Content marketing vs social media marketing—which of these two best suits your business needs? The answer is not simple and straightforward, as each of these marketing channels has its strengths and weaknesses that—depending on the objective to be achieved—can either be an accessory to complement efforts elsewhere or end up being an unproductive application of resources.
The last decade has witnessed an evolution in how businesses and other corporate entities put out information aimed at capturing the attention of their audience in order to get them to engage.
Content marketing and social media marketing are the new ways through which information is strategically propagated in order to achieve an expected result. And while it can be easy to confuse the two, especially when they are viewed from a generalized standpoint, there are nuances to each.
According to Statista, 88% said that the leading benefit of using social media for marketing was to increase exposure. And 88% of respondents said that their #1 goal for their content marketing efforts was to increase brand awareness. These statistics might make it sound like the channels are designed to accomplish the same end results. That is both true and not true.
While either one or both of these methods can help put relevant news about a business out there and increase the awareness of that business, it is good to know where their strengths are to help make informed decisions regarding which to implement at different stages of a marketing campaign.
The answer to the content marketing vs social media marketing question is dependent on aim and purpose. Knowing how to leverage each independently and both together will provide you with the best results. We've outlined the components of each to help you identify which would be more effective for your campaign. Read on to learn more.
What is Content Marketing?
Useful content comes in various forms, from blog posts to emails, newsletters, social media posts, videos, and white papers – among many others – used to build brand awareness among the target market. When content is put together using all the above media deliberately to push out a campaign as part of a marketing strategy to announce the presence or services of a company or organization, it becomes what we know as content marketing.
Content marketing efforts include planning, developing, distributing, and publishing content via blogs, websites, press releases, and other channels such as podcasts, social media, print publications, etc., with the goal of reaching a target audience for raising brand awareness and sales as well as increase brand engagement and loyalty.
When done right, the developed content would convey a message of competence and expertise—making it clear to the audience that the company in question values the people whom it serves by listening to and selling them what they want at the highest quality possible.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media took its place as a respectable medium of communication in the last decade, with people signing up to use these free social platforms to make new friends while staying in touch with the old ones.
Over time, companies and organizations realized that social media had become a melting pot for all sorts of activity; from communities to forums—and it was just right for corporate organizations to establish a presence on such platforms with social media management as a way of staying close to their existing audience while attracting new ones.
Gradually, as the years progressed, social media evolved from simply being a place where people meet to interact into a place that provided a platform for people to be heard. Social movements started and were nurtured on social media, and eventually, corporate bodies found the need to leverage these social platforms for strategic business growth and PR.
Social media marketing is the use of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube—among others—to connect with one’s audience to enhance brand awareness while increasing sales and driving traffic to particular brand websites.
It involves publishing quality content on social media profiles to keep followers engaged, paying attention to the feedback they give, analyzing results and insight from such feedback to be used in running social media advertisements and paid campaigns, etc.
What are their Purposes?
Building and nurturing relationships with prospects
One main purpose of content marketing is to build a strong customer relationship with the target audience. By doing so, marketers nurture them into customers by providing them with great information to help them make intelligent decisions that ultimately benefit the business.
Content marketing should provide value to the prospect. And with value comes trust, which then translates into more when they've become customers. For one to be able to undertake an effective content marketing campaign, the aim from the onset should be about communicating about one's product or services without selling them.
The rationale behind this is that rather than pitching services and products to prospects, providing them with content that informs and is resourceful will nurture a favorable perception of value in the brand or business.
The reward for achieving an information-based best marketing strategy is business and loyalty from the prospect.
Help sales teams become more effective
There are many benefits to having an effective sales team on the ground. As you know, the sales department of any business is the footsoldier fighting on the frontline to ensure products are moving and services are in demand. With the wealth of information sales teams have, they are the best form of competitive analysis resources available to marketers.
Marketers taking advantage of such a resource by collaborating with their sales team on a content marketing strategy and marketing tactics will result in a more informed and effective campaign. An empowered sales department will help fill the gap in areas where marketers do not have answers.
Social Media Marketing
Direct traffic to the website
Users spend so much time on the social web of choice, and being able to direct these prospects to the business’s website through an integrated marketing strategy would go a long way in boosting engagement and product sales.
Engage the audience with well-curated content
As a social media marketer, in order to stay on top of the game, one would need to invest quality time in creating and curating content. Here, content should be a mix of whittled-down versions or summaries of some of the work done by content marketers (social media versions of blog content), and some cool trivia for engagement.
Sometimes, in order to gain the attention of other creators’ audiences, social media marketers sometimes collaborate on content. In order for that to work effectively, one has to have a good knowledge of the audience’s behavior.
Improve brand visibility and awareness
Having a social media presence gives businesses the real-time opportunity to define their brand by the second, minute, and hour – with each social media post aiming to help get people acquainted with the brand’s uniqueness on the most popular marketing channels.
With the knowledge that potential customers are also likely to be social media followers, it is important to tailor one’s social media marketing efforts to creating content that is so good that people would readily share it with their family and friends.
Every new follower gained from social sharing is an indication of the ability to directly market to them, too, and possibly convert such leads into paying customers. Distributing valuable content effectively on social networks plays a very important role in generating new business leads.
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Purpose Winner
Content marketing takes the win here because, without it, social media marketing would be like playing without a tune. Of course, it’s possible to sell via social media. However, for businesses that have both a landing page or website and social media presence, the social media content is basically a summary of what’s on the website, with social posts serving as bait to drive traffic to the landing page to convert leads and prospects into customers.
What are their Objectives?
Increase Brand Awareness
This is one of content marketing’s greatest objectives, and although it may not directly bring business, the more people know about a brand through proper marketing channels, the more visible that brand becomes. Brand awareness plays an important role in the success of a business. Direct and indirect marketing can both be used to get a loyal audience for your business.
People become familiar with a brand’s presence the more they come across interesting content attributed to it, and one of the best ways to achieve that is through informative guest blogging on other websites.
Guest blogging puts one’s brand in front of a new target audience, which often results in them following the source and adding up to their engaged follower count. Positioning oneself as a credible and authoritative opinion or thought leader in any field increases brand awareness.
Businesses need to generate leads as they eventually convert into sales – one of the main marketing objectives of every well-designed content marketing campaign. Businesses that regularly blog will have their content all over the Internet – improving the chances of them being discovered by their prospects.
Such businesses – when compared to their counterparts who do not regularly publish relevant content – generate as much as 88% more leads.
In order for content to get more leads, there’s the need to effectively publish and market content that’s targeted at the right audience to drive traffic.
Earlier, you read about the need to establish one’s business as a thought leader through valuable content marketing. A business is regarded as a thought leader when its content marketing promotes insightful information that helps people experience real-world issues. When this is done right, the result will be trusted for that business’s products and services—making it trustworthy, hence the go-to brand.
Social Media Marketing
Boosting brand image and reputation
For a brand to be recognizable, it must have a great reputation among its users, and with a great reputation comes goodwill which spreads by word of mouth to draw in new prospects—making it an aspirational brand.
This is because a brand’s identity beyond its walls is an imagination encompassing everything it stands for, from its set of symbols (or logo) to its values.
With brand identity being emotional and instinctive in perception, it then becomes what appreciation and perception depend on.
Direct more traffic to your website
Targeted content on social media is great for traffic generation – increasing the number of visits to an affiliated website. For people who manage blogs especially, a well-curated social media marketing strategy, whether organic or not, is known to be effective at getting an audience familiar with the content available on the blog or website so they can log on and read the posted articles.
Launch and promote initiatives
With lots of people active and engaged on social media, it is a great channel for promoting events and initiatives – giving attendees or participants memorable experiences – that help give the brand and its products, projects, and services some free visibility.
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Objectives Winner
Here, social media marketing has the edge over content marketing. Although a lot of the work is done through the latter, social media marketing kicks things into gear and maintains the momentum.
Consider content marketing a farm and social media marketing to be the irrigation system. The crop is the main thing, but without irrigation, the crop fails. And that is how successful social media marketing takes the win.
How Effective are They?
Content marketing is booming because it works. Surveys comparing the conversion rates of companies that use content marketing with those that don’t show the rates of adopters to be nearly six times higher than those that shun content marketing.
Content marketing provides value that the audience or customers want to see – and with that comes their dedication to the brand. As it makes it possible for brands to customize consumers’ experiences – they’ll keep returning for sales and education, as well as engagement with the brand.
When done right, content marketing is a win for businesses and customers as customers receive valuable information. In return, they are ready to part with money because they trust the brand and will support it as paying customers.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing focuses on cost-effective ways to reach one’s audience and more. Social media platforms, for starters, are free to use, so there’s no initial cost to registering and building a following. Compared to traditional advertising, such as newspapers, you only have to pay to advertise when there’s a real possibility of a conversion. Aside from that, social media advertising is target-specific as marketers get to choose the demographic their ads are to reach.
Social media marketing beneftits brand visibility as well as authority, in addition to putting a brand on par with its competitors – if not above them in reaching targets.
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Effectiveness Winner
This is a tie. Both forms of marketing have their use, and in today’s competitive business space, one cannot afford to lose ground to competitors, whether in content marketing or social media marketing spaces.
What are their Benefits?
Builds trust with the audience
Great content helps businesses build relationships with their audience. You can answer their questions and interact with existing customers. When the value is given freely, the audience tends to trust the brand’s advice and recommendations – boosting the brand’s reputation.
The quality of content a brand posts or markets influences conversions because when the audience is given the information they need, they end up making educated purchases.
This can be achieved by creating original content with original graphics to complement and a CTA (call to action) that guides readers on the next action to take.
Better traction on social media
With social media content often dependent on content already available on a brand’s website, it is safe to say that quality content marketing, when modified into trendy social media content, can result in an increase in a brand’s social media following across social channels.
Social Media Marketing
Consolidates brand recognition
Brand recognition is an important marketing goal for any company because customers prefer purchasing from brands they are familiar with and comfortable with, and on social media, building a brand is simple and effective. With direct or indirect marketing, you can do demand generation for your product.
Social media makes it possible for marketers to easily get their brands in front of people – making it possible for people to ‘accidentally’ encounter brands without necessarily making the effort to go searching.
Online marketing on social media enables organizations to touch on different focal points using direct marketing and indirect promotion to the audience on the web pages of a particular business. Digital marketing strategies are most effective on the social web when you have clearly defined audiences and a successful delivery mechanism to distribute your content.
Analytics for measuring performance
Being able to track data ensures that marketers do not stay in the dark regarding the performance of their social media marketing strategies. With Google Analytics, measuring and operating social media campaigns is easy, as well as knowing which bits of content is proving to be a hit with the audience.
Better customer satisfaction to improve brand loyalty
With social media being a platform for networking and communication, giving businesses a voice in order to humanize them is essential as existing and potential customers prefer receiving personalized human answers to the automatic ones from chatbots when they leave comments.
Social media is not only good for introducing new products and promotions, as many potential customers interact directly with companies through the brand website. Businesses must make the best of social media marketing in order to attract and engage the attention of profitable customers.
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Benefits Winner
Once again, this is a tie with both marketing formats having unique benefits to complement each other.
What are their Content Formats?
- Case studies
- Interactive content
- Market reports
Social Media Marketing
- Collaborate with other brands and influencers
- Conducting interviews
- Contests and giveaways
- Going live to interact with the audience
- Going live during events to give the audience an insider sneak peek
- Participating in trends
- Sharing blog posts with captivating captions
- Sharing opinions on trending industry news
- Sharing blog content in graphic form as infographics and catchy posters
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Formats Winner
These two complement each other, so even though social media marketing makes a strong showing, it is once again a tie with the two forms of marketing intertwining and overlapping at various points during a campaign.
How are they Measured?
Content marketing revenue
Aside from facilitating target audience engagement and driving traffic, delivering engaging and exciting content also enables revenue generation. Although sales and related financial metrics are not directly applicable to content always, several KPIs need tracking.
These metrics reflect a connection with the audience and are regarded as the most important when considering the effectiveness of content marketing campaigns as well as an overall marketing strategy.
User behavior metrics
Understanding the number of people interacting with a website is achieved through behavioral analytics—with insight regarding the page(s) via which they visited the site and which ones they engage with most, which plays a part regarding how Google a page in the SERPs in terms of relevance.
Social Media Marketing
Building a community
This is a vital goal in social media marketing as it gives brands a voice, resulting in better audience engagement as well as increased visibility.
Community engagement is assessed via metrics such as:
- Mentions: Gives insight into the number of times the brand has received mentions on multiple social media platforms
- Session length: Records the number of times users spend during each unique visit.
- Users: This takes into account the daily, weekly, and monthly unique visitors the community gains over a specific timeframe.
Getting in front of the target audience
Putting content in front of the audience can be achieved by running ads based on demographics, interests, and other elements such as location and occupation.
This is accessed by metrics such as:
- Clicks: The number of people who clicked on a link and visited the website or social media page.
- Conversions: This helps track the actions set for goals using Google Analytics or another measurement tool.
Leads and sales
There will always be potential customers; however, not all customer interactions will necessarily become sales, which is why keeping in touch with them is crucial.
Metrics for evaluating leads are:
- Bounce rates: The number of users clicking links but leaving the page without taking any actions
- Conversion rate: The number of visitors taking action divided by the number of total visitors
- Social media conversion rates: The number of conversions gotten from social media networks
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Measurement Winner
Depending on where you stand, strong arguments can be made for both social media marketing and marketing through content. These metrics on both sides are important for the bigger picture, so once again, there is a tie.
How Much do They Cost?
The cost depends on who is providing what service. With content marketing, originality is king, from written to video and visual content. Here is the breakdown of what it can cost on average.
- Example: 10k word eBook
- In-house: your own time
- Freelancer: $200-$600 per eBook
- Marketing agency: $1,000 – $3,000 per eBook
- Example: YouTube or TikTok bumper ad
- In-house: your own time
- Freelancer: $50-$750 per ad
- Marketing agency: $1,500 – $5,000 per ad
- Example: banner ad creative design
- In-house: your own time
- Freelancer: $50-$250 per graphic
- Marketing agency: $500+ per graphic
- Example: Podcast episode
- In-house: your own time
- Freelancer: $100-$1,000 per episode
- Agency: $2,000-$5,000 per episode
Social Media Marketing
The cost of social media varies based on the platform one wants to run content. Social media rates are usually bundled into packages that may include a number of platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) and posts, and what type of content will be used, as well as other requirements.
On average, here’s what a typical social media marketing package looks like. These will vary based on content type, geographic location, and agency vs freelancer.
- Monthly fee: $500-$2,500
- Social media networks: 1
- Social media posts/month: 10
- Social media consultations/month: 1
- Monthly fee: $1,500-$4,500
- Social media network: 2
- Posts/month: 20
- Social media consultations/month: 2
- Monthly fee: $3,000-$7,500
- Social media network: 3
- Posts/month: 30
- Social media consultations/month: 4
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing – Cost Winner
The price is truly dependent on the content type you require. Content marketing can be less expensive than a monthly commitment to content on social media if you stick with written content and you produce it to be evergreen or at least have a shelf-life of 6 or 12 months. Social media is fleeting, so almost every piece produced will have a very short lifespan.
When should one decide to go in for either?
Content marketing for all businesses should begin once the venture is launched. As noted earlier, it can take several forms, so it is up to the individual to decide what to go for and when. For a small business owner, it is better to start small and gain experience before going full strength—considering the costs involved.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is best started as the next step in digital marketing solutions after marketing through content has taken off. In order to be strategic, social media marketing should be telling the same story as content marketing so as to direct online traffic toward the website from which all those bits of social media content were culled and curated.
Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing Wrap-up
Content marketing and social media marketing are two very important components of a digital marketing strategy. When content marketing and social media marketing strategies are in alignment, it becomes much easier to provide value to the audience and increase business visibility.
Social media is a great way to distribute content, but it’s not enough on its own. You need a content marketing strategy to create valuable, shareable content. Content marketing should be used in conjunction with social media marketing to amplify your reach and get more leads. Both strategies are important for online businesses, and you can’t neglect either one if you want to be successful. Which of these two strategies will you focus on first?