It’s Not All About Content

If content is king, than context is god. – Gary Vaynerchuk

gary vaynerchuk marketing keynoteTurns out, Bill Gates was wrong. Back in 2006, the Microsoft founder famously said that content was king. He’s not too far from the truth, but it turns out that context matters even more and that fact isn’t going anywhere fast. Our team’s favorite keynote speech at Hubspot’s Inbound 12 conference August 27-29 in Boston was by wine marketing master Gary Vaynerchuk.

The speech was brainy, profane and left us wondering if too many marketers have been worshiping at the wrong altar all along. If context trumps content, how do you make sure you’re getting it right? What is context, anyway? Put on your seatbelts, because Gary Vee’s about to change your content strategy.

Defining Context

The technical definition of context is the circumstances and facts that surround a situation. When it comes to content, context is the way you’re publishing, distributing and promoting your content. If you’re trying to connect in the wrong context, it doesn’t matter how good or bad your content is. It’s not going to be read, shared or discussed. The circumstances that surround your marketing strategy is that your future clients are smart, and they’re using NetFlix to avoid television commercials. Even the world’s best content is not an island, and the real key to quality, relevance and profit is making sure your context is right.

Picking Your Forums

We’ve established that no matter how brilliant your thoughts are, if you’re not publishing them in the right forums, it’s not going to matter. Twitter erupted when Vaynerchuk stated accurately that marketers ruin everything. We take over the platforms that people use and we monetize. It’s a fact that no one really wants to hear what we have to say, and people are always trying to discover new places and ways to connect without commercial overtones. The key to success is two-fold: you need to discover where people are connecting and you need to learn the context of that particular platform.

Get Your Tone Right

Context is also tone. Below is a real-life example from my Twitter feed of someone who’s getting the context 100% wrong:

atone is a part of context

After I blurred their username, handle and site link in the image, you know what I did? I blocked them because their tone was all wrong. This example is a little extreme because they’re shilling a product that clearly violates the Twitter user terms, but the point is they’ve completely missing the point of context. It’s apparent they’re not sincere, but just chasing a sale. Even if your hard-sell is brilliant, Twitter just isn’t the right forum. Here’s a better example of getting tone right in the context of social media:

Whole Foods gets context right

Whole Foods isn’t pushing products, they’re sharing high-value content and knowledge. For the record, after I snapped the screenshot, I favorited the Tweet. Whole Foods is using social media to expand their company’s brand of healthy, delicious food, using a shortened link and hashtags. In this context, their tone and approach is spot-on.

Some Things are Static

In the world of social media and technology, things change fast. The companies that excel aren’t just the ones who master how to use Twitter without being pushy, they’re the ones who build a brand that’s bigger than the here and now. In the words of Vaynerchuk, “acting more like the Flintstones is going to win.” While major social media networks continue to rise and the attention of consumers is increasingly divided, the concept of effort is becoming more and more valuable. If your company can provide effort to your customers, they’re going to win.

Virgin Atlantic is a company known for their effort. It’s a huge part of their entire business model, which is why they’re often referenced as an example of big brands built around delivering small-town customer service. They even have an entire Twitter account dedicated towards effort and service.

Virgin Atlantic makes effort

Customers can Tweet @VAAInfo, and receive a response with an update on their flight status. It’s not necessary and it doesn’t directly contribute to their bottom line, but it’s a really neat way they provide effort in exactly the right context.

Umpqua bank does effort wellUmpqua Bank is a much-smaller company that also excels, and their 600 square feet of pure effort is pictured above. This Portland-based credit union has gained a lot of attention for their community-based approach to banking, which includes free coffee, Wi-Fi, computer work stations and hundreds of square feet dedicated to letting people do things that aren’t financial transactions. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a really fantastic action of effort in action. Umpqua’s focus on community is a brand that could outlast Twitter, and it’s key component of why they’ve been named the most-admired financial services company in Oregon, and why they’ve more-recently opened new branches of their “neighborhood store” in Seattle.

So it turns out, that worshiping content wasn’t the right approach all along. Content is king, context is god and the value of effort is not going anywhere for a really long time. You can’t underestimate the value of data-driven marketing, but your data is going to look much better if you’ve started the game with an approach built around context and effort. Don’t be the marketer who ruins everything for the rest of us. Learn where people are connecting, get the tone of the forum and never stop working to retain your clients.


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