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Marketing 360® Blog

Social Media Marketing vs Social Media Management – What’s the Difference?

Post By JB Kellogg | Social Media Management

What’s the difference between social media marketing and social media management, and why is it important?  Here’s JB with a quick explanation.

Paid vs Organic Media

This subject hits on something you should know about most digital marketing channels.  There are ways you can pay to put your promotional material out there, and there are ways you can earn that exposure.

Most people know this distinction from search marketing.  Paid search, know broadly as search engine marketing (SEM), is where you bid for search placement and most often pay per click.

Orangic search results, known as search engine optimization (SEO) is search placement you earn by having authoritative, relevant, high-quality content.  The clicks you get through organic are free.

Social media now has this same distinction.

Social media marketing is a paid advertising platform.  The pay for the traffic you get or for the goals that you set.

Social media management uses the free platform to spread your brand message.  The traffic you gain is free.

It’s important to note that with social media, marketing vs management is far more than just the difference between paying for an ad and getting one to show up where clicks are free.  They are really two different marketing tactics.

The Time Factor

Another similarity between search marketing and social media is how you consider time-frames for your campaigns.

One of the advantages of paid media is that it’s “pay to play”.  With the right budget, you can be gaining more exposure than your competition in a day.

Social media management, on the other hand, is a time-consuming process that can take months – even years – to get to the point where it’s driving significant business returns.

Strategically, you’ll want to do both.  But as you start, be aware that early results will mainly come from social media marketing.

Tactical and Content Differences

Budgets and time factors affect goal setting and execution.  But the real differences between social media marketing and management are the tactics and types of content you create.

Consider that, essentially, social media like Facebook or Instagram are not inherently advertising platforms.

When someone goes on Google search, they’re often seeking out products, services, and brands.  Not every search is transactional, but consumers expect to be hit with promotional content.

Social media – as the name implies – is about friends.  It’s where we connect with our tribe – the people with whom we have common backgrounds and interests.

On social media, people don’t have strong buying intent.  These are not intended to be shopping or business platforms.

This means that your social media management – if it’s going to get any engagement at all – can’t be promotional.  People don’t engage with salesy social posts.

Your brand has to act more like a friend than a business.  You share things that are useful, funny, weird, or inspiring.  For example, a door company got a good response from this post:

social media post

Note that even this was a “boosted” post, meaning a small budget was set to get it to show higher in people’s feeds.

A brand which is unequaled at branding on social media is Red Bull.  Their adventure lifestyle/extreme sports content has nothing – directly – to do with their product.  But it gets huge engagement on social media:

red bull facebook post

An effective tactic for sneaking a promotion in is using a social media influencer.  This Instagram post scored big sales when popular singer Kari Jobe posted it on her Instagram story:

instagram influencer

Social media management uses the concept as the brand as a friend.  It works when you’re targeting Millennial and Gen Y audiences.  In fact, it’s the only tactic that will work.  If you try to sell through SMM content, you won’t get any engagement, meaning your content won’t show on anyone’s feeds.

Social media marketing can be a bit more promotional as far as content goes, with some different tactics.

The first is to create audiences based on data you already have to try to reach new people who might be interested in your brand.

For example, you can create a list of customers who converted on your website, then create a lookalike audience so you can target similar people with content they’ll find engaging.

Or a local business could create an audience based on a life event, like people who recently moved, and target them in a specific geographic area.

A lot of social media marketing is actually retargeting.  For example, you can create engagement custom audiences that show ads only to people who previously engaged with your Facebook page or watched part of a video.

Because these audiences are more targeted and have engaged with your brand, your content can be more promotional and include a call to action.  This gives you higher ROI on your SMM investment.


Both social media marketing and management will be most effective when you create a brand story and voice that go beyond just talking about the benefits and features of your product.

Younger audiences (which make the best targets on social media) express themselves through brands, and they engage with brands that have a relatable personality.

They use brands to show who they are.  If a brand connects on that level, they’ll engage with and share that content.

Snapchat geofilters are an example of this.  People will share brand content when it reflects an image they want to convey about themselves.

snapchat geofilter

If you want your social media business strategy to be effective, this is the type of content you need to develop.  Traditional marketing with persuasion-based, brand-centric message just doesn’t connect with these audiences.

People share experiences and stories on social media.  Fit your strategy into those experiences, and you’ll have a good chance to expose your brand to a large audience, then use your ads to move them through your sales funnel to the point of conversion.