A lot of people say that content is king in social media marketing.  I’ve been guilty of saying this myself.  But the problem is, it’s not true.  

Content (even great content) is a commodity.  Having outstanding content is merely table stakes for success in social media.  What is not a commodity is engagement with key influencers.

Here’s an example.  I took the photo above on Monday night.  It is now Wednesday, and in the last two days over 100 people have commented on this photograph, 86 people have “favorited” it, and it was featured on DCist here.  There are lots of better photographs of the July 4th fireworks in DC, but this one has been seen by more people than many of them, and I am not a professional photographer.  The reason that this photograph has generated more engagement than a lot of the other July 4th fireworks photographs, is that I enjoy connecting with people who care about DC, and I regularly engage with them in lots of different ways, on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.  

To reiterate, you will NOT succeed without high quality content.  If that picture was terrible, it would have generated zero comments and favorites.  Low quality content is probably the most common cause of failure in social media campaigns.  But saying that you need great content for social media is like saying you need copper to make a penny.  True, but not particularly insightful.  

So from now on, when you see an outstanding social media campaign, don’t just analyze the content.  Think about the engaged network that pushed the content to the top.  When you see content that gets thousands of Likes, Tweets, Comments, Shares, Faves, etc., you can bet that the buzz got started with lots of emails, InMails, phone calls, Direct Messages, gchats, and other one on one communications between influencers.  

Will Marlow is a PR specialist, blogger, and photographer who lives in Northern Virginia.  You should follow Will Marlow on Twitter.