Online Marketing: Comparison Between Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing

Online marketing is a necessity for every business; small or large, local or online. Without online marketing, you might as well be invisible.

Now, the problem with saying that online marketing should be an essential part of every business’s overall strategy is that “marketing” can assume many definitions. Are we talking about sending emails to prospective customers? How about keeping a list of services and pricing updated on a website? Did those 10 tweets shared last week count? Are radio spots still in play? And does anyone even look at mailers anymore?

With the advent of the internet, the proliferation of mobile devices in both our personal and professional lives, and the rise of social media, the face of online marketing as well as the way we do it has vastly changed from, say, 20 years ago. And that’s not a bad thing. It just means there are many more channels and a different set of expectations wrapped up in marketing your business.

old school marketing

Online Marketing: Content Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing (Which Is Better)?

While we could argue the merits of all the different types of marketing available to businesses, I’d instead like to focus on closing in on two of the arguably most important types of online marketing right now: content marketing and social media marketing. I think there are a lot of business owners who grapple with this idea that you have to choose between the two. After all, who has time to writing a whole bunch of content and maintain a healthy social media presence?

Let’s take some time today to do a side-by-side comparison. We’ll examine the differences, the similarities, and then make a decision as to which of these forms of online marketing will be more effective in helping you to market your business.

How Do Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing Differ?


online marketing: content marketing

Content Marketing involves the creation of thought pieces (like blog posts, infographics, white papers, and case studies) that both directly and indirectly promote a business’s offering.

online marketing: social media marketing

Social Media Marketing focuses on the creation of short messaging for social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Main Differences

Here are some of the ways content and social media marketing differ:

  • Content marketing is meant to be read by the audience, which means it requires a greater investment of time and attention. Social media relies more on conversing with the audience through brief and character-restricted engagements.
  • Social media marketing allows brands to directly connect with their audience whereas content marketing does not enable brands to engage in real time.
  • Content focuses on providing useful and actionable insights. Social media messaging gives businesses a chance to let their personal voice shine through, be it humorous or ever the consummate professional.
  • Although both aim to be timely in subject matter, social media marketing enables businesses to react to an event almost immediately whereas content marketing usually takes more work and time to compile a response.
  • Content marketing has a longer-lasting impact as it always remains on the blog, can easily be searched for, and is regularly shared across all marketing channels. Social media messages tend to have a very short shelf life.
  • Content requires a greater upfront investment: you strategize, create, edit, finalize, push, and promote. Social media, on the other hand, usually doesn’t unless a tweet or other post goes viral and then there’s a tremendous amount of work to do later on.
  • SEO is a huge deal for content marketing. Social media posts can be optimized with hash tags, but that’s really about it.
  • Content marketing is usually the starting point for all other forms of marketing, as it gives businesses something tangible to share through email, social media, and more.

What Do Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing Have in Common?

online marketing similarities

Although they clearly have their differences, content marketing and social media marketing have the same goal in mind: to help businesses raise brand awareness by connecting to an audience. Here are some of the other similarities they share:

  • The end goal is the same: build an audience and convert more of them to customers.
  • They are about building relationships. Albeit one is more active (social media) of a relationship building tactic than the other (content).
  • In order for the audience to be receptive, they need to be consistent in voice, frequency, and quality.
  • They’re great for inspiring your audience to share your thoughts and spread the word about your brand.
  • In order to be effective in either, businesses need to track their efforts in analytics.
  • They can be used to direct people to their other marketing channels.
  • They’re both multi-channel. Content marketing can take place on a website, on other people’s sites, even on social (like LinkedIn articles). Social media can take place on your page, on followers’ page, in groups and even on review sites (like Yelp).
  • They come in a variety of forms, written and non-written, including video, memes, photos, user-generated content, and more.

Content Marketing vs. Social Marketing: Is There a Winner?

I wish I could tell you that there’s a clear winner here, that social media trumps content or vice versa. However, I think it all really depends on:

  • the time commitment you’re willing to make.
  • the money you’re willing to spend.
  • your audience (because the 65+ crowd might not be on social).
  • how good of a writer you are.
  • the resources, tools, and assistants you have to help you handle this marketing.

Restrictions aside, I think it’s fair to say that neither content marketing nor social media marketing is better than the other. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the symbiotic relationship between the two should never leave one without the other in a business’s marketing arsenal.

About the author

Nathan Oulman is an amazing writer who likes to talk about himself every chance he gets. Well and he likes long walks when he is not working on his site

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