Comparing Aspects of Communication: Traditional Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing



Communication between a company and its customers is the foundation of any marketing plan, whether it is implemented by way of traditional means such as radio, television, and print media or via newer channels within the social media world. Both classic media marketing and social media marketing have some common elements such as the goal of clear communication in order to effectively distribute information, reaching large audiences, building awareness, and achieving success in increasing revenue. However, social media has brought with it some major changes in how companies interact with their target audiences.


When examining the direction of communication in each type of marketing, broadcasting and print media implement a top-down strategy of communication-   We distribute the information and you consume it. This is a closed-system with a one-way, passive conversation. This method enjoys the benefits of the quiet customers who have little power over, and effect on, the company’s branding and advertising efforts.


In opposition, social media sees no benefit in silent audiences, and so it gives power and voice to the consumer. In fact, the main purpose of marketing through this medium is to engage the audience and elicit their feedback and response in a two-way, active communication model. This bottom-up approach creates active participation that births huge opportunity for immediate, word-of-mouth recognition; especially when a piece of information goes viral, (meaning it spreads globally within a very short period of time- within days, hours, and even minutes).  This is one reaction that is not possible, or at best incredibly difficult, through classic communication endeavors. Since social media gives power to the audience, the audience has the potential to have a massive positive (or negative) marketing impact, (while doing most of the work)! This is certainly an aspect of social media marketing that makes it more effective than traditional means.


Classic marketing and social media marketing also differ in regards to the communication process and approach. Since broadcasting and print ads are very costly, and irreversible once distributed, marketing teams put in a great deal of time, effort, and resources to ensure the content is of the highest possible quality for maximum effectiveness. When using social media channels, however, the content does not take weeks or months to create. In fact, sometimes it takes as little as minutes. This allows a company to stay current and react quickly to the environment and in response to customer feedback. However, generally speaking, the less time available to create content the lower the quality of the content. This does not mean that effective communication cannot transpire rapidly via social media channels, it only means that it will most likely be more simplistic in nature.


Does this mean that, since traditional media typically allows dissemination of top-notch quality marketing materials, social media should be ignored? Absolutely not! Neither does it mean that companies should completely forego their traditional strategies and venues for the lower-cost, immediacy of social media advertising. As with many things in life, balance is the key. Ideally, strategically utilizing both types of communication within a company’s marketing plan would create a well-rounded approach to connecting with consumers and building brand awareness. For example, a company could run a major ad campaign via television and radio for a new product or service, and incorporate social media presence to supplement and support the larger campaign.


NBC’s hit talent competition, The Voice, does this very well. The show’s episodes are promoted and aired through traditional broadcasting means, but engages its audience past staring at the television and enjoying music. Throughout the live broadcast of the show, the judges actively tweet about what is happening in the studio. These tweets are not only seen by those using Twitter at that time, but are also seen by people watching the show because the tweets are also displayed at the bottom of the viewers’ screens. This is brilliant! It tells the people who are on the internet, but who forgot to tune in for the show, “Hey, you’re missing out!” Likewise, it tells those watching the show that they are missing out on a special and exclusive connection those on Twitter are sharing without them. Therefore, they are likely to join in on the tweeting. Now the show has its audience engaged in two activities at once and can take advantage of the word-of-mouth opportunity!


The team at The Voice does not stop there, though. They have taken social media engagement one stop further by incorporating live voting via Twitter into their show. In the final rounds of the competition, viewers have the opportunity to “save” one of their favorite performers who will otherwise be sent home if he or she does not amass enough tweeted votes. So not only are fans of the show actively engaged, following along on television and social media, but now they are active participants. They have been made a part of the experience. The fans are emotionally invested and in competition. What a well-prepped breeding ground for conversation. What an excellent example of effectively implementing classic and social media marketing all in one, audience-centered, interconnected, fun experience. That is marketing done right!


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