Content, or social media? Deciding where to put your investment—of money, time, and effort—isn't easy. And the ROI of both is notoriously difficult to measure.

Moreover, social media and content marketing are often presented as the same thing, which muddies the matter even more.

So how do you decide where to put your efforts? And once you decide, how do you go about it?

What's the Difference and Why?

At first glance, content marketing and social media seem to overlap so much that it sounds like a distinction without a difference. If I do a tweet storm or a LinkedIn post, is that social media or content marketing?

Actually the difference is clear.

Social media is an umbrella term for a type of marketing channel. Instagram is way different from Facebook, true, but then TV is way different from radio; both are broadcast media—a type of channel. Same with print media: The New Yorker isn't the Watlingsburg Gazette and Mail, or Trout Quarterly—but they're the same type of channel. It's social's social nature, in which every contributor is an equal (more or less—we'll get to the caveats) publisher and consumer, that defines social media as a type of channel. But that's what it is.

Content is what goes out on channels. Take a Shakespeare play—Romeo and Juliet, for example. There's a film version, stage versions, radio plays, TV shows, and probably millions of versions of the play published in print and online as PDF and other text files. That's the same piece of content, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, adapted for different channels. Content is what is published. Channel is how.

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image of Rohan  Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar is a project manager at E2M solutions, a digital marketing firm.

LinkedIn: Rohan Ayyar

Twitter: @searchrook