Scope and Language of Media: Traditional vs. Social

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Marketing and media have had a long standing relationship. They have experienced many changes together, from the first advertisements used by the Egyptians, through print ads, radio, television, and billboards, to now social media. Marketing professionals have always relied on the use of media to deliver messages about their products and services. Up until the last decade or so, the general practices have been the same. Social media operates with an entirely different set of standards, a completely different mindset. It is important to know the similarities and the differences between these types of media to understand which method will best suit the needs of a company or brand. First, let’s define the two types of media. Social media is defined by Wiki as media that uses Internet-based applications that allow people to create, share or exchange information in virtual communities and networks.  Traditional media is described on Wiki as media that existed before the advent of the Internet, like television, radio, movie, newspapers, magazines and print publications.

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Classic Marketing & Social Media Marketing Infographic

Let’s look specifically at how scope and language compare. In the Classic Marketing & Social Media Marketing Infographic, traditional and social media are each listed with unique characteristics. Scope, in traditional marketing, is specific and optimized for certain target audiences and markets. Ads or articles are placed strategically at scheduled times and compete against other advertisers in the same space. These advertisements are shouting and pushing out your marketing message. This is one-way communication.

Scope, in social media, is permanent, and available for everybody, everywhere. In social media, the communication is two-way. When posting content on social platforms, you will immediately receive feedback from what you have just posted. You can acknowledge this feedback and the audience will respond, and conversation will start from there. Traditional mass media has limited targeted reach, with increasing cost, as reach expands, according to, 12 Ways Social Media is Different than Traditional Mass Media, while, social media offers unlimited reach and micro-targeting, while investment remains relatively constant. The article goes on to say, “social media has created almost a reverse flow in the traditional mass media world in which user-generated content and consumer activism is reaching more audiences than brand messaging.”

As far as scope is concerned, conventional mass media targets isolated consumers, and impressions are brief. The message delivered, and awareness of the brand, start to decline directly after the customer receives the message. It goes on to say that social media ensures the opposite and connects users who generate conversations and content. The conversations and content are lasting and are continual. With all of that said, it sounds like traditional media is no longer useful. That is not the case. Both methods have their place and their purposes. Social media vs. traditional media – who’s the winner? Explains that both traditional media and social media give opportunities to communicate their message to the world.

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Next, let’s examine language. Language, in traditional marketing, is considered more formal, legally safe and strict. Often you have a particular marketing style, which is ready-made, and full of lots of sentences. Restrictions to what you can say and how you say it are common.  In social media, language is more genuine, direct with no ready-made sentences. Personal responses and short answers are considered best practices. Traditional media has always needed to maintain a level of professionalism and structure.   It is a controlled message, with no real dialogue available.

Social media created a language all its own. How social media is changing language, describes how. “Because the language, we use to communicate with each other, tends to be more malleable than formal writing, the combination of informal, personal communication and the mass audience afforded by social media is a recipe for rapid change. From the introduction of new words to new meanings for old words to changes in the way we communicate, social media is making its presence felt.” The article further explains that acronyms, abbreviations, and neologisms have grown up around technologically mediated communication to help us be understood. It is all about speed and being concise. Social media changed the acceptance of informal communication in marketing and promotion, “We share more personal information, but also communicate with larger audiences. Our communication styles consequently become more informal and more open, and this seeps into other areas of life and culture. When writing on social media, we are also more succinct, get to the point quicker, operate within the creative constraints of 140 characters on Twitter, or aspire to brevity with blogs.”

WTF! Is Social Media Eroding Our Language, wrote that in 2011, “the words “retweet,” “sexting” and “cyberbullying” were all added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The ridiculousness of that last statement alone may make you LOL…hey it may very well make you ROFL!”



Traditional media vs. social media: Making the right choices concentrates on how the two types of media are alike. Both traditional and social media create awareness. Traditional vs. Social – The Good, the Bad, and the Difference Between Traditional Media and Social Media explain how traditional channels can broadcast messages to an large audiences that is significant in some way––be it in size, demographic make-up, geography, or any combination thereof. The article goes on the show what traditional and social media are and what they are not:



There are times where traditional media will be more effective than social media. Social media is more targeted, so if your goal is to cast a broader net, traditional is the way to go. Knowing what you want to accomplish is essential to knowing what type of media to use. Which is the next point, many people think that because social media can be instantaneous, marketing does not require pre-planning. It does. Just like traditional media both need to have clear goals, as well as, marketing strategies based on the objectives of the company and the brand. “One of the biggest similarities is that social media and traditional media need to be planned out. Like traditional media, developing social media strategies needs to be based on the customers you want to reach. Planning is a two-fold process: planning the message you want your audience to understand and act upon, and planning what channels you will need to get that message effectively out to your audience.” Once you are clear on those critical factors you, can decide which media best meets those needs. The article also points out that learning how your audience base (current or potential customers) uses different media will help make sure they are receiving the message loud and clear.

According to, Back to Basics: How Social Media Differs From Traditional Media, “many companies are struggling and not getting desired results. They share one commonality: they think social media is the same as traditional media and apply marketing techniques and contents that they used in traditional media into their social media channel which they feel will work.” This is where they are failing.

Personally, I appreciate the changes that social media has brought about. It is refreshing to be able to talk with consumers on a personal level and not have to worry about strict guidelines. It can be fun and challenging to post unique, happy and humorous content that engages people, and rewarding to be a part of their responses. Being “liked” is addictive.  It has humanized target audiences, they no longer feel distant but more like friends and family. With that said, I also appreciate the role of traditional media. I grew up watching television and reading print magazines. In my life, brands have reached me with their advertisements, creating loyalty in me. Social media has changed a lot, but it has not changed that.

It is hard to tell, if one way of marketing, traditional or social, is better than the other. There are so many advantages to social media, but traditional media feels tried and true. We can say that they are different, and even though some similarities appear, the differences are vast. An article found online by Katherine Hunter-Blyden, Marketing Basics Still Apply on Social Media, talks about how the basics of marketing still apply to both traditional and social media.  You must identify your target market, create relevant messaging, and measure campaign results. To be effective, these processes are important no matter what media you use.  To be most effective, both traditional and social media should be used together to strengthen the brand and ensure the message is heard and understood.

12 Ways Social Media is Different than Traditional Mass Media said it best by saying, “Traditional Mass Media is like night, Social Media is like day.” I would venture to say that we must remember we need them both to make the world go ‘round.


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