Don’t Let the Social Media Tail Wag the Content Marketing Dog

January 19, 2011 •

3 Dogs

The title of this blog post is unfair. Perhaps even misleading.

It may be perceived as unfair or misleading because there are some among us who believe that content marketing and social media marketing are one in the same. Under that premise, dog and tail are interchangeable, right?

Not so fast, my friends (Or is it followers? Or connections? So darn confusing.). Let’s get this established first. Content marketing and social media marketing, while related, are two dramatically different disciplines and require different strategies, different tactics, different skill sets, and different people.

While content marketing efforts are absolutely enhanced via social media marketing, content marketing can happen without social media marketing. On the flip side, social media marketing loses a whole lot of punch without content marketing. Without content, social media marketing stops after 140 characters and only continues when you’re ready to answer the question, “What’s happening?” again, or listen to someone else’s response to that question.

This is not a post about whether content marketing or social media marketing is the better investment. Content marketing and social media should not compete. Not for budgets, not for mindshare, not for resources. In most businesses, they should complement each other.

That being said, for those who do want a better understanding of the difference between content marketing and social media marketing, here’s a big one: it’s far easier to measure your return on content marketing than to measure your return on social media marketing.  Let me provide you with a concrete example, using the travels of a single blog post as our subject:

  • I write a blog post. In the first seven days, it turns into 1,000 new visitors to the blog, and 250 new visitors to the corporate website. There’s a measurable return there.
  • That same blog post achieves a top-10 ranking on a long-tail search term on Google, Yahoo and Bing after 30-40 days. It turns into 5,000 new visitors to the blog over a year-long period, and 1,250 visitors to the corporate website. There’s a measurable return there.
  • That same blog post generates 50 comments from readers, most of whom are not connections of mine. That’s community and audience-building. There’s a measurable return there.
  • I send that same blog post out in a monthly client email newsletter, it generates 150 clicks over to the post, and it spurs two clients to inquire about additional services. There’s a measurable return there.
  • I email that same blog post to five prospective clients rather than sending the typical “Just wanted to check in on status” email. Two of the five respond, and one ends up re-engaged within two weeks. That’s real lead nurturing, and there’s a measurable return there.
  • That same blog post is retweeted 26 times,  liked 18 times, and stumbled upon 34 times over a 60-day period.  (Did you think I was going to leave out social media?) There’s some measurable return there.
  • 128 days after publishing the same blog post, a lead form arrives in the inbox, and reads as follows, “Just finished reading your post. We’re struggling with this exact issue right now, and it sounds like you might be the type of folks who can help. Can we chat about your services sometime in the next few days?”
  • 138 days after publishing the same blog post, that lead turns into a new client, and a very good one at that. Think there’s a measurable return there?

That’s the path of one single blog post or piece of content. It impacted SEO. It impacted social media. It impacted existing sales cycles. It created new sales cycles. It created a new client.

Now imagine the impact of 50 of those. Or 100 of those. Or…you get the point.

Good, well-distributed content never sleeps, rarely expires, and is always engaging. I can’t say that about a tweet or status update. The tail is nothing without the dog, but the dog is still a dog even without the tail.

About the Author

As managing partner and chief content officer for Right Source, Mike Sweeney is responsible for all content marketing initiatives, including growing the company’s content marketing practice, guiding all client content marketing strategy, and recruiting and growing a team of modern marketers. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame. You can find Mike on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

  • Great post! It tied in nicely with the blog marketing seminar that @willdavis gave at Towson University recently. I appreciate learning from you and have subscribed to MT so that I don’t miss a post. Keep it coming.
    Regards,
    Eric Nitsch
    @BrandishMMA

  • It’s Oct. 2011 and to your point, “Good, well-distributed content never sleeps, rarely expires, and is always engaging. I can’t say that about a tweet or status update.”

    I couldn’t agree more with your explanation of how content marketing and social media marketing work together but the magic happens predominantly on the content side. Enjoyed reading your post.

    • Mike Sweeney

      Ted – Thanks for commenting. Yes, content must always come first. The “magic” you referenced is in the planning.

      – Mike

  • Mike Anderson

    I think it was Neil Young who coined the phrase, “Rust Never Sleeps!” A great song and I just stumbled upon your blog again today. I enjoy reading your insights Thx.

    • Mike Sweeney

      Thanks for the comment Mike! More insights coming!

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