Any content marketing agency can also offer social media services to some degree. Social media is the way you amplify the content you create. But where do you draw the line between what a content agency does, and an agency that just specialises in social? They’re very different skill sets.
And while you need both, ignoring one in favour of the other will have a major impact on the success of your content marketing efforts. And neither are tactics you can set and forget.
Content marketing versus social media
A lot of the ideas behind content marketing are still new to many people. I have often seen it equated with social media. It’s true that the two are linked, but they’re very different beasts.
Interest in the both these terms has grown since the early 2000s. Back then, Facebook first appeared and Americans started using the phrase “content marketing”. During the GFC, marketing budgets disappeared. Companies looked for alternatives to traditional media. Since then the terms have tracked each other pretty closely. See this chart of the interest in each term compared since 2007.
The reason I started the chart in 2007 is because it was only September 2006 that membership of Facebook was opened up to everyone. As the GFC hit in 2008, interest in social media grew because it was a cheap way to reach a large number of people. Then, as it became harder to get organic reach with social media alone, interest in content drew up to parallel it.
That’s because most of found out that reach is not enough. You can buy access to a million people on social, or to ten—but so what? What those people do next is the important thing.
A content agency creates the raw material, while social marketing amplifies
For many years, I have heard brands and agencies talk about the ‘content’ they put on social media. Often they are referring to posts. But a 140-character Twitter update, or a three sentence post, isn’t content. An image, on its own, isn’t content. Not in the way most of us would understand the term.
Content has to mean something beyond creating an immediate and fleeting emotional reaction.
Content is both rational and emotional. It’s a series of ideas, arguments and explanations that engage people and galvanise them into an audience. Whether it’s in the form of written articles, videos or podcasts, it achieves those ends as part of an ongoing process.
More importantly, content helps that audience understand why it should be doing business with you.
But you need social media
You need social media to connect with potential members of that audience. Then you use content to engage them.
Between about 2007 and 2009, when few brands were on social media, that connection was easy. That was before Facebook and the others changed their algorithm. I say Facebook and others because Facebook is still the dominant platform. You still need social media to make that connection, but nowadays you have to pay for it.
It’s not expensive (it’s cheaper than other above-the-line options). And if you accept that you will be forking out some money, there are some smart things you can do with targeting and re-targeting potential audience members.
While a good content agency understands the difference between content and social media, many people don’t. If you have already engaged an agency to help you with one or the other, you can’t guarantee they can do both.