Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: Which is Right for You?

Suzanne Wentley
Published: Jul 24, 2023
Last Updated:
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With today’s ever-growing (and evermore complicated) online marketplace of information, business owners often pit content marketing vs social media marketing in a battle of dollars within their limited outreach budget. But what if these marketing methods were used in collaboration instead of competition?

While it makes sense to focus on a single marketing technique to reach your target audience, you may find greater success with a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy that combines ideas from both content marketing and social media marketing. Your plan can be dynamic and individualized with strategies that work for your industry, niche, and company. After all, no other business is quite like yours.

To make this work, you’ll first need to get a clear understanding of the similarities and differences between content marketing and social media marketing. In this guide, we’ll lay out the strategies of both as individual methods and provide proven techniques for overlapping the two in a way that can work to grow your business.  

Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing Explained

First, let’s set the scene for this work: Both content marketing and social media marketing are digital marketing campaigns that use online tools and strategies to achieve specific goals you’ve set for your business.

Today, it is vital to have an online presence — and both content and social media marketing strategies help to focus that presence in a way that is more likely to be noticed by your potential customers. The end game for both methods is the same, but each uses a different approach to make it happen.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing involves creating valuable and engaging written products as a free service to specific target groups. This original content is offered as a way to organically attract people whose pain points can be solved with your products or services. The products you create and publish in a content marketing campaign shouldn’t just be educational but also entertaining, informative, and inspirational.

This style of marketing is considered “organic” because you don’t have to pay to share this content, although you will likely engage professional blog writing services to produce high-quality work. This sets it apart from more traditional advertising campaigns, where you pay to get your message in front of your target audience.

A few content marketing examples include:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Infographics
  • Web pages

The answer to "What's content marketing?" goes hand-in-hand with understanding SEO, or search engine optimization. The best content is optimized to rank well on search engine pages. You'll want to research specific keywords that your target audience naturally searches on sites like Google to improve your content's rank.

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing involves using specific social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to connect with your future customers. With this outreach style, you are meeting your customers where they already spend a lot of time.

You can use this strength to nurture your relationships, share the values and ethics of your brand, address customer service issues, and encourage loyal customers to spread the word about your offerings on your behalf. When people comment, like, and share your social media posts, your reach grows — and so does your customer base.

Key Differences Between Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing

Think of content marketing as moving from the inside out. You can share your expertise on various topics, offer solutions to problems, and let your potential customers learn from you as a trustworthy brand.

Social media marketing, then, is outside-in. By interacting with your target audience, you’ll learn what they care about and what interests them. Your social media campaign can stay dynamic, weaving new ideas as you better understand your customers and address current events in a timely, relevant way.

Objectives and Goals

Social media in marketing is a path to connection and brand awareness. Social media isn’t the place to go in-depth on a topic, but rather to start a conversation. You can strengthen relationships this way, and that’s powerful for building brand loyalty and encouraging word-of-mouth marketing on your behalf.

Content marketing works better when your goals involve enhancing your expertise within your niche and industry. Since you’ll be posting the content on your website, you’ll be working to bring a potential customer directly to your site — rather than interacting with them on another platform.

This is the main reason why content marketing is important for small- and medium-sized businesses: Once you get a customer on your website, they’ve entered the sales journey that takes them one step closer to conversion.

Target Audience Engagement

While your main goal may be to simply increase sales, you’ll find greater success if you break this goal into more manageable segments. One of the ways to build sales is to create opportunities to engage with your target audience. The more touch points you have with the people who you’ve identified as potential customers, the more likely they’ll trust your brand and make a purchase.

Social content is especially effective in creating a conversation with people who want to learn more about what you have to offer. The more regularly you post, and the more varied your posts are, the more likely your brand will organically show up on the feeds of the people who matter to your business.

Content Distribution and Reach

Another difference between content vs. social media marketing remains that social media marketing provides a method for dramatically extending the reach of your message through these targeted distribution channels. Content marketing focuses on making your website more robust — which is an effective but longer-term strategy that relies on SEO to increase your reach.

To stay on brand with all distributed messages, content marketing can be integrated with social media marketing. With a strong following on your social channels, your website’s relevant content can serve as posts that organically start the customer journey.

How To Measure Success

Whether you focus on one marketing strategy or your marketing plans include both content and social media marketing, it is vital to integrate a method for measuring your success. Without specific metrics to track regularly, you won’t know what’s working and what needs a pivot.

KPIs, or key performance indicators, should be the first thing you consider when drafting a marketing plan. A common misstep, though, is to track too many metrics at once. Instead, focus on just a few KPIs to determine whether your strategy is a good one.

Key Metrics and KPIs for Evaluating Content Marketing Performance

If you’re like most business owners, you want your content marketing to increase your brand visibility, recognition, and overall authority. But those results don’t necessarily have a metric associated with them. Instead, you’ll want to track measurable objectives, such as:

  • Increased conversion rate
  • Improved SEO ranking
  • Article views
  • Social shares
  • Subscribers (especially if you are using email marketing as a distribution tool)
  • Cost per lead
  • Click-through rate

Metrics and Analytics for Measuring Social Media Marketing Success

A benefit of social media marketing is that the platforms make it easy to track your KPIs. Any social media marketer knows to track the numbers, whether you’re relying on organic (unpaid) means of reaching your potential customers or you’re planning to pay for advertisement or sponsored content.

Some common KPIs for social media marketing are:

  • Number of followers
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Video views

Key Elements of a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

There are plenty of collaborative elements with content marketing and social media marketing. But both strategies require time to sit down and write a plan for execution over at least the next three to six months.

Don’t skip this step! Good intentions aren’t enough; without a plan, busy professionals often get overwhelmed and lose steam. Here’s a look at what you should figure out before you create your first piece of content.

Identify Target Audience and Buyer Personas

Effective, relevant content is impossible if you don’t know exactly who you are trying to reach. Take the time to brainstorm your target audience and make this buyer persona as specific as possible.

Go beyond the general demographics of location, gender, and income level and consider their pain points, hobbies, interests, and habits. The more you know about who you want to read your content, the easier it will be to make it happen.

Set Goals and Objectives for Content Marketing

Next, as we discussed earlier, determine your end game. Your definition of success will decide what kind of media content you want to produce and how you want to create it. The reason why content marketing works is because it is part of a larger strategy that is focused on building a foundation that will encourage prospective customers to feel comfortable about making a purchase time and again.

Create a Content Calendar and Editorial Plan

Have you heard the phrase, “Plan the work, then work the plan”? This mantra is at the heart of any good content marketing plan. If you pre-determine what you’ll produce, who is responsible for the work, when it’s due, where it will be posted, and how much you have to spend, your initiative will have a much greater chance of success.  

Choose the Right Content Formats and Channels

As part of the editorial plan, you’ll want to decide where the content will be posted. Of course, you’ll want to publish blogs on your website — but what about your social media pages? Here’s where a savvy content marketer knows when to integrate social media tools. When you know in advance where you want to post your content, no task will fall through the cracks.

Measure and Analyze the Effectiveness of Content Marketing Efforts

Content marketing takes longer to see success than social media marketing, so it will make sense to wait three to six months before measuring your KPIs. However, schedule this work into your plan. Then, don’t be afraid to make changes. No marketing campaign is written in stone.

Key Elements of a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy

When creating a social media strategy, you’ll need to know what’s content marketing and how you can integrate it. After all, you can use the content you create as posts for your social media campaign.

Build a Strong Social Media Presence

Your first goal for this outreach strategy is to build a strong following on social media. Often, this can be expeditated by paying for sponsored content. But if your budget is limited, try other popular avenues for gaining attention, such as:

  • Raffles and giveaways
  • Loyalty programs
  • 30-day challenges
  • User-generated content

Remember, the objective is to gain followers, rather than make sales — for now.

Engage with the Target Audience on Social Media

Next, your marketing plan needs to include ways to engage your target audience. Brainstorm your content ideas for social media marketing before you begin so you have a regular, consistent, and branded message that works for whichever distribution platform you choose.

Run Effective Social Media Advertising Campaigns

Once you’ve determined your strategy, it’s time to implement it! Try using free tools like social media planning tools that let you schedule your posts in advance. This makes the process of posting at appropriate times a lot easier because you can complete a month’s worth in one sitting.

Monitor and Measure Social Media Marketing Performance

Finally, just like content marketing for small businesses, social media marketing will require a scheduled time to monitor your KPIs. Since social media marketing often offers faster results than content marketing, you can check metrics after a month to see if your methods are working. If not, just like with content marketing, feel free to try something new. After all, good marketing is often the result of good experimentation.

Combine Both Strategies to Maximize Your Business Goals

Now that you understand content marketing vs. social media marketing, you’ve likely already jumped ahead to figure out how your business can integrate them for the most effective marketing plan. With excellent content, you’ll have the material you need to create engaging and effective social media posts that funnel your followers to your website. From there, you’re on your way to ushering them further along the customer journey.

Here's a final piece of advice: Make sure your content is high-quality. Business owners frequently underestimate how long it takes to craft engaging blogs, video scripts, infographics, and other content that can be posted on their website or social media. Working with a content marketing firm like makes the process easier and allows you to focus on providing the best experience for your customers.

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