Unpopular Opinion: Stop Calling Blogs Social Media

blogs aren't social mediaLanguage can be so complicated, can’t it? Especially when you’re dealing with words that are new and still evolving. The word “blog” only just came onto the scene in 1997. The first use of “social media” may have beat it by a few years, but the evidence of its earliest use is unclear. These are words that apply to technology that keeps evolving. And even as the technology itself evolves at a rapid pace, the way we use it changes even faster.

For a long time, blogging has been lumped in under the larger category of social media. I think it’s time for us to acknowledge that it no longer belongs there.

3 Reasons That Blogging Is No Longer Social Media

  • Blogs increasingly resemble media properties more than they do the content on social networking websites.

Brands have spent years trying to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks when it comes to blogging. Recently, we’ve started to gain a clearer idea of just what does work and, in most cases, it’s well researched, meaty, long-form blog posts that more closely resemble the articles common to media properties than the short and pithy posts of social media.

The difference between this type of blog post and a tweet is comparable to the difference between a magazine article and a slogan – they’re completely different types of writing, with different goals, and vastly different work processes involved. The way we talk about them should reflect that.

  • The most social thing about blogs – the comments – are only a prominent feature on a small portion of blogs.

If there’s one component of blogging you could use to really make a case for their being social media, it’s the comments. But how many blogs do you visit that don’t seem to have any comments at all, much less significant social interaction in the comments? Many prominent blogs have even done away with comments altogether, due to the increasing workload of sifting through comment spam. Copyblogger, a big proponent of calling blogs social media back in 2009, famously disabled the comments on their blog in 2014. They felt confident people would move the social component of interacting with their blog to social platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

So if the blog is for putting quality, article-like content out there and social networking platforms are for talking about them (and anything else you want to discuss), perhaps it’s time to acknowledge they’re serving different purposes.

  • The goals of a blog are different than those of a social media presence (although they’re related).

Social media is all about interaction, awareness and promotion. Blogging is about education, thought leadership, and traffic. The specific goals and KPIs for the two mediums should differ.

Social media’s a great tool for promoting your blog posts and ideally developing the community that will visit your blog, and blogging can be an opportunity to gain the trust of readers and turn them into social media followers – and both should be helping you work toward the larger goal of building trust and gaining customers. But they each have a distinct role to play within the larger strategy of content marketing.


When you hear the term “social media,” what do you picture? For the vast majority of us, the interfaces of Facebook or Twitter will be the main images that come to mind. I’d be genuinely surprised if you told me that the image of your favorite blog popped into your head. Blogs are a type of media, and they’re often social. But they don’t fit with how most us now use and understand the term “social media.” It’s time to acknowledge that, as important as the relationship between the two mediums is, they’re not the same thing.

Why It’s Time to Re-Consider How You Think About Competition

Austin is a city full of freelancers in general, and freelance copywriters in particular. In this town, meeting other people who do what I do is common. From a competitive perspective, that makes it sound like a terrible place to be a freelance copywriter. In my experience, the exact opposite is true.

Instead of viewing each other as the enemy, we help each other out. I’m part of a freelance referral network that has brought me thousands of dollars in business, much of it sent directly my way by other local freelance copywriters – my so-called “competition.” And I know some of them have profited from jobs I’ve passed on because I was too busy or they weren’t a good fit.

Befriending my competition may just be the best thing I’ve ever done for my business.

How Do You View Your Competitors?

Whenever I encounter clients who insist that nothing they publish can include links or references to their content marketing competitioncompetitors, I usually shrug and oblige, but I always think what a missed opportunity. These are the businesses that share your target audience, and that are probably producing content that would be of great use to them. Is trying to pretend they don’t exist actually going to bring you more business?

If you view your competitors as a threat to the degree that you worry any mention of them could hurt your company, take a minute to analyze why. Is this really a strategic decision, or one borne of fear?

Why Content Marketing Doesn’t Have Room for “Competitors”

The big goal is to provide value to your audience, right? Content marketing is a long-term strategy designed in large part to gain customer trust. You know what makes me really trust a company, if they’re not afraid to admit a direct competitor has done something good.

Whether that’s an impressive piece of content they’re willing to share, or acknowledging that a feature in the competitor’s product makes them the better choice for some customers. Man, I hear that and think: this company is confident in their product and positioning.

Still Skeptical?

All my arguing for this so far has been based on my personal opinions and anecdotes, so I could see someone being unconvinced. But I’m not alone in this thinking. KISSmetrics, one of the top blogs out there in the marketing space, gives tips for growing your social media following that include following your competitors, commenting on their posts, offering to guest post on their websites, and promoting their stuff. But that’s just social media; I argue that there could be a clear value to publishing content that directly mentions your competitors or links to them.

Imagine for a minute that you’re the first person anyone looking for products or services in your industry comes to when they have a question about what to buy. How different would your business be?

Marcus Sheridan pretty much pulled that off with his pool business by publishing content about his competitors – not negative content, just informational stuff. He paid attention to the kind of questions his clients had and he answered them honestly on his website, even when it meant saying something positive about one of his competitors.

If you’re interested in using content marketing to become a thought leader, or even just a trusted brand, then the fear of mentioning your competition has got to go. You don’t have to go out of your way to promote and interact with them (obviously), just be willing to do so when it fits in naturally with your overall strategy. If the product or services you offer are really and truly great, then what do you have to fear?

3 Steps to Prioritize Your Small Business Social Media Strategy

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve likely been hearing left and right that you should be using social media for business. Although it’s been a ubiquitous marketing buzzword for some time now, if you’re new to using social media for business, it looks like an intimidating, time consuming undertaking.

There are so many social media platforms that it’s hard to know where to be and what to do once you’re there.

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge to get started with a social media strategy for your business, you should start by accepting that it will take some time. By thinking strategically and determining where to prioritize your social media efforts, you can make sure that time is spent effectively.

Step 1: Consider your goals.

What do you want to get out of the time you spend on social media? Some possibilities to consider are:

  1. Greater engagement with current customers
  2. Establishing authority in your industry
  3. Increasing brand awareness
  4. Developing new leads and increasing sales
  5. Improving SEO

These are far from the only goals achievable with social media, but can offer a sense of some of objectives to be thinking about.

Step 2: Understand the difference between the main platforms.

Facebook – A dominant force in social media, largely because it’s where the most people are. Most people use it primarily to stay connected to friends and family members. The upside to a presence on Facebook is that it might be the best of the bunch for attracting eyeballs. The downside: people don’t log on to facebook to buy things, some are annoyed to see marketing items show up in their feeds and are unlikely to engage with your business that way.

Nevertheless, it might be a good fit for your business based on the goods and services you provide and your target audience. If you’re B2C, especially if you’re offering something that falls in the realm of entertainment, Facebook may be the perfect fit.

Google + – Until recently, Google + wasn’t a key player, in spite of its owner’s online pedigree. Now, Google’s tying its ever important search algorithm to Google + usage, meaning a presence there can play an important role in improving site SEO. If your business is producing content as part of your marketing strategy (and you should be) , Google + is a very useful platform for sharing your content and interacting with others in your industry.

Twitter – Everything on Twitter is short and fast. Unlike Facebook, most users are quick to connect with a large number of people and businesses, and are less inclined to care if something that shows up in their feed is promotional – it’s just one of a steady stream of messages of varying level of interest.

LinkedIn – Designed for professional networking, LinkedIn allows businesses to create pages and share business news. Individuals can also share the company’s content in order to help give it a larger reach.

YouTube – Specifically for videos. If you have created any video ads, tutorials, webinars, or any other form of video content, it’s good to have a YouTube page to share it on. (Vimeo is another network to consider for this purpose)

Foursqaure – While not serving as large of an audience as most of the platforms on this list, Foursquare can be a great tool for local businesses. If you’re business primarily serves a local audience, especially if you offer the kind of service that people value geographic convenience for (e.g. restaurants, retail shopping, entertainment venues), this is a good place to be listed.

Pinterest – This is an extremely visual platform, based on people sharing cool images or visual ideas they come across. There are some type of businesses this is a perfect fit for: photographers, graphic designers, artists, florists, etc.


That’s a long list. Maintaining an active presence on all of the above platforms is a daunting task, and not social media strategynecessary for the vast majority of businesses. Based on your goals and industry, think about which of the list is likely to be the most useful for your business. Where is your target audience most likely to be? How are they most likely to interact with your business?

For all of these, it’s important to engage. You can’t effectively use social media if all you do there is promote yourself. You need to interact with others: reply, share others’ content, like, re-tweet, etc. Mix in your interactions with your own promotional updates and content shares and people will be more likely to follow and pay attention to you.

Step 3: Develop a social media plan and content strategy.

Determine how much time each day you intend to devote to social media. Developing a content strategy ensures you regularly have something to share (and comes with a whole host of other benefits). Research and make use of social media tools like HootSuite to make managing your accounts and scheduling your updates easier.

Now, get started!

If it seems overwhelming and you need help, there’s a whole industry of social media and content specialists you can bring in to take over some of the more time consuming parts of the work.

Google + and the “End of Search”

Who likes hyperbole! Well, people who like provocative headlines, for one. Wired has a current article on “The End of Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It.” The gist of the article is that the way we interact with the internet is changing, moving away from static pages and individual searches, and more towards streams of steady information. The author calls this the “lifestream.”

“This lifestream — a heterogeneous, content-searchable, real-time messaging stream — arrived in the form of blog posts and RSS feeds, Twitter and other chatstreams, and Facebook walls and timelines…All the information on the internet will soon be a time-based structure”

You may or may not find the article’s argument convincing, but it does seem to tie in to an issue I’ve been hearing and thinking about quite a bit about recently – the recent rise of Google +.

When Google + first surfaced, it seemed primarily designed to compete with Facebook. It aroused plenty of curiosity and a good number of people gave it a try, but when it came down to it, it couldn’t compete with the main thing Facebook had going for it as a social media platform: people. Everyone was already there, and failed to feel a mass compulsion to switch it out for something new.

Now Google + is embracing a new identity. By linking Google + usage with your authority in terms of how Google determines ranking, Google + is quickly becoming a content distribution platform, with a strong influence on SEO. Or, another way of seeing it, via Copyblogger:

“Google+ is less social media platform and more backplane social layer that transformed all Google products into features of Google+.”

In other words, Google is aiming to leverage Google + into the frame through which all our internet activity is experienced. Potentially moving people away from the traditional search experience, and into a more customized version of the web – perhaps in a way that resembles the “lifestreams” described above.

Who knows if internet usage will move in this direction as predicted, but it’s inevitable that time, the evolution of technology, and people’s ideas of how technology can be used mean our relationship to the internet is bound to change. It’s important that businesses and marketers keep an eye on those changes as they occur and adapt marketing efforts to accommodate consumer behavior.

Great Customer Service as Marketing

Marketing is about reputation. Creating one amongst those not yet aware of your business, and maintaining a positive one for those already familiar with you. Hands down, the number one thing a company can do to ensure a consistently good reputation is to provide exceptional customer service.

People remember their best and worst customer service experiences and are quick to talk about them to friends, colleagues, and sometimes a much larger internet audience. Companies can now be made and ruined according to their reputation in online forums.

Social media and online review sites have made what was always true much more so: customer service is crucial to good branding and marketing. While providing acceptable customer service will help you to avoid the PR disasters of bad online reviews and social media rants, if you want to really stand out from the competition and turn customer service into a form of marketing, you’ll have to resolve to go above and beyond.

One particular example of a company that’s gained a lot of positive attention based purely on their reputation for customer service is Zappo’s.

When it comes to buying shoes or clothes online, some may still be skeptical, concerned about finding the proper fit or paying for shipping. Zappo’s alleviates those concerns with free shipping on many orders and a free 365-day return policy for all items. In addition, many customers have publicly shared stories of Zappo’s going above and beyond to help them out, fueling one of the best word of mouth branding successes in recent business memory.

How did they achieve this success? For one thing, company CEO Tony Hsieh has acknowledged that the company made a decision early on to treat customer service as a top priority. They’re picky in hiring service positions, making sure not only that the candidate is qualified, but also a good fit for company culture. Perhaps most importantly, in contrast to many large companies, Zappo’s is willing to spend more on customer service to get better results, rather than seeing it as an area to cut costs. As a result, customers can get ahold of a competent, friendly representative anytime they need help, and the company inspires articles like this and this, without having to put money into marketing.

If your customer service is good enough, your customers will do the marketing for you.