Digital Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing [2023 Guide]

Sakshi GuptaSakshi Gupta | 7 minute read | June 14, 2022
digital marketing vs. social media marketing

In this article

Digital marketing and social media marketing are often confused with one another, and understandably so. They both rely on digital platforms and technologies to promote products, brands, and services. They both overlap in the tools and social networks used in their campaigns. And the marketing professionals who implement digital and social media marketing campaigns typically share similar skills and areas of expertise. But despite these commonalities, the two are actually quite different. 

Where social media marketing is a discipline that uses social channels to amplify a company’s message, digital marketing is an all-encompassing field that spans many different disciplines. In other words, a social media strategy is just one facet of a digital marketing campaign. This distinction is important because companies can run digital marketing campaigns without a social media component, or launch social media marketing campaigns without touching other aspects of digital marketing. 

Want to know more about the difference between the two, and whether one (or both!) are right for your brand? Then keep reading. 

Is There a Difference Between Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing?

Yes, there is a difference between digital marketing and social media marketing. Digital marketing is an umbrella term that covers various marketing disciplines, including social media marketing, online advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and data analytics. Meanwhile, social media marketing has a narrower focus on using social media channels to build brand awareness and promote a company, service, or product.  

Digital Marketing Vs. Social Media Marketing

Now let’s look at various parameters of digital marketing and social media marketing to understand their differences in detail.

Definition

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, refers to marketing efforts that rely on digital technology such as the internet and mobile devices. Social media marketing falls under the umbrella of digital marketing, as does SEO, affiliate marketing, video marketing, content strategy, PPC, influencer marketing, referral marketing, email marketing, and market analysis.   

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is a subset of digital marketing and is built on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social media marketing campaigns often involve creating and curating content for different social channels and audiences, engaging with current and prospective customers on social platforms, and building an online presence to increase brand awareness.  

Goal

What Is the Goal of Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing techniques can be used to achieve different marketing goals. For example, a direct-to-consumer sustainable clothing brand might decide that the most effective way to reach potential customers and differentiate itself from the competition is by building brand awareness through digital channels. It might invest in search engine marketing to drive traffic to its website; it might create a series of blog posts to offer transparency into its supply chain; it could double down on influencer marketing to drive conversions. All of these practices fall under digital marketing, but don’t necessarily involve social media. 

What Is the Goal of Social Media Marketing?

The goals of social media marketing will vary from company to company. Sticking with the example of the DTC sustainable clothing brand, the same company could choose to reach customers through a social media marketing strategy that incorporates Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok—it could use visual content on Instagram to showcase its lookbook, address customer queries and feedback on Twitter, and engage influencers on TikTok to help increase brand relevance among a target audience. 

Process 

What Is the Digital Marketing Process?

digital marketing vs. social media marketing

The process of creating a digital marketing campaign begins with setting marketing goals, determining audience and budget, deciding which digital marketing channels you want to target, then creating and launching a campaign within those parameters that will help you meet your goal. The most effective digital marketing efforts—from those run by the biggest brands to small startups—also include monitoring metrics and using data to improve future campaigns.

What Is the Social Media Marketing Process?

Social media marketing typically begins with a social media audit so that marketing professionals can get a sense of a company’s current social media presence. An audit will highlight social platforms where a company is performing well, social media shortcomings, demographic information, and the type of content that excels on each platform. A marketing team might then choose to focus on just one social media channel or on multiple channels. 

Strategy

What Is an Example of a Digital Marketing Strategy?

Digital marketing strategies vary between disciplines. For example, Brian Dean of Backlinko used SEO to increase organic traffic to a client’s website by 652% in seven days by determining user intent, creating searchable content that satisfies user intent, and ensuring that the content was presented in a way that was user-friendly. Meanwhile, pay-per-click (PPC) experts at THE HOTH were able to reduce the cost of a company’s leads by 85% and increase their monthly lead count six times through the help of Google Analytics, streamlining ad copy, and creating high-conversion landing pages. 

What Is an Example of a Social Media Marketing Strategy?

Like digital marketing, social media marketing strategies can also vary depending on the platform and goals of a campaign. For example, Starbucks has successfully run many different marketing campaigns on social media, from chasing trends when it partnered with the Born This Way Foundation to support the LGBTQ+ community, to incorporating user-generated content to build a rapport with its customers. 

Digital Marketer Vs. Social Media Marketer 

There can be many overlaps in the duties of digital marketers and social media marketers, but the two professions also have different responsibilities and skills. 

Responsibilities

Some of the Skills and Responsibilities of a Digital Marketer Include:

  • Managing marketing insights
  • Planning and supervising marketing campaigns such as search ads, email ads, and digital marketing assets 
  • Website management and optimization
  • Tracking website traffic and other metrics such as customer engagement, monthly active users, return on investment, and conversions
  • Optimizing the performance of the website

Some of the Skills and Responsibilities of a Social Media Marketer Include:

  • Developing social media strategy
  • Identifying the target market and developing ideas on how to reach target customers
  • Obtaining followers on social media sites
  • Building communication and engaging with the audience to offer customer service

Skills

What Are the Skills You Need to Become a Digital Marketer?

Digital marketing skills fall into two buckets: hard skills and soft skills. Some of the hard, or technical, skills include subject matter expertise in at least one channel, knowledge of advertising tools, familiarity with creating digital marketing assets, and data analysis to make informed decisions. Some of the soft skills required include strong communication, time management, attention to detail, project management, and delegation. 

What Are the Skills You Need to Become a Social Media Marketer?

Social media marketing skills can also be grouped into both hard and soft skills. Technical social media marketing skills include in-depth knowledge of social channels and content creation tools, the ability to create digital marketing assets, data analysis to make informed decisions, content curation, and knowledge of social account management tools. Some of the soft skills include strong communication, interpersonal skills, and the ability to identify social media trends and insights.

Career Opportunities

There are many different types of jobs in both digital marketing and social media marketing. 

Digital Marketing Jobs

Common digital marketing job titles include:

  • Digital marketing manager
  • Online marketing campaign manager
  • SEO manager
  • Content marketer
  • Email marketing campaign manager
  • Product marketing

Social Media Marketing Jobs

Common social media marketing job titles include:

  • Social media manager
  • PR manager
  • Community strategist
  • Influencer marketer
  • Community marketing manager

How To Choose Between Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing

How To Choose Between Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing

Now that you know the difference between digital marketing and social media marketing, you might be wondering which field is the best fit for you. Consider the following when making your decision:

Your Education and Background

You don’t need a degree in marketing to work in digital marketing or social media marketing. In fact, both professions offer entry-level opportunities for those who have no marketing experience at all. That said, people with certain backgrounds might gravitate to one profession over the other. For example, someone who has worked in advertising and is interested in multi-channel marketing might enjoy the varied nature of digital marketing. Meanwhile, someone with a background in customer service or customer experience might enjoy the way social media marketing gives them a direct line to customers. 

If you’re still unsure which field is right for you, consider enrolling in a social media marketing course or a digital marketing course to gain hands-on experience in the profession. 

Your Interests

If you’re interested in developing a broad knowledge of lots of different types of marketing activities, from online advertising and internet marketing to search engine optimization, content strategy, PPC, and affiliate marketing, then digital marketing might be right for you. In comparison, if you’re more interested in specializing in a discipline, staying up-to-date on the best practices for all social media channels, and interacting with a company’s current and potential customers, then getting into social media marketing could offer a rewarding career. Both career paths will require an interest in data analysis, project management, running experiments and testing theories, and collaboration. 

Your Career Goals

Both digital marketing and social media marketing offer room for career advancement and salary growth. The higher you climb, the more likely you will manage others and be put in charge of your company’s digital marketing strategy or social media marketing strategy. 

A digital marketing manager will be expected to have knowledge of the various disciplines within their purview (SEO, social media marketing, PPC, influencer marketing, content strategy, etc.) and oversee the implementation of a strategy that helps the company meet its marketing goals. A social media marketing manager, while having a narrower focus in comparison, will also be expected to have knowledge of different social media channels and marketing strategies and will be responsible for the development, implementation, and iteration of a company’s social media strategy. 

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Sakshi Gupta

About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Senior Associate Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer and has experience working in the Indian and US markets.