Why social media vs. traditional media is not the debate you should care about

For years, people pitted “traditional” and social media against one another. Some harbour the misconception that as social budgets increase, traditional media budgets have to decrease to balance the books. And as people continue to increase their time spent on digital media, there’s the fear that social media will eventually replace traditional media entirely.


The result is a real missed opportunity to weave social and traditional media together to exceed your brand’s goals. But the conversation shouldn’t be about social media vs. traditional media. Rather, we should explore how social media and traditional media can work together to create a cohesive brand experience. Brands that embrace both will find themselves well positioned to build lasting customer relationships.


Breaking it down: social media vs. traditional media


Let’s take a moment to lay out what we mean by traditional and social media.

Traditional media describes channels like TV and print ads, radio spots, billboards and other non-digital forms of media that target a broad audience. With traditional media, the goals are usually straightforward: increase awareness by getting in front of as wide an audience as possible and improve or change people’s perception of a brand.


On the other hand, social media describes a variety of digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others that allow for targeted distribution and audience interaction. Goals associated with social media include increasing awareness and perception, but also cover customer service, retention, sales and advocacy, too.


Used together, the two strategies can empower marketers to create relevant content that engages their audience no matter which channel they find themselves on.


4 social media vs. traditional media statistics that prove you need to invest in both


1. Social is catching up to TV and radio


TV still reigns supreme when it comes to raising brand awareness, with 58% of consumers learning about brands and companies through TV advertising. Like other forms of traditional media, TV offers brands complete control over their messaging and defined (though sometimes costly) levers they can pull to increase overall reach.


But social is hot on TV advertising’s heels—especially among younger generations. Data reveals 55% of consumers learn about brands through social, a figure that jumps to 78% for Generation Z and 61% for Millennials.


As the influence and purchasing power of Generation Z and Millennials grows, we should expect to see social become the primary channel to reach these digital natives. Setting your strategy and team up for social now, with formalized awareness campaigns, advocacy programs and expanded creative resources, is the best way to prepare for that inevitable evolution.


2. Active discovery happens on social


Social media is now consumers’ number one preferred way of finding new brands, while just 20% of consumers prefer to discover new brands on TV and radio going forward. The biggest difference between the two channels? Discovery on traditional media is often a passive experience while social discovery is much more active. Plus, the immersive experience and the networks themselves make that discovery not just easy, but enjoyable.


That doesn’t mean brands should abandon traditional media. One of the benefits of channels like TV and print media is that brands can get their name in front of as many people as possible. These traditional ads can then drive people to your social properties where they can explore further and start to engage with your brand. This combination of traditional and social media ensures you’re reaching as broad an audience as possible while also giving interested consumers a place to go learn more about you.


3. Communication will be centralized on social


Social isn’t just a valuable tool for awareness—it’s also a critical channel for communications. Our research reveals 58% of business leaders anticipate social will be their primary communications channel by 2024. And 84% of business leaders expect their company’s use of social media for communications to increase over the next three years.


On the flip side, only 11% of business leaders anticipate TV and radio advertising will be their primary external communications channel by 2024. These stats illustrate that, while traditional media is valuable for broadcasting a brand’s message, consumers expect two-way conversations with brands.


It’s unlikely consumers will call a number they see on a TV ad with questions about a product or service, but they will go to social media to share their thoughts directly with the brand. The combination of traditional and social media ensures once consumers are aware of a brand, they have a place to go to start a conversation, rounding out the customer experience.


4. The influence of social extends beyond marketing


While social and traditional media have historically lived with the marketing team, we’re beginning to see other departments use social for their own objectives. Consider how social is currently used by 60% of companies for customer service and 72% for customer engagement. Most importantly, six in 10 executives anticipate the use of social media to increase across all aspects of the business by 2024.


Social serves as a brand’s largest, real-time focus group, yielding critical insights that inform departments outside of marketing. Product teams, for example, can use consumer feedback from social to improve existing products or inspire new offerings. And sales teams can leverage social insights to inform their messaging when reaching out to potential customers.


Traditional media and social media go hand in hand


There’s no denying the stickiness of social media. As consumers and brands spend more time online, the role social plays as a primary communications channel as well as a marketing tool becomes that much more important.


For all the fears of social replacing traditional media, the reality is that leading brands need both in order to succeed. Use either tactic on its own, and you not only lose out on an entire swath of your audience but you also risk the opportunity to connect with your customers—both current and potential.


The brands that embrace this dual approach, combining traditional with social media, will broaden their audience, build brand loyalty and maintain their status as a market leader.


Vogue Consulting can help create a social business strategy that makes an impact.


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