I get asked this question a lot: What’s the difference between advertising and marketing, and how do they pertain to social media?

But really, advertising is a subset of marketing. Marketing is defined as the integrated communications process through which individuals and communities are informed and persuaded that products or services can meet their needs—whereas advertising is communication used to “influence” people to purchase. Another way to look at it is that marketing is a process that encompasses all sales-goal-oriented communication, and advertising is a tactic or tool within that process.

The primary difference, when you break them down, is where your money goes! Advertising really means paying to broadcast or display a message, whereas marketing refers to all the differentiated components that allow a brand to convey a message to a consumer, of which advertising is just one tactic. Marketing is the umbrella term and Brands need to recognize that Social can be the most powerful tool they have if integrated in all their efforts.

It’s important to be clear about the differences. Yes, you can use advertising on social channels. However, when you advertise within social platforms, it is nothing more than another form of display advertising—it’s NOT social. Ads have their place, but too many brands try to “advertise” within their social communications to drive immediate action. Not a good scenario, because over time that misuse of the medium diminishes trust and efforts to build relationships.

However, brands need to realize that in order to accomplish their marketing goals, they need to integrate social into everything they do, and understand the difference between using it for marketing communication and advertising.

I was having this discussion on Facebook a while back, and Marcy Massura, a friend in the digital marketing space, chimed in. She noted that in the digital world, these efforts ARE being integrated. She said, “When I am asked the differences between PR, Advertising and Marketing, I frequently say ‘budgets’… but in reality the purpose of all is to push to purchase and make a brand popular. Tactics may vary. But they all have the same goal.”

She also noted that when done right, social creates “expressions” rather than just “impressions” online—and she’s exactly right. An impression or a “like” means nothing without interaction and continued dialog. Otherwise it’s just a number. Brands need to understand that the real value lies in constantly providing educational, helpful, and emotionally connected content through all their marketing channels, and making it easy to spark conversation around that content. In my opinion, weaving social into the fabric of your marketing efforts is a prime opportunity to do just that.

I really liked Marcie’s comment about expressions versus impressions, but I would say that they really work hand-in-hand. Without impressions there can be no expressions. Social awareness and amplification of a message are the building blocks that help brands move toward their ultimate goals of building trust, loyalty and relationships. However, social cannot stand alone as a separate “marketing silo,” it needs to be integrated into business thinking.

Right now Social Media Marketing is… marketing utilizing social platforms which enable and empower engagement and interaction between brands and consumers. Going forward… for brands to truly leverage and scale all that can be accomplished, Social needs to be a shell around all their marketing efforts. Print, digital, PR, events, radio and TV—virtually every contact medium should incorporate a social connection opportunity, and the awareness amplification social enables. Does that mean that social blurs the lines between advertising and marketing? Not at all… it’s simply a path to connection. And if the ultimate business goal is to make and nurture more connections, then you must make sure there are plenty of “social access points” on your marketing map.


Originally posted at IBM Smarter Commerce

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