The digital marketing world is chock-full of buzzwords that are pretty confusing to those who are just starting out! No shame in admitting how overwhelming Content Marketing can get. And don’t get me started on social media marketing either! The two overlapped in my mind for a while at the beginning of my career. What’s even worse is that there’s plenty of overlap between many different concepts. There’s a lot of confusion on the best ways to promote a business. As a result, marketers are often left unsure about what they should focus their efforts on.

But it’s time to take a chill pill. This is where I come in! I’m going to help clear up any confusion surrounding Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and the difference between the two. What? They’re not the same? After you’re done with this post, you’ll be able to clearly see that they’re not. Let’s begin!

Where do they come from?

We’ll start with Content Marketing, because it’s been around as long as humans have roamed the Earth. Just like town criers and storytellers used to enchant their audience with tales and lessons, content marketing is a process through which we develop and share content that is valuable to our audience. The more useful and entertaining the content, the more the audience will listen. So the goal here is to create content that is both relevant and engaging. That helps us attract new customers, or upsell to current ones.

Social Media, on the other hand, is the latest channel which allows us to tell those stories. Social Media platforms are simply following in the footsteps of TV and radio. The only difference is that marketers are now really spoiled by the plethora of platforms, devices, and formats they can choose from. Not to mention the direct and immediate way in which they can now reach customers, without the need for intermediaries!

Want a quick and easy way to remember which is which? Here’s a quote we like to keep in mind: “Social media is the new telephone. Content marketing is the new brochure.”

Why the confusion?

While the two are completely separate entities, they do have quite a few overlapping characteristics. What’s more, you should always include both in your integrated marketing strategy. Don’t feel like you have to choose one over the other! Marketing on social media will effectively support your content marketing efforts. Meanwhile all efforts put into social media marketing would be wasted if you have no valuable content to publish there.

Both Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing can be used for a variety of reasons. Content Marketing, on one hand, focuses mostly on bringing high quality content to a brand’s website. It also helps create a bond with potential customers. If your content is able to inform, nurture, and entertain them, this may eventually lead to conversion or purchase.

Social media focuses mostly on bringing awareness to the brand, (your business) and seeks to create engagement, activity and discussion around that brand. It’s also a great way to stay in touch with clients. It helps you engage in direct dialogue with your customers who may have questions, doubts, and a variety of issues you can directly solve via these channels.

It’s these overlaps and integrations that cause confusion. But having both marketing strategies clearly defined at the start will allow you to dive into each one with a clear head, allowing you to make the most of both. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:

Content marketing overview

As mentioned earlier, content marketing is a process used by brands to engage existing and potential customers by educating them, entertaining them, or providing valuable information. Engaging the audience means that you’ve captured their attention. That makes it easier for you to drive actions or behavioral changes, such as acquiring leads, making sales, or generating advocacy.

The question is – once you’ve created engaging content, how are you going to get everyone in your target audience to see it?

Social media marketing overview

So by now you have engaging content created to drive behavioral change in your audience. But you need them to find out about it first. Well, your audience is already on social media, so you might as well meet them there to get the conversation going, right?

That’s where social media marketing comes in. It’ll allow you to extend the reach of your content marketing by publishing it in a way that is easily found by your audience.

So, which one is better?

Neither. Keep that little telephone-versus-brochure quote in mind here. Content marketing is all about offering information and value, while social media marketing is all about the channel through which you’re sharing it. It’s as simple as that.

You’re always going to need both content marketing and social media marketing working together in your strategy if you want to see results.

How to maximize both

We recommend an iterative process here. Start off by defining these four key elements for your content marketing strategy:

  1. Define your objectives: What is your end goal for these efforts? Do you want to increase sales? Build brand equity? Defining this objective will guide you to create the right type of content.
  2. Define your audience: Draw up a few buyer personas to understand who your ideal clients are. Defining personas will help you identify with them, resulting in more natural messaging and communication. If you don’t know who your ideal customers are, then you can’t speak their language.
  3. Define your product: What are you pushing? Are you promoting a discount? An event you need to build attendance for? Are you focused on editorial that will build your brand equity? Once you’re clear on the product, keep your buyer persona in mind to create a messaging strategy that is aligned.
  4. Editorial plan: This is where you brainstorm content topics that fit into the messaging strategy you’ve just developed. Place these ideas into an editorial calendar to map out what will happen when. What are you offering to your audience? Do they want to read long-form articles? Short pieces? Video slides? Make sure to stay consistent, and post timely content that resonates with your audience.

Once you’ve defined all 4 elements for your content marketing strategy, start over. This time, define the elements for your social media marketing strategy. This is especially relevant for your editorial plan. Every piece of content needs to have a social media message coupled with it, to ensure consistent, regular and effective messaging throughout.

A bit overwhelmed?

If this is all a little too overwhelming, believe me, you’re not alone. Many of my clients have a hard time structuring their content marketing and social media marketing efforts, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a pro if you need a helping hand.