Marketing jargon is enough to drive anyone mad these days. Marketers themselves are hard pressed to keep up with their own latest lingo. One such confusing example is defining the difference between social media marketing and content marketing. As in all good marketing, it boils down to objectives and strategy.
Social Media Marketing
The term social media is ubiquitous, having been with us long enough that we all understand its meaning and use. The phrase itself, subject of a number of claimed origins, was intended to describe the facilitation of Internet communication between people in a community setting. Facebook began ten years ago with numerous channels following. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and many others offer every community imaginable.
It didn’t take long for business to hop on for the heady ride in an effort to reach out to their customers and prospects. Businesses discovered quickly not to enter social media with guns blazing, me, me, me and sell, sell, sell. The businesses accepted and engaged by their audience are those that take care to show that there are people behind a brand, willing to help and converse with other people in a meaningful way, or at least make them smile and feel good. People communicate with businesses through social media, but only on their own conversational and emotional terms.
Businesses now use social media as a host for very subtle marketing activities. Key is the context of the social media channel itself, with the audience and language particulars guiding the content placed by the business. Twitter, for example, only allows 140 characters maximum (100 characters ideal) and is a platform for brevity and youthful energy.
For businesses to market themselves on social media, they must focus their marketing activities within the confines of the host channels, and to the behavior of the audience within these channels.The advantages are the staggering audience numbers available within these channels; such as the 1.3 billion monthly active users of Facebook.
Content marketing is a relatively new term for a very old practice. It refers to the publishing aspect of marketing. In the days of yesteryear this may have been a catalogue, radio show, or an industry magazine. The idea was (and is) to inform, educate or entertain your audience to a point where they behave in a persuaded manner; to allow your company to help with their business (or consumer) needs.
With the Internet, modern content marketing encompasses many long forms of content. Brands can publish blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, videos, and anything else they need to establish trust and authority. There is room here for traditional marketing methods as well, as long as the methods conform to a consistent strategy in representing the brand.
By owning their own online real estate and content, businesses can market under their own terms.They can produce long form, higher quality and more buyer-centric marketing that can effectively develop relationships with prospects and guide them towards lead conversion. You host your own content on your website(s) or mobile apps, your subscribers enthusiastically consume it, and your sales pipeline fills up.
Endgame: Integrated Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is the most powerful online marketing practice which social media marketing can vitally support. The goal is acquiring subscribers to your original content, whatever the format, because they can become leads. Many SMBs do not have the resources to star as content marketers. Thankfully, we have social media to help establish and amplify your brand and guide people to your website. Social media marketing is a great way to start paving the way towards online marketing independence.
The reality is making and keeping your business successful through marketing strategy. A number of business tactics are required, each requiring specific strategies based on goals. Goals are set and met one step at a time. Content marketing effectiveness takes time; you can start immediately with social media marketing. Everything knits together to tell your own unique story and becomes your endgame; an integrated marketing strategy.
Very interesting discussion, Dave, of the “difference” between “social media marketing” and “content marketing.” I would argue…or add…that social media marketing is the vehicle that gets you where you want to be; content marketing is the fuel that propels the vehicle. Both of these concepts are supported and/or enhanced by effective public relations programming. In actuality, all three should be part-and-parcel of an overall communication plan that incorporates all appropriate platforms and synchronizes messaging across them. Thanks for a great conversation piece for my Social Media Communication class at Curry College!
Thank you for your comment, Kirk. I agree that an overall communications plan that incorporates and syncronizes is vital. I would add that all members of the organization should participate in the delivery of the plan.
Great article Dave. I would add that one common theme running between social media marketing and content marketing is consistency- this is integral to building a strong relationship with your audience and also a reflection of your online brand. For companies without the staff capacity or inclination I would recommend outsourcing your specific social media or content marketing needs to skilled freelancers.