Digital Advertising vs. Social Media Marketing

Nov 4, 2020 | Digital Advertising, Social Media Marketing

Think about the brands that you follow online. How did you first find them? Was it word of mouth? A Google search?

Or did that brand find you? If you have ever found yourself browsing the web or scrolling your feeds and you’ve seen a photo or headline that feels as if it were made for you, you’ve been targeted by a digital advertising campaign.

In this post, we explore the difference between digital advertising and social media marketing and weigh the pros and cons of each approach.

What is Digital Advertising?

Digital advertising is an umbrella term for a wide variety of online advertising. If you are paying to advertise to an audience, and that action is taking place online, on TV, or on the radio, you just engaged in digital advertising.

Google Adwords

So, technically, social media marketing is actually a TYPE of digital advertising, which leads us to our next point: your digital advertising strategy should have multiple components to it, like SEO, content marketing, email marketing, and yes, social media marketing.

Here are some of the most common types of digital advertising:

  • PPC – Pay Per Click advertising allows internet users to find you based on what they type into their search bar.
  • Display Ads?– These advertisements appear on the website pages you visit while you’re browsing on the internet.
  • Email Marketing – You can promote your products and services directly to users who have opted into your email list.
  • Social Media Marketing?– We’ve all seen the sponsored posts and advertisements on social media sites!
  • SEO?– Search Engine Optimization involves making the text on your website relevant and searchable. That way, search engines will include your pages in search results when people are searching for your products, services, or content.
  • Content Marketing – This involves creating content that addresses your target market’s key pain points and demonstrates how your business provides valuable solutions. It’s a great way to drive more traffic to your website (and sales!).

For more info on these, check out our blog post on three common types of digital advertising.

What is Social Media Marketing?

As its name suggests, social media marketing takes place only on social media platforms (the “Big 8” include Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest).


social media marketing


While social media marketing can (and should) include paying for sponsored posts/ads, it encompasses so much more. A rock-solid social media marketing strategy also includes more organic strategies such as follower engagement, contests, giveaways, content marketing, takeovers, and influencer connections.

What type of advertising should I use for my business?

Well, the easy answer to this is that you should use both types of advertising, but we’ll break that down a little further for you. Let’s consider cost, effectiveness, and audience.

We’ll start with social media marketing. The beauty of this approach is that, technically, this can be done for free! If you have the time and know-how, you can manage your social media content, engage with followers, and create content that provides value for your audience.

While social media marketing is SUPER effective at building brand loyalty, engagement, and trust over time, its quick conversion rates are pretty low compared to other avenues of advertising. So, if you’re looking for fast, quick revenue, this isn’t going to be your silver bullet.

But if you have your eyes on the prize in the long game (which you should, always!), you will create a social media presence that leaves people wanting more.

Another factor to consider is your reach. Unless you’re willing to spend money on carefully targeted social media ads (which we think is a smart move!), your brand is only exposed to your current followers and those who find your content organically through SEO, networking, and hashtags. This organic growth is great and effective in the long run but does take time.

Other types of digital advertising can offer you what social media marketing can’t: higher conversion rates more quickly and access to an audience outside of your sphere. PPC advertising, display ads, and paid social media ads will cost you upfront but have a much, much higher conversion rate. A high ROI is always the goal, and you definitely get that with paid advertising since significantly less work is required than organic content creation and/or curation.

These advertising avenues also allow you to access customers outside of your organic reach. If you have the budget, it’s really a no-brainer: get your brand exposed to as many people as you possibly can.

Key Items to Consider

So, as you’re weighing what type of marketing your brand wants to engage in first, keep these words in mind:

  • Cost
  • Effectiveness
  • Effort required

In our opinion, both digital advertising and social media marketing should have a place in your business plan in the long run. Social media marketing will pay off greatly over time as you gain a following of loyal brand enthusiasts. Digital marketing is the channel that can drive some of those followers to you more quickly.

If your brand could use guidance in your marketing approach, contact us here at Deal Digital. We’d be happy to help you put together a strategy for your business.

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