Many B2B marketing conversations have been focused on content marketing lately, rather than social media and I wanted to understand if this was a real trend and what it might mean. The graph below shows worldwide Google searches for the terms social media and content marketing. The comparison for November 2013 shows 33 times the average search volume for social media versus content marketing. This means that social media is still what people are looking for, compared to content marketing.
With such a large disparity in search interest, and one that doesn’t seem to be changing on a global level, I asked several experts about the difference between social media and content marketing. Below are their answers to this question. The experts also weighed in on if they thought content marketing would ever replace social media.
I see content marketing as the larger umbrella under which social media lives. I explain how social fits into a content publishing strategy here. (Along with a handy DIY-drawn chart!)
I don’t think social media and content marketing are an apples to apples comparison. Even so, in terms of Google Trends, I think the difference between the phrases “content marketing” and “social media” is that content marketing is entirely a business term.
Your neighbor isn’t going to talk to you about those darn teenagers and their content marketing. But there’s plenty of discussion by businesses and citizens alike about social media. From business publications to gossip magazines, the phrase social media is ubiquitous because it’s part of everyday language for any internet connected human being. Therefore, when it comes to tracking services like Google trends, there’s little chance of content marketing surpassing social media as a popular expression.
Content marketing is a device used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behavior that results in leads, sales or advocacy. Social media is used by customers and prospects to communicate among themselves, and occasionally with companies. This communication can result in leads, sales or advocacy, but is often less structured and conversational, and can be reactive too, as social media is increasingly used as a customer support channel.
From the company perspective, the goal of content marketing is consumption, then behavior. The goal of social media is participation, then behavior.
The confusing thing today is that as social media expands, brands need to create content to populate these channels. Further, many content repositories have rich social media overlays (the new G+ fueled comments on YouTube, for example).
[Jay was inspired by this question and wrote the following post: Here’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Social Media.]
Content marketing is creating content for communications channels (blogs, newsletters, social posts, press releases, videos, photographs, interactive media, etc.) that persuade an audience. Social media are some of those channels and are defined by gathering points of an audience that allows open communications to, from and between its members. For businesses, and tactically, social media marketing is leveraging online gathering points and conversations with participants, to persuade an audience.
[Jason was inspired by this question and wrote the following post: Content Marketing Alone will Fail.]
The difference between content marketing and social media is huge. Social media is a new channel. And it competes with other media channels like TV, radio, print and all the digital channels available to us.
Content marketing and storytelling are as old as human beings. We have always needed to find ways to convey important information in useful and entertaining ways. Social media is just the latest evolution in the way we can tell the stories. I think soon we will drop the “social” and go back to calling it plain old “media.”
In the early stages of a new phenomenon, people need to know all about it. Everyone’s on the steepest part of the collective learning curve. But that curve starts to flatten out over time, as the new discipline kind of dissolves into the wider discipline (of marketing itself in this case).
Social hit the big time before the new incarnation of content marketing did. Its curve is starting to flatten out.
For me, social media marketing is almost a complete subset of content marketing. You can do content marketing without ever logging in to a social site (your programs would suffer for it, but you could do it).
But to try social media marketing without content… and you become that crazy guy with the megaphone on the street corner. Or the people who post ‘Positive, inspiring quotes every day!” (Even these, are arguably content — just annoying content).
Content marketing is sharing your expertise to help your prospects do their jobs (or live their lives). Social media marketing is using social channels to listen, engage with people, build communities and participate in conversations relevant to your brands.
Social is one of the most important places your content can make an impact. But it’s not the only one. It’s also a powerful source of insight for your content. But it’s not the only one.
You’re definitely right about the trends. But, content marketing stretches across everything. Traditionally, it hasn’t been as sexy or desirable as social media. As individuals, we’re much more concerned with our presences on social networks than our content marketing strategy. Much of that perception has stalled the adoption of successful content marketing execution.
Many marketers focus exclusively on web (websites, blogs, landing pages, optimization, etc.), email and social media. Since Facebook launched, social media has been the most desirable niche for jobs and day-to-day tasks. But, as Marcus Nelson wrote recently – social media missed out on what it was created to do…build and strengthen connections. While we were all busy sharing away, most of us forgot to take a step back and strategically plan out our content marketing strategy. By the way, content is needed for all areas of marketing. Regardless of the execution or distribution channel, you need the right content. That’s the big difference. At the end of the day, social is a distribution channel and a method of communication. It is distributing the content that we need to have a strategy around. We also need lots of it to fulfill the promise of 1:1 personalized marketing.
There is clear distinction for me. Content, simplistically is the fuel for social media marketing. There are a variety of surveys and data sets (from companies like Hubspot) which point to the majority of relevant social media updates actually containing a clickable link. For social media to engage, these updates and links need to be relevant and action oriented. That’s where content comes in. Content is a way of repacking and republishing content previously created for a sole or different purpose, but with a focus on being helpful to customers (and potentially lead generative for the creator). Consider news releases, blogs, sales presenters, brochures, video, audio etc and think about how with a little work and a calendar, this can be reused. Everyone is talking content, but just try finding good b2b examples.
The term social media refers to websites and internet-based applications that are used for social networking between users of these websites or applications. For effective social networking to take place, a content exchange is required; that is, the sharing of thoughts and information. So they are interrelated, symbiotic concepts. In the B2B space, content marketing refers to content exchange in which the key objectives are relationship building, brand building, demand generation, and lead generation. Content marketing can benefit either the personal brand, the organisational brand, or both.