Social Media Advertising vs. Content Marketing

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Social Media Advertising vs. Content Marketing

I ran across a graphic recently from entitled "Most Effective vs. Difficult Email List Growth Tactics to Execute According to Marketing Professionals Worldwide, March 2017." The chart is referenced below:

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What I found most interesting about this graphic is the top two tactics: Social Media Advertising and Content Marketing. In my new role with MOZAY, we talk a great deal about these two tactics, not just as they relate to email list building, but as overall marketing tactics, in general.

Social Media Advertising

I'll be honest: I've learned more about social media advertising in the last 6 months than in all the previous 10 years combined. MOZAY specializes in "moving ideas to market," and social media advertising plays a huge, and very effective, role in that.

To get an idea/product/service in front of the largest, most targeted audience possible, social media advertising is an outstanding tactic to utilize. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media platforms have an unfathomable amount of information about its users, and taking advantage of that data proves quite beneficial to advertisers.

For example: Besides the typical age, gender, location, and employer, Facebook can offer insights into areas as detailed as:

  • Home value
  • Relationship status
  • Expectant parents
  • Users who have a debit card
  • Users who use coupons
  • Users who buy beauty products
  • Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)
  • Types of vacations users tend to go on
  • Users who administer a Facebook page

This amount and detail of data provides an advertiser with a wealth of information to narrow down and target its audience EXACTLY. And, in addition to its targeting opportunities, Facebook and other social platforms offer backend insights, measurement, and reporting to help you know precisely what's working and what's not.

So, you can see why it's such an effective tactic for driving new email signups, as noted in the research from

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I would argue these top two tactics also apply to digital marketing overall, and probably in the same order. Whether you're trying to build an email list, launch a new product, or grow your existing business, social media advertising might be the best tool available.

There is a catch, though.

So far, it may seem social media advertising is too good to be true. Nearly perfect audience matching. Outstanding measurement, tracking, and reporting. Then, add in the flexibility to adjust messaging on the fly. Why isn't everyone doing it?

Because there is a catch: MONEY.

When we talk about social media advertising in this sense, we're not talking about "boosting" a post for $50; we're talking about investing hundreds of dollars a day, thousands of dollars month, in order to effectively generate the results desired. Throwing a few hundred dollars, or even a few thousand, at advertising on any social platform isn't likely to drive the activity necessary to affect the bottom line.

Also, in addition to the actual "media spend" - the money that goes to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. - there's also the expense of managing the whole process. Whether it's an internal investment in resources/people or an external investment in a firm like MOZAY, advertisers also have to consider the monthly efforts and investment to manage social media advertising efforts/campaigns. Several variables come into play here, but the investment range here could be anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 or more to pay a social media manager salary or a monthly retainer with an outside partner.

Effective? Absolutely. And well worth the investment if you have the budget.

Content Marketing

While the social media advertising aspect is newer to me personally, I now understand the power of this tactic and all the benefits it offers to businesses - B2B and B2C alike.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is something I've come to realize is one of, if not THE most important and valuable marketing tactic available to all businesses. In my book, Stop Selling. Start Helping., I share the concept of content marketing as a simplified message of "helping instead of selling."

Content marketing is all about educating, informing, helping, and sometimes entertaining your audience by answering their questions, addressing their problems, and sharing the information and resources they need to make an informed decision.

Content marketing generally works like this...

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One of the major benefits of content marketing, when done well, is that it is not dependent on other platforms - your Twitter followers belong to Twitter; your Facebook fans belong to Facebook; your LinkedIn connections belong to LinkedIn. All of these platforms can, and should, be involved in your content marketing strategy; but it shouldn't be dependent on them.

Your primary content should reside on your website.

It doesn't necessarily matter if you use a blog or video content or photography or white papers or a podcast or webinars, as long as your content remains "owned" by you on your own platform - your website.

Drive readers to your blog using Facebook. Generate exposure to your video content on YouTube. Get more followers on Twitter. But, own your content.

And, own your list.

By that, I mean again, don't depend on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or YouTube to be your primary way to reach your audience. Build an email list that you "own." This is essential to the success of your content marketing.

Let's look at that graphic again from

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In this research, executives said social media advertising and content marketing are about the same when it coms to effectiveness, but that content marketing is significantly more "difficult" to execute than social media advertising.

I disagree.

Watch this video:

Content marketing is not near as difficult as most people make it out to be. Check out my book or read Marcus Sheridan's book, They Ask, You Answer, to get a sense for how simple the concept can truly be.

Content marketing investment

Admittedly, content marketing can often be a longer term strategy than targeted (and properly funded) social media advertising; however, there are a few key benefits to highlight:

  • You become the trusted expert in your industry
  • There is tremendous long-term organic search engine optimization (SEO) value
  • Your content can/should be integrated with your overall sales process
  • High conversion rates on effectively built landing pages and premium content
  • Targeted list building and nurturing of your audience(s)
  • Can be less expensive than social media advertising + management

Content marketing typically focuses on building the content (what we call the "engine") and then promoting that content organically through social media, email marketing, and other outreach tactics (which we refer to as the "fuel"). And, then continuing to build more and more content, or variations of content already produced, and promoting that new content in a variety of ways, depending on the audience.

Moving in this direction usually involves only the retainer side of the equation - which can range anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 per month - but doesn't require the additional paid media investment of $6,000 to $20,000 or more, as mentioned above.

In an ideal world...

If the stars align and the budgets are available, a combination of content marketing and social media advertising is ideal. If you can build a solid base of educational, helpful content and then drive the largest, most targeted audience to that content, you'll hit the perfect storm of digital marketing effectiveness!

And, in some cases, it's a matter of starting with one and then building the other as time and budgets allow.

If you have questions, I'd love to talk with you. Click here and let's chat.