Social Marketing vs Social Media

Social Marketing vs Social Media

Trapica Content Team

Marketing Guides
4 mim read
May 20, 2021

Two words with the same meaning, right? Well, this is actually wrong. Look across the internet and you’ll see these two terms used interchangeably when they actually have very different meanings. It’s time to clear the confusion and start using both social marketing and social media as they were initially intended. While social media is new to the world, social marketing has existed for many generations.



To avoid any confusion and clear up the basics, let’s start with definitions. Firstly, social media is the terminal through which we communicate with others, advertise our brand, research the competition, and perform other actions. As social media continually advances, we’re able to set up storefronts, create ad campaigns, join groups for discussions, and more.

The most popular social media platforms include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

Over time, the social media niche has evolved. Think back 15 years when the world was dominated by MySpace and Bebo. Now, Facebook and Instagram are two of the largest platforms in the industry. Over the years, plenty of competitors have come and gone. For example, avid fans were forced to say goodbye to Vine not so long ago.

Through all the turbulence, however, some websites have managed to shine, and this includes Twitter and Facebook. Individuals use social media websites like this to keep up to date with news, communicate with friends, post life updates, and partake in group discussions. The goal for businesses has always been to convene where people are present, and this is now social media. Therefore, businesses use social media to build a following, engage prospective customers, get exposure with ad campaigns, and become a leader in the field.

With this in mind, you might assume that social marketing is the process of advertising on one of the popular social media platforms. No, this is social media marketing. Instead, social marketing is the notion of bringing a social cause to the attention of the masses. For instance, this might include saving an endangered animal, giving up cigarettes, or saving the planet.

Social marketing can certainly use social media as a way to generate exposure, but the definition of social marketing is to raise awareness of a particular cause rather than a brand or product.

Social Media

In this guide, we want to look at social media and social marketing separately before then exploring how the two are starting to fuse together for businesses. Firstly, to understand the sheer magnitude of social media we need to assess the number of active monthly users available on each of the major platforms.

Statista released the all-important numbers back in January 2021, and they read as follows:

  • Facebook - 2.75 billion
  • YouTube - 2.29 billion
  • WhatsApp - 2 billion
  • Facebook Messenger - 1.3 billion
  • Instagram - 1.22 billion
  • WeChat - 1.2 billion
  • TikTok - 690 million
  • Snapchat - 498 million

In the world of marketing, the idea has always been to get a brand name in front of people at the right time. However, we’ve never had the sort of refined targeting capabilities as we do with social media. In the past, the best we could hope for was to stick a poster in the shop window or put leaflets through thousands of doors. With this level of mass marketing, only a small percentage would convert.

Now, through social media, we can create ad campaigns and refine targeting to the point where we’re narrowing down an audience to the people most likely to have an interest in the brand or product. What’s more, there are other opportunities to advertise on social media and it all starts with some posts. The more you post, the more likely people are to pay attention to the brand.

Furthermore, others run competitions and get involved in discussions after joining a group pertaining to their industry. The important detail is that these platforms have billions of active users every single month, week, and day.  Of course, this also means that they have people of all ages, interests, locations, genders, hobbies, and other demographics. Whether you sell pasta, towels, or cars, you’re likely to find marketing opportunities, which is one of the advantages of social media.


Social Marketing

On the other hand, social marketing is a situation whereby businesses use the leverage and standing that they have to change public opinion on important social issues. However, many misconceptions come with social marketing. For example, it’s not just about awareness and knowledge. Although an important stage, businesses using this strategy should also be looking to take this further and alter the way that people behave with regard to social issues.

Over the years, numerous social issues have come to light and businesses are often the driver for change. Many years ago, a dangerous trend saw Hispanic families refusing to put their children into car seats in West Dallas. After a program targeting these individuals, and with the help of businesses, this oversight was fixed. While 62% of all other parents put their child into a car seat, only 19% of Hispanic parents followed suit.

Thanks to a particular program working on the issue, the government learned that Hispanic parents were aware of the law and didn’t encounter any language barriers in this regard. Instead, they made the decision because they believed in destiny and that their lives were in the hands of God. As a result, local priests started to bless car seats subsidized by local governments and usage immediately increased.

Elsewhere, businesses have been instrumental in raising awareness, changing attitudes, and changing behaviors with many other social issues. This includes encouraging people to stop smoking, check themselves regularly for the symptoms of cancer, and eating more healthily to prevent obesity and the associated health conditions.

However, one social issue has risen above all others in recent years when it comes to social marketing, and it’s one we think you’ll recognize - the environment. The interesting point with this social issue is that it has been driven mainly by the people, the customers. Consumers are now making purchasing decisions based on environmental factors whether this is ingredient/material sourcing, delivery procedures, manufacturing methods, or another factor.

Nowadays, businesses need to be socially responsible. If a business fails to get a grip on audience understanding, it won’t be long before consumers take their money elsewhere. Most consumers are now looking for businesses to stand up and lead the change in behavior from the front. This means acting responsibly with the environment, spreading the message on violence, encouraging safe driving and medical checkups, or whatever the cause may be.

Working Together and Apart

Through this guide, you’ve hopefully seen how social marketing and social media differ. While social media is the website or app through which individuals keep up to date with friends and businesses advertise their brand, social marketing is the idea of changing consumer behavior and attitudes with regards to certain social issues.

As the subheading suggests, they might have separate definitions, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t used together. In fact, social media is an integral part of a social marketing strategy. When businesses try to encourage change, social media is often the chosen tool to communicate a message to consumers. For example, it might be a simple Facebook post about a social issue near where the main distribution facility is located. Alternatively, it could be an Instagram video about how the company remains ‘green’ throughout the production process.

Don’t underestimate either the power of social media or social marketing - both are important and the fact that you’ll no longer use the terms interchangeably should lead you to look at both problems individually too. As well as using social media to achieve your wider marketing goals, you’ll learn how to promote the social issues important to your brand whether through social media, your website, or another platform (both online and offline).

When choosing a social issue, think about the matters important to staff members and customers. If you can find something that resonates with everybody, you’ll find that passionate and genuine campaigns follow.


Social media is an overall term for the tools we all use daily. While some use YouTube, others prefer Facebook or Instagram. On the other hand, social marketing is where a business tries to generate exposure for a social cause. Just to confuse matters further, you may also see the term ‘social media marketing’ and this is the process a business uses to advertise on social media. For example, it could be through competitions, ads, posting in groups, etc.

Consumers care about social issues, and they respect and appreciate a business that cares too. Since this factor impacts purchasing decisions, learn what’s important to your consumers and utilize this knowledge moving forward. With the right social marketing and social media marketing strategies, you’ll keep everybody happy and generate the sales required to thrive.

Marketing Guides
4 mim read
May 20, 2021