SEO, Social Media, Digital? What's the difference?

I wouldn't deny that I was happy to wake up one morning to see this: "Hi Crystal(-Marie), I found you via Google when searching for social media experts." Sure, it was from a company I likely won't buy from. She spelled my name wrong and didn't offer what I need. Still, it meant that the SEO tactics within my Content Strategy were working. 

Earlier that same day, someone pointed out what a lot of professionals have challenges with. Most people, including recruiters, don't differentiate between SEO, Social Media and Digital. In fact, those new to each of these fields try to wear all of these hats, until they learn the depth of each. This means that those they serve never get the depth of any. They're not all the same.

Then what's the difference?

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the specific development of content, plug-ins, etc, to help search engines such as Google, to find you more readily. You can do SEO for social media as well, as they also have search engines. 
  • Social Media refers to the channels that classify themselves as such - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn - and those that serve to connect individuals online socially in a somewhat open forum. The complexity of Social Media makes it its own discipline. The same is true of SEO. 
  • Online covers SEO and Social Media, as well as online advertising, blogging, online affiliate programs and much more. Specialists eventually focus on one or two. 
  • Digital, broader still, covers 'online' plus e-newsletters, offline digital and tools, to help your operations run electronically. Again, professionals eventually focus their offering. 
  • Content covers a different piece of the pie, with many sub-slices, so you still need to choose which content format. Is it video content, written content, image content? 
  • Strategist, in any of the above disciplines, refer to those who can develop the overarching direction in each of the above. Strategy is the path, the direction. Tactics refer to action.

The last four (4) define their services as widely or specifically as they desire. Below, are insights to help you decide who (and which services) you need. Further differentiation is needed across Strategist, Expert, Manager and Consultant, but that's another conversation.

So who and what do I need?

If you haven't asked that question yet, then that's what you should be asking. How do you know that you need one, some or all of these? When do you need them, if you need them? Here are a few tips I hope guide you through those decisions:

  • SEO if: Your clients seek your services on search engines e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo! 
  • SEO if: You're likely to organically make it to the first page of search engines. 
  • SEO if: Your, or your affiliates', websites contain content "of concern" to search engines.
  • Social Media if: Your service is an everyday conversation there, among clients and advocates. 
  • Social Media if: Your service is easy to discuss on social media with clients and advocates.
  • Online if: You know clients are online, but not sure where i.e. less costly market research. 
  • Online if: You know your clients will respond to social media, search engines and online ads. 
  • Digital if: You run an online business, so both public and private interactions are digital e.g. e-contracts, video conferencing solutions, screen sharing and more. 
  • Content if: You need video, written copy, images and more. All with the same person?

This is not an exhaustive list. The point is, however, if you're just "getting online because you have to", you could be wasting time, money and energy. Who do you need?

How can I help?

Get clear on why You (not everyone else) are online. Get beyond the hype. Maybe get three (3) professional opinions, not one (1) and not ten (10). I'm happy to have a conversation to help you decide. Let's chat! ...and no. I won't tell you that you need what I do, if you don't. 


Crystal-Marie Sealy, MBA, is a business strategy consultant focused on pricing, social media and more, for established small businesses, entrepreneurs and executives. President, founder of Successiory and the signature E.A.S.Y. Strategy process, Crystal-Marie works with professionals who want to build sustainable business models and create sustainable client community on social media. She also delivers workshops and speaks at conferences on business strategy for social media. Connect with her at