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Social Media Advertising vs Marketing: What’s the Difference?

advertising vs marketing

You’ve probably heard that social media can be used for business, but do you know how? Social media for business isn’t just paid ads anymore. There’s a whole other world of social media marketing out there that can grow your business on new frontiers.

If you’re scratching your head wondering what’s the best way to use social media for business, you’re not alone. Instagram wasn’t even founded ten years ago, and yet it’s become a driving force in the digital marketing and advertising world.

In this article, we’re breaking down the differences between social media advertising vs marketing so you can decide for yourself which will work better for your biz. Read on.

Social Media Advertising vs Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Traditionally, we view advertising as:

  • ads on bus benches
  • ads taken out in the newspaper
  • scratch and sniff perfume ads in magazines
  • giant posters plastered on buildings in the city

The modern advertising landscape looks much different. Digital advertising has taken the lead, with paid-per-click sidebars and popups at every turn.

When it comes to social media, it’s a little more subtle. On Facebook and Instagram, you have the opportunity to create a “sponsored post,” which is a nicer way of saying advertisement.

You choose your image and write caption copy according to whatever sale you’re trying to make, and the social media platform will unsuspectingly insert it into your target demographic’s newsfeeds. A little word at the top or bottom will let the viewer know that the image is an ad (or “sponsored”) but besides that, it’s fairly indiscernible from a regular post by a friend.

Social media marketing, however, is a different story. That’s a daily practice. It’s starting and running your own social media accounts, engaging your audience, and posting regular content to build trust in your audience.

Social Media Advertising

The social media advertising landscape today blends marketing tactics to create an organic advertising strategy that avoids sales-y language. Here’s how it’s done.

Paid Ads

Here’s the best thing about social media advertising: you can target any demographic you like, not just your Instagram or Facebook followers. Here’s an example scenario.

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Say you own and operate a small business which sells protein bars. You engage in social media marketing, meaning you have your own account and avid followers.

You want to sell more of your blueberry and peanut butter flavored bars. Sales history shows that blueberry sells better to men, and peanut butter sells better to women.

Sure, you could advertise both bars on your account and hope your sales go up, but that’s leaving a lot to chance. You want to be able to show your posts to exclusively men or women to get the most bang for your advertising buck.

With social media advertising, this is possible. You can choose the demographic that the ad will be shown to, which means increased sales for both the blueberry and peanut butter bars because they’re only being sold to the demographic most likely to buy them.

This is one of the biggest pros of social media advertising. It’s a pro that no other form of advertising offers, either.

Advertising in Disguise

One of the core principles of social media marketing is engagement. You can use that principle to your advantage in social media advertising, too.

Once you’ve got your account up and running, you can offer prizes and rewards to your followers for engaging with your profile. For instance, offer 15% off a pack of six protein bars if you like and repost an image. Offer one free protein bar for one follower and a friend that they tag.

You’re promoting your product, but using marketing methodologies to make it feel more natural.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is more the big picture of selling on Instagram and Facebook these days. It’s all about posting consistently, growing your following, and engaging regularly with that following.

There are tons of ways to increase engagement on your Instagram and Facebook accounts. And since Instagram introduced a new algorithm that prizes engagement over followers, it’s pretty important to do so.

Ask your followers a question, like “what flavor protein bar would you like to see next?” or, “what’s your favorite flavor we have right now?” Respond individually to each reply.

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You can also do a giveaway, which is an excellent way to increase your following. A giveaway is essentially a raffle, and the opt-in price is liking the post, following your account, and tagging a friend. At the end of the giveaway, enter all the entries into a random name generator to see who wins the prize.

Repost giveaways are effective for big-ticket prizes. It takes a lot for a follower to want to post your content on their own profile, so make sure you’re only offering a super juicy prize for a repost, or else you won’t meet success with that campaign.

Influencers: Where Advertising and Marketing Meet

Want to harness all the power of social media marketing without the effort of keeping up with a profile? Hire an influencer to promote your product.

An influencer is a social media personality, usually a blogger, with a significant and loyal following. When they promote a product, their following trusts them and sales skyrocket.

An influencer doesn’t have to be a blogger, though. To find the right influencer for you, do some Instagram sleuthing in your niche to find someone with high engagement and a loyal following. High follower count is a plus, but engagement is way more important– what’s the point of selling to a mass of people who don’t care what the influencer has to say?

Once you find your influencer, request a media kit from them. This will usually be a PDF that states their stats, such as their following, engagement levels, and primary demographic of their following.

Influencers are the new form of organic advertising in 2018. Even big brands like FIJI water, Spring, and H&M use them!

Which Is Right for You?

This question is a catch-22 now that you’ve learned how intertwined social media marketing and advertising really are. Instead of thinking about advertising vs marketing, ask yourself how you can devise a social media marketing strategy with advertising peppered in to sell to specific demographics.

Want to learn more about social media’s role in digital marketing? Check out our other social media articles on the blog!