Sometimes, the Best Content is Given Away

Content is king. Or maybe it’s queen. It might even be the court jester. Nevertheless, “content” is on the lips and minds of a lot of marketers these days. Especially when the topic turns to engaging people on social media channels and hoping that they’ll stick around. There are A LOT of opinions and theories about what good content is and what it isn’t. How much is too much and how much is not enough. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Look, content is important. And while I could argue my own opinion (which has mostly to do with context, not content), there’s something that I’ve learned and has proven to be effective about content: It works best when you give it away.

Late last year I led a team that launched a program for an automotive client (disclosure: I’m not with that firm any more and that company is not a client of WCG). It was the beginnings of an ambassador program and extremely grassroots in nature. There was the usual blocking and tackling that went into building the program, but we also tried some new things. One of which was giving content away.

It went down like this: we found an individual that had many passions than just the automotive brand we represented, like graphic design. He wasn’t an influencer. He didn’t have a huge social media footprint. But his passions ran deep. So we connected with him and asked if we could come out with a camera and talk to him about his passions on a Saturday.

So we went. And filmed him talking about and showing us his passions – not just the car. And then we did something that might be counter-intuitive to a lot of marketers. We produced a beautiful three minute video, packaged it back up, gave it to him…and then walked away. We didn’t post it on the brands highly-visible social sites, we didn’t ask him to post it anywhere and we sure as Hell didn’t tell him what he could and couldn’t do with it. We just said “thanks” and gave it to him.

Now he had all the power. And that’s all he needed.

He posted it on his favorite forum. All his buddies asked how the whole thing came to be and our first ambassador told them the message and purpose of the program in his own words. Industry blogs picked it up and interviewed him. He changed his social profiles to reflect his membership in the program. And it grew and grew and grew. He even became the most influential person on Twitter about that car model (according to Klout, so take it with a grain of salt).

(There were several other components to the program, but for the sake of this post, we’re concentrating on this one piece of content.)

With all of social media’s great abilities to connect with people, we are still inundated with brands pushing their messages down our throats. And that goes triple for automotive brands. So when it comes to content, doing something thoughtfully and deliberately that’s not all about you goes a long way. As we’ve talked about before, as a brand you have a huge spotlight that you can shine on anything you want. So why not turn it around sometimes and instead of shining it on yourself, you let your customer bask in the glow for a while? And then watch word of mouth in action.


  • March 22, 2012

    Mike Grace

    +1 for context! I love the idea of shining the spotlight on the customers and then letting the word of mouth spread like wildfire : )

  • August 12, 2012


    “content: It works best when you give it away”
    + its easy to grab (no register form, one click, in desired format)
    + my communication pref is respected if unfortunately you have put a contact form before you can DL
    e.g. if I give you my contact details (prefer email in phone field), you honour these by the BDM not sending me an email (please let me know what time we can chat so I can understand your requirements arrggghhhh… fool!)

    Very counter-productive to the relationship when i have to fill out another contact form to get the content (e.g. my time).

    I just want to DL the thing, in the format I desire. Then once ive digested it, I’ll come back. If i think the content was shoddy then you may be lucky, if I give you a courtesy note, to say something politely to that point.

    But if you make it hard for me to grab the content
    then your on the backfoot already. As organisation someone is “profit over helping/sharing” e.g. “the big business greedy versus the new world of sharing/helping/growing together.

    So essentially the “little things” tell a consumer what the org is really about….

    its always the little things…

  • August 12, 2012


    This is fabulous spike!
    share + hope.

    For me its even simpler, its time to give-up marketing.
    yes… and please dont bite me…. yet….

    Where did marketing come from… blah blah blah… it came from intent of demand generation, or some other lingo.. to sell essentially.

    Empowered consumers.. can smell that a mile away. Why do marketers just not get this. They say they do, and still they persist on “engineering” stuff. Just drop it – is what I say.

    Rather share, for share sake. Nothing more.
    Give, with no expectation of return. Just give.
    Sure share + hope… (that is what you did)

    share + hope
    or, share + expect nothing in return

    and yes, to do this, it actually means, the organisation truelly believes they have a product of worth. something worth sharing.


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