What’s the difference between content marketing and social marketing? Is it that content marketing focuses on content production and creative thought, while social marketing focuses on making social media as successful a delivery mechanism as possible?

I don’t think it’s that simple. Maybe in theory, but not in practice. Content marketers are often hyper-focused on how their content is received and shared, while social marketers are incredibly creative and often produce their own content due to limited resources, as you well know. Let’s see what the experts in each category have to say.

According to 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.

According to Investopedia, social media marketing 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 and engage with existing customers.

Simple, right? Well, cut-and-dried definitions make us feel safe, but they’re not always what reality looks like. The line between the social media marketing and content marketing disciplines is often blurry, but I do believe there’s a meaningful discussion–and nuanced set of responsibilities–we can find here.

Roles Depend on Size

If you’re a 1-2, or even 3-4, person marketing organization (and you’d be surprised how many companies fall into this category, even larger ones), you’re probably doing content and social.

We recently spoke to the head of social at a famous athletic apparel brand. She told us that, until very recently, she was taking all their photos for social on her own iPhone on an ad-hoc basis. She’s thrilled that she finally got the resources for a product shoot once a month that she can now spread out across her social calendar–but she still manages this process.

Would you consider her a content marketer or social marketer? Gray area. In smaller marketing orgs (and even some bigger ones), roles are more fluid and employees have to get scrappy and wear multiple hats.

Social Is a Channel, Content Is a Tactic

With the caveat in the section above–that we’re often doing a little of both–and some informal polling of many esteemed marketers I know, here is where I’ve landed on social marketing vs. content marketing.

Social marketing is a channel where we find potential customers by listening to earned conversations and analyzing our owned accounts. We then interact with those people to move them through the customer journey.

You can use various tactics to make that movement happen. Content marketing is a tactic. It’s a method of marketing that allows companies to add value for potential customers by creating and distributing (sometimes through social) collateral like blog posts, videos, and web pages.

These pieces of collateral entertain and educate your target audience about topics related to your product. They’re intended to generate interest in your offering by reinforcing relevant problems, challenges, misconceptions, and, finally, solutions.

But It’s a Spectrum

Even in larger marketing organizations with more set-in-stone roles, responsibilities, and resource allocations, a marketer is usually both creating content and delivering it, to some extent.

There is a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere on this spectrum as we put together strategies and execute them.

Content Marketers vs. Social Marketers

What do you think of this approach? Am I right? Am I wrong? Why or why not? Let us know on Twitter.