The buzz at SES San Francisco 2011 is that content is king for social - perhaps even more than it's king for SEO.

More than one-third of consumers say they are more likely to make purchases with a company after they become its fan, follower or a subscriber. Jeff Revoy, CMO of iContact, shared this insight with SES San Francisco attendees during his presentation in a session on content marketing and social buzz.

Revoy and fellow panelists offered insight on the value of garnering convertible fans, focusing on the idea that it is more important to acquire relevant social followers than mass audiences. The way to do this, they suggested, is with relevant content.

Search author Liana Evans reminded marketers that viral content doesn’t always translate into leads. Instead, she says it’s better to be “viral” within your niche community by sharing social content that will matter to truly convertible audiences.

“Focus on what [your prospects] want,” Evans said. To monitor which content is most effective in engaging social consumers who could be interested in your products, she¬†recommends¬†marketers watch the “Active Users” data for their Facebook pages and plan social content according to what drives positive results.

Similarly, Mike LaRotonda of Votigo said marketers who don’t work in “sexy” industries should think of the intangible benefits of their products and services and create social content that surrounds these issues. A sign company generated Facebook posts in a contest that asked business owners to explain why they needed a new storefront (and why the company should give them a free sign). Some shared humorous stories about their lackluster stores, others told heartfelt stories about their dreams of owning a business. The resulting campaign received hundreds of entries, and the content both entertained and highlighted the benefits of LaRotonda’s client’s product.

Revoy shared a related case study on a client who sells LED light bulbs. The client created a blog post about what happens if a baby touches an LED bulb. (No damage is done to the baby because the energy-saving bulbs don’t get very hot – hence, the blog emphasized a selling point). It generated a high volume of comments, showing users were engaged by the content.

These case studies also emphasize another point: content that is relevant may become “viral” in the sense that it will be shared by relevant audiences with other relevant audiences. That said, it’s important for marketers to invest in targeted social content.

Revoy went as far as to say that content is king for social marketing – even more than it’s king for SEO.

Brafton has reported that B2B and B2C investment in social and content (and social content) is rising. Marketers are well-advised to focus on generating content that will meet their social audiences’ information needs.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.