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From the Trenches

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

Mike Sweeney | December 6, 2018

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.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.