Why Social Media Isn’t The Holy Grail (& Neither is Content Marketing)

How to Create Amazing Content That Sells Stuff

Social media isn’t the holy grail,” according to Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner, author of Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, speaking at Content Marketing World 2012. At first blush this may sound ludicrous coming from the founder of one of the largest social media blogs but the reality is that social media isn’t a business goal!

Rather, social media is a conduit for delivering content to and engaging with your prospects, customers, fans and the public, and to answer their questions. To this end, Mike Stelzner recommended becoming a publisher in order to build your own audience cost effectively by creating valuable content for your target audience. This requires knowing who you want to reach and asking them what they want to know. Once you have answers to these two questions, it’s a matter of giving your audience relevant content that’s educational and easy-to-digest.

Otherwise, “social media is just talk without listening” in the words of Content Rules  co-author, C.C. Chapman. Without taking the time to hear what your prospects and customers want to know, you’ll never create what Social Media Explorer’s Jason Falls, co-author of No Bullshit Social Media, refers to as “holy smokes content.” This information drives social media because it gets you in front of your prospects and customers by providing solutions to their problems. Therefore, optimize your content for people by using the words your audience uses to get found because your ultimate goal is to sell your prospects and customers your products and services, not just build a social media following as an end in itself.

Before you jump onto the content conveyor belt, understand that your social media content, often in the form of a blog, is your attraction engine that enables you to bring people closer to your product. The goal is to use this process to build your house file, like old-fashioned direct marketers such as Seth Godin (author of Permission Marketing) advocates for selling your product.

To engage your target audience and draw them in, you must create the 3C’s of conent: cornerstone content, content landing pages and connection content. Here’s how Copyblogger’s Brian Clark defines these three content formats.

  1. Cornerstone content. These articles describe the elements a potential customer needs to be educated about before they’ll do business with you. Create high value content that your target audience wants to read, cite and link to. It must be written in the language of your audience.
  2. Content landing pages. This content consists of organizing all of your content on a specific topic into one page where each column has a short explanation. For example, Copywriting 101.
  3. Connection content. This content goes beyond the dry information of cornerstone content. It makes your content go viral, in Sonia Simone’s opinion, by touching passion points of small impassioned segments of your audience and energizing them to share and talk about your content. For example, Shiny: The Firefly Guide to Producing More Content struck a cord with its cult followers by speaking their language.

Viewed from a content perspective, social sharing is about publicity and distribution to engage both influencers and the people who share your content, specifically passionate engaged customers. (Read about Wildfire’s research to understand how to use social sharing.) In the process, you must be careful to keep track of your end customer to persuade and convert them to ultimately purchase from you.

While developing a social media following and creating amazing content may appear to be the holy grail of marketing, they’re really only part of the process that helps you to attract prospects and customers, answer their questions, and convert them into purchasers. The reality is that at the core of achieving your goal is the traditional marketing of building a house file and converting your prospects into customers.

Do your social media and content marketing help you convert your prospects into customers? Please share you experiences with us.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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