Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: Differences and Peculiarities

One of the most confusing distinctions in the digital age of blurred and yet undefined lines is the differentiation of each separate direction of online marketing. If we can clearly understand the differences, it will also lead to the more efficient application of useful practices for each. Two aspects that are most often confused are content marketing and social media marketing. The two are so interrelated in their operation that it is sometimes very difficult to define the line where one ends and the other begins. Let’s first see what content marketing is.

1. Where does it start? 

2. Where is it anchored? 

3. How does it reach the end consumer?

4. And,most importantly, what is its goal? 

Content Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing. Image source – Slideshare, Brian Cliette

Content Marketing 

Content marketing starts with industry know-how

Let’s say, you are a tour agency specializing in tours to East Asian countries for pilgrimages, meditation tours, spiritual retreats, religious sightseeing, etc. You are aiming to cater to a specific niche. Naturally, the customer, who is interested in exploring one or all of these during their vacation, would prefer a tour agency capable of guiding them, minimizing their research and offering them the best possible options to efficiently use their time and financial means with the most benefit. They would probably choose your agency over thousands of others, who have a different niche or are more broad service providers.

So, given the situation, how do you use content marketing to attract leads and consequently increase sales? You prove what you have the know-how that would make you qualified as the best tour operator specifically for their dream vacation. And you prove it through content.

Content marketing is based on industry know-how. Image source – NEILPATEL

Content marketing is anchored in your company website 

The content your company produces is like a vast, most detailed resume, divided into easily consumable sections and presented in formats that are most effective for your target audience. And all this information that speaks volumes about who you are, what you believe in, what your knowledge is, where you have been and what you have done sits on your website. These include pages where your existing and potential customers can find the relevant information, your blog section, any content you have produced in the form of white papers, books, magazines, video and audio materials. Video and audio sharing platforms like YouTube can also be considered drives where your content sits (so it is important to link those to your main lead generation point – your website).

Content Marketing is anchored in your website. Image Source – RaraTheme

Channels used for marketing content to reach target audiences

Here, pay attention!!!, is where social media come in and all the confusion starts. Your content produced for marketing purposes now needs to be spread to reach its audience. Today, instead of newspapers, print magazines, radio or television, around 80-90% of the content is shared via social media. This IS NOT social media marketing. It is sharing of marketing content with the use of an available channel – social media. This is a preferred channel (others could be online business directories, forums, same newspapers and TV) because it allows utilizing most efficient targeting tools and reaching VAST audiences of billions of people, part of which is your specific target market. When the content reaches its target audiences, the link takes them back to your website, where your content is anchored.

The goal of content marketing is to generate leads and convert them into purchase

And finally, when your target audience has reached your website, whether you have used social media or any other channel of dissemination for your marketing content, it then serves the purpose of reinforcing your industry know-how, your authority and credibility. It is an affirmation that you can give the potential customer what they need. Thus, your content triggers them to make the first purchase.

Social media marketing is all about communication, engagement and brand recall. Image source – AUSIT

Social Media Marketing

Now that we are clear about what content marketing is, let’s examine the same 4 fundamental characteristics, but now for social media marketing.

1. Where does it start?

2. Where is it anchored?

3. How does it reach the end consumer?

4. And most importantly, what is its goal? 

Social media marketing starts with representation

It’s like having your country’s embassy or consulate in a foreign country. Better example yet, it’s your office, your customer support department online. You provide basic information about what country you represent, what mission and vision you have, what you offer. Just like you would hardly furnish your law firm office with bean bags and contemporary abstract paintings, your social media pages (tailored to the specifics of each social media platform) need to represent who you are, what you stand for and your values. This goes for the descriptions and post text you use, the visuals, and the overall tone of communication you keep to.

Properly identified social media platforms will allow finding and connecting with your target audiences. Image source – JeffBullas

Your social media marketing is anchored on your social media page/community

And here is where confusion takes place concerning the differences between social media and content marketing. Your social media marketing is anchored in your social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Yes, you can use the content created and anchored in your website for your social media marketing purposes, but in this case, social media marketing is not an auxiliary or a channel, the auxiliary is your marketing content, which, in this case, helps social media marketing efforts.

Social media marketing components, which are visuals, video or text, have their own specific length, look, and purpose. They are triggers for communication and brand recall. They are not meant to educate and prove know-how, which is the domain of content marketing.

Channels used for social media marketing to reach target audiences

This one seems to be pretty obvious. The channels used are the social media platforms themselves, but there are also some nuances here. Firstly, it is the choice of the specific social media platforms a company decides to be on. You would most probably be wasting your time trying to engage with potential customers of luxury high end watches on Snapchat. You, however, would likely choose LinkedIn if you want to be part of your industry community and conversation. So, knowing the specifics of each social media platform is one of the core functions of social media marketers.

In addition, there is a variety of available marketing and engagement tactics within each of those platforms. For instance, you can create an engaging post on Facebook and leave it at that. You can also invest in promoting your point of contact among wider audiences through paid promotions. Since recently, you can also utilize Facebook Messenger in your promotional efforts.

Social media platforms are diverse to fit your company’s specific directions, visions and target audiences. Image source – SocialMediaBlogster

The goal of social media marketing is to maintain an open line of communication

The main goal and the core purpose of social media marketing are finding and connecting with your relevant audiences and keeping them within the reach of your hand (through page likes and follows).

This basically means being on the line. Your call center operators should be on guard all the time to communicate, answer questions, listen to concerns, spread information and news, accept applications, issue promotions, announce events, etc… In this case, you should have minimum regulations and open doors every day.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a world of nuances and a separate very specific set of knowledge and skills needed for each of these individual directions of online marketing. As mentioned before, the lines are blurred and most of the time companies (even bigger ones) have only one employee dealing with both content and social media marketing. Along with a better understanding of the new opportunities that the digital age presents, there will hopefully come a better differentiation and designation of roles and functions, leading to making the best of what online marketing can offer.

Need a good strategy for your own company? Contact us today!

By Viktorya Mirzoyan

What to Expect in Tech, Digital and Social Media in 2018: Top 5 Trends to Watch For

Only about a month into 2018, mass communication predictions for the year include exciting trends like podcasts gaining more importance and Google’s visual search taking online shopping to a whole new level. Let’s see what other predictions are made for 2018 in Reuters Institute’s study on “Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018”. The latter being quite extensive, we have singled out trends relevant for social media (SMM) and digital marketers or just those who like being on top of trends to save their time. The study was led by Nic Newman, Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

But first, let’s sum up what happened in mass communication industry in 2017, particularly:

Audio content will be on the rise in 2018.
Photo credit – HystoryOnTheNet
  • Facebook’s new algorithm, engagement being its main defining variable, was blamed for promoting misinformation, propaganda and polarizing content.
  • It became clear for many in 2017 that when it comes to prioritizing values that major information platforms choose for themselves, interests of the Silicon Valley businesses are not always in tune with the interests of the world as a whole.
Propaganda, misinformation and political advertising on social media platforms. Photo Credit – Cool Material
  • 2017 also showed that world governments, including US, UK, Australia and others, have finally started to take steps to take action against possible damaging effects that social media may have on major aspects of decision -making.
  • The rise of “horizontal storytelling” is finally taking place (that means that videos in horizontal view are on the rise among publishers).
Horizontal storytelling on the rise as platforms start acting upon the percentage of users browsing on mobile.
Image credit – Reuters Institute Report

As for the year of 2018, taking into account the existing grounds and development trends, we focus on 5 predictions the report makes that we believe anyone in the media, journalism or tech industries should pay attention to over the coming 10-12 months.

1. Efforts to Minimize Publishers’ Dependence on Major Platforms

Around half of the surveyed leading editors, CEOs and digital leaders (44%) expressed concern related to the increasing power that platforms gain, with 55% of them representing newspaper groups noting that their profits have been significantly influenced by digital advertising that goes to those major platforms. This takes place against the background of Facebook trying to keep visitors on its own platform longer in order to sell that attention to the advertisers, instead of giving dues to original content creators via referrals.

Publisher attitudes towards major platforms.
Image Credit Reuters Institute Report

This could lead to a few possible scenarios unfolding:

  • Facebook will damp down news in feeds, promoting an alternative “Explore” section for publisher content;
  • more publishers will decide to pull back from platforms if the situation continues in the same direction;
  • armies of internet moderators will have to be employed by tech companies (which YouTube is already doing) to filter through publisher content;
  • platforms will be accused of free speech suppression, because who would be authorized to decide which content is or is not to be removed?
  • and finally, it may lead to more talk about the issue and little action to solve it, which probably is one of the most likely scenarios that the story will unfold by.

2. Working on Building Trust in the Era of “Fake News”

As in 2017, the issue of fake news is going to remain a priority in 2018. Photo Credit – Infowars

Along with the ease of sharing information, the internet has exposed users to a vast array of facts, counter-facts and alternative facts, which often makes it difficult for the users to decide which piece of information is more credible. One of the primary challenges that the platforms face IS the fact that they have become an easy channel for misinformation, propaganda and abuse. In this case, the platforms need to effectively juggle between freedom of speech and being a channel for “clean” information that is not in fact damaging in its nature.

One great example the report refers to is the experiment conducted by the University of Washington synthesizing Obama’s one speech and animating his face in a completely different footage to fit the speech, this being done with incredible accuracy. This just demonstrates how vast the opportunities to create fake but fully believable pieces of information are.

This issue can unfold in a few possible scenarios:

1. platforms will use all possible technologies to block such content, but will not be able to outsmart the “hackers”;

2. alternative fact-checking techniques will be employed (one of which is AI currently already being used), including additional funding;

3. published content will be better labeled making the SOURCE of the content more visible, including better tagging and descriptions, as well as smart algorithms;

4. there will be efforts made to increase news literacy by employing educational programs, initiatives and campaigns for not only the general population but also for the publishers themselves.

3. Social Media and Messaging Facts and Trends

Social media 2017 facts and 2018 trends.
Image Credit – Nishith Blog
  1. Facebook usage is the highest, but it is stopping to grow.
  2. Facebook will focus more on user loyalty than on reach.
  3. Decline in participation by Facebook users because of having “friends” from so many different spheres in life is taking place. Sharing of personal content is moving to smaller and more closed communities.
  4. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are gaining traction rapidly.
  5. Instagram is one of the fastest growing networks of 2016/2017.
  6. Facebook is dominating SM through ownerships of all above networks but Snapchat.
  7. Twitter continues struggle for growth.
  8. Facebook will roll out FB Messenger for Kids in 2018.
  9. Mobile story format hits mainstream with Instagram surpassing Snapchat and Facebook taking efforts in the same direction.

4. Social Platforms Challenging TV in the Bigger Markets 

Facebook might go for obtaining streaming rights for the Premier League for 2019-2022 along with Amazon and Google. Image Source – The Sun
  1. Looks like Facebook is going to be serious in its efforts to take a bigger bite, having pledged to spend billions of dollars to advance its TV ambitions. This will most probably include major focus on video, and even possibly owning program rights for own shows.
  2. Facebook is expected to be one of the main contenders for the streaming rights for the Premier League for 2019-2022 along with Amazon and Google.
  3. This shift of attention towards TV, entertainment and sports can naturally leave existing online publishers out in the cold.

5. Shifting from Advertising to Reader Payment 

44% of the publisher respondents believing that digital subscription will be the leading source for revenue.
Image Source – Mac Rumors

The majority of survey respondents from the digital sphere (62%) believe that advertising will lose its power over time to paid content instead. This sounds valid against the background of advertising price drops due to lack of demand and abundant supply, ad fraud and widespread ad-blocking practices.

Currently, the big tech platforms have the biggest share in new digital advertising money because of the efficient targeting of audiences they allow. But many believe that Reader Payments are the future with 44% of the publisher respondents believing that digital subscription will be the leading source of revenue soon. To be in the loop with this possible development, publishers will be forced to not only change their business model, but also seriously work on the content they create and the audience they target with it.

Subscription or reader payment based approach could lead to a new form of the digital divide – a gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern digital devices (information in this case) and those who have limited to no access at all.
Image Source – Broun Bytes

This, of course, can lead to the emergence of a two-tier information system, which will also challenge the idea of information being available to all, as well as democracy and progress. Since those who will be able to pay will be exposed to more credible and valuable content, and those who won’t – this time will be receiving the lowest quality content and a lot of misinformation. This issue will also be raised many times in 2018.

What does this mean on a larger scale?

Another development to look for along the same theme is the greater focus on ad-blocking by default that various browsers will incorporate to better the experiences of their users. Apple solves this problem even more effectively by offering users to turn on “reader view,” which strips out all advertising, branding and contextual related links.

Facebook and Google already attract 84% of the entire digital advertising market.
Image Source – FBadTraining

And on a larger scale, this means that publishers are left with a tiny little share, which will continue shrinking, with Facebook and Google already attracting 84% of the entire digital advertising market. This, in its turn, will lead to a number of consolidations, partnerships and media takeovers among publishers to be able to compete with the giants by building scale.

Looks like, overall, a bumpy but very exciting year is ahead! Keep tuned for further developments by following us on Facebook or checking Amatuni Copywriting Blog. Meanwhile, if you’re curious about more details on trends and developments, read the full report here.

By Viktorya Mirzoyan