Why Companies That Say They Want Social Media Really Want Content Marketing

March 17, 2011 •

Recently, I’ve had two different speaking engagements with two very different groups.  The first was a group of a half dozen CEOs and a few of the folks on their marketing teams on the topic of social media and what businesses can do to use social media or use it better. The second was a group of students from the e-Business group at a local university about using blogging for business (slides below).  Each was a great event, and representative of the topics we are passionate about.

While vastly different audiences, each of the groups had some strikingly similar views:

1.  Nobody really knows what you are talking about when you say “content marketing.”

OK maybe that is a bit overstating it, but not much.  Phrases like “content marketing” are still a bit too “inside baseball” for CEOs and students alike. So, put the remote down and step away from the jargon, because…

2. When “content marketing” is explained, people understand what you are talking about and most everyone sees the value.

Let’s face it, the ideas behind content marketing are not new. But, the value now is higher than ever as both B2B and B2C buyers are armed with the tools to research your industry, products and services before they ever even think of engaging a sales representative. Buyers want to educate themselves and be in control of the process.  Companies need to shift their thinking and educate buyers with content, in the form of white papers, videos, presentations, webinars, blog posts, eBooks, case studies…the list goes on and on.  Educating your prospects, providing content that overcomes objections, and being there before the sale is critical.  Smart marketers have always done some form of content marketing, it’s just recently that the name has been applied and more tactics and channels are available.

3. When many companies say they want to “do social media” they really mean content marketing  — they just don’t know it yet.

Reinforcing the first 2 points – when companies learn more about what content marketing is – and that you can leverage your own content in the social media space – they almost always realize that’s what they really wanted to do, and that social media is just one piece of their content marketing puzzle.  Mike described this well recently in Don’t Let the Social Media Tail Wag the Content Marketing Dog.  And that doesn’t even cover the bulging eyes when I showed the stat that companies with blogs generate 67% more leads.

So take a look, learn more about content marketing, and you may find that when you say you want social media you really want content marketing.

About the Author

As Right Source’s chief marketing technology officer, Will Davis oversees the intersection of marketing strategy, consulting, execution and technology for our clients. He focuses first on business objectives and then on helping clients leverage marketing and technology to deliver against those objectives. A recognized leader in content marketing, Will has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in government and politics and broad experience developing marketing strategies that help organizations reach milestones and grow. You can find Will on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

  • Jeremy

    I don’t think companies really give a shit about content marketing or social media. What the really want is more customers and a more profitable business. Can they get that from both social median and content marketing? Of course, but the people with money and the power to decide on these things do not give a shit about marketing, they just want more customers and more profit.

    We as marketers need to keep this in mind. Whenever you’re selling a product, the customer doesn’t give a shit what it is or where it came from, they mostly just want to know how much it will cost and how much it will benefit them. This is the same whether you’re selling juice drinks or marketing campaigns.

    • Mike Sweeney

      Jeremy –

      You seem to be holding back – please tell us how you really feel.

      A part of me agrees with you. In the end, most companies or organizations do want more customers, more members, more patients, more subscribers, and of course more profit.

      That being said, companies DO care about how they acquire customers and profit via marketing. Here’s why: many companies are lost from a marketing standpoint. They let the growth of interactive/web channels pass them by, and now they are faced with an army of snake oil salespeople peddling the latest and greatest marketing/search/social media toy. You and I know those toys are not created equal, nor do they deliver equal results, but the average organization has no idea how to tell the difference.

      That’s why they should care about the difference between content marketing and social media. If they don’t care, they will buy the wrong toy and watch it break as their customers and profit go in the wrong direction.

  • Really interesting. And as much as Hubspot pushes it, I think the term “inbound marketing” is even more inside-baseball…

    But ultimately, we do need a way of talking about this stuff succinctly. What else if not content or inbound marketing?

    • Exactly the struggle–if content marketing and inbound marketing don’t make sense primarily because the terminology is foreign, is it because we’re using unfriendly terminology, or is it just a lag in the collective business consciousness?

      We’ve seen content marketing and inbound marketing work–to take your example of Hubspot. They’ve been extremely successful, but they ate a lot of their own dogfood. And that’s what it will take to continue to market content marketing itself.

  • Also, the slide deck is very well done. Anyone who reads this comment, scroll up and take a look.

  • People forget that you need something of value to put on those social networks – which usually equates to “content”! Nobody is going to grow their business by constantly updating their status on a corporate Facebook page, or uploading party pics to Flickr. They need to get off their butts and start thinking about what they have to say that matters, then start saying it. Whether they say it in words, diagrams, video clips, interviews, song, whatever – at least they are sharing something of value. People definitely seem to see social networks as a quick fix, forgetting that what makes certain social networks successful is the sharing of content that is of value to the social groups formed around the content. In the case of Facebook, it works because I care about what my high school friends think about Japan, or I want to see pictures of their new house, or dog, or baby. It holds value to me in the social context. For a business, you must find ways to offer that value in terms of what your business excels at, or what you are passionate about. Anything else will totally fall flat. No quick fixes here – just good old fashioned WORK! Some things never change.

    • Great points, Tracey! Great names think alike…

      It’s interesting to see how “social value” can still apply for business use on Facebook, however. With smaller business, at least, people like to see what’s going on at the company holiday party, and if a cute dog comes to visit the office. But it can’t be all social value. If cute pictures are all you’ve got, then you’re staying in front of people, but not for the right reasons.

      Unfortunately, you’re right: it comes down to WORK!

  • Fascinating concepts and discussion about content marketing and interwoven social media marketing. As a custom web designer (specializing in WordPress sites and Genesis Theme Framework), I see the struggles that small and medium businesses face in just building fresh, quality content on their powerful online publishing systems. For some reason, there is a mental block about “quality content”. I have often boiled it down to suggestions that sound like this: “record yourself on the phone and then select a topic based on what your prospects are asking and how you define the answers”. Other comments I hear myself making over and over (because of the habits I see forming) might include these: “the internet is a very powerful marketing tool to gain exposure to your business, but there is no magic wand, no magic carpet ride”, “don’t overwhelm yourself, but just be consistent in your approach. Whether you write a quality blog post once a week or once a month, just be consistent”.

    The result of these simple mantras are hopefully, in a slow crawl, going to sink in to the collective consciousness and will ultimately help our business professionals to evolve their content marketing skills. Maybe we could call it “Quantitative Content Easing”.

    Glad I ran into your site (from outbrain I think). Good stuff. Following.

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