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

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

For years, people pitted “traditional” and social media against each other. Some have the misconception that as social budgets rise, traditional media budgets have to go down in order to balance the books. And as people spend more and more time on digital media, there is a fear that social media will eventually replace traditional media entirely.

When dealing with this scarcity situation, teams can struggle for support and over-market their work, further widening the gap between social and traditional media. The result is a truly missed opportunity to combine social and traditional media in order to exceed your brand’s goals.

However, the conversation shouldn’t be about social media versus traditional media. Rather, we should explore how social media and traditional media can work together to create a cohesive brand experience. Brands that encompass both are well positioned to build lasting customer relationships.

Breakdown: Social Media vs. Traditional Media

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

Traditional media describe channels such as television and print advertising, radio spots, billboards, and other non-digital media that appeal to a wide audience. With traditional media, the goals are usually straightforward: Raising awareness through the broadest possible audience and improving or changing people’s perception of a brand.

On the other hand, social media describes a variety of digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others that enable targeted distribution and interaction with the audience. The goals associated with social media include increasing awareness and perception, but also customer service, customer loyalty, sales and lobbying.

Taken together, the two strategies can give marketers the ability to create relevant content that engages their target audience, regardless of what channel they’re on. Our recent survey of 250 business leaders further shows that you need to invest in both traditional and social media to ensure your business is ready for the future.

4 Social Media Versus Traditional Media Stats That Prove You Must Invest In Both

1. Social catches up with television and radio

Television still has priority when it comes to building brand awareness. 58% of consumers learn about brands and companies through television advertising. Like other forms of traditional media, TV gives brands complete control over their news and defined (albeit sometimes costly) levers that they can pull to increase overall reach.

But the social is hot on the heels of television advertising – especially among the younger generations. Data shows that 55% of consumers learn about brands through social networks. That number rises to 78% for Generation Z and 61% for Millennials.

Given the growing influence and purchasing power of Generation Z and Millennials, we should expect the social to be the most important channel to reach these digital natives. Setting your strategy in place and teaming up now with formalized awareness campaigns, advocacy programs, and expanded creative social resources is the best way to prepare for this inevitable evolution.

2. Active discovery happens on a social level

Social media is now the preferred method for consumers to find new brands, while only 20% of consumers prefer to discover new brands on TV and radio in the future. The biggest difference between the two channels? Discovering in traditional media is often a passive experience, while social discovery is much more active. The impressive experience and the networks themselves make this discovery not only easy, but enjoyable too.

That doesn’t mean brands should give up traditional media. One of the advantages of channels like TV and print media is that brands can get their names in front of as many people as possible. These traditional ads can then direct people to your social properties where they can learn more and engage with your brand. This combination of traditional and social media ensures that you reach the broadest possible audience and provide interested consumers with a place to learn more about you.

3. Communication is centralized on a social level

Social is not only a valuable tool for raising awareness, it is also a critical communication channel. Our research shows that 58% of executives expect social media to be their primary communication channel by 2024. 84% of executives believe that the use of social media for communication in their company will increase over the next three years.

On the flip side, only 11% of business leaders expect television and radio advertising to be their primary external communication channel by 2024. These statistics show that while traditional media is valuable for getting a brand’s message across, consumers expect two-way conversations with brands. Consumers are unlikely to call a number they see on a television advertisement when they have questions about a product or service. However, they go to social media to share their thoughts directly with the brand. The combination of traditional and social media ensures that once consumers are aware of a brand, they have a place to start a conversation and round off the customer experience.

4. The influence of social media goes beyond marketing

While social and traditional media have coexisted with the marketing team in the past, we see other departments use social media for their own ends. Think about how social media is currently used by 60% of companies for customer service and 72% for customer loyalty. Most importantly, six in ten executives expect social media usage to increase across all business areas by 2024.

Social media is a brand’s largest real-time focus group and provides key insights that inform departments outside of marketing. Product teams can, for example, use customer feedback from social networks to improve existing products or to inspire new offers. And sales teams can use social insights to inform their messages when they reach prospects. Social media gives marketers access to information like customer feedback, industry trends, and competitive intelligence, which provides a wealth of knowledge for any department, not just marketing.

Traditional media and social media go hand in hand

There’s no denying that social media is sticky. As consumers and brands spend more time online, the role that social media plays as the primary communication channel as well as a marketing tool becomes even more important.

Despite fears of replacing traditional media with social media, leading brands need both to be successful. Use either tactic for yourself and you not only lose a whole chunk of your audience, but also risk the opportunity to connect with your customers – both current and potential. And the social insights only amplify the impact of traditional media strategies, helping marketers improve their news and create content that is relevant to their target audience. The brands that take this dual approach, combining traditional with social media, will expand their audiences, build brand loyalty and maintain their status as market leaders.

Download this checklist today to learn about the future of social media investing and how to develop a social business strategy that has an impact.