The marketing landscape is crowded and complicated. Now, more than ever before, brands need targeted strategies to cut through the noise and engage with their audiences. 

Two popular options are influencer marketing and social media marketing.  

While these strategies overlap in some ways, there are important differences that marketing professionals should understand. 

In this article, we’ll break down influencer marketing vs social media marketing and provide actionable advice on how to leverage influencers.  

So, what’s the difference?

Influencer Marketing Focuses on Individuals  

Influencer marketing involves partnering with key individuals – called influencers – who have loyal followings in your target market.

These influencers create content that endorses or promotes your brand in an authentic way to their followers.

Influencers have built trust and credibility with their audiences, so when they recommend a product or service, their followers pay attention.

Influencer marketing thus relies on harnessing that preexisting trust relationship between influencers and their followers.

Content posted natively to a branded page just doesn’t carry that same clout, it’s far more likely to be viewed as “salesy”.

Social Media Marketing is Broader

Social media marketing, on the other hand, refers more broadly to any marketing efforts on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

This includes creating your own social media profiles, posting original content, running ads, and using social listening tools.

While social media marketing might involve influencers, it does not exclusively rely on them. Many brands use a mix of owned social profiles, community building, and promotional campaigns alongside influencer partnerships. 

Other Key Differences

Beyond these key foundational differences, here are a few other contrasts between influencer and social media marketing…


Influencer partnerships tend to involve more customized, one-on-one work between the brand and individual influencers. 

Social media efforts can often be more standardized and replicated across profiles.

For example, if you’re working with a TikTok-er with 1 million followers and they don’t use Instagram, you’re customising your efforts to be suited to TikTok over Instagram. Reposting to Instagram just might not land the same way.

Whereas, if you’re executing on your own content strategy, it might be necessary because of resources to broadcast the same message across different platforms.


Influencer marketing efforts tend to focus on a specific call-to-action like a product launch or retail promotion.

Social media strategy aims to build a long-term presence and community.

That’s not to say that influencer marketing shouldn’t be used for brand building. In fact, adopting the right strategy with an influencer can produce compounding returns long after the original piece of work.


For many, Influencer marketing is viewed as a higher upfront marketing cost than making your own content. When an Influencer charges £1000 for a single post, it can seem much more beneficial to make the content yourself.

However, this can be a false economy. You’re paying someone to create content for you who’s very existence is built on capturing and retaining engagement with loyal fans.

There are extremely cost effective influencer marketing strategies though (such as gifting).


Influencers are chosen for how authentically they relate to your target audience, so their endorsements come across as more genuine.

Conversely, a brands’ own social profiles can sometimes feel more promotional or “salesy.”

Final thoughts…

Ultimately, when it comes to social media strategies, most brands will use a combination of both.

Decide which goal needs a quick push:

  • product launch or awareness? Consider influencer marketing.
  • Want to build your audience longterm? Focus on building your social media profiles.

Test both and see which works best for your budget and goals. Then double down on your winner.