Skip to main content

Digital Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: Is There A Difference?

WVU Online | Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Social media marketing and digital marketing - aren’t they just one and the same?

Even though these terms may occasionally be used interchangeably, there are some key differences to note.

For starters, social media marketing is a type of digital marketing, but there is more to digital marketing than social media strategy and management.

Knowing the differences will help you understand what you want to focus on in your career.

What is Digital Marketing?

By using online platforms, digital marketing creates a dialogue with today's modern audience that builds a community around a brand or organization.

There are various types of digital marketing, including social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click campaigns, website management, etc.

The list will continue to grow as digital marketing becomes an increasingly vital part of marketing.

Some common types of digital marketing include:

  • Websites: Establishing an online presence through company websites.
  • Email Marketing: Engaging with leads and customers through targeted email campaigns.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Optimizing content to improve visibility and ranking on search engine results pages.
  • PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising: Placing ads on search engines and websites, paying only when users click.
  • Social Media Marketing: Utilizing social media platforms to reach and engage audiences.
  • Mobile Marketing: A mix of marketing practices and channels that are unique to having a smartphone.

What is Social Media Marketing?

The purpose of social media marketing is to leverage social media platforms for the promotion of brands, products and services.

Using social networks for marketing purposes involves strategically creating and sharing content, engaging with an audience, and using data analytics to measure the efficacy of different campaigns.

Commonly used social media platforms include Facebook, X/Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn and more. Some social media marketing strategies include:

  • Content Creation: Developing engaging content tailored to each platform's audience and format.
  • Influencer Collaborations: Partnering with influencers to reach and resonate with target audiences.
  • Community Engagement: Building and nurturing communities around brands through interactions and discussions.
  • Social Media Advertising: A method of running paid ad campaigns on social media channels.

It plays a pivotal role in a brand’s overall digital marketing strategy, fostering brand awareness, engagement and customer loyalty. Understanding the unique potentials of different social media platforms is crucial for crafting effective marketing strategies.

Social media marketing requires social media management, which is the process of creating, scheduling, analyzing and engaging with content posted on social media platforms.

Key Differences Between Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing

All digital marketing efforts require social media strategies to engage with a brand’s audience. The difference comes from the scope of the role.

Digital marketing encompasses a broad range of online marketing activities beyond social media, including websites, email, SEO, PPC and more. Social media marketing focuses specifically on leveraging social media platforms for marketing purposes.

Another difference comes with audience targeting and engagement. Digital marketing targets audiences across various digital channels and platforms, employing diverse strategies. Social media marketing engages with audiences within a specific social media platform and utilizes platform-specific features.

Tools and Metrics

Digital marketing and social media marketing utilize a variety of tools and metrics to measure performance and achieve marketing objectives. While there is some overlap between the tools and metrics used in both fields, they also have distinct focuses and priorities.

Tools and the metrics focused on are specific to each and support a variety of marketing strategies. Let’s explore the different digital and social media marketing tools and metrics.

Digital Marketing Tools

  • Google Analytics: Tracks website traffic, user behavior and conversions and provides insights into audience demographics, interests and acquisition channels.
  • Email Marketing Platforms (i.e., Constant Contact, Mailchimp, HubSpot): Facilitates the creation, automation and analysis of email campaigns, while tracking email open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates.
  • SEO Tools (i.e., SEMrush, Moz): Assesses website SEO performance and identifies opportunities for improvement with keyword research and competitor analysis.
  • PPC Advertising Platforms (i.e., Google Ads, Facebook Ads Manager): Creates and manages pay-per-click advertising campaigns across search engines and social media platforms.
  • Content Management Systems (i.e., WordPress, Drupal): Builds and manages website content, including blogs, landing pages and product pages.

Social Media Marketing Tools

  • Social Media Management Platforms (i.e., Hootsuite, Buffer): Manages multiple social media accounts from a single dashboard, allowing you to schedule posts, monitor mentions and analyze engagement metrics.
  • Social Listening Tools (i.e., Brandwatch, Sprout Social): Monitors social media conversations and brand mentions in real-time.
  • Influencer Marketing Platforms (i.e., Influencity, AspireIQ): Identifies and connects with influencers relevant to a brand or campaign.
  • Analytics Tools (i.e., Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics): Provides data on audience demographics, engagement metrics and content performance and offers insights into the effectiveness of social media marketing efforts.

Digital Marketing Metrics

  • Conversion Rate: Measures the percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Calculates the percentage of users who click on a specific link or ad out of the total number of users who view it.
  • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): Determines the average cost of acquiring a customer through a specific marketing channel or campaign.
  • ROI (Return on Investment): Evaluate the profitability of a marketing campaign by comparing the revenue generated to the cost of the campaign.

Social Media Marketing Metrics

  • Engagement Rate: Measures the level of interaction (likes, comments, shares) received on social media posts relative to the number of followers or impressions.
  • Reach and Impressions: Indicates the number of unique users who have seen a social media post (reach) and the total number of times the post has been displayed (impressions).
  • Follower Growth Rate: Calculates the percentage increase or decrease in the number of followers over a specific period.
  • Share of Voice: Assesses a brand's presence and visibility compared to competitors within a specific industry or topic on social media platforms.
  • Social Media Sentiment: Evaluates the overall sentiment (positive, negative, neutral) of social media mentions related to a brand or campaign.

While digital marketing and social media marketing share some common tools and metrics, each field has its unique set of priorities and focuses.

Understanding the distinctions between these tools and metrics is essential for marketers to effectively measure and optimize their campaigns across various digital channels.

Are the Career Paths Different?

The career paths and job outlooks in social media marketing and broader digital marketing roles do differ in focus. Learn how to get started in these fields:

Social Media Marketing Careers

Social Media Manager
A social media manager is a marketing professional who provides the voice and content for a brand across social channels. They are responsible for responding to comments, creating content and keeping up to date with trends on social media.

Social Media Strategist
Social Media Strategists help an organization decide which social networks to keep accounts on, and what kind of content to post and when, for maximum reach. They often work with several different marketing, communications and sales teams to create an engaging social media strategy.

Digital Marketing Careers

Digital Marketing Manager
A digital marketing manager is a professional who is responsible for maintaining a brand’s online presence and sales by working on various marketing campaigns. Their duties include researching, strategizing with other professionals and creating content for successful campaigns.

Digital Strategist
These specialists are responsible for using digital strategies to develop solutions and meet an organization's marketing objectives. They use all of the necessary digital tools, such as website pages, emails, social media and blog articles to coordinate digital strategies for a company or client.

As you may notice, social media is part of the digital marketing roles, but social media marketing focuses solely on social media, supporting the rest of the digital marketing strategy.

That is one of the great things about digital marketing, and marketing in general — you can specialize your career.

Maybe you’re creative and want to create viral TikToks, or maybe you’re analytical and want to focus your skills on the backend of a website’s search engine optimization, or maybe both appeal to you.

There are various types of digital marketing you can specialize in if you don’t want to be a general digital marketer.

If you're interested in becoming a social media marketer, the first step is to check out our beginner’s guide. For those interested in a broader digital marketing career, you should explore our seven practical steps.

Some tips for getting started include exploring your educational options, gaining practical experience and networking.

Digital Marketing vs Social Media Marketing: How They Work Together

While they are distinct, there are interconnected components of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Understanding how they complement each other is essential for maximizing their effectiveness in achieving marketing objectives. Let's explore how digital marketing and social media marketing work together:

Content Distribution

Branded content created as part of digital marketing campaigns can be repurposed and shared across social media channels, extending its reach and visibility to a broader audience.

Integrated Campaign Strategies

Social media platforms serve as integral components of digital marketing campaigns, driving traffic to websites, landing pages and other digital assets optimized for conversions.

Audience Engagement and Interaction

Digital marketing efforts such as email marketing and retargeting campaigns can be integrated with social media engagement tactics to provide a seamless and consistent brand experience across channels.

Cross-Promotion and Collaboration

Coordinated cross-promotion efforts between digital marketing and social media marketing initiatives to amplify brand visibility and foster mutually beneficial partnerships.

Digital marketing and social media marketing are integral components of a comprehensive marketing strategy. By understanding how they work together synergistically, marketers can leverage the strengths of each channel to achieve their overarching marketing objectives and drive sustainable business growth.

How To Choose Your Path in Digital Marketing

With job opportunities at every turn and a constantly expanding industry, it can be difficult to pin down the types of digital marketing and where you fit into the industry. Simply put, finding your niche can be hard in an industry that is always evolving.

Knowing the different types of digital marketing can help you know what area you want to specialize in. You’ll also want to have a broad understanding of digital marketing so you know how your specialization can help the overall marketing strategy for your brand or company. Plus, exploring all of the different aspects of digital marketing will help you find your niche.

Maybe you love content creation or want to solely focus on social media marketing, you’ll gain a holistic understanding with WVU Online’s Digital Marketing Communications master’s degree.

Explore Your Options at WVU Online:

Explain that WVU has a wide range of degree and certificate programs that cover different aspects of digital marketing.

WVU Online has options designed for you! Become an expert in marketing strategy and how to integrate all aspects of marketing with our M.S. IMC degree, or focus your knowledge on data-driven storytelling or digital marketing platforms with our M.S. in Data Marketing Communications or M.S. in Digital Marketing Communications.

Just getting started? Explore our B.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications. Or maybe you’re a pro and you’re ready to specialize your career. We have many graduate certificate options available as well! Explore our programs:

We're here for you.

Call us, write us, or fill out the request information form. Whichever communication style you prefer, there will be someone from WVU Online on the other end waiting to help.

(800) 253-2762 Email Us Submit a Contact Request Form

WVU Online

Be a decision maker. First, your degree. World-class academics at an exceptional value.

Occasionally a student will encounter an issue with an online course that he or she doesn’t know how to resolve. Should this occur, please visit the link below.

Internal Student Complaint Process

Contact Us

WVU Online
West Virginia University
PO Box 6800
Morgantown, WV 26506-6800

Phone: (800) 253-2762

Connect with WVU Online

Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube TicToc Icon