When working with your marketing agency to strategize a new marketing campaign for your small to medium sized business, chances are the campaign will include some type of digital and/or social media marketing. One common mistake in developing digital marketing strategies is assuming that all types of digital marketing are fairly equivalent. In this article we will focus on the key differences between social media marketing and other types of digital marketing.

We will start this article with a brief description of each of the types of digital marketing:

  • SEO
  • Paid search (PPC or pay per click)
  • Email marketing
  • Display
  • Geo-fencing
  • Social media marketing – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, X (formerly known as Twitter), Snapchat, Pinterest, and LinkedIn

Then we will follow with:

  • Differences between social media marketing and other digital marketing channels.
  • Key aspects of social media marketing where it is significantly different from other types of digital marketing.

Types of Digital Marketing


SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is focused on improving where your business’s website appears in the list of search results when people search online for terms relevant to your business. For example, if you own a local dress shop, you want Google to show people your store’s website as high as possible on the search engine results page (SERP) when they search for “dress shops in Lancaster PA”. Ideally, you’d want the search engine (Google, Bing, or other) to show your store’s website in the first position at the top of the first page of results.

Using SEO to improve the visibility of your business’s website on those search results pages is important because most people click on the first several websites listed on page 1 of Google search results, and the same applies to Bing, Duck Duck Go, or any other search engine results page.

SEO is a strategy that takes a significant time commitment to yield results. Six months would be the minimum time to dedicate to SEO and successful companies consider SEO to be a continual, on-going part of their marketing operations. There are three basic types of SEO work:

  • On-page SEO – Adding relevant content to your site such as informative blogs, detailed product copy, images, videos, interlinking across internal pages, use of relevant keywords in the copy, easy navigation, etc.
  • Off-page SEO – Adding links to your site from other reputable sites and building a solid social media presence that has engagement from your audience.
  • Technical SEO – Ensuring that all the back-end functionality and code of the site is optimized, including responsive design, schema markup, robots.txt, H1 tags, secure https, sitemap, etc.

Properly executed SEO will, over the long term, improve both the quality and quantity of your website’s organic traffic from search engines. SEO is an important investment because it creates a sustainable increase in traffic to your site, which should also drive more revenue for your business. This is different from paid digital marketing campaigns where the traffic will stop when the campaigns stop.

The data that is collected on your site because of SEO work can be used to understand your audience’s shared demographics, how they use your site, and how to optimize paid digital campaigns. Optimized digital campaigns will do a better job of increasing online traffic and elevating campaign ROI (Return on Investment).

Paid Search (PPC or pay per click)

This is a digital strategy used to quickly increase traffic and leads to your site. PPC stands for “pay per click” which means that every time someone clicks on your paid search ad, you get charged for that click but you do not get charged for the impressions from ads that weren’t clicked. Paid search ads are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs). Google Ads is the platform used to deliver paid search ads, and it offers three basic types of paid search ad campaigns:

  • Text ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Local services ads

Each of these ad types appear in different positions (and in different formats) on SERPs. A properly set up paid search campaign will result in a relevant ad for your business appearing when a consumer is searching for a product or service that you offer.

Benefits of paid search include but are not limited to: immediate online product sales, increased website traffic, and increased lead generation. The amount you pay per click is based on how much you bid for that ad space.

One of the most important factors in successful paid search advertising is the use of keywords. Keywords are entered during the ad creation process to help Google, Bing, or other search engines determine which of your ads are most relevant to serve on the SERP.

For example, if your company wants to reach people searching for low-cost family vacation ideas, you will want to bid on keywords such as “low-cost family vacations” or “family vacation on a budget”. This way, when someone enters “low-cost family vacations” into Google, Google Ads will serve your ad and bid for the top spot on the SERP. To learn more about PPC advertising and keyword targeting, read through our Beginners Guide to Digital Campaign Targeting.


Display ads are the typical rectangular and square ads you see when you are browsing news websites. Display ads can be designed as animated gifs, which convey more information about your business than a static jpg or png ad. Targeting for display ads includes interests, placements, keywords, and demographics. Display ads are best for raising awareness of your business’s brand. The old “rule of seven” in marketing is that a person must see an ad at least seven times to retain awareness of your business’s brand.

Building brand awareness is an essential ingredient in your business’s marketing mix. Research shows that consumers are roughly 70% more likely to take an action, such as making a purchase, when they are already familiar with a brand’s name, which means that digital display campaigns should be part of your on-going digital marketing strategy because they set the stage for other campaigns that directly drive online shopping sales.


Geo-fencing is all about location. To run a geo-fenced ad campaign you specify, using GPS coordinates, a location with a minimum radius of 50 meters. This location could be a school, a competitor, your own business’s location, or an event venue – basically any location where you know that your target audience will be present. When someone enters the fenced area with their location-enabled mobile device, their device is tagged so that your ads will be delivered to that person the next time they are on a website or app that is in the ad network. Geo-fencing tends to produce a smaller number of leads than other types of digital marketing, but these leads tend to be highly qualified.

The key caveat with geo-fencing is that you must be very confident that the people you want to reach are, in fact, present at a particular location. For example, if you wanted to fence the offices of one of your competitors to try and attract their workers for a job opening at your company, you’d need to be sure those workers are still coming to the office. With the rise in remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic it is now harder to be confident that office workers are actually in a company’s office space.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is not only a form of digital marketing, but also a form of direct marketing, meaning that you are communicating directly with an individual consumer. Email marketing must be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act, which requires that email campaigns have an unsubscribe link, be sent to people who have opted-in, have clear subject lines, and clearly indicate who the email is from.

Email marketing campaigns can be sent to your own list of customers and prospects or can be sent to email lists from proprietary databases of opted-in email addresses. These large email databases offer selection criteria by age, interest, occupation, intent to purchase, and much more.

After your email marketing campaign has been sent out, you can target digital ads to people who have clicked on a link in the campaign. Email marketing is a good choice to keep your audience engaged with new information about your products, brand, offers, and events. Email marketing is a more personal approach than paid search, geo-fencing, or display marketing.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is a huge presence in digital marketing with billions of users across the main platforms. Below are the approximate number of users for each platform as-of 2022:

  • Facebook – 2.9 billion users
  • YouTube – 2 billion users
  • Instagram – 1.8 billion users
  • TikTok – 1 billion users
  • LinkedIn – 774 million users
  • Pinterest – 459 million users
  • X (formerly known as Twitter) – 319 million users
  • Snapchat – 300 million users

Source: Hubspot State of Marketing 2021.

As a result of the dominance of social media as a communications channel, some companies, like Spotify, have decided to exclusively use social media for outbound communications to their users. Spotify uses X (formerly known as Twitter) messaging as their only form of customer assistance because it is so accessible and easy to use.

There are two fundamental ways to approach social media marketing: 1) posting organically about your business (and sometimes boosting those posts), and 2) running ad campaigns on social media platforms. For ad campaigns, each social media platform has its own setup process, ad formatting requirements, targeting options, boosting options, and unique demographics. Like email marketing, social media marketing can help your company engage with your audience in a more personalized way than SEO, paid search, geo-fencing, or display.

Using Facebook as an example, the big limitation in using organic posting to promote your business is that organic Facebook posts only reach about 6% of your fans. So, if you put a lot of time and effort into organic posts you are, unfortunately, wasting your time because a large portion of your audience will not see what you have posted. A business can choose to pay to boost its organic posts, which will reach a somewhat larger audience, but boosted posts don’t offer the full power of paid social media ad campaigns. The limitations to boosted posts on Facebook include:

  • No option to A/B split test a campaign. A/B split testing provides important data so that you can learn what types of posts perform better.
  • Limited targeting options. With boosting, you can only select one of these options: people who like your page, friends of people who like your page, targeted audience. Note that the “targeted audience” option within a boosted post only offers a fraction of the targeting options available in an ad campaign.
  • Optimization is only available for engagement (likes, comments, shares). You cannot optimize for web traffic, video views or conversions.

Because of these limitations, which are similar on all social media platforms, we recommend that businesses post once or twice a month to let people know that the business is still open. Then take that time you would have put into organic posts and instead work with your digital marketing agency to develop highly effective social media ad campaigns.

Next let’s review the key differences between social media marketing and other types of digital marketing.

Key aspects where social media marketing is better than other types of digital marketing

1 – Social media is powerful for both brand awareness and online sales/lead generation.

Traditionally, social media was considered better for brand awareness than for generation of leads or online product sales. Social media’s strength in brand awareness rests on its ability to personally connect your business with people who are interested in your brand. Your brand’s organic social media posts and ads can be intimate, funny, storytelling, or candid in a way that is difficult to replicate through other digital platforms.

Social media ad campaigns can be displayed in users’ feeds, thus appearing naturally alongside organic posts. And, even though organic posting is an inefficient use of your time, your brand can post organically at no charge. Plus, your brand’s social media followers can like and share your organic posts and your ad campaigns, thus giving you free help to reach more people. All these aspects mean that social media remains a brand awareness powerhouse.

For online product sales and lead generation, paid search campaigns have long been considered more effective than social media. More recently, this conventional wisdom has been changing as social media marketing has been proving that it can be very effective for lead generation, selling products online, and even hiring for open positions. Insider Intelligence estimates that half of all U.S. adults made a purchase via social media in 2021. The revenue from online purchases via social media ad campaigns in 2021 amounted to $492 billion dollars and this number is predicted to more than double by 2025. Selling products online through social media channels now even has its own name: social commerce.

While social media has is now considered a highly effective channel for both brand awareness and online sales/lead generation, paid search remains more one-dimensional as a great choice for online sales/lead generation, but a poor choice for brand awareness due to the fact that paid search ads reach a narrow audience that is actively searching for specific products, services, or information.

2 – Social media has the most interest-based targeting of any digital platform.

If you think about all the things Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, X (formerly known as Twitter), Pinterest or TikTok know about your habits, likes, and interests, you realize that those platforms have a lot of data about who you are and what you like. The benefit for a business in Lancaster County is that you can work with your digital marketing agency to leverage this interest information to craft audiences of people who are highly likely to want to purchase your products, services, or apply for your open positions.

The different types of targeting available in social media platforms perform best at different points in the marketing funnel, according to Hubspot:

  • Social media demographic targeting is most effective at driving brand awareness.
  • Social media interest targeting is most effective at driving purchase intent and consideration, if the size of the interest-based target audience is comparable to the size of a demographic-based target audience. Meaning, you want to be careful not to create an overly narrow target audience using interests because if the audience size is too small it could reduce the effectiveness of the campaign.

Below is a partial list of interest-based targeting options just for Facebook. As you can see, the options are extensive and detailed. The complete list can be found here on page 9, but beware, targeting options on all social media platforms change constantly. While the interest options below are for Facebook, every other social media platform has as many or more detailed lists of interest-based targeting available. The options are truly staggering and are all derived from users’ real, tracked behaviors, making these interests very accurate.

  • Hobbies and activities:
    • Political and social issues (e.g. law, environmentalism, volunteering)
    • Home and garden (e.g. furniture, home appliances, gardening)
    • Arts and music (e.g. fine art, guitar, singing, dance)
    • Pets (e.g. dogs, cats, reptiles)
    • Travel (e.g. adventure, air, vacations, nature)
    • Vehicles (e.g. SUVs, RVs, trucks, boats)
  • Business and industry:
    • Real estate, architecture, nursing, higher education, construction, and more.
    • Design (e.g. fashion, graphic, interior)
    • Online (e.g. digital marketing, web development, search engine optimization)
    • Personal finance (e.g. credit cards, insurance, investment)
    • Banking (e.g. investment, personal, online)
  • Shopping and fashion:
    • Beauty (e.g. cosmetics, tattoos, spas, hair products)
    • Clothing (e.g. children’s, men’s, shoes, women’s)
    • Fashion accessories (e.g. dresses, handbags, jewelry)
    • Shopping (e.g. boutiques, coupons, luxury, discount)
  • Fitness and wellness: dieting, running, yoga, Zumba and more
  • Family and relationships: fatherhood, motherhood, weddings and more
  • Technology:
    • Computers (e.g. hard drives, network storage, software,)
    • Consumer electronics (e.g. cameras, TVs, game consoles, smart phones)
  • Entertainment:
    • Live events (e.g. theater, concerts, nightclubs)
    • Games (e.g. card, board, online, video)
    • Movies (e.g. drama, fantasy, anime)
    • Reading (e.g. e-books, magazines, manga, non-fiction, newspapers)
    • TV (e.g. game shows, reality, talk shows)
    • Music (e.g. hip hop, pop, rock, soul)
  • Sports and outdoors:
    • Sports (e.g. soccer, tennis, golf)
    • Outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, hunting, fishing)
  • Food and drink:
    • Alcoholic beverages (e.g. beer, wine, distilled beverages)
    • Cooking (e.g. baking, recipes, beverages)
    • Cuisine (e.g. Japanese, Thai, French)
    • Food (e.g. barbecue, vegetarian, organic)
    • Restaurants (e.g. diners, coffee houses, fast casual)

Note that there are even more options for demographic and behavior-based targeting which are not listed above because the focus of this article is how social media channels are different from other digital channels, and interest targeting is a key difference.

3 – Social media offers better creative space compared to other digital channels.

Ads in social media platforms are larger, more dynamic, and can use video at no extra cost. By contrast, the most dynamic ad format on a display campaign is an animated gif, which is nowhere near as engaging as ads on social media. Social media ads can be short videos (like speeded up cooking videos), or testimonials from users, or shots of products being used/modeled in action, or drone flythroughs of an event space, and on and on.

Of the different social media platforms, TikTok is, of course, 100% video while Facebook and Instagram can utilize either video or photos. Facebook and Instagram include more room for copy than TikTok does. Ad formats are shown in social media alongside organic content which only heightens the authenticity of the social media ads themselves.

4 – Social media is memorable.

People remember that they saw your business on social media. We often hear our advertisers say that their customers tell them “I saw you on Facebook”. This is because users are highly engaged when they are scrolling through the feed of their favorite social media platform. Your business’s ads will be shown to social media users while they are in that highly engaged moment. Using the professional design capabilities of a digital marketing agency, your ads will flow naturally within the social media feed, thus increasing the perception that the ads are part of the overall engagement experience. In this way, social media advertising is much less passive than other forms of digital advertising.

5 – Social media platforms offer a diverse array of dedicated fan bases.

Each social media platform has its own core group of dedicated users with distinct generational and interest attributes. Because each platform has its own fan base, you’ll need to consider which type of social media fans are most aligned with your brand and campaign goals.

Researchers at Brigham Young University identified four basic categories of Facebook users:  relationship builders, town criers, selfies, and window shoppers. While this type of research has not yet been applied to TikTok, we do know that 47.4% of TikTok users are under age 30. Facebook, predictably, skews toward an older audience, with only 24.9% of users under age 30.

Researchers at Lahore University have identified six types of  X (formerly known as Twitter) users: professional users, personal users, business users, spam users, feed/news users, and viral/marketing users.

The lists of various user types for each social media platform are almost endless, but you get the idea. You digital marketing agency experts can help you dig into the details of which social media audience is right for your business’s campaign.


Having a strong social media strategy will maximize your business’s overall online performance. Working with a digital marketing agency to develop savvy social media campaigns will boost your company’s brand awareness and increase your online sales and lead generation. Social media marketing stands apart from other digital marketing channels because of its extensive interest targeting options, cost effectiveness, and generous amount of space for visual assets and ad copy.

Whether your business wants to reach people in Lancaster County or anywhere in the U.S., the digital marketing experts at LNP Media Group will help you to achieve your business’s goals. We work closely with your team and provide full transparency into the performance of every campaign. We are social media enthusiasts who can select the most appropriate social media platform for your business goals and develop the optimum combination of demographic and interest targeting. Plus, we provide digital creatives at no additional charge. Contact us to today for a completely free, no commitment marketing strategy conversation.