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Top ten advantages of social over traditional media

November 25, 2009 18 Comments

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As traditional and social media duke it out for the leadership role in commanding consumer attention, it’s worthwhile to highlight some of the undeniable benefits of social media. Here are ten that quickly come to mind.

1. Cost: There are almost no barriers to entry in creating or distributing social media content. Or put another way, beyond your time and production costs, it’s almost free. (Still need the other nine reasons? OK.) And that single piece of content ricochets around the web indefinitely with no additional expense unlike TV, print or radio.

2. lntimacy: Traditional media necessitates broadcasting to thousands or millions of people at once robbing it of the specificity and dialogue that can be achieved through social media.

3. Targeting: A key advantage of social media is that it can be far more specific in terms of isolating exactly who that brand or product wants to talk to. What’s more consumers share the load by constantly sourcing information and products of interest and distributing them to others.

4. Nimbleness: One of the unique advantages of social media is that it allows brands to adapt to consumers buying and sharing habits almost instantly. Traditional media necessitates sizable (and often prohibitive) investments by corporations who then can’t react as quickly as market requires.

5. Measurement: Traditional media has to rely on long-term measurement tools to gauge the effectiveness of brand messaging. With social media that measurement can be almost instantaneous as the customers respond to brands and each other across networks, platforms and apps. When that response is negative, a brand has the chance to course-correct quickly minimizing damage to the brand.

6. Newness! Consumer preoccupation with whatever is new is hardly unique to social media. Yet as a function of its ability to constantly evolve in response to consumer demands, social media retains the sheen of “new” re-engaging consumer attention. With traditional media content can change but the format of distribution changes little and slowly.

7. Exponential: As difficult as it is for a brand or product to thread the viral needle, the potential for exponential growth is almost unlimited and repeatable at a low cost.

8. Participatory: As soon as the barriers to content creation approached zero, consumers quickly stepped into the vacuum and began participating in the commercial dialogue. It’s as if the longstanding presumption of traditional advertising that brands and consumers were in dialogue has finally come true thanks to real-time communication tools.

9. Proximity: Time and distance have virtually disappeared as a barrier between consumers around the globe. As such, social media has created a global, connected community like never before. That opens up enormous potential for success or failure depending on how well brands understand the new dynamics in play.

10. Future: Just as advertising dollars have followed consumer eyeballs online, they will shortly follow consumer adoption of mobile community (enabled by smart phones) as the new defining social media dynamic. While new rules of engagement will appear and consumers will increasingly be defined by where they are (hello, Foursquare), much can be divined about how to prepare for the future from current social media practices.

What other advantages to social media do you see?

  • http://twitter.com/camiloolea Camilo Olea

    Nice list Simon! Will definitely use it for my future SM project speeches with potential clients!

    Cheers from Cancun,Mexico!

  • http://simonmainwaring.com Simon Mainwaring

    Thanks Camilo. Hope it's useful and please add your own. Best, Simon

  • http://www.duess.com/blog andreasduess

    Cost is a two edged sword. While it's cheap to get involved, if you want to get serious about engagement it doesn't necessarily stay that way. While you're saving on media, you'll be spending on bodies.

    Real, true customer engagement is work, hard work. For many businesses it requires a rethink on how they do business, meaning there's often the need for reorganization. If you want to develop an authentic voice, then somebody will need to do the speaking.

    In our experience, a social media campaign is about four times as expensive in people time than a traditional campaign used to be. Make no mistake, you'll either be hiring or you'll be adding a significant workload to your existing staff.

    None of the above is designed to distract from the obvious benefits of real, person to person engagement, but doing it well is neither cheap nor easy.

  • http://twitter.com/Jan_B Jan_B

    A great list Simon, I have an addition to this list, although several of the advantages may contribute to this advantage. Personification, social media allow brands to manifest themselves as a person (closely related to Intimacy, Proximity and Participatory). Happy thanksgiving by the way, Jan

  • http://simonmainwaring.com Simon Mainwaring

    Thanks Jan, great addition. And I totally agree. For so long advertising has operated on the presumption that brands and consumers are in dialogue but social media has made that true for the first time. Consumers can shape, amplify and distribute their voice as they wish and brands need to listen if they hope to be successful.In the same way, brands can become far more human speaking in intimate terms much like small talk to smaller and smaller groups defined by specific interests. Ultimately, it all comes back to the fundamentals of any communication. It's just that the tools are are far more sophisticated. Happy thanksgiving too. simon

  • http://simonmainwaring.com Simon Mainwaring

    Andrea, you are so correct about the bodies it requires. At the very least you need dedicated twitterers and bloggers to drive and maintain the brand voice both inside and outside the corporation. And as the reach of that voice expands, so do costs. Compariatively though, in my experience that still is a lot less than the costs of tv, print or even radio campaigns. One full page ad in the NYT can pay for a few salaries, let alone a TV buy. I also don't think it should ever be an either/or. If possible, a mix of traditional and social media is always best. But yes, people wise its more expensive but depending on the size of your clients, media spend tends to be more expensive. Thanks for pointing that out as the cost of extra personnel is very real. Best, simon

  • http://twitter.com/Jan_B Jan_B

    A great list Simon, I have an addition to this list, although several of the advantages may contribute to this advantage. Personification, social media allow brands to manifest themselves as a person (closely related to Intimacy, Proximity and Participatory). Happy thanksgiving by the way, Jan

  • http://simonmainwaring.com Simon Mainwaring

    Thanks Jan, great addition. And I totally agree. For so long advertising has operated on the presumption that brands and consumers are in dialogue but social media has made that true for the first time. Consumers can shape, amplify and distribute their voice as they wish and brands need to listen if they hope to be successful.In the same way, brands can become far more human speaking in intimate terms much like small talk to smaller and smaller groups defined by specific interests. Ultimately, it all comes back to the fundamentals of any communication. It's just that the tools are are far more sophisticated. Happy thanksgiving too. simon

  • http://simonmainwaring.com Simon Mainwaring

    Andrea, you are so correct about the bodies it requires. At the very least you need dedicated twitterers and bloggers to drive and maintain the brand voice both inside and outside the corporation. And as the reach of that voice expands, so do costs. Compariatively though, in my experience that still is a lot less than the costs of tv, print or even radio campaigns. One full page ad in the NYT can pay for a few salaries, let alone a TV buy. I also don't think it should ever be an either/or. If possible, a mix of traditional and social media is always best. But yes, people wise its more expensive but depending on the size of your clients, media spend tends to be more expensive. Thanks for pointing that out as the cost of extra personnel is very real. Best, simon

  • Pingback: A glance back at the future of social media | Simon Mainwaring

  • Anonymous

    Simon, tremendous breakdown and love the sufficient benefit of each. So why do you think clients are still apprehensive towards the space if the cost of entry is so minimal? Are they all still so misinformed by their marketing partner, or just scared to adapt?

  • http://socialblazeapp.com/ Cassie Rice

    Totally agree with your list, especially the intimacy point. With social media marketing, you can develop relationships that you could not develop with traditional marketing. It's possible that with time, we will even see higher rates of consumer loyalty to brands using social media marketing effectively.

  • http://www.simonmainwaring.com/ Simon Mainwaring

    I totally agree Cassie. This process of intimacy has only just begun. It's exciting to see what changes it will enable. Thanks.

  • http://www.simonmainwaring.com/ Simon Mainwaring

    A bit of both, Mike. Scared and not yet experienced enough in the space. That's why half our time is spent in education. But that's totally understandable at this stage. Some companies will want to grown and those that won't will necessarily contract. It's actually interesting to watch companies enable or disable themselves. Thanks, Simon

  • caliboy91

    I absolutely LOVED this post. Im an internet marketing student and this spoke right to me and helped open my brain and heart, and my venture inspiration :)

  • http://www.simonmainwaring.com/ Simon Mainwaring

    Thanks so much and we’ll be sharing much more throughout the year. Best, simon

  • caliboy91

    Will you be doing anything on how to start a career in Internet Marketing? I would love to know how to freelance while in school so I can make money :)

  • http://www.simonmainwaring.com/ Simon Mainwaring

    Thanks. Unfortunately I don’t specialize in the IM world but there are many great trainers out there. Simon

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We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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