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What’s the difference between content marketing and social media?


Content marketing has been around for centuries while social, including blogging, represents a new medium that has never existed before.

Kind of ironic in that many law firms, lawyers, and marketing professionals are couching content marketing as something new, and even an offshoot of social media.

Marketing consultant and best selling author, Jay Baer (@jaybaer), in a post answering this question, put it well.

Social media is the new telephone. Content marketing is the new brochure.


The goals of content marketing are consumption, then behavior. The goals of social media are participation, then behavior.

No question content marketing is valuable. From Baer:

Content marketing is a device used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behavior that results in leads, sales or advocacy. Social media is used by customers and prospects to communicate among themselves, and occasionally with companies. This communication can result in leads, sales or advocacy, but is often less structured and conversational…

Social requires a total personal commitment. It’s much like the chicken and the pig at breakfast. The pig, providing the ham, is totally committed, while the chicken, providing the eggs, is an idle participant.

Writing articles for distribution, something lawyers have done for decades, requires no engagement with people on your part. No commitment here to letting people get to know and trust you.

Paying someone to write articles, alerts, and newsletters for you, often done in content marketing, requires even less participation.

Until the Internet and social media, lawyers were unable to join active conversations involving their target audience, including most importantly the influencers of clients and prospective clients.

Social media enables lawyers to personally demonstrate their care, passion, and expertise through interaction with people. Interaction that build relationships and word of mouth reputations.

Sure, most lawyers will be afraid to interact with people in a real and
and genuine way. Many law firms will even want to prevent or limit such interaction. They’ll be apt to use content marketing and distribute the content via social networks.

But using social networks and media sites for content distribution, as opposed to engagement, doesn’t turn content marketing into social media. That’s just broadcasting, something we’ve always had.

Content marketing is fine, it’s just markedly different than social media.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Search engine people blog