What are the differences between Social Media Marketing and Social Media Advertising?

Social media has swiftly become an essential staple in every marketing strategy. Having the ability to connect with thousands of people daily in a responsive, engaging manner brings added life and personality to your brand in a way that traditional marketing lacked. It is estimated that by 2019, there will be approximately 2.77 billion social network users across the entire globe making up approximately 37% of the world’s entire population. With numbers like these, it seems inevitable that businesses would choose to either incorporate part of their marketing efforts or shift their entire focus to digital marketing in favour of a medium that is placed in front of potential customer’s eyes numerous times a day.

When it comes to marketing your product, business or service successfully online, there are two main avenues you can go down – Social Media Marketing and Social Media Advertising. As with any important business decision, it is imperative that you understand each in detail, including the pros and cons in order to decipher the correct plan and strategy for your company.

Before we delve further and determine what goes into them, lets first determine what we are referring to with each of these terms in this article.

Social Media Marketing

In this article, Social Media Marketing essentially refers to organic social media activity. So, the use of social media to promote your business without the addition of paid advertising (e.g Facebook Ads or PPC for example). This could be through engaging blog posts, creative infographics or in-house videos that provide your potential customers with a deeper look into your business.

Social Media Advertising

Social Media Advertising includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other channels and refers to all types of paid social media promotion that can be found either built into each platform or available through external companies. A common example of this would be the ‘Promoted’ posts you see pop up on your own personal Facebook or Instagram feed – these are all paid promotions that companies have actioned to achieve a specific goal.

When it comes to constructing the most effective social media strategy for your business, it is vital that you understand how both advertising and marketing on these platforms can benefit your business. Let’s take a look at each option individually and establish how they can be used to achieve your overall goals.

Social Media Marketing Explained

Social media marketing is the process of promoting your business, product or service to your followers and potential customers in an organic manner. In an ordinary case, this would involve minimal to no financial investment on your side and sees the highest success from the spread and production of engaging content. For businesses looking to implement successful digital strategies into their businesses, this should be at the heart of any businesses social media goals as it is important to remember that these platforms were originally produced as a digital communication option for friends and family. Although it is now commonplace to see businesses active and engaging with followers online, remember that the majority of social users aren’t actively seeking out purchase opportunities when they use them on a daily basis. However, according to the Social Media Examiner, 66% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media, making it a highly viable route to go down as a part of your business goals.

Organic marketing enables you to create an engaging community hub for your followers that brings together like-minded individuals into one digital space. Through the creation of content such as videos, blog posts or influencer activity, you are able to build an online world where your potential customers can learn more about your brand and decide whether they resonate with the message and ethos you portray. With 95% of online adults between 18-34 being likely to follow a brand via social networking), connecting with potential customers online has never been so important and working this into your existing plan can see highly beneficial results. Organic marketing allows you to do this in a natural and non-invasive manner where you are able to integrate yourselves into the everyday life of your followers and become the obvious choice when it comes to their purchasing decisions.

The essence of social media marketing is your content strategy and by creating a sound and strategic plan, you are able to both minimise costs and ensure continual traffic. Inclusive of all kinds of content such as influencer outreach (which may incur an initial cost but should pull continual traffic to your platform long into the future), photo creation, blogs or videos, a content strategy indicates the potential results that you envision from the promotion of and engagement with this information. Posts with visuals including photos and videos have been proven time and time again to generate higher engagement and activity from followers so the right photos or videos have the ability to capture your audience and bring them inside your world.

In addition, well-constructed and produced organic content has the potential to offer continual value to your target audience, customers and followers, therefore producing a steady stream of traffic to both your social media platforms and external sites such as your company blog. Produce a well-written and resonating blog post that perfectly explains your brand’s positioning on a specific subject and over the months, you will continue to see traffic flowing through in a beneficial manner. Differing from advertising in its longevity, successful marketing on social media can ensure a continual flow of new followers and potential customers into your businesses eyesight.

It is important to understand that successful organic marketing content ensures a presence for your business or brand in search engine results. Running alongside high SEO rankings, engaging organic content shows Google that your website is trustworthy and that is relevant to the searching needs of its users. By creating an engaging blog post that answers some of your company’s most frequently asked questions, for example, you have produced an engaging piece of content that you can confidently acquire traffic from using the knowledge you already have about your customers. Combining relevant content with a topic that is sure to generate repeated traffic will help different search engines pick up on your website and return it as a viable result option on more than one occasion.

Social Media Advertising Explained

If we take a look on the other side of the fence, Social Media Advertising is the paid promotion of your posts, content or promotions. Unlike organic, this form of business advertising has been shown to generate higher and more successful leads and conversions– mostly due to its accuracy. The powerful thing about social media and platforms such as Facebook is that they store and offer a wealth of knowledge about all of their users. Accessible to businesses of all shapes and sizes, Facebook Insights can supply you with information from which of your followers has just got engaged through to which ones are interested in dirt bike racing, for example. Using this information, you are better able to decipher the passions of your target audience and use these to create content that appeals to their needs and wants. Where traditional advertising focused on reader/viewer numbers and a publication’s desired demographic, social media advertising affords us the opportunity to drill down into the exact customer base that we currently have and produce tailored promotions specifically for them.

Paid advertising, as the name suggests, requires investment to see the results and in general, the bigger the investment, the higher the return. For example, by digging into the analytics and insights provided by your chosen platform, you could produce a specific promotion for customers who have shown an interest in the previous activity you have pushed. Through platforms such as Facebook, you are then able to create a fully personalised advertisement with your chosen tagline, images and URL link (where applicable) and ask Facebook to publish this post to the feeds of your target audience. The production of completely personalised and specific promotions improves your chances of seeing successful results and therefore moves you closer to your end goals.

In general, social media advertising is used when a specific message needs to be pushed out in a timely manner. So, for example, if you have a seasonal promotion running or a limited edition item out of stock, paid posts help to ensure that this information is at the forefront of your follower’s minds at your chosen time. The focus is generally on acquisition and conversion so your success will ordinarily be measured in traffic to your website/blog/e-commerce site, no. of conversions seen during this period or the completion of a specific action chosen in-house (such as signing up to a new course or email list).

Businesses that see success with social media advertising are able to rehash existing promotions to suit audiences on different platforms and demographics. Keeping their content new and fresh eliminates the chance of looking spam-like and makes the inclusion of your business in a users feed feel much more natural. It is important to remember that users of social media are generally savvy and understand the paid promotional aspect to some degree. As these platforms continue to function in a social manner, ensuring that your posts don’t come across as hard selling is essential so having the ability to alter and adapt posts to suit different audiences affords you a practical solution. For those businesses looking to retarget past customers or even those looking to find similar users to their own customers, these promotional avenues offer the ability to capture groups of audiences in a manner that traditional advertising could not with the near promise of quick wins when done right.

It is worth noting that, in general, social media advertising is used as a short-term growth plan. Well tailored and targeted activity will generate successful results for businesses of all sizes, however once the promoted post period comes to an end, businesses can expect to see a dip in traffic and activity as a result. This isn’t to say that the followers you managed to engage with have lost interest, but rather than your post is no longer being pushed directly on to their feeds. If the platform’s algorithms and ranking systems deem your content unrelated to specific users, you’ll no longer find yourself in front of their eyes in the same manner. However, advertising through social media offers the opportunity to capture the imagination and interest of potential customers before encouraging them to delve further into the organic content you have produced. In this manner, advertising can be highly beneficial to all aspects of your business – from your content strategy through to your conversion rate.

For a business to see true successes on social media, it is important to consider both social media advertising and social media marketing in your plans. Where advertising will afford you those quick wins and high exposure a business needs to elevate above their competition, marketing allows you to build a strong and secure hub of loyalty that supports repeat customers and true brand advocates. The percentage split between the two depends largely on the nature of your business and the goals you have set yourself in an existing strategy. For small businesses, advertising can be the boost they need to capture the first batch of customers and entice them back for more. In the long run, successful organic activity or social media marketing is the holy grail, bringing followers back again and again while ensuring a stream of consistently engaged purchasers.

Marketing any business on social media has been shown to return considerable benefits in more ways than just follower numbers or likes. Before embarking on any set course of marketing activity, it is important to understand your overreaching business goals fully and determine how you expect to achieve them in the most cost and time-efficient manner. And, with social media, it is important to remember the pros and cons of both social media marketing (organic) and social media advertising (paid) and how they can be used collaboratively to achieve the outcome you expect to see.

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