Learning how to use the various social media platforms can be overwhelming.

Then, when you add a list of unique terms and an entirely new lingo to the mix, understanding social media marketing becomes even more confusing.

Social media and social media marketing are often used interchangeably, but there is indeed a distinct difference between the two. Understanding how to define social media versus social media marketing and how they differ is essential for planning and executing your small business social media marketing goals.

We asked Constant Contact Facebook fans to share how they differentiate social media marketing from social media in less than twenty words.

Here’s what they had to say:

“Social media is the vehicle. Social marketing is what you do with the vehicle.” – Sherra Scott

“Social media is interacting with people you know. Social marketing is interacting with people who may want to know you.” – Ed Dunn

“Social media is about friends. Social media marketing is about money.” – Trey Edwards

“Social media is making friends. Social media marketing is making customers.” – John Collins

“Social media: A place to converse. Social media marketing: A place to engage.” – Louis Martin Jr.

“Marketing drives physical, measurable responses. If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing. The rest is just good fun.” – Julie Larkin Niehoff

“Social media is passive and connects people to people. Social media marketing is active and connects people to business communities.” – Kate Newey

“Social media: Staying connected. Social media marketing: Staying informed of business products/services.” – Jerie Harrell

“Social media is connecting with friends. Social media marketing is connecting with clients/potential clients. Connecting with people/clients where they already are is key!” – Jennifer Johnson

“Social media defines the genre — socializing via media such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media marketing is selling your business via various types of social media.” – Beth Cole Byrne

We loved the responses we got from our fans on Facebook so much that we decided to ask some of our marketing experts here at Constant Contact to define social media versus social media marketing.

The responses echoed the ideas we saw on Facebook, however most had some trouble staying within the word limit!

Here’s what our Constant Contact experts had to say:

“Social media is a channel, and social media marketing is regular, frequent marketing activities through this channel.” – Shirin Shahin, Product Marketing Manager

“‘Doing’ social media is building and engaging an audience. Social media marketing is when you’re able to get that audience to act when it’s important for your business.” – Erica Ayotte, Sr. Social Media Manager

“Social media = community and conversations around our personal networks. Social media marketing = community and conversations around a brand.” – Azure Collier, Social Media Education Developer

“Social media marketing is the ‘what.’ Social media is the ‘how.’” – Chris Litster, Sales & Marketing SVP

“Social media marketing is driving measurable business outcomes from customers and prospects. Social media networks are the marketing channels.” – Gail Goodman, CEO

“Social media is about connecting with people. Social media marketing is about connecting with people in order to get them to do something.” – Dave Gerhardt, Product Marketing Manager

“Social media consists of platforms that allow you to be social. Social media marketing is a measureable effort you make, using those platforms, to increase your business or awareness.” – Kristen Curtiss, Social Media Specialist

“Social media is the technology that allows you to connect your organization with the people who matter most — your members, your customers, your prospects, etc. Social media marketing is the act of using that technology to accomplish a goal, whether that is engagement, revenue, fundraising etc.” – Josh Mendelsohn, Sr. Conversion Manager

“Social media connects people to people. Social media marketing connects people to a product or service.” – Julie Murphy, Communications Manager

“Social media marketing is the strategy that connects people where they mostly spend time, online — in social media.” – Melissa Ayres, Director, Marketing Communications

So…what is the difference between social media and social media marketing?

At the most basic level, social media is defined as the online communication platforms used to connect individuals to one or many others. Social media marketing involves implementing marketing messages into conversations occurring on social platforms that are relevant to the conversation. In traditional marketing, messages are sporadically projected to a targeted audience. When marketing takes place on social media platforms, it adds to the conversations of a community. Does that suggest that paid media ads on social media are not in fact social media marketing? You be the judge.

Social media marketing is really just word-of-mouth powered by technology.

To successfully utilize social media marketing for your business, focus on these three things:

1. How to be social, not how to “do social.”

Remember that social media marketing isn’t all about pushing your message out. It’s a two-way street. Focus on how you can add value to the conversations taking place on social media in a way that is relevant to your business.

2.  Act like a human.

Social media marketing doesn’t sound like traditional marketing. It is more conversational and quite frankly, human. By building relationships and engaging in social media conversations with customers, you can implement your marketing message in a softer way. With social media marketing, your message becomes part of the conversation, not an unwanted distraction.

3. You still need a goal, but it shouldn’t be “engagement.”

Engagement is not a goal because it’s essentially the entire purpose of social media. Your social media marketing goals don’t have to be based on numbers, but they should correlate to a business initiative. Spreading the word about your business, awareness about a promotion, or providing great customer service, are a few of the many goals you can achieve through social media marketing.

By understanding the distinction between social media and social media marketing, you’ll be one step closer to using social media to successfully grow your business.



Want to learn more?

For more help with your social media marketing, sign up to receive our Hints & Tips newsletter.