Social Media Versus Social Networking as a Content Marketing Strategy

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Content marketing and social network marketing are not the same thing. Content marketing is creating solid, high-integrity content that attracts prospective business opportunities. Social network marketing is pushing around your friends, family, and the hundreds of other people you do NOT know, but have befriended so it looks like you know a lot of people.

I hear the two terms, Social Media and Social Networks, used interchangeably. But that does NOT make them the same. Nor should they be thought of as the same animal.

Social Media versus Social Networks in Content Marketing

Social Media is creating solid content that people love to read and pass around. There’s a best choice medium to do this – the owner’s home site via their CMS. I recommend WordPress. People find that home site, leave comments (it’s social!) and the owner responds creating a dialog (it’s social!) and sometimes commenters talk among themselves on the content owner’s site (it’s social!). And when the content is really, really good, the content gets passed around to the social networks. (Right again. It’s social!).

Social Networking is a tiny form of social media. It might be more accurately called Social Network Marketing. There is a medium for publishing content – somebody else’s site. And the content does not belong to the owner (it kind of does). But for those who are very active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, after you have created something really cool, wait a week (sometimes a couple of days, and sometimes even a couple of hours), then go back and try to find it. Let me know how that works for you. The average length of time for an update on social media is 3 hours! (Check out fact number 7 from a recent SEJ post!) Social networking is hanging out with friends and family. And the last time I checked you don’t do business with friends and family.

Anyone doing marketing on the social networks has one aim – to push people to their website. It doesn’t work. It’s no good. Don’t waste your time. The numbers add up pretty fast and they are fun to watch…but those numbers don’t equate to more business.

I learned the lesson that social network marketing is a waste of time more than 8 years ago.

Social Network Marketing is a Bust

Here’s how I know.

In March of ’06 my first website in the network of sites was born. After a couple of months of writing like a mad dog I got up to about 2,000 page views in a month. The network I belonged to was using display ads = page views, which is what we were after. And, of course, we wanted clicks so we could get a higher ecpm for our ads.

Two months after my site was born I discovered there were social networking sites where I could promote my work…more or less. I think Facebook still had ‘The’ in it’s name. In fact Facebook and LinkedIn EACH still had about 5,000,000 members. Twitter what? G+ what?

But there was Mixx, Newsvine, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Fark, Digg, IndianPad, and a CollegeHumor site that liked my stuff and others of that ilk.

Here’s what I did – I promoted EVERY article I wrote EVERY time on EVERY social networking site I could find. No doubt I annoyed some people, but I didn’t know any better. Besides, when I promoted my stuff, I got more traffic = they liked it?

How much more traffic? In one month I went from 2,000 page views to 22,000 page views! Remember Sitemeter!?

Social Network Marketing Results

Social Network Marketing Results

What I Learned about Social Network Marketing

When I was promoting, I decided to keep a log of how long it took me. Ten minutes today, six minutes the next day, 14 minutes here, eight minutes there, so that I had a total of how long it took me in terms of time spent to get more traffic. Good number to know, eh?

I also knew how much money I made based on 2,000 page views. And I knew how much more money I made on 22,000 page views. Another good number to know,

If I were to subtract the 2000-page view-month earnings from the 22,000-page view-month earnings and divide it by how much time it took me to make that much money, I could get an idea of what I was working for by the hour.

Drum roll, please.

Results of Social Network Marketing

In approximately 20 hours of cumulative time spent doing the social networking thing – including interacting and commenting and befriending and dealing with Reddit trolls, I made a whopping …. $43.20 more!

I worked for $2.16/hour! It wasn’t worth it. I got a black marker and drew a big S on my forehead and called myself stupid. Then washed it off because I had learned a very valuable lesson. Working the social networks for marketing purposes as a means to drive/push people to your site in hopes of getting a new customer is a waste of time.

Make no mistake, you can get more people to come to your website by working the social networks, but the traffic doesn’t perform. It’s a poor return on time invested.


Social network marketing is a push proposition — you are trying to get people to go where they weren’t prepared to go. When that happens you get a poorer result. A much poorer result.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is a pull proposition. Visitors come because they are looking for something and find you because you had what they wanted. You satisfied their query. That’s content marketing. That’s doing Social Media solid.

Want more clients? Write more and write better content. It’s cheaper and more time effective for people to find you than for you to find them.

Next article: Why Social Networking Traffic Performs so Poorly


Images  belong to

Screenshots taken March ’14

Note to readers: From March 26 – April 14 I will be somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or in the Mediterranean Sea, courtesy of a luxury cruise line with my wife, traveling for FREE, talking about Social Media to people my parent’s age (and I am old!). I really enjoy the comments and dialog below, but I probably won’t reply until I get back from the cruise. I am not ignoring you.  I am avoiding the 75 cent/minute Internet charge on the ship!

Bill Belew
Professor, Speaker, Author, blogger, all-around old man. Having taught a full 48-hour MBA course in Marketing with Social Media at a graduate school in Silicon Valley, Bill delivers insights from recent, real and relevant case studies. Bill has been working in social media for more than 8 years and has more than 90 million unique visitors from organic search to his network of sites and in a variety of niches. He knows what works, what doesn't, what can kill a site, and what can cause it to grow. Bill has a network of 5000+ Meetup followers in the heart of Silicon Valley. He is a paid, professional, international, in-demand speaker.
Bill Belew
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  • Aleena

    Some small enterprises are not even interesting in bringing traffic from social media sites to home site. They are there just for brand recognition. Of course they promote there but don’t push people to visit their sites. Promotion on social media platforms may not help directly in business but I guess it helps in SEO and branding.

    • Bill Belew


      It will help with branding. But that’s super tough to measure ROI.

      Thanks for reading.

      Bill Belew

  • Michael Rosenstein

    Content Marketing is the best strategy for promoting online and if you’re content is in accordance with the pulse of audience then social networking sites is the best. I had huge increase in traffic by promoting my content in this manner.

    • Bill Belew


      Can you share some numbers? Not percentages of growth, numbers?

      Thanks for reading.

      Bill Belew

  • Elias

    I wish the majority of businessmen that I’m speaking with could understand the difference between Social Media and Social Networking. They put everything in the same can with no results at all. Great analysis of the topic! Thank you.

    • Bill Belew


      That is one of my aims here … to have some clear definitions and better understanding.

      Thanks for reading.

  • Eng Chin

    I like your style of writing – you started by providing the definitions of social media and social network and showed the difference of it. then you provided a case study ending with the result yield, you monitor what you work, and towards the end you provided a overall conclusion – push and pull.

    • Bill Belew


      Thanks for the kind words.

      I do my best to show why, not just tell.

      Thanks for reading,


  • Sanjay Maharjan

    Well, that cleared up the difference even more. One this is for sure. History was about social bookmarking whereas likes and shares is at present.

    Content marketing was hard to stand above the crowd because of competition and will still be the same. I wonder if customers will be overloaded with the information they encounter.

  • Bill Belew

    Thank you, Eng, for reading. I’ll be back again next week.

    Bill Belew

  • Bill Belew


    Customers will be underloaded… because they will be more apt to find the answer they are looking for.

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

  • Joseph Farina

    Any thoughts on how to achieve more traffic through social media when the content that you can write about is limited? We started a charity microsite based on social media likes, shares and tweets ( and have the issue where the content, is not something people are actively out there searching for. Any thoughts thanks…

    • Bill Belew


      I have found that active participation in the social networks can increase traffic. However, the quality (conversion) of that traffic does not perform as well as traffic from organic search.

      Time spent in the social networks, IMHO, is better spent creating more good content at your host site.

      In the long run, nothing will beat building your own site and interacting with people there.

      If you like, please reach out to me via my email and we can discuss this more.

      Thanks for reading.

      Bill Belew

  • CrisisMaven

    It always seems to boil down to the same thing: “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door”. The time spent commenting cannot at the same time be spent researching or writing (I don’t slap my own hand here because I do research and then, while I came across something, I think, heck, I’m already here, why not comment?). But it gets worse: since Internet people frequent the -who’d a thought it- Internet, they can necessarily only come into contact with content that’s already there, placed there by someone else. Wow, where’d he/she get it from. Maybe the Internet. Regurgitating is good for cows and phoenixes, but even they regurgitate new stuff every day. And eventually it goes in one end and comes out the other. On the Internet it then starts percolating. To me social marketing is rather about a division of labor: I write good content (or so I hope), others discern the quality and THEY spread the word. They won’t do it (unless paid, don’t get me started on that shenanigan) unless they find the content worthwhile sharing. Then it is unlikely to be old content regurgitated or they would’ve already come across it somewhere else. Unless they have an archivist’s streak (‘look, I found the same subject here … and … here … and here …) they will hop from fresh original content to the next. So it’s either: use stale content and force it upon others or do independent thinking, let others know about it and let them do the spreading. Seth Godin is quite a good example of that.

    • Bill Belew


      I have found that the more specific I am with my content easier it is for me to be original … or at least unique.

      In other words, if I can solve a problem for a specific person/company in a specific location then I can be their hero. What I may be saying may not be unique in the big picture of things, but when they read it and it resonates especially for them, I will have connected.

      Does this make sense?

      Thanks for reading.

      Bill Belew