Digital marketing vs. social media marketing. Which marketing strategy works best to promote your books, your business, or in fact, any product or service?
Every author or blogger knows that both forms of marketing are useful in attracting readers and book buyers.
But because blogging and selling books are such hand in hand activities now, the line between them can often get blurred.
Authors primarily view content marketing, or blogging, as a means to sell books. Whereas dedicated bloggers see online marketing as a tool to earn an income from advertising and affiliate marketing, and very often, to also sell ebooks.
The marketing mix
More and more, this line is becoming merged between online and social media marketing.
Authors add income-producing means to their blogs, while some bloggers work to repurpose content to convert into Kindle ebook sales.
The common element between the two marketing efforts is that both need to strike a balance between online marketing vs. social media to attract either organic search results or social media shares, Likes, retweets, and of course, site visits.
Like all forms of promotion, both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Social Media Marketing (SEM) need a lot of hard work. And sometimes an equal amount of patience before you get the full benefit of your time invested.
Deciding which digital marketing campaign suits you best will depend on the amount of time you have available, your technical knowledge, your budget, and your marketing goals.
In most cases, you will have a mix of both. But you might want to adjust and place far more emphasis on one or the other, depending on which works better for you in the long-term for your small business.
Social Media – The Hare
Anyone who wants to promote anything starts with social media channels to build fast brand awareness.
It is by far the quickest and easiest way to connect with people. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and many other social media services are easy to join and get started.
There are so many social media management strategies that you can use.
A quick Google search will give you hundreds of ideas to attract friends, connect with more people, create a lead magnet, increase Likes and shares, pay for Facebook ads, and even buy fake followers to boost follower counts.
I have to say that I think the last idea of buying followers is pointless and a total waste of money.
Building a sizable following on your accounts is not difficult, but it does require a lot of time investment.
Posting is very easy on all social networks. Usually, it requires only a couple of clicks to share your social media campaigns or new blog posts on as many social media platforms as you can manage.
In the end, though, a successful social media marketing strategy is about connecting, communicating, and sharing.
To gain maximum benefit, you need to spend the time to interact with your followers and friends on all of your social media platforms.
The downside, however, is that social media posts are incredibly short-lived. The half-life of a social media post is about twenty minutes to drive traffic to your blog or site.
In other words, only a few percent of your followers will have seen it, missed it, or ignored it within this time.
After that, your post will have dropped so far down their feeds that it will be difficult to be seen again. And who bothers searching on social media?
The activity for the Tweet below shows how low engagement rates can be on social media.
This example Tweet had an engagement rate of 1.2%, which is, in fact, quite good.
Because of the immediate nature of social media, getting attention for your posts requires posting often and at peak times.
Another reason to post often is that interaction and conversion rates are quite low. This is especially true on Twitter.
Therefore, the more posts you add, the more post engagements you will get with your social media campaigns.
You can also pay for far more attention by using online advertising.
Paid search using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is quick and easy to set up, as is paying for Like campaigns or Twitter reach promotion.
Most social media networks make their money from paid advertising by users, as the button in the image above clearly shows.
Used prudently, paying can help. However, be careful with your digital marketing budget.
It should only be a very small part of a digital marketing strategy. It can quickly become a very expensive way to gain attention and find potential customers or book buyers.
1. Easy to get started. Nothing to set up other than to join.
2. No need to create new content
3. Nothing to prepare or write. (well, not a lot)
4. Relatively simple to gain followers and friends
5. Easy to find target audiences
6. Instant exposure
7. Posting can be at almost any frequency. (Twitter allows 1,000 per day. Eeek!)
8. It is absolutely free, apart from PPC advertising
1. Very short-term exposure, so it requires frequent posting and sharing
2. Time-consuming to interact and build a sizable following
3. Low conversion rates
4. No ownership of data
5. The strict rules of some platforms can lead to suspension
6. Privacy concerns
Online Marketing – The Tortoise
Starting a new blog and writing a lot of high-quality content takes time. In fact, it takes a very long time.
It is a long-term Internet marketing strategy. As a general rule of thumb, it takes six months to a year to establish a successful income earning blog.
Some new bloggers use Google Adwords advertising to help make the time shorter. It can work for sure, but it is an expensive way to build organic traffic.
Regular blog posting of articles and providing a good user experience is the only way you can get to appear in search results in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, along with many others to expand your organic reach.
Search traffic is gold, and it is the key difference between social and online content marketing.
While it is time-intensive to begin with, writing good content rewards you with ongoing organic visits to your blog that can keep delivering for years.
As an example, one article I wrote over a year ago is still averaging over 600 visits per week, as the graphic below shows.
To get the same amount of steady traffic via social media, I would have to be posting fifty times a day, if not more.
Yes, it took me quite a few hours to do my research, find the best long-tail keywords to use, and then write the article.
Plus, there was time spent on creating images. However, as a long-term marketing strategy, it is paying me huge dividends on the time invested.
Since I published this article, I have updated the content from time to time and made minor adjustments to its SEO.
But all up, I have spent around four hours on this article, for a return of 29,213 page views in the last twelve months.
On top of that, this article has earned around 100 inbound links, which helps bring a lot of external traffic.
Writing quality evergreen content is not about writing a quick 300-word blog post.
It takes a lot of time to do your research and write an informative long-form article that fits with the objectives of your marketing campaign.
However, for the time invested, the returns outlive social media one thousandfold or more.
It depends on the type of content, and not every article you write will have this amount of success.
However, from my experience, if you are writing great content, around 10% of your articles will do very well.
Another 20-25% will do moderately well. While the rest can be improved to hopefully perform better over time.
Being a blogger means being an internet marketer. Learning how SEO works and how to write content that ranks is a skill.
But any writer can do it. It may take adding more video content, planning more landing pages, or focussing more on email marketing to create further growth.
If you are new to blogging and online content promotion, the best way to build your knowledge is to use Google Analytics and Google Console, to begin with and learn how to analyze your successes and failures.
However, if you are serious about leveraging your blog to promote and sell, you will need far more advanced SEO tools.
You might want to investigate for free what a professional SEO suite like Semrush can offer you in the way of on-page SEO improvement, keyword tracking, semantic keywords, competitor analysis, content creation, and site auditing.
There are other very good SEO suites available, but as I use Semrush, I can vouch for how much help it offers and how well it works.
While many don’t have the time or patience to make blogging an income earner, for those who do, the rewards can be very good indeed.
To give a clear illustration of how effective online vs. social media marketing is, here is a snapshot graph from Google Analytics.
As you can see, referral (inbound links) and organic search are by far the best performers. However, social media, while delivering a lot more site visits, performs poorly on conversion rate, income, pages per session, and bounce rate.
If you are wondering about the category “Other” in the chart, this is traffic that Google tracks but does not define because the source is missing a UTM-medium tag.
This is often referral traffic from community boards, forums, RSS feeds, email, or perhaps even a link in a Word document.
The key to successful online marketing for any product or service is writing fantastic articles that answer questions people have and that they will, therefore, search for.
Your writing also needs to be accurate, grammatically perfect, typo-free, and easy to read.
For this reason, it is highly recommended to use a pro version grammar and spell checker such as the highly-rated Grammarly checker.
It offers a free version and is highly regarded, and helps save time producing error-free and lexically varied content.
So is all this effort, time, and expense worth the effort?
Pros of online marketing
1. The ongoing long-term financial return on time invested
2. Very high conversion rate
3. The potential for steady earnings from affiliate marketing, advertising, and direct sales.
4. No need to pay for PPC advertising
5. Search engine traffic means no need to hunt for new visitors
6. Ownership of all email lists and marketing subscriber data, comment link data, content, and all other data related to your site
7. You become a business owner
8. You are in total control of your site, and it cannot be suspended, closed, or limited in any way.
Cons of online marketing
1. A very long time between start-up and substantial positive results.
2. Investment needed in hosting and professional tools
3. To get a faster take-up, Google Adwords works but can be very expensive
4. Some technical knowledge required or needs to be learned
What works is what works best for you.
There is no such thing as traditional marketing anymore. This generalization belongs to roadside billboards and television advertising.
In today’s online world, it is all about getting people to find you or to notice you. In a way, these two words define the difference between online marketing and social media.
With online or content marketing, you aim to make it easy for people to find you using search engines, guest blogging links, backlinks, or even Google Adwords.
But on social media, you want people to notice you when you post or share social media content. Facebook case studies have proven how effective it can be.
Without a doubt, you will want to use a bit of both to promote your books, ebooks, services, or products. However, the balance between the two will depend on your aims, available time, and possibly, your budget.
If you want a conclusion, I would say that blogging is by far the most productive, time-effective, and financially rewarding, and is what I spend most of my time doing.
But I also spend a little time each day on social media to make new contacts and attract new site visitors.
Both the hare and the tortoise end up at the finishing line
As long as you define your marketing aims, know what and why you are promoting, and are clear about the results you want to achieve, then both social media and blogging offer distinct advantages and benefits.
But in my opinion, blogging and search engine organic traffic is where real money can be made.
It is more than worth the time and effort invested if you want to reap all of the benefits over the long-term. This applies particularly to promoting backlist titles.
However, if you have just published a new book, why not hit social media hard to give it a boost during its launch period?
There are hares and tortoises, but there are also horses for courses.