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The Difference Between Social Selling and Social Media Marketing

social selling social media marketing

There’s so much going on in the world of social media that it can be hard to keep up. New sites are popping up all the time and new terms are being invented at a breakneck speed. 

One of the most difficult distinctions to make in the world of social media is the difference between social selling and social media marketing. That’s why I asked social selling expert Kevin Thomas Tully to shed some light on what each term means, how they’re different and his best practices for each.

How do you define social selling?

The definition of social selling is simple, straightforward, and uncomplicated: social selling is leveraging social media to generate revenue. That’s it. Social selling is simply sales. The methodology, however, is different.

Technology is simply an enabler, and social media is just another platform. It really doesn’t matter if your medium is the telephone, email, telegraph, or smoke signals. Social media simply accelerates the sales conversation. Much like all of the aforementioned sales processes, revenue generation is the sole objective; in other words, the goal is to make a sale. Surprisingly, the term “revenue” is absent from many popular “definitions” of social selling, and that’s unequivocally incorrect.

How do you define social media marketing?

Social media marketing, on the other hand, is any social media activity that does not have revenue generation as its primary goal. (This may include, but is not limited to, activities such as personal and corporate brand awareness and brand building, etc.)   

What are the biggest differences between the two?

Revenue creation is the only differentiator between social selling and social media marketing.

What is your goal? Is your goal to make a sale? Are you trying to generate interest in your product or service that will lead to an offline conversation? If yes, you are engaging in social selling.

On the other hand, if your goal is to simply generate vanity metrics—followers, likes, shares, comments, etc.—with no actionable conversion metrics like SQLs created, accounts created, opportunities created, or revenue generating metrics like appointments, sales demos, conversations, closed deals and revenue, then you are engaging in social media marketing.

vanity metrics

The difference between social selling and social media marketing is also as old as the sales vs. marketing debate: sales is a profit center, while marketing is a cost center. Sales drives revenue, while marketing drives awareness. For example, you can put a message in front of one million people, but unless they take action on it, it has no business value. Traditionally, social media marketing (marketing departments) would value the metrics that measured the one million views (or likes, shares, comments, etc.) while sales would value the action from the message—the revenue generated. 

What are your social selling best practices?

My social selling best practices are defined by the 3Cs of social selling success: Content, Conversation, and Conversion, as outlined in my seminal social selling blog post. Being a continuous, supportive resource for my buyers and prospects and providing value during all stages of their buying journey is accomplished in the form of contextually relevant content.  

What are your social media marketing best practices?

My social media marketing best practices also incorporate the value-first principle. I follow the prescient advice of my father, who said the most important business skill is the ability to develop integrity-based relationships. I help others first and foremost without any expectation of reciprocity.

What do you think? Do you think social selling lives in the realm of revenue generation and social media marketing in the world of awareness building? Or do you think social media marketing is becoming more and more like social selling everyday?

social selling strategies


Lolly Spindler


Lolly Spindler

Lolly Spindler is the Content Marketing Manager at xoombi. A writer by trade, Lolly loves to make the written word work for clients by delivering high quality, engaging content to their audiences. She leads the xoombi content marketing team in executing demand generation, SEO, and copy editing strategies. Lolly is a graduate of Boston University.


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