Two heavyweights enter the ring. In one corner, we have social media marketing — renowned for lightning-fast jabs and real-time engagement. And in the opposite corner, there’s content marketing, with a reputation for storytelling hooks and long-term results. 

How do you crown a champion? For most businesses, it’s not that simple. Deciding between one strategy or the other can seem like a tossup, yet it’s one of the most important decisions a marketer can make. 

Let’s step into the ring and find out once and for all which marketing strategy reigns supreme. In this blog, I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of each approach and how they stack up against one another. 

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is creating and distributing marketing collateral to increase brand awareness, improve search engine optimization and generate interest. Unlike other strategies, content creation isn’t necessarily about selling a product or service. Rather, it focuses on educating, entertaining and attracting the target audience. 

Imagine you’ve just sprung a leak in your bathroom sink. Your first inclination might be to search online for answers. More likely than not, one of the top results will be a blog post providing exactly that — probably from a local small business. 

Reading the blog not only helps you solve the problem, it also introduces you to their brand. And, by answering your questions and offering solutions, they might even inspire you to call them next time. 

In a nutshell, that’s a content marketing strategy in action. With engaging content, you can establish expertise, build trust and convert a potential customer into a bonafide buyer. 

Why Use Content Marketing?

Without a doubt, content creation is worth the marketing effort. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of benefits you can expect from an effective content strategy:

  • Strong results: 83% of B2B content marketers say their marketing strategy increased brand awareness and 63% say it improved demand and lead generation.
  • Low barrier of entry: Small business or enterprise — it doesn’t matter. Content creation is primarily a digital marketing strategy, meaning any size organization can start with minimal investment.
  • Shorter sales cycle: Distributing valuable content can help a potential customer reach their buying decision faster and with conviction. 
  • Builds authority: Producing quality content that addresses industry topics can position your brand as a trusted thought leader. Authority instills trust, which in turn drives sales and business growth. 

Content Marketing Examples

Engaging content comes in many forms. Let’s take a look at some of the most common (and effective!):

  • Blogs: A blog post is to a marketer what a chord is to a musician, providing the foundation for a harmonious content strategy. Plus, with search engine optimization (SEO), you can use blogs to drive website traffic and reach a wider audience. 
  • Email: Email marketing is often its own marketing strategy, but also intertwines with content creation. For instance, newsletters can help distribute valuable content to your target audience for maximum impact. 
  • Video: Video marketing, such as a product explainer or “about us” video, offers a chance to communicate your brand’s message and capture attention visually. 

The right blend of content can do wonders for your business. Take Webex, for example. In 2022, we used SEO-driven articles to boost website traffic to their Socio.events blog. The result?

Yep — that’s a 640% increase in monthly sessions, with a cumulative value worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

What Is Social Media Marketing?

A social media marketing strategy involves leveraging social media platforms to raise brand awareness, interact with customers and drive website traffic. You can run a campaign on virtually any social network, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and TikTok. 

Typically, a social media campaign involves engaging with followers, sharing content and running paid advertisements. With a more informal setting, social media platforms offer a fun, exciting way for your target audience to discover and connect with your brand. 

Why Use Social Media Marketing?

When you consider the benefits of social media marketing, there’s no wonder why companies around the world are using it to their advantage:

  • Direct connection: Each social channel gives you a direct line of communication to your target audience — and vice versa. If someone wants to start a conversation with your brand, they know exactly where to go.
  • Global reach: Over 5 billion people use social media. That alone makes it a must-have part of your overall marketing effort. 
  • Brand awareness: An active social media presence will help keep your brand top of mind for consumers and increase name recognition. 
  • Customer feedback: Social listening allows you to keep an ear to the ground — or in this case, to the internet. Gathering feedback can help inform your next social media campaign and drive continuous improvement. 

Social Media Marketing Examples

A social media strategy can include numerous platforms and engagement tactics. Depending on the target audience, you might use:

  • Social media advertising: Paid advertising, like Facebook ads, can broadcast social media posts to a wider audience for a low, cost-effective price. It’s a pay-per-click model, so you only pay when someone engages with the ad. 
  • Imagery and video: Nothing stops the scroll like an eye-popping graphic or video. Adding images to your posts can help your message resonate with visual learners.
  • Influencer marketing: Collaborating with influencers can help you tap into their large following to promote your brand, products or services and reach new customers. 

Of course, organic approaches also yield significant results. For instance, when Total Safety needed help sharing new company messaging, we devised a fully organic social media strategy to spread the word.

Ultimately, Total Safety achieved a 351% increase in Facebook impressions, a 644% leap in Facebook engagement and a 154% boost on LinkedIn — all by simply expanding content relevance and posting more often. 

Social Media Marketing vs. Content Marketing: Key Differences

Now that you know a bit about each marketing strategy, let’s discuss what sets them apart. Take a look at this table for a quick overview of how social and content marketing differ:

Content Marketing Social Media Marketing
Focus: Creating content to educate, entertain and attract potential customers. Focus: Engaging followers on social media platforms through direct communication.
Timeframe: Long-term results via SEO and thought leadership. Timeframe: Short-term results via immediate engagement.
Content type: Blogs, eBooks, white papers, infographics and video.  Content type: Captions, graphics, short-form clips, memes and interactive content.

Focus

Content marketing encompasses a wide variety of channels, of which social media is usually just one. Its focal point — sometimes called the “center of gravity” — is your brand’s website. In other words, regardless of content type or channel, the aim is to direct as many users as possible to where they can learn more about your products and services, request a demo or complete a purchase. 

By contrast, a social media marketing strategy isn’t so much about encouraging website traffic as it is interacting with potential customers. In essence, social media content is a conversation. Two-way communication is built into each social platform, allowing followers to give feedback, ask questions and send direct messages. 

Timeframe

Content and social have two different time horizons when it comes to seeing results. With a content strategy, it’s rarely about quick wins. Rather, content marketers focus on generating long-term impacts, such as building trust, brand awareness and, hopefully, conversions. After all, it can take up to a year for search engine optimization to pay off — but when it does, you’re off to the races. 

A social media marketing strategy is much different. It focuses on the near term, looking for immediate engagement and direct audience interactions. By nature, social media platforms lead to faster actions, such as likes, shares and comments.

Content Type

Content marketing strategies mostly involve long-form content — generally, anything longer than 1,500 words. That can include blogs, eBooks, white papers, case studies, podcasts and more. These assets are meant to address pain points and provide solutions, but to do that, they need ample room to work with. Hence, they tend to be on the longer side. 

Social media marketing is short-form, primarily for two reasons:

  1. Social media is a mobile channel where users have shorter attention spans and more distractions. 
  2. Most platforms have tight restrictions, such as character limits and word counts. 

So, social media content is often snappier, shorter and sweeter. It can include 30-second video clips, interactive polls, memes and other highly engaging, attention-grabbing formats. 

Striking a Balance for Enhanced Marketing Results

All the digital marketing courses in the world will tell you the same thing: Content creation + social media = a killer combination. 

But don’t take my word for it — ask Phone Ninjas. In 2021, the company asked us for help increasing site traffic and expanding their overall brand awareness online. With the combined powers of SEO and social media, Phone Ninjas achieved a 10% lift in search traffic, a 209% increase in sessions from social media and a 60% boost in blog traffic, too. 

This is all to say you don’t have to pick one or the other. Both social and content marketing can make an impact if you strike the right balance. How do you do that? Here are a few marketing tips to keep in mind:

  • Identify marketing objectives: Allocate your resources accordingly. If your primary goal is conversions, content might be the bulk of your investment. But if you want brand awareness and engagement, social media is your best friend. 
  • Align with your brand identity: Consider which strategy aligns more closely with your brand’s values. No matter the balance, maintain consistency between strategies to avoid sending mixed messages. 
  • Consider industry trends and audience behavior: Evaluate these factors to determine which approach will yield the greatest impact. If your audience is highly active on social media platforms and engages with visual content, prioritizing social efforts may be more effective. Similarly, if industry trends indicate a growing demand for educational content or niche expertise, focusing on webinars or eBooks could be advantageous.
  • Experiment and adjust: Track results and make changes over time. Don’t be afraid to test the waters and see what resonates with your audience. 

Bringing It All Together for Long-Term Success

There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to social media marketing vs. content marketing. Both are more than capable of making an impact on your business. But, in combination, they make for a hard-hitting, knockout marketing strategy. 



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