Content Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: Differences and Peculiarities

One of the most confusing distinctions in the digital age of blurred and yet undefined lines is the differentiation of each separate direction of online marketing. If we can clearly understand the differences, it will also lead to the more efficient application of useful practices for each. Two aspects that are most often confused are content marketing and social media marketing. The two are so interrelated in their operation that it is sometimes very difficult to define the line where one ends and the other begins. Let’s first see what content marketing is.

1. Where does it start? 

2. Where is it anchored? 

3. How does it reach the end consumer?

4. And,most importantly, what is its goal? 

Content Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing. Image source – Slideshare, Brian Cliette

Content Marketing 

Content marketing starts with industry know-how

Let’s say, you are a tour agency specializing in tours to East Asian countries for pilgrimages, meditation tours, spiritual retreats, religious sightseeing, etc. You are aiming to cater to a specific niche. Naturally, the customer, who is interested in exploring one or all of these during their vacation, would prefer a tour agency capable of guiding them, minimizing their research and offering them the best possible options to efficiently use their time and financial means with the most benefit. They would probably choose your agency over thousands of others, who have a different niche or are more broad service providers.

So, given the situation, how do you use content marketing to attract leads and consequently increase sales? You prove what you have the know-how that would make you qualified as the best tour operator specifically for their dream vacation. And you prove it through content.

Content marketing is based on industry know-how. Image source – NEILPATEL

Content marketing is anchored in your company website 

The content your company produces is like a vast, most detailed resume, divided into easily consumable sections and presented in formats that are most effective for your target audience. And all this information that speaks volumes about who you are, what you believe in, what your knowledge is, where you have been and what you have done sits on your website. These include pages where your existing and potential customers can find the relevant information, your blog section, any content you have produced in the form of white papers, books, magazines, video and audio materials. Video and audio sharing platforms like YouTube can also be considered drives where your content sits (so it is important to link those to your main lead generation point – your website).

Content Marketing is anchored in your website. Image Source – RaraTheme

Channels used for marketing content to reach target audiences

Here, pay attention!!!, is where social media come in and all the confusion starts. Your content produced for marketing purposes now needs to be spread to reach its audience. Today, instead of newspapers, print magazines, radio or television, around 80-90% of the content is shared via social media. This IS NOT social media marketing. It is sharing of marketing content with the use of an available channel – social media. This is a preferred channel (others could be online business directories, forums, same newspapers and TV) because it allows utilizing most efficient targeting tools and reaching VAST audiences of billions of people, part of which is your specific target market. When the content reaches its target audiences, the link takes them back to your website, where your content is anchored.

The goal of content marketing is to generate leads and convert them into purchase

And finally, when your target audience has reached your website, whether you have used social media or any other channel of dissemination for your marketing content, it then serves the purpose of reinforcing your industry know-how, your authority and credibility. It is an affirmation that you can give the potential customer what they need. Thus, your content triggers them to make the first purchase.

Social media marketing is all about communication, engagement and brand recall. Image source – AUSIT

Social Media Marketing

Now that we are clear about what content marketing is, let’s examine the same 4 fundamental characteristics, but now for social media marketing.

1. Where does it start?

2. Where is it anchored?

3. How does it reach the end consumer?

4. And most importantly, what is its goal? 

Social media marketing starts with representation

It’s like having your country’s embassy or consulate in a foreign country. Better example yet, it’s your office, your customer support department online. You provide basic information about what country you represent, what mission and vision you have, what you offer. Just like you would hardly furnish your law firm office with bean bags and contemporary abstract paintings, your social media pages (tailored to the specifics of each social media platform) need to represent who you are, what you stand for and your values. This goes for the descriptions and post text you use, the visuals, and the overall tone of communication you keep to.

Properly identified social media platforms will allow finding and connecting with your target audiences. Image source – JeffBullas

Your social media marketing is anchored on your social media page/community

And here is where confusion takes place concerning the differences between social media and content marketing. Your social media marketing is anchored in your social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Yes, you can use the content created and anchored in your website for your social media marketing purposes, but in this case, social media marketing is not an auxiliary or a channel, the auxiliary is your marketing content, which, in this case, helps social media marketing efforts.

Social media marketing components, which are visuals, video or text, have their own specific length, look, and purpose. They are triggers for communication and brand recall. They are not meant to educate and prove know-how, which is the domain of content marketing.

Channels used for social media marketing to reach target audiences

This one seems to be pretty obvious. The channels used are the social media platforms themselves, but there are also some nuances here. Firstly, it is the choice of the specific social media platforms a company decides to be on. You would most probably be wasting your time trying to engage with potential customers of luxury high end watches on Snapchat. You, however, would likely choose LinkedIn if you want to be part of your industry community and conversation. So, knowing the specifics of each social media platform is one of the core functions of social media marketers.

In addition, there is a variety of available marketing and engagement tactics within each of those platforms. For instance, you can create an engaging post on Facebook and leave it at that. You can also invest in promoting your point of contact among wider audiences through paid promotions. Since recently, you can also utilize Facebook Messenger in your promotional efforts.

Social media platforms are diverse to fit your company’s specific directions, visions and target audiences. Image source – SocialMediaBlogster

The goal of social media marketing is to maintain an open line of communication

The main goal and the core purpose of social media marketing are finding and connecting with your relevant audiences and keeping them within the reach of your hand (through page likes and follows).

This basically means being on the line. Your call center operators should be on guard all the time to communicate, answer questions, listen to concerns, spread information and news, accept applications, issue promotions, announce events, etc… In this case, you should have minimum regulations and open doors every day.


As you can see, there is a world of nuances and a separate very specific set of knowledge and skills needed for each of these individual directions of online marketing. As mentioned before, the lines are blurred and most of the time companies (even bigger ones) have only one employee dealing with both content and social media marketing. Along with a better understanding of the new opportunities that the digital age presents, there will hopefully come a better differentiation and designation of roles and functions, leading to making the best of what online marketing can offer.

Need a good strategy for your own company? Contact us today!

By Viktorya Mirzoyan