The term content marketing has cropped up ever more frequently this last year. But what exactly is it, and how is it different from social media? Is the term of any use at all?
They are in fact flip sides of the same coin – the ever democratisation of media. Both speaks of media, that can be produced by everyone, and is distributed by everyone. These two terms can however also capture a distinction in approach to democratised media. How so?
Let me explain. Please note that for the sake of clarity, I am going to generalise. The distinction between different forms of media has never been absolutely clear cut. (Some forms of social media are over a century old.) And the distinctions are even less so now. But here goes my little polemic.
But they differ in important respects:
How to make sense of all this?
Here at RAAK we like to think before we do. If you are a regular reader of our newsletter you’d have noticed that we are rather skeptical of some of the central tenets of the social media dogma. Like the ridiculous one that was so big until quite recently amongst the likes of gurus like Chris Brogan: Following somebody back when they follow you as a matter of course.
Don’t get me wrong. We do think its pretty obvious that the continuous drop in the cost of publishing – the democratisation of media, is revolutionary. But we don’t think that the basic rules of media or how people behave have changed. It’s just that the rules now apply to everybody – because we all can be media.
That means, for example, that attention remains finite. And it is silly to pretend you can meaningfully follow 20,000 people. That means Stephen Frye might be a person, but he is also a broadcaster.
So what does all this mean for organisations in practise?
In most instances, what companies and organisations should do when using media for getting their message out (note – a very specific part of marketing), is ‘content’ and not ‘social’. It fits their goals much better. Most companies want to achieve some kind of scale – an audience and not a community.
You often hear social media consultants say to companies, just join this or that service – it’s not rocket science. Yeah, that might be fine for Joe Blogs who has 130 friends and no need to communicate at scale.
Companies and organisations tend to want to excel and stand out. Create a brand. The only way to do this (besides the obvious one of having a great product) is to produce quality content that’s remarkable. And that is freaking hard. It requires a combination of talent and graft. You often need to throw money at the problem – At companies like RAAK They need to hire journalists, creative programmers, film makers – not marketeers or community managers.
Unfortunately doing things at scale cause more noise (See Gina’s post above). Many blogs have started to switch off their comnents. (I’m not necessarily suggesting you do that). But look at hyper successful Burberry and what they do on their Facebook page. They never reply to customers. They are broadcasting.
To reiterate – I am not saying that relationships and two way interaction with your audience is of no import when getting your message out. It has always been. Just look at how much radio has made use of the phone-ins over the years. And now this interaction is even easier.
So depending of the company, the brand they are trying to project (aloof, part of the crowd), and their size, the answer to how one-to-one a company should be, will vary.
And social media still has a direct roll in other sphere’s of the company operations. For market research social media is gold dust. It has a massive roll to play in informing product development. Creating forums where customers can help themselves is yet another example where social is king.
It’s earned media, that’s earned through blood sweat and tears
AND it’s hard to do content marketing itself well, without listening what’s going on at the coal face of social media – because that’s where it will be distributed. AND even when creating content, you can harness the power of the crowd. (See our logo and logo crowd sourcing experiment). So this is not an argument against social media per se. But it is an argument for a shift in emphasis to take it far more seriously. A few Tweets, and a few replies won’t cut it.
Bottom-line: There are many more media channels today (we all are), and they vary tremendously in size. And so the scope of these media channels for behaving as broadcasters (Stephen Frye) or conversationalists (The Hackney Gazette) vary greatly too.
But really, if your serious about communicating far and wide, you know which one you want to be.
Posted by Wessel van Rensburg