5 Reasons Why Integrating Social Media with Traditional is Hard

time on social media

Integrating social media into your existing media — advertising and public relations, is challenging. But, without effective integration across the platforms, you risk diluting your brand, wasting marketing efforts, and lower sales. This topic came up yesterday in our discussion with Mari Smith, who paid a visit to my social media marketing class yesterday and  Jason Falls, of Social Media Explorer discussed it today on his blog.

time on social media
Image courtesy of Oberlo

As you can see from the graphic above, the amount of time devoted to social media continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in the past. The usage of social media expanded to include more older users (nearly half of all seniors over 65 use social media and 70% of those 50+ compared with 84% of those 18-29), so only those in the oldest age ranges are now unreachable on social media. Despite extensive utilization by everyone except the oldest and youngest, there are vast differences in which social media platforms users prefer, as you can see in the graphic below with older users on YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook, while younger users prefer Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok (which isn’t shown on the chart).

integrating social media
Image courtesy of Marketing Charts

Hence, nearly every business, regardless of its target market, needs a presence on one or more social media platforms. But, they also need traditional media as an effective way to build brand awareness among a broad range of consumers. They just need to find the right strategy for each social and traditional platform they use and integrate across the platforms to create a seamless marketing communication strategy. Since integrating social media with your traditional media is so important, let’s take a look at why it’s so hard.

Integrating social media with traditional

First, let’s recognize why your company should use both social media and traditional media as part of an integrated marketing communication campaign.


Consumers choose the communication channels that fit their needs best. And, most consumers choose multiple channels. For instance, a consumer might see an ad for a product during a commercial on TV or see the brand used by a character on their favorite TV program (traditional media marketing). This might prompt them to search for the brand online (search engine marketing). Or, they see an ad for the brand on one social platform (social media marketing). Later they see another ad or a recommendation for the brand posted by an influencer they follow, which prompts them to visit the brand’s website (influencer marketing). Finally, they visit the store or Facebook marketplace to make a purchase (e-commerce).

And, that’s the nature of marketing today. To reach as many prospective buyers as possible, you must conduct your marketing campaigns on many different platforms using a variety of marketing tactics. The message you deliver, regardless of the specific media channel, must reinforce messages received by a consumer on other channels where the user might view your campaign messages.


Social media offers opportunities for users to engage with brands, which isn’t possible through traditional media options. Let’s say I see a commercial for your brand and I have questions. As a millennial or Gen Z, I’m more likely to reach out on your Instagram or YouTube to get my question answered or to ask your social media team for the information I want.

I can also scour your social media platforms to see what other users have to say about your brand. These recommendations or complaints impact my purchase decisions more than almost any other factor. As you can see below, combining these reviews with knowledgeable folks on your social media pages and a good e-commerce presence means I’m just more likely to buy from you.

digital influence on purchase decisions
Image courtesy of Digital Marketing Community

Combination increases exposure

By combining traditional and social media, you increase brand recall, as well as reach a broader audience, as mentioned earlier. Traditional media is great for brand reach and recall while building a community of users on social media is great for introducing friends to your community. Combining the two media types, you increase your reach and generate more brand recall. According to experts, it takes somewhere between three and eight exposures to generate action on the part of a consumer. Combining both traditional and social media means you have more opportunities to reach the average consumers which means more opportunities to sell your products.

Why integrating social media with traditional media is so hard?

1. The platforms are different

Traditional media are one-way communications where you talk at your market, while social media is a two-way conversation where you talk with your market. And, that’s just one of the many differences between traditional media and social that make integrating social media with traditional media challenging.

While these differences may seem obvious to those familiar with both marketing communication strategies, it makes a huge difference in your communications.

  • With social media you can’t just talk about yourself, you have to share more personal information about the people involved, and you need to create content that’s valuable to your network. Unlike traditional advertising where all you do is tout your brand in exchange for supporting programming, you’re not paying for programming on social media. Instead, you’re interrupting natural conversations between and among users, so you don’t offer any value. This is where native ads come into play. These ads look and feel like natural posts to the platform and provide some value to users.
  • You have to engage your audience in social media so developing tactics to get them involved are critical. For instance, you might use polls or ask for questions as a means to encourage comments that increase engagement. You might host contests where the price of entry is a share. Or, you might ask users to post images of themselves using your product.
  • People talk back on social media platforms and sometimes you don’t like what they have to say — this creates a blending of social media and customer service that requires a mechanism for addressing complaints voiced on your social networks. Thus, active listening is as important or more important than posting on social media.
  • Social media platforms favor informal, conversational posts as opposed to stiff, highly edited public relations or advertising. You don’t need to spend thousands to professionally create your content and, in fact, that might work against you in social spaces where authenticity and value are the currency of the day.

listening post

2. You need to give them something to link with you on social media

Remember, you’re not paying for programming they enjoy — like a TV program — so you need to “pay” your followers something to get them to listen to you. What kinds of motivation work in social media:

  • Contests or other tactics that give rewards to folks who “Like” you or share your content. For instance, Social Media Examiner was running a contest for folks who Tweeted about their Facebook Summit with the winner getting admission to the event. This ensures you’re attracting folks who are part of your target audience rather than random followers who just want to win something. Plus, providing a ticket to your event as the prize doesn’t cost you anything (or very little) while potentially delivering a customer who will purchase tickets in the future if they found value in the free ticket.
  • Support a cause your audience supports. This worked for Purina. They gave away a bowl of dog food to animal shelters for every person who “Liked” their Facebook fan page and gave a bag of dog food to a shelter for everyone who blogged about the charitable project.
  • Acknowledge folks, people love being recognized and, if you fail to thank them for their support, they’ll stop supporting you. For instance, Guy Kawasaki responds personally to everyone who writes on his Facebook wall — so does Mari Smith, as you can see in the Tweet below. I make a habit of responding to every comment on my blog, every RT, and thank folks for every share of my content (except those who rip off my content by not providing a backlink). Acknowledging your supporters is a great way to get more support from them.

3. The metrics are different

In traditional media, you’re trying to sell products so the metrics are sales or return on investment (ROI) and the correlation between these metrics and your advertising campaigns is nebulous. You can’t tell if an individual campaign worked unless that’s the only campaign you run around a given time period. If you run commercials across traditional media, such as a radio ad, TV ad, and print ad, you have no clue which one, if any, contributed to your sales increase. You also can’t tell if the ads together caused the impact you saw on sales or if it was some event unrelated to your advertising.

In social media, you’re trying to build relationships so you use different metrics like the number of impressions, reach, and frequency. What you really want to measure is engagement, and these are reflected by actions such as # of comments, # of shares (Tweets, Facebook Likes, Upvotes), sentiment analysis, and buzz (folks talking about your brand in social media). If you want to see a full list of metrics you should monitor to assess your social media performance, check out this list I curated.

Bean counter types don’t like these squishy metrics — they want ROI. Tracking your performance through your website is a great way to show the ROI of your social media expenses, especially if you use multi-channel attribution modeling to accurately assess the impact of visits that involve multiple channels prior to conversion. Traditional media just can’t compare with the amount and accuracy of data available when you use social media marketing. That may explain the transition from traditional to social media, along with the ability of social media to highly target your market, resulting in a much lower cost to reach your market on social media platforms, as you can see below.

return on social advertising

4. Social media and traditional media are often handled by different employees or agencies

Social media is often handled by young folks with technical expertise (such as computer folks) or with a journalism background. Or by a social media agency or consultant. Traditional media campaigns often involve older folks with broadcast and PR expertise. Or an advertising agency. Note, often neither group has a marketing background but you’re especially unlikely to find an ad agency employing marketing folks.

These different groups don’t speak the same language or understand each other very well. And, they may not work together well — they may even be in different buildings or cities. They often have no respect or appreciation for the type of work undertaken by the other group. This makes collaboration and integration of social media and traditional media difficult.

5. Integrating social media and traditional marketing requires specialized skills

Integrating social media and traditional media requires a detailed understanding of both platforms and a thorough understanding of the marketing and consumer behavior concepts that underpin success in both platforms. And NEITHER your social media nor traditional marketing team may know anything about marketing and consumer behavior. Hiring someone to brand your products who doesn’t KNOW marketing is like hiring an accountant who never took an accounting class but is good at math. They can do it, but it isn’t RIGHT.

Concepts such as market segmentation (and targeting), consumer decision-making, group influences, and advertising effectiveness from marketing are critical and don’t come from reading a book or taking a class. They require mentorship from someone who guides them in creating success based on sound marketing principles. Below, you can see the specialized skills necessary in the digital age:

digital marketing skills gap
Image courtesy of Marketing Profs


Integrating social media with your traditional marketing campaigns is challenging but mastering this integration yields much higher ROI. Use this post to help your efforts at integrating social media with traditional media in future campaigns.

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