A friend asked me what was the difference in content marketing and social media marketing. He seemed to think the trend is now that companies are following the flow toward content marketing and the social media part has sort of passed it’s prime.
The problem is they’re different. While one begets the other, it doesn’t necessarily work the other way. This could pose a dangerous problem for brands that don’t see the natural flow and relationship between the two.
Defining Social vs. Content Marketing
Social media marketing is defined best as participating in open communication channels in order to persuade an audience. This implies the marketer can communicate outwardly, but must receive/communicated inwardly as well, and accounts for the fact that any member of the communications network can also watch/listen to others communicating as well.
Content marketing is best defined as producing content that persuades. That content has to be disseminated along communications channels. One of those could be social media channels.
So social media marketing begets content marketing because you’re going to need good content to keep the social audiences attracted, engaged and persuaded. But you don’t necessarily need social media marketing to be a good content marketer. Content marketing can (and often does) exist as a one-way, push mechanism. Think about how you’ve marketed in the past: Advertisements? Content. Press releases? Content. Newsletters (print and email)? Content.
Sure, you can add commenting and call “content” a conversation. But that doesn’t, in and of itself, make that content marketing also social.
What It Takes To Be Social
Social marketing takes additional effort and intent. It’s not enough to push your content. You also have to drive conversations around it. Think of it as finishing the content with a question, then shepherding the answers, learning as you go, discussing the information with the audience in question. That makes content social.
Being social means caring beyond hitting “Send” or “Publish.”
Sure, you can use social channels — where you may engage in conversations with your audience — to promote your content. But those channels are more appropriate to host that resulting conversation from the content, not just serve as an advertisement or promotional mechanism for it.
Being social means caring beyond hitting “Send” or “Publish.” It’s about asking your audience for their feedback and really caring what that feedback is. It’s carrying on the conversation and perhaps even evolving ensuing content based on the audience’s reaction.
Content in a social context is not one-way. It’s the beginning of the conversation, not the end of the deadline-driven story submission.
Where Companies Will Screw This Up
The rise in popularity of the concept of “Content Marketing” as something that fuels or supplements social marketing is, in general, good for businesses. By evolving to becoming their own media producers, brands and businesses are primed to get far more results, engagement and credit from their social efforts.
However, many marketers are simply running from one proposed “easy button” to another. When they see that this Content Marketing thing checks the box of posting things on all their social channels, they will start to think the social side of the aisle isn’t as important and phase it out. Marketers today need to understand the differences in content and social marketing and ensure they don’t fall victim to the trap content marketing inadvertently leaves.
Social marketing demands good content marketing. And, by my count, good content marketing demands social. Otherwise, it’s just the same garbage companies have been spewing for years.
NOTE: By the way, the friend who asked was Jeff Cohen. He gathered other opinions on the matter over at SocialMediaB2B.com.