Why Social Media Is Not Content Marketing

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Social media and content marketing can be a great team, but are they the same thing? I say no—and here’s why.


Subscribe to KLWightman.com Blog Upper ButtonIf you’re a content marketer, chances are that social media falls under your job duties—or you’ve at least you’ve published a post or two.

And when you try to explain what you do for a living, those not familiar with content marketing probably say, “Oh! So you do social media?”

Sigh. Not quite.

Sure, content marketing often gets noticed because of social media. And social media can rely on good content marketing for a powerful post. It’s not hard to see why the two are paired together.

Yet social media is not content marketing. They are each their own segment of marketing with distinct—and different—audiences, goals and strategies.

Hey Dictionary, What’s Content Marketing?

I’ve used this definition before in a previous content marketing blog post, but I think Content Marketing Institute defines the art of content marketing best:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Surprisingly, finding a strong definition for social media wasn’t easy, but I think Lifewire nailed it:

“Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by both sharing and consuming information.”

So, What’s the Difference?

I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth saying again:

Content marketing is a marketing strategy based on creating authentic content valuable to your target audience. Social media is a platform where content marketing can be distributed.

Is Content Marketing Dead?Saying that social media is content marketing is like saying that post mail is print marketing. Yet we know that post mail is simply one way of delivering print marketing to your target audience.

Content marketing isn’t solely delivered on social media. In fact, social media might not be the best channel of delivery for a number of content marketing pieces. Some content pieces are better left to email marketing or shared during a sales call.

Just as an eBook or a blog post isn’t a strategy, social media in its original form is not a strategy. How you strategically use social media is.

But What About Social Media Marketing?

Good point. When we compare the two segments of digital marketing, it’s even easier to see why social media is not content marketing.

Just to stay consistent, let’s pull in a definition. Once again, it was tough finding one that really encompassed social media marketing—sometimes called social network marketing—but The Balance pulled through:

“Social network marketing is a way for businesses to interact with their target markets over the internet via various social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram (to name just a few).”

In other words, social media marketing is about discovering and interacting with your target audience online to create and nurture that business relationship.

What Your Zero Twitter Following Count Says About You Blog Post via KLWightman.comSocial media marketing includes featuring content marketing. But it also features memes, GIFs, video posts, comments and reply tweets, Facebook Live, Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups—the list seems to never end.

And let’s not forget social media ads!

Both content marketing and social media marketing are forms of marketing with a goal of winning over your target audience—just at different points of the buyer journey.

A content marketing at its finest can create content that’s valuable at every stage of the buyer’s journey, from realizing that there is a problem to comparing your company to the competition. This is your chance to prove that you’re not only the authority in your industry, but that your target audience can trust you to deliver the best goods or services.

While social media ads often aim to catch the attention of your target audience at the beginning of the buyer’s journey with free content marketing, your target audience doesn’t tend to seek out your social networks until closer to deciding to purchase—or not even until they’ve experienced your product or service.

I’d argue that social media marketing is a great channel for some current customer TLC, something I think many companies struggle to nurture.

But that’s a topic for another blog post.

While social media is an effective tool for content marketing promotion, it’s still not exclusively for content marketing. And with the way social media marketing has taken off in the last five years, I’d say that’s a good thing.

Do you agree? Is social media not content marketing? Share your expertise in the comments section below.

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