Say Something Valuable – Or Don't Say Anything At All

Jennifer Schulze

My mom always said “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In our world of digital marketing, I want to update this old phrase. Instead of nice (even though we still should be), I challenge you to share words that provide value instead. It seems simple, yet I am amazed how few do it. I have a colleague who is the master of social. He spends all day retweeting, reposting, and pushing out content others have written. He has thousands of followers who follow him on topics ranging from what he ate for dinner to how to drive digital strategy.

So what’s the problem you ask? It’s the fact that, basically, he’s an information pusher, not a creator. With the exception of fluffy topics like his favorite movies or hobbies, I can’t for the life of me figure out what he truly knows about the topic of marketing or technology. As a fellow teammate noted, he’s basically “content free.”

Digital is the wave of the future, and your personal brand is key. You’ll get no argument from me here. But is the future of the marketing communications role simply to be a content pusher? The challenge I see here is that if this is the case, we become delivery vehicles who lack skills or knowledge. We are like megaphones – what we have said may be louder, but it’s not necessarily relevant or worth listening to. The result is your brand becomes scattered and your voice schizophrenic. For roles like this, it’s about simply being seen and gaining followers, not the substance of what’s said.

As a former product marketer, I have to say, this puzzles me. While I always say, “hire attitude not ability,” there has to be some ability to have a meaningful conversation about the topic to add true value to the conversation. Good content provides value, tells a story, relates to the reader, and creates a lasting impression. But doing this requires producing content about the problem (not the product) and with information that comes from experience walking in the shoes of the reader. How can anyone do this without any insight into reader pain, or more importantly, how to guide them with actions to alleviate it? Let’s be clear here: I’m not advocating branding your content so you promote it. One trend that seems to be building steam is content that has so little branding, so little selling, that it may be difficult to tell who is behind it at all. However, if you are the person just pushing content out, what value can you bring to minimize readers’ pain?

The answer to success lies in finding the balance between “always present” and “I know what I’m talking about” to create your truly valuable brand and voice. This means don’t just retweet. When you do, add your opinion to make the conversation more thought-provoking. Be choosy about what you create and share. Make it content that truly brings benefit to the reader. With over 2 million blogs written daily, make sure the content you create is compelling and contributes in new ways. Stop being just the delivery vehicle; research what you write about and write with passion. Your readers will thank you – and you’ll stop wasting their time. (Oh yeah, and apologies if this wasn’t nice to say.)

For deeper insight on connecting with your followers, see How to Build Customer Loyalty Through Digital Emotional Affinity.

About Jennifer Schulze

Jennifer Schulze is Vice President of marketing for SAP. In her role, she manages customer marketing as part of the office of the COO. She has over 15 years of technology marketing and management experience and is a small business owner in the San Francisco Bay area.