is a great communicator. His Ted talk was one of the most popular Ted talks of all time. When I heard him speak, he helped me understand, and even visualize his message by telling a series of stories that illustrated the point. And he spoke with such passion that I didn’t just get it, I felt it.  As I was listening, I felt my own mindset shifting, while at the same time part of me was aware of the fact that having heard these ideas before, the change in me was the result of communication.

Getting through to people is an art.

There is no formula and nothing you can get out of a bottle. Maybe, great communicators are born with talent that isn’t common.  But we owe it to ourselves to raise the bar on our own communication by observing and learning from the best and by studying the process.

One of the most valuable books I’ve ever read on the subject is Made to Stick and a close second is Switch, both by Chip and Dan Heath.  After reading those books, I realized that a great idea is meaningless unless I can convince others to get behind it. Very little is accomplished alone.

If you’d like to see a great communicator in action, watch this video of Richard Feynman explaining the physics of an electric field.  Anyone—even me, with no grounding in physics—can get what he’s talking about.  But what’s even more amazing is that in his hands this subject actually seems fascinating.  The joy and enthusiasm in his delivery make the subject entertaining.  His use of metaphor and simple language create a path we are happy to take with him as he makes complex concepts accessible.

Another great resource for people who want to learn to communicate better is Nancy Duarte. She helps take the status quo of deathly dull PowerPoint presentations—the ones that make you check your cell phone every three minutes—and turn them into engaging presentations.

Social media increases the speed at which we communicate much like cars and airplanes accelerated the speed at which we could travel.  But Twitter, Facebook, blogs and YouTube are about more than just speed. They also let us communicate around the world in real time, with the added benefit of feedback and participation.

I’m on a personal mission to improve my communications skills by trying to become a better writer and presenter. If I find myself about to use a buzzword like transparency, retention, or engagement without a way of bringing these words down to earth, I remember Richard Feynman. If he can explain the theory of light without buzzwords, then I can talk about social media without using them.  It’s possible to work on this every day because even if you are presenting an idea to one person, it’s wasted breath if you don’t get through. Multiply that wasted breath by the hundreds, thousands or millions of people your digital messages reach.  I don’t want to just have an idea; I want to have it resonate with others.

Because in social media communication is king.



*    If You Can Talk You Can Write   (Marketing Without A Net)
*   Steve Jobs And the Power of Storytelling  (Social Media Explorer)
Advice To Writers (Advice to Writers)

About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz
Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.
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  • Well, you made some very valid points. And it is true, for a quality
    content to receive its well-deserved traffic we have to market it by
    doing RSS feeds, Social Media, SEO, Article directories etc. Great
    content alone is not enough to get the traffic that we all so desire,
    our work doesn’t stop there. At least until we get a very healthy amount
    of loyal readers that will visit our content no matter what which we
    develop by marketing our articles

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  • Nice post, content that people share like and comment on is what you desire as a writer.
    It looks like your doing a good job.



  • Emily

    This is so true. Consumers like to be entertained, not lectured at, and they will seek out content that is valuable to them. Take Charlie Sheen for example. Providing entertaining, different, and not so logical content to the masses caused an eruption of followers on Twitter– people who wanted to see what would happen next. 

    We wrote an article on the ways that Charlie Sheen uses inbound marketing to his advantage. You can find it at http://www.grmwebsite.com/blog/bid/51285/What-Charlie-Sheen-Can-Teach-You-About-Inbound-Marketing Amazing how interesting content goes a long way! 

  • I agreed – it doesn’t matter how interesting the topic/product if it is delivered in an unexciting manner it will never take off.

  • Nicola

    This is really helpful thank you.

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  • Ilana, adored this article. As a presenter, I never get kicks out of people saying ‘that was genius’. Personally, for me the pleasure comes in someone saying, ‘Wow, for the first time, I ‘get’ it’…and I’m ready to do something about it’.

    Thanks so much for this,


    • Thank you Marcus. You clearly know what a good presentation is all about. 

  • Great post Illana. We put a lot of emphasis on creating engaging content, but forget the storytelling aspect. I love your mention of Nancy Duarte, a masterful storyteller and author of one of my favorite books about storytelling, “Resonate.” 

    It’s not enough to provide content, but to move your audience’s hearts and minds (and often, wallets) towards your goals, whether that be to buy a product, join a cause, or change the way they do something. 

    I think you could substitute “storytelling” for “communication” in this piece and it says the same thing – when the audience can see themselves in your story, the need to persuade disappears. Provide them with great content, of course, but help them see their role in your story and empower them to act.

    • Jon, thanks for your comment.  Good thought about storytelling. I agree that it is key to effective communication. I am trying to think of a form of communication that can’t be considered storytelling–and I can’t!

  • Ilana, this is so right. I won’t go against “content is King” but without communication or social media reach, a content will fail, no matter how super it is. So it all boils down to proper communication. Correct way of communicating also plays wonders with marketing and sales.

  • Great post. You are right. Social Media is not a platform to deliver sales pitch. It’s not about talking about yourself. Listening to the audience to find out their needs and then responding to them to fulfill those can result in a healthy relationship in between the business and its customers. And Social Media is the right place to practice that.


  • Love this post Ilana! The wind and sun story is perfect, and all too often, marketing is like the wind. When people decide for themselves, they defend the decision they made. 

    When we tell them what to do, at every twist they have to turn back to us for more answers. They never adopted what you told them as their own belief. 

    Thank you for sharing!

    — @wittlake 

    • thanks Eric.  I don’t remember that much from when I was a little kid but that story really stuck.

  • Madison Bushell

    What a great article! It clicked with me, and I think your writing does what you want it to do. I was “engaged” (for lack of a better word) in it the entire time. Loved all of the links, especially the Feynman link. You were right- I couldn’t stop listening/take my eyes off the screen. Thanks!

  • Nice! This post should’ve been part of my #WordCarnival (aka Blog Carnival)…our theme this month is “How to Engage with Your Prospects Online.” And communication is totally the key! Would love to have you join us tomorrow for the Twitter Chat on this subject. Details: http://thewordchef.com/blog-carnivals

    • Tea, I wish I could join you. I’m up in the mountains with limited access to a computer but if you do it again, I’d love to.

  • I say this all the time..”If they don;t trust you..Then they won’t buy from you. Most of it has to do with more then content.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”


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