Social Media vs. Traditional Media


Marketing professionals rely on the use of media to deliver messages about their products and services. For years, the use of traditional media stood as the only way to get those messages to the public.  Today branding, marketing, and how companies interact with consumers has changed due to the use of social media to market and communicate with the public. There are clear benefits to both types of media, but it is important to understand the similarities and differences between the two to better utilize them. 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 (read more).  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 (read more).

It is important for businesses to understand each of these types of media and use them together to reach their goals.  Three distinct characteristics of both traditional and social media, quality, usability, and permanent record, show how they contrast. Traditional media is considered to be a higher quality form of marketing.  Creation of television commercials and print ads often require highly-trained professionals and can be much more expensive than social media.  Social media, on the other hand, is the media of the people.  It is decentralized and the quality can range from low quality to high quality depending on the user.  Anyone can create and maintain social media accounts, and everyone can create content with social media. Another difference can be seen when examining permanence. The Internet is “forever” and information, photos and videos posted on social media platforms should be considered permanent.  Even if you deleted posts, etc., off the original published location, especially in viral cases,  it would be near impossible to completely track all the re-tweets, shares, copies, and downloads, not to mention screen-shots.

There are other significant differences between traditional media and social media to consider, as well. Social media is a two-way conversation with the consumer, ongoing and unpredictable.  The audience helps create content with likes, comments, shares, and re-tweets.  When using social media the goal of a marketer isn’t only to reach the consumer, but to engage them in conversation.  Social media is just that, social.  It is about collaboration between people, producing content that spurs conversation and builds relationships.  Social media is an open system and the public can not only access, but participate in the message.  It is 1 to 1 marketing.  It is primarily free to use, in real-time, and is continuously active and changing.  This participation by the consumer creates a content trail; track-able information on what consumers think about what your message is on social media, your products, and your reputation. Social media marketing is considered a bottom-up strategy.  Traditional media is more of a one-way conversation.  Functioning on a closed system, traditional media focuses on mass marketing.  One static message is produced and sent out to the masses.  This strategy is called top-down strategy. Most traditional marketing has to be paid for and can be very expensive.  Traditional media is planned in advance, usually on a set schedule, and passive, allowing little to no personal interaction with the consumer.

Although, traditional media and social media are quite different, they both have some of the same, or similar, objectives. The end goals being for consumers to have a favorable opinion of what is being marketed, and for the purchase cycle to be completed or the social feedback cycle to continue in a positive direction. Both traditional and social media want to reach the consumer, but they accomplish that in very different ways. An article found online by Katherine Hunter-Blyden, Marketing Basics Still Apply on Social Media,(click here to read), 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.  Doing this helps drive consumers to multiple media outlets. It also confirms that what they have to say is being heard by their brands, and, perhaps more importantly that it is being responded to.

In an article on Media Bistro, Marketing 101: Social Media vs. Traditional Media, you can find a detailed info-graphic depicting more of the things discussed here and in lecture.

(click here to see).

The comparison of traditional media and social media remind us that social media cannot replace traditional media nor can traditional media alone adequately meet the expectations of a digital age. Each type of media has its own place and purpose. 

Recently, I began assisting several companies in my hometown with their social media efforts.  In the first three months of this endeavor, One those businesses uses a media mix and integrates traditional media with social media considerably well. For the media mix, social links/buttons are included in all email correspondence, and social accounts are mentioned in print advertisement, brochures, and even billboard.  We use social media to drive consumers to the website and also have used employee and client testimonials from social media reviews and comments in print advertisement.

I had never considered the importance of combining the two types of media until this lecture. My main focus these last few months has been the creation of business pages, and growth of social accounts through page likes.  The lecture and readings were very helpful in illustrating the importance of integrating traditional media with social media, and included some easy and efficient ways to accomplish the task.  I have noticed many print ads and commercials driving consumers to social media accounts. I have also noticed 20/20, Night Line, and other news broadcasts (even our local station) requesting that viewers visit social media sites for more information on the stories produced, or asking them to “continue the conversation” by hash-tagging comments and questions. I think we are just beginning to see marketers and business leaders not only investing in social media, but combining the use of social media with traditional media to cover the full spectrum of communication.

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