These were the questions posed to me by my very wise friend Jeff Cohen of the SocialMediaB2B blog. Jeff asked several other content/social thinkers and consultant-types to weigh in as well.
Here’s what I said:
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. It can be reactive too, as social media is increasingly used as a customer support channel.
The goals of content marketing are consumption, then behavior. The goals of social media are participation, then behavior. (tweet this)
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 (Facebook-driven comments on blog posts, for example). In no way will content marketing overtake social media in any corner of the universe with the possible exception of professional marketers.
Social media is the new telephone. Content marketing is the new brochure. (tweet this)
That doesn’t make it unimportant—hell, I published a best-selling book about doing content right. Keep in mind that my Mom uses social media every day. My Mom could care less about content marketing, although she of course consumes content routinely.
Social media envelops us like air. Content marketing is a place we (mostly marketers) can go visit, like a sparkling lake stocked with trout.
More on Content Marketing vs. Social Media
Jeff broke the responses up into two fascinating blog posts. The first contains answers to the “what is the difference between content marketing and social media?” question. The second features opinions on whether content and social will merge, converge, or other.
I encourage you to read the posts for all the answers (19 in all), but here are a couple excerpts of my personal favorites:
From Michael Brenner at B2BMarketingInsider and SAP:
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.”
From TopRank’s Lee Odden:
In terms of a business activity, I think content marketing as a discipline will continue to rise and marketing budgets are definitely streaming in that direction. Some of that budget is being drawn from social media too.
Will marketing budgets towards content-focused marketing initiatives potentially exceed those for social media marketing? I think that’s entirely possible, especially for organizations that see social networks and media sites more as content distribution and engagement channels than purely as communities. But with companies that operate socially across departments (marketing, sales, customer service, public relations, HR talent acquisition, legal, operations, etc) both internally and externally, overall social media investment could easily dwarf anything spent on content marketing.
And from Jason Miller at Linkedin:
Content marketing will not replace social media by any means; they are and will continue to be two very different things with two very different functions. Social media channels are the tentacles from which your content extends its reach while opening up a direct line of communication with your customers and prospects. In addition, what were once known as “social media vanity metrics” (shares, plus ones, Likes, retweets, and comments) are now playing a much bigger role in how your content ranks within search engines and the social platforms themselves. At the end of the day, content and social will be broken out of their respective silos and pulled together as an essential part of an overall integrated marketing strategy.
What do you think?