Social Media Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising: What's the Difference?

Elizabeth | May 24, 2023 | Inbound Marketing

Social Media Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising 101: Here’s the Inside Scoop

If you're wondering what's the difference between social media marketing and media advertising, it’s okay to admit it. The distinction can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re new to social media or digital marketing. They’re sometimes used interchangeably, but there is, in fact, a difference between social media marketing and social media advertising. We’ll explain it further so you’ll know how to incorporate both into your overarching digital marketing goals.

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What is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing is any social media action you take that is unpaid. If you're posting about your blogs, sharing information with your followers, or commenting on social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, this is considered marketing.


In today's world, social media marketing is a crucial facet of any digital marketing strategy. It encompasses your business’s online profiles on social media platforms, along with the social media activity and presence of those platforms, including posting, liking, commenting, sharing, and so on.

How to Use Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing begins with creating company pages or profiles on relevant social networks. The networks that you choose will depend on your industry. For example, B2Bs will likely find LinkedIn to be the most pertinent network since they’re marketing to other business professionals. At the same time, home builders and developers might make use of platforms like Pinterest, Houzz, and Instagram to show off images of their homes and properties.

Social media marketing efforts don’t end with just a page or profile. To effectively market using social media, interaction and engagement are essential. You need to interact with others on the platform by liking, commenting, and sharing their content, and by posting and sharing your own original content. This will drive engagement when others interact with your content by liking, commenting, sharing, and clicking.

What Should You Share and Post During Your Social Media Marketing?

facebook activityThe best type of content to share and post during your social media marketing efforts will depend on your specific platform and industry. Industrial manufacturers may not have much luck posting photos of their products on Instagram. (Think about this: Are the insides of factories usually very aesthetically pleasing? No.) They'll most likely have more success posting content on Facebook about their processes, client success stories, sharing their blog content, sharing relevant articles or news from industry publications, and posting infographics on LinkedIn.  

Social Media Platforms for Marketing

Each social media platform is better at something than the other. It's important to utilize each forum in a specific way. 

Twitter - Twitter is great for sharing links, but tweets are limited to 280 characters, so it’s not the place for long-form content. 


Instagram - Instagram is designed for sharing images. While you can use an image to promote a piece of content, you can’t link from a post directly. You have to include the link in your bio or the post.


Facebook - Personalized content your audience can interact with performs the best on Facebook. Think along the lines of user-generated content, behind-the-scenes content, industry-related news, videos, a story, etc. 


LinkedIn - Blog posts typically perform the best on LinkedIn. Also, LinkedIn statuses can be up to 700 characters long on company page posts and 1,300 characters for statuses on individual accounts, so you can conveniently post original content directly on your page. 

Why Do Social Media Marketing?

One of the major principles of inbound marketing is bringing your ideal customers to you. Since your ideal customers are using social media (pretty much everyone is), having a social media presence is a necessity if you want to draw in potential customers


social media marketingTo continue, social media helps create a community around your company. Creating a community through social media marketing has significant benefits, like building brand awareness and helping establish your industry reputation as an authority in your field. Also, it can establish your company as enjoyable to interact with and become a favorite in people's minds, converting people to customers when they need your company's products or services.  

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What is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising (also known as paid social) involves running paid ads on various social media channels instead of unpaid, organic posts. These can include banner ads and native ads, and activities like boosting posts or like campaigns. Social media ads are often charged on a pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-impression basis. 

How to Use Advertising on Social Media

You can use paid social to promote content or an offer your company or marketing agency has created. You can develop an ad around what you’re offering or boost the posts where you shared original content. This increases the reach of your content, which can lead to more website traffic and conversions of visitors to leads. 

What Should You Share and Post During Your Social Media Advertising?

There’s an array of things that you can promote in your social media ads. You could promote a how-to guide, your running promotion, general information about your brand, consultation services, and more. No matter what your ad is promoting, it should always include a clearly defined goal, an eye-catching image or video, a call to action, and a link to your website or a relevant landing page. 

Social Media Platforms for Advertising

Like with marketing, each social media platform uses advertising in its own way. You can use each social media platform to perform an array of advertisements. 

Twitter - Twitter uses Promoted Ads, Follower Ads, and Trend Takeover. With effective ad formats and targeting tools, Twitter helps you build awareness and drive conversions.


Instagram - Advertisements on Instagram can only be used with business profiles (not personal accounts). Instagram ads use the same targeting algorithms as Facebook, which are probably the most elaborate targeting tools you can find in marketing today.


Facebook - Facebook ads play a role in your overall digital marketing by increasing awareness for your brand, attracting leads, and sometimes even converting users into customers. You’ll create an ad objective, select your target audience, set your budget, and monitor your ad’s performance. 


LinkedIn - LinkedIn ads attract followers by getting your updates in front of more people. You’ll build ad campaigns around specific business goals and work through all three sales funnel stages, from awareness to conversion. 

Why Should You Do Paid Social?


facebook adRegular posts on social media don’t have a ton of reach on their own and aren’t likely to get a lot of organic engagement. Paid social allows you to target specific audiences. Depending on the platform, you can target audiences by location, age, gender, search history, interests and activities, device use, and even employer or job title. 


Since you're paying by the number of clicks or impressions (views) your ad gets, you want to ensure that you're getting the most for your social media ad budget. You do this through targeting, ensuring that only the most relevant people (your ideal customers) see your ads. It's more important to have high-quality leads rather than more people looking at your content that isn't your target demographic. This makes paid social a high-ROI advertising strategy. 


Additionally, the analytics that social media advertising platforms provide can help you to better understand your audience and fine-tune your advertisements for better reach, engagement, and ROI.

TALK TO USDo you have more questions about how you can utilize marketing and advertising on social media? The Evenbound team is here to help! Contact us today to get started.


Social Media Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising

When we talk about the difference between marketing and advertising on social media, we’re making the distinction between paid and unpaid methods of marketing that are both using social media. Social media advertising refers to paid methods (like PPC ads), and social media marketing refers to unpaid methods (like your social media posts and shares). Not all marketing is advertising, but all advertising is marketing. Advertising is a form of marketing.

So, Which is Better? Social Media Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising?

If you’ve read this far, you probably already know what we’re going to say: you need both social media marketing and social media advertising. 

  • Why social media marketing is important: It helps you build a community and foster relationships with current and potential customers—it’s a long game. 
  • Why social media advertising is important: It puts your name/products/services/links in front of people who are looking for what you offer right now

Both advertising and marketing strategies can generate leads and sales. Using social media for both organic (unpaid) and paid methods of reaching your intended audience is, overall, the most effective use of the vast power of social media. 

Got Big Growth Goals for Your Company? We're Here for That!

Evenbound-2019-595-edit-1When you use both advertising and marketing, you can optimize your results for the best possible outcome. Not sure you have the team to handle both advertising and marketing? Get in touch with an experienced digital marketing agency – like Evenbound! 


At Evenbound, we specialize in inbound and outbound marketing and would love to help grow your business. Whether you’re hoping to boost social engagement, increase your brand awareness, or generate new leads, we’re here to build a marketing campaign that meets those goals. We know all the best marketing channels to utilize for your brand and how to make content work for you.

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Got Big Growth Goals for Your Company? We're Here for That!

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