Why Your Message Is the Medium

By Mike Elgan Print this article Print
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Forget trying to go viral, obsessing over platforms, gaming SEO and narrowly targeting audience. Just write valuable content and the right people will find you.

Far too many business communications start with what "we" (the company) need. We need to make our numbers. We need to sell products. We need to drive traffic.

Starting with "we" is a bad place to start.

It's vital to get inside the heads of the audience, the public. And there's no better way to do that than to join communities, to spend a lot of time interacting online and in real life with the people you're trying to serve.

This is not about networking. It’s about actually connecting with the community in a genuine way with authentic, useful and relevant information. You should understand the misconceptions, the gaps in knowledge, the frustrations, the goals and aspirations, and the mindset of your intended audience. Make their problems your own, and then leverage your position and professional experience to give them what they need.

One great example is the Twitter account of T-Mobile CEO John Legere. He's extremely active on Twitter, paying attention to what the community and the press are saying, and responding to it. And he isn't just responding. He's also raising issues and setting the agenda himself.

Legere's in-your-face style isn't everybody's favorite. But it's his style. And it didn't come from nowhere. It came from getting out there and being public with content.

Another example is Robert Scoble on Facebook. Scoble is an extreme and rare example, because his full-time job is to create, and he's paid by Rackspace to do it. (That's a great strategy on Rackspace's part, by the way).

What Legere and Scoble have in common is the breadth of their content. They talk about their experiences. They praise innovation and entrepreneurship. They're cheerleaders for a wide range of people and companies and activities.

They share other people's content. They disagree and debate. They share their world and worldview. And, oh, every once in a while, they make a pitch for their product.

As a result of doing all this prolifically and sustaining it over years, both men have become extremely influential. They've made their companies more famous. And they've grown professionally.

Sure, their posts go viral once in a while, but they weren't necessarily trying to do that or making it their objective. And it doesn't matter where they are posting. Legere is on Twitter, and Scoble is on Facebook.

They don't worry about SEO or audience targeting. They passionately and consistently put it all out there and let the audience target them!

The moral of the story is: Stop trying to go viral. Don't fret about platform. Forget about SEO. And let go of any impulse to try to tightly target your intended audience.

The most important thing by far is what you say and how good you become at saying it.

Your message is the medium. Make great content and let the rest take care of itself.

This article was originally published on 2015-09-01

Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. http://elgan.com/

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