Both social media and search engines are ways that companies are able to promote content to a target audience, and both are considered to be inbound channels. However, both of these approaches are different from one another, and in fact, can be seen as opposites.
Social media marketing is all about connecting with audiences, building relationships with the consumers, and driving traffic from those platforms to the company’s website. Social media can also be used as a tool for strengthening the middle of the buying journey and creating more engagement with the consumers. The same goes for digital PR, link-building and the like.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is also a part of marketing, is all about the company being discovered and driving traffic to the company’s website through search engine results and their ranking. This is used as a tool at the start of the buying journey, in order to create awareness with the consumers.
Beyond those differences, these two marketing efforts have many others in terms of the actions and the outcomes that are expected at each stage, as well as the audiences they reach.
Target audience and intent
One of the core differences between social media and search engine marketing efforts is the audience’s intent as well as the different segments that they reach.
As MTM ‘s Alexei Orlov notes, “With social media, companies are familiar with who the users are, but they don’t know their intentions. These are the people that are browsing and clicking around, which means they’re a lot less likely to take an action further into the buying journey. However, they’re very likely to spread awareness of the company by sharing the content they come across, which can influence other potential buyers.”
Meanwhile, with search engines, companies know what the users are thinking, without having all the details about who those people are. These are people who are looking for very specific products and are very likely to take action within their buying journey, including making a purchase. They are, however, a lot less likely to interact with the website content or share it, simply because they visited the website with specific intent or need.
Content types and results
The other core difference between the two efforts is the type of content that audiences are expecting to see and engage with on the different channels.
For example, visual content, such as images, infographics, and videos, work well on social media platforms, especially because they are very helpful in getting attention and are more likely to be shared. This type of content also creates an emotional response, which is why many companies use strong headlines.
With search engine results, long-form text-based content works best, because search engines rank detailed articles with descriptive headlines a lot higher. That includes things such as articles that provide audiences with answers to common questions, instructional posts, and even evergreen topics.
Nevertheless, both of these channels are interconnected, because companies can generate more website visitors from engaging content on social media platforms, and rank higher in search engine results pages. The company’s website also where the informative types of content that will get them coming back for more is going to be.