Content marketing vs social media - Whats the difference and which type of service do you need - blog feature image

Until now, you’ve been doing all your own digital marketing; creating and managing your social media pages, publishing the occasional news update on your website, and maybe writing the odd LinkedIn article.

That was enough, in the beginning. But now, competition is greater, newsfeeds are noisier and you’ve hit a bit of a wall.

It’s time to get some professional help, so that you can stand out from the crowd as the leader in your market. The question is, what type of professional should you work with?

You’ve met a few marketing consultants in your time; you know there are some who specialise in social media, some in content marketing…

But what’s the difference? Is one going to get better results for your business than the other?

It can be confusing. But don’t worry, we’ll figure it out together.

In this article, I explain the main similarities and differences between content marketing and social media strategy, and how to choose the right type of consultant/agency for your needs.

But before I do I need to tell you that, ultimately, you need both types of strategy for your business.

In order to build and engage an audience that wants to read your content, and have the means to deliver it to them, you need a good social media strategy.

And, as a B2B company, your social media strategy should be backed up by long-form content that helps people make a decision about whether to buy from you.

However, whilst that is the case you, as the business owner or director, still have a choice to make about where you spend your marketing budget. At least initially.

Do you spend it with a company who specialises in content marketing strategy, or one who does social media?

Let’s take a look.

First thing’s first, here are the official definitions…

What is a content marketing strategy?

from Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

What is a social media marketing strategy?

from Investopedia

Social media marketing (SMM) is the use of social media websites and social networks to market a company’s products and services. Social media marketing provides companies with a way to reach new customers, engage with existing customers and promote its desired culture, mission or tone.

What are the similarities between content marketing and social media strategy?

  • Both have the objective of increasing awareness of your business
  • Both aim to build relationships with your target audience and turn them into leads
  • Both types of strategy involve:
    • Defining your business objectives
    • Developing a profile of your target customer
    • Generating content ideas to serve those objectives and that audience
    • Creating a plan for the creation and delivery of the content
  • Both types of strategy involve measuring statistics from social media sites such as likes, comments, shares, reach and clicks, and also website analytics like number of users and traffic sources.

What are the differences between content marketing and social media strategy?

Focal point

The first major difference between content marketing and social media strategy is the focal point. In other words, where all the action happens.

With social media, the focal point is the social networks themselves. You’re interacting with people where they already hang out, with the aim of building an audience on that network. You tailor your content tone and style to each platform, depending on its ‘culture’, and adapt to changes as the platform evolves.

With content marketing, the focal point is your website. It’s your own piece of internet ‘real estate’ where you have full control. It’s the hub for all your content, and the main place you want to drive prospective customers to.

Primary objectives

What are the objectives of a social media strategy?

A social media strategy aims to increase awareness of your brand, by reaching people in their newsfeeds with your content and growing your audience.

Over time, you build a community, by encouraging participation and interaction amongst followers, and with you as a brand, focused on your shared interests.

Through that community, you can communicate with current and prospective customers to answer questions, deal with issues and develop loyalty.

And the ultimate goal is to convert your community members to leads, through coordinated organic campaigns and targeted advertising.

So, to summarise, that’s…

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Build a community
  • Communicate with current/prospective customers
  • Convert community members to leads

What are the objectives of a content marketing strategy?

A content marketing strategy aims to generate leads for your business through search and content distribution tactics (which include social media).

By creating content that targets the different stages of the buyer journey, you nurture the leads and build trust over time.

And, ultimately, by building your content into your sales processes, you can move leads through your pipeline and convert them to customers.

So our objectives are…

  • Generate leads
  • Nurture leads and built trust
  • Convert leads to customers

The Buyer’s Journey

When you look at the objectives of each, you can see that social media and content marketing strategy slot together as two parts of a whole.

Whilst they do overlap, they largely operate in two different phases of the Buyer’s Journey; social media in the “awareness” phase, and content marketing in the “consideration” phase.

The Buyer's Journey infographic

Related: Content marketing vs. SEO – What’s the difference?

Service process/activities

In the initial stages, the process followed by a content marketing consultant and a social media consultant will be largely the same. Both will look to set objectives, define your target audience and develop a content plan.

Beyond this, a social media consultant will also work on follower growth and engagement strategy.

They will help you gain more followers so that you can keep building your audience and reach more people, specifically prospective customers. And they’ll also help you create and present social media content that people want to interact with.

Depending on their background and experience, the services of a content marketing consultant may spill over into other digital marketing disciplines, such as social media, email marketing and SEO. They may also consider your sales strategy and how content marketing integrates with it.

But their main focus will be on the core strategic elements of objectives, target audience, content planning and implementation.

How much emphasis they put on strategy and planning versus practical implementation will vary depending on the consultant/agency, and is something to discuss and agree before you begin working together.

Content type/style

The type and style of content is one of the biggest differences between content marketing and social media strategy.

In social media, the content style is unique to each platform and generally short-form with a mix of text and rich media.

For instance, Twitter posts are text-led, with posts 240 characters long, with the option to include links, hashtags, photos or videos. Instagram, on the other hand, is an image and video-led platform, with options for text captions, hashtags and the ability to update the link in your profile.

Your content plan will look to capitalise on the features of each platform to maximise engagement and meet your objectives.

A content marketing strategy generally focuses on long-form content, like articles, videos and podcasts. As your website is the main hub for your content, you have the freedom to create in-depth content that fully answers your prospective customers’ questions.

These longer pieces of content can then be broken down and repurposed into other formats to suit different channels, including social media.

Quote image: Before you choose whether to work with a content marketing or social media consultant, you need to think about the buyer’s journey and your own objectives.


Both strategies measure similar stats and figures, but each type of consultant will be looking for different things from the data.

A social media consultant wants to know how many people the content is reaching, how many people are engaged with it, and how many of those click through to the website or take some other action.

A content marketing consultant wants to know how much traffic the content is getting, where the traffic is coming from, what else they’re doing while they’re on the website, and whether they’ve gone a step closer towards becoming a customer.

Which type of service should you choose?

Before you choose whether to work with a content marketing or social media consultant, you need to think about the Buyer’s Journey and your own objectives. What are your immediate goals? What do you want to achieve?

If your goal is to raise awareness of your brand and build an audience, then you should focus on social media. If you need to work on converting your existing audience into customers and helping people make their buying decision, then you should focus on content marketing.

Related: How much does a content marketing strategy cost?

Take a step back and look at the data from your website and social media profiles. What are you doing well, and where are your gaps? This will help you figure out where you need support.

You should also think about your content creation process. Does it make more sense to create long-form content that you can repurpose for social media? Or do you have a lot of social media content that could be combined or extrapolated into longer pieces?

Depending on your circumstances, there will be a logical place to start. Your aim should be to maximise the return on your investment, in both time and resources.

But the thing to bear in mind is that content marketing and social media go hand in hand. A social media strategy is unlikely to be effective without the substance of meaty content behind it, that helps to deepen relationships with prospective customers.

And people are unlikely to discover your content if you don’t capture people’s attention with effective and engaging social media activity. You need to reach people where they hang out, and distribute your content in a way that makes it easy to consume.

If you have a blank slate and you’re not sure where to start, then start with a content marketing strategy. You’ll be able to repurpose what you create by breaking it down into smaller chunks, and layer your social media strategy over the top.

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