If you know anything about inbound and outbound marketing, you might think they are two highly...
Social media marketing is one of the most popular marketing tactics, especially for new businesses, as it can be done organically (meaning there’s little startup cost associated with it). Of course, as your business expands, you can develop a social media team to get the most from your social channels. But if you’re just starting out, it can be one of the most valuable digital channels to start increasing your brand awareness, leads and conversions.
One question we commonly get asked is: is social media inbound or outbound marketing? In this article, we discuss the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, and which category social media marketing fits into.
Table of contents
- What is social media marketing?
- What is inbound marketing?
- What is outbound marketing?
- The difference between inbound and outbound marketing
- Can you use inbound and outbound marketing together?
- Is social media inbound or outbound marketing?
- Why is social media an important part of inbound marketing?
i. It generates traffic
ii. It increases brand awareness
iii. It encourages content creation
iv. It gives you insights into your target audience
What is social media marketing?
Social media marketing is a type of digital marketing where businesses utilise social media channels to connect with their audience through a series of great content and community engagement.
Social media marketing is unique to other digital channels as businesses are able to communicate with their target audience on a much more personal level.
While some brands choose to be entirely professional when posting and responding to comments, there are others who are strategically impersonal in the hopes that their message is more likely to resonate with their target audience.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a strategy that leverages pull marketing to increase brand awareness and attract new businesses. Examples of pull marketing types include blogs, events, SEO and social media.
For new companies who don’t yet have a strong brand presence, inbound marketing is often the first port of call because they want customers to come to them incidentally when they research around the topic area.
It’s worth noting that inbound marketing takes patience and consistency before you start seeing results, but once you’ve started gaining trust from potential customers, you will see growth.
What is outbound marketing?
Outbound marketing is a type of marketing where businesses send out their message to a large group of people. The most obvious type of outbound marketing is TV, radio and print advertisements.
Outbound marketing is typically more costly than inbound marketing and the ROI is much lower than inbound marketing. But outbound marketing can be an effective way to get your brand in front of a wider net of people that you might not have been able to otherwise.
Some people call outbound marketing interruptive marketing because it diligently tries to interrupt what consumers are doing to get their attention even when they don’t want to be disrupted.
What is the main difference between inbound and outbound marketing?
Inbound is a more passive form of marketing. While you must plan, create and schedule content consistently, if your content is effective, it will find customers for you.
For instance, businesses create highly optimised content (SEO) for web channels to increase their website rankings. The higher their rankings are for targeted keywords that their audience is searching for, the more likely it is that a customer will click on their website.
Conversely, outbound marketing requires businesses to actively reach out to customers to generate interest in their products. They can use a series of marketing collateral and sales techniques to persuade the potential customer but ultimately the customer makes the final decision there and then as to whether they want to buy a product or service.
Additionally, outbound marketing relies more heavily on traditional forms of marketing such as TV advertisements and brochures. Inbound typically uses digital marketing channels.
Can you use inbound and outbound marketing together?
Yes, many brands have coexisting inbound and outbound strategies which allow them to reach even more people at once.
For many young businesses, they believe that inbound is king and don’t invest in outbound marketing because of the upfront cost. However, if done well, outbound marketing can be incredibly rewarding and worth the investment.
Inbound marketing, as effective as it is, takes time to see results, especially when it comes to social media. You need to build a following and gain consumer trust before they buy from you. Nevertheless, it is an important aspect of building a credible brand.
Outbound marketing methods are very direct and people’s response to the marketing is generally immediate. For instance, if you advertise a product on a TV advertisement and the call to action is to buy it on your website, if someone is really interested they will go and buy your product straight away. With inbound marketing, you have a few hurdles to get through before they go straight to that checkout page, such as developing brand authority.
Fundamentally, using inbound and outbound together is key to growing your business.
Is social media inbound or outbound marketing?
So, is social media inbound or outbound marketing? The answer is, it’s actually an inbound form of marketing.
While brands are creating content with the goal of finding customers, they are letting the content do the work for them. They may also use social channels to do forms of outbound marketing, such as paid ads, but the organic content shared on social platforms is widely considered among marketing experts to be inbound marketing.
Why is social media an important part of inbound marketing?
Social media is a crucial element of any successful inbound marketing campaign because it attracts new followers and helps build a brand presence. Additionally, it reengages existing followers, increasing the chance of them becoming return customers and even brand ambassadors, promoting your products and services for you on social media.
Let’s break it down further:
1. It generates traffic and followers
Research found that 50% of consumers on Instagram are more likely to visit a brand’s website after viewing their profile to find out about new products. 62.3% of Instagram users say they use the platform to follow or research brands and their products. This means promoting your business on social media could help increase followers and cross-over traffic to your website.
If you have a growing army of followers that check your social channels for fresh content, then using social media in tandem with content marketing by publishing links to blog posts and tutorials is an effective way to increase website traffic. Increasing website traffic is critical if you want to capture leads on your website through email newsletters and registrations.
2. It increases brand awareness
Increasing your brand awareness is crucial as it’s the first step to acquiring customers, and social media is literally built to help brands find customers that might be interested in their product.
Each social media channel uses an algorithm to filter the posts in a user’s feed based on relevancy. This is one of the reasons why incorporating elements like hashtags in social posts is pivotal in getting your content seen.
Fundamentally, these algorithms are the foundation of success on social media platforms, and if you can work with them, then your content will continue to get recommended to the right people.
3. It encourages content creation
Without content, you can’t be successful on social media - it's the heart of what you publish on there. For those that decide to include social media as an integral part of their inbound marketing strategy, you must be committed to creating good quality content that appeals to your audience.
The good news is that once you have a library of content across your chosen digital channels, you can repurpose this for social media use. What's more, there are also ways to encourage user-generated content to bulk out your content marketing strategy.
4. It gives you insights into your target audience
Whether you’re conducting buyer persona research or want to tweak your messaging so that it’s more targeted, social media gives you real-life insights into what your customers’ main problems are, and what they are looking for out of your products.
As you can see, social media – like any inbound marketing – is a vital part of any content marketing plan. Investing just a little bit of time each week to scheduling some posts will help raise your online visibility.
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Header image: Thought Catalog