Difference Between Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing

Difference Between Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing

6 mins read13.2K Views Comment
Syed Aquib Ur
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager
Updated on Dec 5, 2023 20:01 IST

Social media is a part of everyone’s internet life. Anyone with internet access is familiar with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Digital marketing runs on these social media platforms, for increasing brand awareness and engagement. Amidst the common digital consciousness with more than 3.6 billion social media users (Statista), the term social media marketing gets confusing too easily.


More often than not, it is loosely interchanged with the entire concept of digital marketing, as both share the internet space. Or at least, newbie marketers may consider it the best way to reach out to consumers as globally everyone is connected and aware, 24/7. In fact, it is not the only advertising tool. It is one of the many important aspects of digital marketing. 

Let us explore the difference between social media marketing and digital marketing. 

Digital Marketing vs Social Media Marketing

Both digital marketing and social media marketing are part of marketing online. Their objectives remain more or less the same – drive more profits, but the execution from planning and communication to tools used are different. 

Digital Marketing 

While social media marketing relies on sns platforms, digital marketing covers more of the digital medium and even the offline world extending to SMS, radio and TV. Digital marketing is important to any brand strategy. It gets a business known through various channels available for internet users, who are over 4.66 billion in the world currently (Statista). 

Digital Marketing Channels

Digital marketing is dependent on digital technologies to provide information on what customers are looking for, no matter where they are from. It helps both existing and potential customers find and buy a product or service.  

While you can later read more on the best digital marketing strategies, any good digital marketing strategy has all or some of the following components. 

  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  2. Search Engine Optimizations (SEO)
  3. Pay Per Click Advertising
  4. Video Marketing
  5. Email Marketing 
  6. Affiliate Marketing
  7. Social Media Marketing
  8. Content Marketing and Curation
  9. Mobile Marketing

Digital marketers customise a strategy for every channel and may not necessarily use all of the above, because it is dependent on the budget, target audience and what the brand stands for. Through marketing research, they find out which type of customers will buy the product. They also look into channels/components that are going to be beneficial and make changes by analysing outcomes through Web Analytics. They get to decide which component should be dropped from a marketing campaign when it does not provide the desired ROI. 

Digital marketing is necessary today as customers prefer to research before buying a product. With this kind of marketing, businesses look into resolving customer pain points and offer a piece of better information than their competitors.


Social Media Marketing 

So social media marketing is a component of a larger digital marketing campaign. It is the most effective of all components combined when done right. After all, customers prefer to have an intimate connection with their favourite brands. Social media channels provide the gateway for the target audiences to engage with the business in a more personalised manner. 

When a brand interacts with a customer on social media, it is there for everyone to see. Social media platforms are also the best places to find out a brand’s admirers who swear by the brand message and products. Anyone who checks the brand’s profile on a relevant social media channel can observe the interaction (comments and likes) or find out through word-of-mouth marketing. And based on these factors they can either choose to buy or just give it a follow. 

Mainly the communication strategies of social media and digital marketing differ. For instance, in digital marketing, the tone of a brand’s website content is consistent, highly informative and not too sales-y, but on the right social media channel, the tone can be lighter and jovial encouraging the audience to react instantly, even if they don’t buy the products and services. Do check social media marketing courses.

Creating a social media strategy also takes lesser time than a complete digital marketing strategy. It focuses on only the relevant social media platforms and it is important to take into account new trends. Take, for example, TikTok. The famed social media platform for entertainment-only videos became popular for educational content around last year or so. The general manager of TikTok, Rich Waterworth in an interview with the BBC saw a growing interest in the #LearnOnTikTok which had seven billion views. That means this social media channel can benefit the social media marketing strategy in the education industry currently.  

Social Media Channels

Choosing the right social media platform/s for business can make or break a social media strategy. Some of the most popular channels are listed below. 

  1. Facebook (now Meta)
  2. YouTube
  3. Instagram
  4. TikTok
  5. Reddit
  6. Twitter
  7. LinkedIn
  8. Quora
  9. Snapchat
  10. Pinterest
  11. Discord
  12. WhatsApp
  13. Tumblr

Social media lets businesses achieve objectives but the importance may not be given equally to all the goals. Increasing website traffic may not be as important as brand awareness or customer engagement. Creating social media content also differs as per the industry. Live videos, stories, images and reels determine the channels to be used depending on the brand voice and industry competitors. 

Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing | Key Differences

Let us do a recap of the main difference between digital marketing and social media marketing:


Digital Marketing Social Media Marketing
Uses online and offline channels for brand promotion Uses social media channels and does not go beyond the internet
Reaches target audience upon visiting the website, social media handle(s), email and all digital platforms Reaches target audience only on social media channels
Raises awareness of business for increasing website traffic and measures performances of content, social media and media Focused on engaging audience directly on social media handles along with influencers and evaluates customer engagement
Takes time to plan a strategy across different channels as a long term goal Takes a shorter time to plan and execute a strategy that works immediately


Digital marketing and social media marketing depend on each other. Both also require research of the marketing industry and the business you have, in order to determine relevant channels and maximize profits through your marketing efforts. Do explore digital marketing courses to find out which type of marketing suits your professional interests. 


Which is better - digital marketing or social media marketing?

Both are essential for a modern business. A digital marketing strategy is essential for any brand or organisation but it is not necessary to create a social media marketing strategy.

What are some of the advantages of social media marketing in a digital marketing campaign?

Social media marketing is the best way to know what your customers are looking for. Engagement is faster among your customers as video and image content are easily understood than a descriptive piece of writing. When a business does not use a social media platform, it is harder to find the right customer.u00a0

How to effectively choose a social media channel for a brand's digital marketing strategy?

It depends on the industry, the business objectives and the type of content that you will use to drive engagement for your target audience.u00a0u00a0

How do digital marketing and social media marketing complement each other?

Both digital marketing and social media marketing are integral parts of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Digital marketing encompasses a wider range of online and offline channels for brand promotion, whereas social media marketing focuses solely on engaging audiences through social platforms. Utilizing both ensures a broader reach and varied engagement methods tailored to different audience preferences.

What role does content play in distinguishing between digital marketing and social media marketing?

Content serves diverse purposes in these marketing approaches. In digital marketing, content is tailored for various channels like websites, emails, and offline mediums, focusing on informative and brand-centric material. Conversely, social media marketing content is more interactive, visual, and conversational, aiming to engage and create a more personal connection with the audience.

About the Author
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager

Aquib is a seasoned wordsmith, having penned countless blogs for Indian and international brands. These days, he's all about digital marketing and core management subjects - not to mention his unwavering commitment ... Read Full Bio