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When Content is King, Engagement is a strong-willed Queen in the Kingdom of Brands.

June 28, 2011

My book review of: “Clout the Art and Science of Influential Web Content, written by Colleen Jones”

It’s one of the oldest clichés in the “Online” world. Content is King. The reason why this rule is such a cliché, is because it is true.  I am reading Clout the Art and Science of Influential Web Content by Colleen Jones and I love it. I’m schooled in media management so the rule is instilled in me. But now, in these Social Media fueled (or hyped) times there is a new rule or should I say ruler in the “Kingdom of Brands”.

If Content can be named King than Engagement can be named the Queen. And when I talk about a Queen, than I do not mean a young, timid jay-sayer, but a strong-willed ruler who has the care of the people at heart, and who makes sure the vision and written rules of the King are distributed. To make sure the public, also lovingly called “The Consumers”, gets what it deserves. It’s true, King Content still is the head of the Kingdom, but it needs his Queen to rule its people. The Queen on the other hand needs the King to become relevant and engaging. But she has the King’s ear, and knows how to steer his visions and speeches towards the right crowd. She makes sure “the Consumers” are heard.

The book Clout talks about content extensively. Miss Jones has come up with rules which all Brands in the Kingdom of Brands should follow. The greatest compliment, I think, I can give to Colleen Jones is that she created a well researched book that is founded in grounded and academically tested theories. Studies about online content are sparingly available and certainly research written on an academic level. She borrows research from Communications, Economics, Psychology and Cultural Anthropology  to support her theories on content, influence, and on content development and analysis. But the most interesting connection between the researches are made by herself and her own experience with online content.

Miss Jones goes back to the foundation of Social Networks and writes about the 3 principles of Social Networks, named Reciprocity Exchange and Similarity. These principles where first named by M. Kilduff and W. Tsai, in 2004 in their book Social networks and organizations”. Especially reciprocity, the third of the three principles is well documented in Clout. In chapter 5, paragraph 4 she mentions: “It often involves feeling indebted or obligated to repay a favor. If your neighbor brings you a pie, you likely will feel the need to do something kind for that neighbor in the future”.  She continues to quote Robert Cialdiniwho has written a book called “Influence: the Psychology of persuasion”. She writes: “Reciprocity is core to business, too (…) after accepting a gift, customers are willing to buy products and services they would have otherwise declined”.

This provides us with two fundamentally important conclusions:

Paying it forward with Random Acts of Kindness, a very interesting marketing Tool or “trick”, which could have a mayor influence on the buying behavior of your customer. There are a lot of companies who seem to understand this principle and who are willing to pay it forward.  With no immediate effect on the bottom-line and no assurance on a return on investment. Two very nice examples are from Coca-Cola and the Dutch Airline KLM. It works and is an important tool that could be used by a lot of different companies.

Delivering on the Brand Promise: Colleen Jones warned us that brands should come through for their brand promise. Paying it forward is fine, asking for reciprocity is something else. If a brand promises a customer something, the brand should deliver on that promise. If not, think about what happened with United Airlines, and the “United Breaks Guitars YouTube clip“. If you do not deliver, consumers will feel taken advantage of. As Jones writes: “Research suggests that when people experience a snub, they’ll retaliate with a more intense rebuke (…) (and so) Negative reciprocity, or taking, escalates”.

Influence:

The overall theme in Clout  is Influence. Miss Jones provides us with easy to understand and work with Influence. Miss Jones beliefs that Influence is provided by web-content. She provides us with the following statement: Content Strategy and Quality of content provides us with Influence. The quality of content is strongly connected with the 3 principles of rhetorics.

1.  Ethos = Credibility and Trust

2. Logos =  Logics

3. Pathos = Emotion.

This connection is most visible in our (the consumers) love for stories.

I believe that we love products with stories and histories behind it. We love symbolism, we like to use it to spice-up our language (see, King Content and Engagement the Queen ;-). We like it if  a product that we use is somehow emotionally connected with ourselves. This can be on a very direct level, like a product that brings back a happy or nostalgic memory like a specific smell or sound. But it can also be on a more metaphysical level if we recognize certain parts in a product, or product story that is in somehow relevant to our own story and persona. Therefore I believe that it is fundamental to create a good brand story if we would like customers to feel an instant or gradually builded connection with a product. There should be relevance in every expression presented by a company or brand. It should resonate with the target group in a way no other product could do. Even Facebook recognizes the importance of stories nowadays.

In the Financial Times of 22nd of June there was a great article, by Tim Bradshaw, about the presentation of Facebook at the Cannes Lions Festival. Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions talked about the obsession of brands when it comes to getting fans by ads: “Facebook is one of the most incredible platforms for creativity out there – I don’t want you to think about it as just a display ad,” she told the Don Drapers in the audience. Facebook won’t do homepage takeovers (in spite of being asked repeatedly to do so) but it is a medium for “telling stories”, she said”.

As I recommend everyone to read and learn from the Book here discussed I want to leave you with a good quote from Colleen Jones about Rhetoric. “Rhetoric is not a dark art and should no longer be a lost art Ancient rhetoric offer creative guidance to turn your modern web content into a source of clout – and consequently get results”.

please leave me your comments and tell me what you think of this blog.

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2 Comments
  1. A wonderful review of Clout! Thanks for sharing how you apply the “ruling” principles in the “kingdom of brands!”

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