These differences between traditional media and social networking aren’t just interesting — understanding how social media is different from traditional media has a major impact on whether you’re successful with social media. Run your social media campaign like your traditional media campaign and you’re likely to see more damage to your brand reputation than benefit and you’ll waste a lot of money doing it.
[updated Sept. 2016]
A lot has changed since I originally wrote this post way back in 2012, so it makes sense to update it now.
Brand and User-generated Content
Actors: Users/ Influencers
Real time creation
Paid, Owned, Earned
Metric: Reach/ frequency
Highlights: How Traditional Media and Social Networking Differ
How social media provides value
If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that there are vast differences between traditional media and social networking, like those in the table above. Traditional media provides value through subsidizing content — free TV and radio programs, lower-cost magazines, and chances to win prizes. In exchange for this content or other value, we ALLOW advertisers to interrupt our day to tell us about their products.
The difference between traditional media and social networking is that social platforms — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc — are already FREE. So, advertisers can’t expect us to allow them to interrupt us with commercial messages. I mean, face it, no one really LIKES commercial!
So, the key to making social media work is to provide some other type of value — be it entertainment, information, support, or other types of rewards — in exchange for hearing your commercial message. And, the ratio can’t be 1:1. You HAVE to provide about 90% value to 10% commercial message. A good example is Taylor Swift. She shares cuts from her albums before they’re available in stores as well as insider information about music and bands.
How social media value changed since 2012
Since 2012, there’s been a movement toward digital media, instead of social media. This change, rather than just reflecting semantics, celebrates the integration of digital strategies including blogging, social media, and email marketing with a stronger commitment to driving ROI, such as doing lead generation, tracking movement through a website, etc. These changes further enhance the differences between traditional media and social networking.
In the intervening years since this article was published, social platforms, like Facebook, placed a more significant effort on monetizing their platforms so users see more ads. Users still don’t like it, hence the growth of ad-free platforms such as Snapchat, which grew rapidly, especially among younger users.
The notion of paid, versus earned, versus owned media drew marketers’ attention. In the past, marketers focused on owned media — posts to social networks. Now, they must integrate across owned media, paid media (Facebook ads, Adwords, Banner Ads), and earned media (sharing behavior that amplifies the brand message).
Social media is ALL about community
Social networks increasingly replace more traditional communities and this is what draws billions of people into social networks and convinces them to spend significant time engaging in the social network. The trick of social media marketing success is to JOIN this community and harness its power.
So, rather than disrupting the conversation, join the conversation. Become an integral part of the community — someone everyone recognizes and welcomes because you share fun and interesting things with them. Guy Kawasaki is a master of this and employs a staff to find and share interesting images, videos, and news at Alltop and really interesting stuff is posted as “Holy Kaw”.
Use the community. Studies and experience show people engage more when they’re a part of something. So, ask the community to contribute content such as a cool video or suggestions for a brand name. For instance, I built a brand community on Facebook called my Social Media Marketing Tribe. Anyone can join and we share interesting tips we find, ask questions, get support for projects we’re working on, etc.
While most advertising (traditional media) is designed for mass consumption, social media involves one-on-one marketing. That means the message should appear addressed to individual users. Hence, marketers need to understand their target market ON EACH NETWORK so messages appear tailored to the individual. While you may have a broad target market, the ones on Facebook may be entirely different from the ones on YouTube and adapting your approach in each network is key to your success.
One aspect I didn’t focus on in that post from 2012 is the role of real-time marketing on digital media. When I worked with a big-time advertising agency, we’d spend months preparing a campaign — crafting a message, shooting footage, editing images, carefully planning our media spend, etc. There’s not time for that in today’s rapidly changing digital landscape where you have to produce fresh content on a consistent basis, not a few times a year.
And, that changes how a campaign comes together. No longer do you have an art department, a music department, and post-production department. You need folks who bring multiple skills to the campaign. That means content marketers need not only writing skills, but the ability to craft images on the fly (edit existing images or create images using Photoshop, Canva, or other tools, and they need a little HTML/CSS so they can make the content look awesome online.
Video is the same way. You create a number of videos without the benefit of script writers, storyboarding, and editing. There’s not time for that. Instead, you need folks who can create video on a tight budget and upload them to YouTube, which might require some HTML/CSS.
Probably the biggest change in 2012 is the emphasis on analytics, which reflects a major difference between traditional media and social networking. With traditional media, we know next to nothing about how successful our campaign was because the tools for tracking performance, with the exception of direct media, are inferential. With digital media, the marketer is inundated with data. Now, the challenge is making sense of it all.
Here are just a few of the metrics available:
- vanity metrics such as reach, frequency, likes, shares, etc
- deep customer insights such as demographics (age, gender), geographics (mobile, country, city), and, importantly, psychographics (personality, lifestyle, groups)
- deep success insights such as conversion rates, average order size, loyalty (which we can segregate by source, demographics, etc)
- deep source analytics such as source of visits, source of conversions, movement through website, etc
- Competitor analysis in much more depth
What Do YOU Think?
- Do you see other differences between traditional media and social networking?
- How are you achieving social media marketing success?
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media.