Buying/selling/using social media engagement is not the same as buying/selling/using advertising.

Here are seven ways the two are different:

  1. Social media takes a longer period of time to attract interest and attention. People have to encounter a social media campaign at the right time in their varied lives to engage with it. A viral video sometimes only goes viral several years after the initial Youtube posting. Traditional advertising can pay lots of money to have a piece appear during a major event.
  2. Engaging with a social media campaign does not often directly lead to sales. Traditional advertising can be directive and pushy. Social media can’t without becoming advertising.
  3. A social media cmapaign is not likely to take off until the right people, the connectors/influencer, are attracted to it. Traditional advertising can pay the right people like celebrities to be the “influencers.”
  4. Social media is more: try it and see. A social media campaign can take a lot of A-B testing to find the right grove, because of its amorphous and indeterminate nature. Traditional advertising have decades of demographics and other metrics to make decisions on, and are more likely to hit a selected target.
  5. Social media relies on suggestion, enticement and seduction; not in-your-face pushy selling. Seduction and slow-builds in traditional advertising can be extremely costly. Think ads that tell a story over multiple itinerations.
  6. Social media is not overly polished. When it is, it becomes advertising. There is a fine line to tread between professional yet friendly conversation and professional spin. Traditional advertising is always polished - even when it is deliberately grundy and not-polished. When it is actually no polished, it comes across as amateurish and broken.
  7. Measuring social media engagement is hard. We cannot yet easily tell if people are engaged and over what period of time because engagement can be a tenuous concept. It is certainly nigh impossible to say x engagement thingies will lead to $y of sales. Traditional advertising can do this with more ease because the measurements are more easily quantifiable.