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Social Media Advertising vs Marketing


Picture of Tim Jones, CEO + Founder
Written by Tim Jones, CEO + Founder
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While social media marketing and advertising may seem the same, there is a crucial difference between the two. Social media has helped brands connect with audiences in a more intimate, targeted, and relevant way than traditional media. 

With over 58 percent of the global population using social media, it has become an integral part of a brand's marketing strategy, helping companies reach and engage with their consumers and users. Understanding the differences between social media marketing and social media advertising is essential to help your social media campaign strategies.

This guide will dive deeply into social media marketing vs social media advertising—what each entails, how they are related, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to choose the best strategy.


What is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising (SMA) is the paid use of social media platforms to promote a product or service. It can take the form of promoted posts, videos, ads, and images. Social media advertising allows businesses to target their customers and increase their brand awareness more than traditional advertising. Advertisers can target their ads to a specific audience based on interests, demographics, and behaviors.


What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing (SMM) uses social media platforms and websites to promote and market your products or services. It allows you to effectively target your audience, build a community around your brand, increase visibility and sales, and drive website traffic. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram give brands big and small the opportunity to share stories, grow their following, and engage with consumers.


How are Social Media Advertising and social media Marketing Related?

Social media advertising and marketing relate in that social media advertising is a subset of social media marketing.

Social media advertising (SMA) uses paid advertisements on social media platforms to drive website traffic or increase brand visibility. Social media marketing (SMM), on the other hand, is the use of unpaid methods like organic reach and influencer marketing to achieve the same goals.

Social media advertising can be a great way to increase a brand's or product's visibility. Still, it's important to remember it shouldn't be a replacement for social media marketing.

Instead, it would be best to use social media advertising in addition to organic reach and influencer marketing to get the most out of your social media marketing strategy.


How is Social Media Advertising Different from Social Media Marketing?

The terms "advertising" and "marketing" are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two concepts. Social media advertising uses platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to deliver paid advertising messages to users.

On the other hand, social media marketing is a broader term that describes all marketing activities that use social media channels to create relationships and interact with customers.

So, while SMA focuses on delivering paid advertising messages, SMM includes everything from creating good content people will want to share to monitoring conversations about your brand online and even developing customer loyalty programs.



So, what are the advantages of social media advertising and marketing? Let's address some.


Advantages of Social Media Advertising

  • Helps you reach a highly targeted audience
  • Increases brand awareness by driving 3X more traffic from non-customers through social media
  • Helps build a solid online social presence
  • Improves content visibility and engagement on social media platforms
  • Increases website traffic and drives conversions
  • Reduces marketing costs due to the accurate targeting of ads
  • Provides valuable customer insights
  • Increases ROI for marketing campaigns

Advantages of Social Media Marketing

  • Reaches a large audience on social media
  • Builds and increases brand awareness
  • Drives more inbound traffic
  • Results in improved search engine rankings
  • More brand authority and improved brand loyalty
  • Drives traffic to website
  • Gives valuable marketplace and customer insights


While SMA and SMM offer many benefits for your social media strategies, they also have several disadvantages.


Disadvantages of Social Media Advertising

  • Negative feedback from an unsatisfied customer can tarnish your brand reputation
  • Vulnerable to misinformation
  • Requires a large ad budget to get started
  • Poses a considerable security breach risk
  • Complicated result measurements make it hard to determine whether it's working
  • Requires constant user engagement

Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing

  • Slow, time-consuming process
  • Requires a lot of planning and a well-executed strategy to get the best results
  • Not practical for all brands in all markets
  • Slow and limited return on investment
  • Exposure to competitors puts your brand at risk of being outcompeted


Having the right tactics in place can help you get the most out of your social media advertising and marketing efforts.


Social Media Advertising Tactics

  • Incorporate different ad formats like PPC, banner ads, video, and social media influencers
  • Build trust by focusing on brand storytelling and messaging to connect with consumers
  • Continuously experiment, test, and optimize paid posts for better results
  • Use paid ads to increase website traffic, create leads, and drive conversions

Social Media Marketing Tactics

  • Develop an SMA plan to help you organize what you post and when
  • Know the best time to post on social media to get more engagement and conversion
  • Be consistent to foster meaningful relationships with your audience
  • Have a content calendar and schedule posts in advance
  • Use demographic data to curate and tailor content to your audience's interests
  • Leverage user-generated content to increase brand awareness and social proof
  • Master the art of storytelling

How to Choose the Best Strategy for Your Business

Now that we've gone in depth into social media advertising vs social media marketing, it's time to focus on how you can decide which strategy is best for your business. To determine the best social media strategy for you, you first need to know and understand your business and the goals and mission of your brand. 

You should also consider what social media content your target audience appreciates the most. And because content is king, you should always prioritize quality over quantity regarding social media.


When to Use Social Media Advertising

Consider tapping into SMA when you want to:

  • Drive targeted traffic to your website
  • Increase your ROI
  • Reach a large audience with the help of social media influencers
  • Get valuable insights into your customers
  • Have more branding control when stretching your social media reach across multiple platforms
  • Market new products or services

When to Use Social Media Marketing

Consider using SMM when you want to:

  • Build and nurture relationships with your customers
  • Enhance brand awareness
  • Create more engagement and interaction with your customers
  • Improve website traffic and conversions
  • Get valuable insights into your audience to help you improve your social media ads
  • Increase social signals for SEO purposes

Key Takeaways

Social media is an ever-changing landscape that requires constant attention and a plan of action. Social media advertising vs social media marketing are two very distinct strategies to help you achieve your social media goals, like increasing leads and closing deals faster. 

As a business owner, you can use SMM to build better relationships with your customers and SMA to generate leads, boost social media SEO rankings, and increase website traffic. The best way to decide which strategy is best for your business is to ask what you want to achieve, review your needs and goals, and then plan accordingly. 

Do you need help getting more leads, traffic, customers, sales, or better reporting for your business? Eternal Works is a reputable growth agency based in Virginia Beach specializing in getting our customers the leads and sales they need to grow their business. 

Social media strategies have been our bread and butter for years, and we'd love the opportunity to help you grow your business. Schedule a call with us today, and be sure to download our template to use hashtags like a pro!