The Difference Between Content Marketing and Social Media and Why You Should Care


I’ve attended many social media strategy sessions that goes something like this…

Twitter? Check.

Facebook? We got a bunch of hip questions to ask so…check.

LinkedIn? Tough crowd but we’re going to join (AKA: hijack) a group. Put a check in that box.

Pinterest? It’s a stretch but sure we can put pictures of our company picnic up there. Check!

This is usually the extent of the social media strategy in many businesses. The strategy matches the modus operandi of a paranoid roulette player – cover every number.
But like the roulette payer, covering every number in social media slows swirling down the toilet bowl but doesn’t prevent it.

Despite inevitable failure, the stock-in-trade social media strategy starts with a pithy cover your bets social media “action plan.” If you’ve tried to implement this strategy you’ve seen firsthand the manic ultimately useless activity it prescribes. Your office becomes a “TwitBookIn” mill churning out useless snippets for a faceless (largely unresponsive) audience.

How did we get here?

I’ve been part of a fraud…

About four years ago, I was trying figure out why in the heck a sober-thinking business executives would give Twitter a second glance. I looked at the stats. I listened to the breathless “marketing is human” speeches from the social paparazzi. I still didn’t see it.

So, like a good Mad Man, I created a thinly supported rationale that said social media was the best way to

“tap into your customer’s conversations and understand marketing sentiment”.

Yes…I threw up in my mouth a bit just now.

I still do when I still hear this toothless premise being parroted in slightly different versions from keynote speaker podiums.

I’ve been part of a fraud because, back then, I just wanted to sell social media programs. But, the question that started me down this road still pokes me in the ribs.

Why are social media channels important?

I was having trouble answering this question because I was looking in the wrong place.

Content Marketing is more than a tidy buzz phrase

I believe, content Marketing is the most important marketing innovation since “branding”.

Content marketing rests on a few simple notions:

  1. Customers are smart, interesting and fair.
  2. Companies are smart, interesting and (sometimes) fair.
  3. Content is the smart, interesting and fair way to connect customers with a company’s mission.

Content marketing forces marketing types to express a well-formulated, well-supported, well-told story. Content marketing compels marketing teams to sit down with company founders and ask “Why in the hell did you start this place and why should customers care that we exist?”

Content marketing is egalitarian. Many small businesses are kicking the snot out of bigger competitors by telling enchanting narratives about their culture, the products, and the role customers play.

If Branding is the Neanderthal then Content Marketing (Contenting?) is the Homo Sapien. (Tweet This!)

The only problem is that many (probably you) are putting the cart in front of the horse. Instead of building your content, you are checking off the box (yep, we’ve come full circle).

The Story and the Medium

Sometimes, companies pay me to give them bad news.

“Stan can we implement a social media plan?” Good question but not the right one. This is like Moses asking God if he commandments should be written on paper or stone.

The right question is “Do we have a story that is worth telling?”

The next question is “How can we turn this story into a sustained, multi-platform, experience for people who resonate with how we do business?”

When you answer these two questions, social media becomes an afterthought. It even becomes easy.

You know you have a great content marketing strategy when you feel that Facebook and Twitter are inadequate and one-dimensional on their own.

You know you have a world-beating content strategy when you you’re worried that LinkedIn’s platform falls short of your aspirations.

Get the story right and the medium really doesn’t matter.

One more thing…

Why You Might Be Struggling with Social Media

If Social Media feels foreign (even trite) to you then it’s because you are a natural born storyteller.

Our species love stories and will never be satisfied with the medium. Our technological innovation has been propelled by this feeling that the medium isn’t quite right. The cave wall didn’t do it, stone tablets, pottery, papyrus, paper, radio, TV, HBO, the Internet, social media – we still aren’t satisfied. So work with what you have, but put your focus on the real deal – the content.

Monologuingn about Content MarketingThis is why Pushing Social has focused on blogging. For me, blogging is the purest way to quickly and effectively tell your story. I’ve found that when a business masters this medium and becomes a nimble content producer, everything else falls into place.

You Sly Dog! You Caught Me Monologuing!

Chime in. Normally my wife gets the “storytelling species” speech. What do you think? Do you struggle with the difference between social media and content marketing?