The two terms are social media and advertising. Sometimes an agency will use the terms "paid media" and "earned media".
An advert is where you pay somebody (hence paid media) to interrupt a prospective customer and broadcast your message. It was invented in the 1930s, where brands spent money telling a unsophisticated buyer what to buy.
Fast forward 90 years to the internet age, where we hate being sold to. An advert, has become the equivalent of a cold call. We all find it annoying and irritating and so do your buyers.
Social media replies you to have a conversation. Well you can keep blasting sales messages, but as nobody likes being sold to, I doubt you will get very far.
A friend of mine runs a baby massage service. In the old days they would have called people up, interrupted them and asked if you wanted to buy a baby massage. Just writing this I can feel a comment like “no and stop calling me” welling up inside. Now they write articles such as “Top 10 things you can do to get a good nights sleep as a new parent”. Most of the enquiries (earned media) come through at 04:00 AM in the morning, when new parents reading the article certainly think a baby massage might be a good idea.
As a (small) company, we put out an original, insightful or educational piece of content out everyday and we get three pieces of inbound. We don’t cold call, we don’t cold email and we don’t advertise.
This is how companies large and small are realising how the internet and social media have changed the world and are now reacting to meet and engage with this new empowered buyer.
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.