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Where Content Marketing Ends and Social Media Marketing Begins

How would you answer?

Q: Content marketing and social media marketing are synonymous.

a) True

b) False

The answer is (b), false. But don’t feel bad if you answered it wrong. A lot of people make that mistake, because content marketing and social media marketing overlap in many ways. For instance, for social media marketing to be effective, there needs to be a supply of quality content to share and discuss. Likewise, for content marketing to be successful, the content needs to be distributed and amplified via social media (among other channels).

No, the two disciplines are not the same thing, but they do complement each other really well. Learn more about the differences between the two and how to effectively use them together to build relationships, drive engagement and boost sales.

What is content marketing?


This is a big subject, one that’s worthy of its own post — but for our purposes here, we’ll go with a simple definition. Content marketing is a group of marketing strategies and tactics that seek to draw targeted individuals to a brand, product, service or cause by providing valuable content that informs, educates and/or entertains them.

It is a key component of inbound marketing, a more general marketing framework that relies on content marketing and a few other strategies to generate leads, convert them to customers and nurture them indefinitely.

What is social media marketing?


Again, this is a big subject, but for our purposes we’ll define social media marketing as reaching out to targeted audiences via social media to establish and nurture a relationship based on shared interests, with the goal of turning them into leads, customers and/or evangelists for your brand.

Social media marketing is also a component of inbound marketing, and as mentioned above, it plays a large role in content distribution for marketing purposes.

How do they differ?


While content marketing involves using social media primarily as a distribution tool, social media marketing focuses its efforts strictly within the social networks themselves. As a result, the content created specifically for social media marketing campaigns is designed to fit each particular network’s format and cultural idiosyncrasies.

For example, while studies have shown that longer posts tend to attract greater engagement on Google Plus, short posts work better on Facebook and of course, 140 characters is the maximum for Twitter. In all three of these networks, images dramatically boost engagement, but the difference in effectiveness between posts with and without images is far smaller on Twitter (where images became part of the mix relatively recently) than on the other two, where both images and videos have played a more prominent role for a longer period of time.

Social Media Marketing
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Years ago, social media marketing was limited to building brand awareness and rudimentary lead generation. But the top networks have been working hard to monetize their huge traffic numbers, and more sophisticated lead generation and even conversion options are available on many of them.

For example, Pinterest is slowly rolling out “Buy It” buttons that could easily turn one of the largest sources of traffic to users’ websites into one of the largest sources of organic sales available. Twitter and Facebook are also tweaking similar concepts with varying levels of adoption.

Unlike social media marketing, however, content marketing expands well beyond social media and is more often focused on a branded website where content is stored and organized into efficient conversion funnels to carry visitors along the buyer’s journey.

Social media often appears at the top of these funnels, attracting attention with shared and curated content that targets specific personas and links them back to the branded website. Then, the remainder of the content marketing strategy takes over as the visitor is guided down the funnel through landing pages, gated content, free trials and other content-rich options.

How can they be used together?


So yes, content marketing and social media marketing are related, but they are not the same — and being proficient in one does not mean you are proficient in both. At the same time, if you try to use one without the other, you’re unlikely to succeed.

Here’s a high-level look at how to effectively use them together:

  1. Create relationships with your target audience via social media
  2. Create great content that your target audience wants and needs
  3. Share that content with your target audience on the social channels and in the ways they prefer
  4. Use social media to link back to your conversion funnel on your branded website
  5. Set up those conversion funnels to most effectively convert your target audience once they arrive

Let’s look at an example: Ikea


When Ikea released their 2015 catalog of home furnishings, it was essentially like every other Ikea catalog that came before it. But what made the 2015 catalog different is how Ikea chose to build buzz around the new catalog and get people talking about it.

They created a hilarious YouTube video parodying the famous Apple ads for iPads, iPhones and the Apple Watch, highlighting the “touch-sensitive interface” and “eternal battery life” of their paper catalog. The video has been viewed nearly 18 million times. 

Now, how was this a perfect example of content marketing and social media marketing working well together?

The catalog is a high-quality piece of content. Retailers have been using them for more than a century, and Ikea continues to produce one because it works. But frankly, it’s boring on its own. The viral video — which only became such because of the shareable quality of the video content and the sharing power of social media — made this age-old content workhorse new and interesting again.

And that’s no small feat.

There are a thousand variations of this basic theme, but you get the picture: Use the best of both content marketing and social media marketing to identify, reach and convert your target audience.

How are you using content marketing and social media marketing effectively? Let us know in the comments below.

About Adam

Adam Toren is a creator, advisor, investor, writer and co-founder of and He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of the award winning book and program Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right.

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