The difference between social media and social media marketing

Screengrab of an Instagram post from The Hodges Partnership featuring five woman in masks from an in-person tour of the agency.

On the surface, the difference between social media and social media marketing can be simplified with the qualifier of, “Is there paid dollars to support this?” You’re not wrong, but that synthesis is just scratching the surface.

I recently attended a webinar with our social management platform partner that brought in the Toyota UK social media content team to talk about its strategy for social. Granted, they have the luxury of having a global brand with a massive number of potential customers, but I left with key takeaways that I think are relevant regardless off the size of your organization.

‘Without engagement, social media is just media’

I loved this quote from the webinar. I often get caught up in the traffic-driving element of the content and messaging I produce, and I neglect the original intention of a social media platform. The presenters talked about how their community managers respond to every single comment on their social channels. They use community management tools to make notes about followers who engage regularly to keep that engagement active and dynamic day after day, post over post. They’re not just creating content to fill a whole in a day; they’re creating content with the purpose of sparking conversation – good or bad.

‘We love marketing, but that’s not what we do’

Toyota’s social media content team lives under Press/Public Relations, while marketing is a separate department. This allows the content team to focus on what works for engagement vs. what will drive clicks and conversions. The content team focuses on engagement metrics – comments, like, shares and time with brand, while the marketing team is charged with the traffic and conversion-level activities. An organic piece of content may be something totally unique – like hiring a tattoo artist to etch into one of its vehicles – while a paid piece of content may focus on the costs of the vehicle or the MPG it gets on the highway.

Take the time to really listen

One of the things that stuck with me most was that Toyota’s team spends just as much time – if not more – with brand detractors who comment negatively on social content. One of the goals of the community management team is to move the needle to change sentiment. A social ad is very one-sided and is easy to ignore the sentiment associated with it.

On a fun note, one of the last questions the presenters answered was one I submitted about inspiration for creating content. Their advice? Follow as many brands – big and small – as possible because you’ll never know where inspiration will show up (like on a Batman fan group on Facebook, for example).

Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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