Several years ago I wrote an article declaring that content is dead and community is king. What's most interesting about the article is that it contains zero references to Facebook and Twitter, two of the largest online communities today.

While content certainly isn't dead, the passing years have really proven the value of community engagement. This is no more obvious than the invention of Google+, Google's latest attempt to get into the social community business.

I recently published an article about how you can win anything with engagement, which explores how search engines are now looking to community engagement as a metric in the algorithms. Essentially, what we are seeing is a merging of content and community into one, where social engagement is the content and the messenger all at the same time.

Both content and the message platform - which can include SEO and ads, as well as social media - are very important to the success of your online marketing efforts. But social media is more than just pushing content, it is actively creating content in small, digestible chunks. Or, as old people like to call it: communicating.

Being involved in a community online is just like being involved in a community or group offline. The only difference is, well, one is online and the other isn't. And, like any group you belong to, communication is the key to being a healthy member of that community. It's the sharing of thoughts and ideas and the ability to make connections with people through similar interests, histories, desires and plans.

Online communities are a way to build relationships with people you wouldn't otherwise be able to. And while you can use social media to push your content to the masses, that should not be the bulk of your community communications.

Imagine being a part of a group and each time there is one person there who only talks about what's important to them. They step up on their soapbox, declare their point of view and then sit down without ever really listening much to what anybody else had to say.

I belonged to a business networking group like this once. Everyone was there to promote themselves so nobody really cared about what everyone else was promoting. They wanted to get their spiel in and that was it. The group was a dud. If people only want to sell and never want to engage, nobody gets anything.

Building your online communities works the same way. You have to engage. You have to participate. And above all, you have to listen. There is nothing wrong with your content, but focus on becoming a part of the community so people actually care about your content.

If content is king, it can be a bully. It's all about itself. However, when you let community be king of your content, you can then focus on building community engagement, which encourages people to read your content. When community comes first, it uses content as a tool rather than a weapon. Tools fix things. Weapons, not so much.

Focus on community. Make it king over your content and use both content and community to build your social presence that people engage with. Engagement in social eventually leads to engagement in sales - without having to do much selling.

July 30, 2012

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Great read Stoney!

Trying to get past self promotion and into engaging with your online community can be a big stumbling block for a lot of businesses. Like you say, if businesses just want to sell and never want to engage, nobody gets anything and it can be a big waste of time. I like your idea of building an engaged community that is actually interested in reading your content as this can naturally lead to sales.

Thanks again!

Build your community right and they will take care of your content. Hovering over the whole facebook won't give you the result but if you engage in a specific topic related groups in FB, you will probably get benefited there.

It's all about putting your audience first. Just like you're supposed to right content for human eyes and not the search engines, you need to be involved with those human readers and not just preaching at them. A little back and forth goes a long way in building a strong community.

Agree with you to some extent. There is no doubt that a strong community provides multiple benefits but a fresh and useful content is equally important for the website to grab the attention of the users.

I think a SEO should look also at communities like facebook and twitter. Now a website can reach more traffic from social media than a search engine. I think you have to differentiate because if you get a penalization from big G, you don't lost all the traffic.

I have always been leery of depending to much upon search traffic. I mean its like putting your all your eggs into one basket and more and more we unable to trust the baskets. As with anything diversity is a plus.

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