Social Media or Content Marketing? There are bigger questions.

I read an interesting blog post last week by Mark Schaefer about the relationship and difference between a ‘social media strategy’ and a ‘content marketing strategy’.

The post suggests the latter term is a “do-over” and more mature version of the former, and gives the opportunity to “put the focus on real business results”.

Mark is no insignificant fish in the sea of voices on ‘social media’. He’s a popular blogger, wields over 65,000 followers on Twitter, has a Klout score that suggests he’s highly engaged with said followers, and he is the author of two books on related topics. His blog post did present some valid points too.

However, I still feel the overall premise of the post (stated above) downplays the broad impact of social technologies. I encourage people in business to look beyond these terms when assessing how to successfully utilize social technologies, and adapt to the environment created by these technologies.

My argument is this: the way terms like ‘content marketing’ are used marginalises social technologies to small focus areas, and in doing so hinders business leaders’ understanding of what they can offer on a wide scale, and how they impact the overall business. A post like this may leave a CMO or CEO thinking that a content marketing strategy alone will unlock the modern-day holy grail of ‘social business success’.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love good content (when in the right context). I am a content-producer,  I was a journalist for nearly a decade. I also know great content is powerful, and it can help generate and engage new leads. What content marketing is not, however, is a full business approach to effectively using social technologies. Creating engaging ‘authentically helpful’ content is just one part of using social technologies. Nothing more. (I note Mark hasn’t actually claimed it is a full business approach, it’s just that the post doesn’t specify where a content strategy fits in the big picture.)

There are many further aspects to how social technologies impact business, even if we limit the field to marketing only.

“Examples?” you may rightly ask.

Start with tools and data that will help you analyze and understand more about your target audience before you even begin; tools that will help you uncover and connect with influencers who can be important players in your marketing; tools and networks that will help you connect with your end audience directly and understand more about them (not just throw content at them); new, more focused advertising opportunities; and tools that will help you measure results and report in a more meaningful way than ever before. These are just some examples, and by no means exhaustive.

You also need to think about (preferably do this before all of the above) how the roles in your marketing team are affected, and how you can use these tools most effectively in your business. You need to have more direct interactions with relevant audiences, and you need more people (experts) from within your company using social in a marketing capacity.

Adopting a ‘content marketing strategy’ could well be a part of this. But as you can see, it is not the whole. It certainly won’t cover major impacts like the disruption of entire industries and business models.

This is why I think focusing on ‘social media strategy’ or ‘content marketing strategy’ misses the point. Social technologies aren’t just about producing more content, or better content, or re-shaping how you deliver content. The broader question you need to ask is: Are these technologies re-shaping my business?

Another important point to note about content marketing is that with more businesses rushing to produce more content, and with consumers suffering platform and content fatigue, this golden period for content is going to become more complex.

What Measured Group encourages businesses to do is to take a holistic approach to using social technologies. We suggest starting by asking yourself three key questions about social technologies and then acting by implementing, constantly testing, measuring, then changing and adapting where necessary.

This is just my opinion on an issue that is a pet-hate, because I feel too many businesses are still unaware of the full impact of social technologies. I certainly have no personal agenda against Mark. I have read his blog for some time and he produces a lot of excellent content – check out the blog or his podcast if you have a chance.

Until next time :-)

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