By running a social media agency, I've had the opportunity to see how brands of all sizes operate and engage with their audience across various social media platforms. When it comes to social, one of the most common mistakes brands and entrepreneurs are making is not knowing the difference between social media marketing and social media advertising (or at least not acknowledging the difference). Many may think the distinction is too subtle to be taken seriously, but I assure you that approaching the two in distinct ways can dramatically impact your marketing efforts.

Defined, social media advertising refers to the buying of display ads on social media platforms. On the other hand, social media marketing includes any activity (creating content, engaging with followers, etc.) to promote brand awareness on these platforms.

The Difference Matters

As an entrepreneur, why does knowing and acknowledging the difference between social media marketing and advertising matter to you? Simple: far too many business owners and brands are treating every social media update like they would an advertisement, which is essentially a sales pitch.

Until you build up a mutually beneficial relationship with your audience, constantly asking them to buy your stuff simply won't work, so for the love of all things holy, stop being so over-promotional on social media. This drives me absolutely nuts, and I'm sure your followers feel the same way.

Every Tweet doesn't need to have a link to your Checkout page. Every Facebook update doesn't need to promote the webinar you're hosting next month. Every email newsletter doesn't need to address the sale you created out of thin air just to increase your open rates. Every one of your social media updates, which are components of your social media marketing, don't need to be selling your products or services.

Instead, social media marketing should be where you build trust with the members of your audience, where you add value to your followers through helpful tips, advice and entertainment. Trust and value is the currency and the formula for success on social media. Without it, it's very unlikely you'll see any return on the content you're putting out.

That being said, there certainly is a time and place for promoting your products and services, and one of them is in your social media advertising. In a Facebook or Instagram ad, you should be promotional and have a clear call-to-action. Otherwise, users will scroll past your ad without giving it a second thought.

In short, social media marketing should be thought of as the place where you shower your followers with value in hopes they'll eventually return the favor by becoming paying customers. Social media advertising should be thought of as the place where you attempt to convert cold and warm leads into sales, followers, or something else. The problems arise when publishers begin treating every social media update like they would a Facebook ad. Here's what to do about it.

1. Create a comprehensive social media strategy that includes both marketing and advertising.

Because of the difference between social media advertising and marketing, it comes to no surprise that the copy and creative used for both aspects of your campaigns shouldn't always be identical. For instance, the phrasing and photo you use in a Facebook post showing your company trip to Cancun will be much different than a Facebook ad trying to convince a warm lead to download your company's ebook.

2. Stop being so stingy with your wallet.

The days of free social media are long gone, and the sooner you realize it the better off your brand will be in the online world. If you're unwilling to spend $15 on Facebook ads but stop at Starbucks every morning for your organic, upside-down, double-pump caramel frappuccino, then you either have to rethink your priorities or be okay with receiving mediocre results on social media. Plain and simple.

In the business world, the simplest ideas often have the most profound impact. One of the easiest and effective ways to take your social media performance to the stratosphere is knowing the difference between social media marketing and advertising and acting accordingly. By adding value within your marketing and driving conversions with your advertising, it's only a matter of time before the money and the followers start to roll in. Best of luck.