Some small business owners use social media to sell. Others use it to market. What’s really the difference between the two, and what strategies can you use to get more customers?

Social Marketing 101

Social marketing centers around creating and maintaining brand awareness, as well as building up customer loyalty. Your purpose here isn’t to immediately get sales, but rather start those conversations that will help you connect with potential customers. You want to build trust here, so that these buyers will turn to you as the resource for information on your industry and type of product.

The term “thought leader” is used a lot with social marketing. It’s a fantastic if used correctly. Focus on delivering useful content to your Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, and Facebook followers, and they’ll come back for more. That content can be your own (from your company blog) or from other resources. In fact, a mix of the two is ideal.

Social Selling 101

Social selling focuses more on prospecting and maintaining visibility for your brand. Here, you are trying to drive sales through promotions. Understand, though, that social media centers around two-way conversation, so this isn’t the place to inject a steady stream of “Buy our product now!” tweets.

Instead, aim to find those social media users who most likely are your target customers. Track what they’re saying online. Set up searches for keywords that include your company name and type of product you sell. Use this information to connect with potential buyers. For example, if you’re the author of a book about starting a nonprofit, and you see someone tweet that they’re starting a nonprofit, you can reach out and tweet something like:

@SalLovesAnimals congrats on the nonprofit! It’s an adventure. You might be interested in my book, “Nonprofit in a Day:”

If you apply targeted responses to people who are looking for your type of product, you’ll have better results than if you blanket spray everyone with automated spam tweets about your brand.

Tie the Two Together

Social marketing and social selling go hand-in-hand. Once you’ve worked to build a relationship with a follower through branding and marketing, you can make that personalized sell or promotion offer. Just keep up both efforts. Once you’ve pushed your product through social selling, go back to the marketing efforts, as you’ll need to continue to nurture that contact, whether he becomes a customer right now or down the road.