Has Social Marketing Completely Replaced Traditional?

As a creative director with a wide variety of clients, I have yet to see the old tools of the trade permanently retired to the tool shed just yet. As a result, it's important to realistically correct some of the myths about marketing that seem to persist these days.
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If you were to talk to several social marketing agencies today, the standard meme of their pitches would be that traditional marketing - i.e., print ads, radio and TV commercials, direct mail, point-of-purchase, PR and even banner ads - have been completely decimated by the onslaught of direct-to-customer conversations through social networks. Their argument is that customers, as of several years ago, began to tune out on the regular marketing arteries of entertainment and commerce while opting for more interactive and choice-oriented communications, such as their phones, computers and smart pads.

As a daily practitioner of social marketing techniques to benefit my clients, I have to agree that social has earned its place as a marketing tool to contend with. However, as a creative director with a wide variety of clients, I have yet to see the old tools of the trade permanently retired to the tool shed just yet. As a result, it's important to realistically correct some of the myths about marketing that seem to persist these days.

Myth #1: The internet has changed everything for everyone

Are you a consumer-facing company with customers in the 18 to 35 range? Are you a software company with products that are downloadable? How about a motel or resort with customer reviews online? If you are any of these kinds of businesses, yes, the internet has changed everything for you. However, if you are a business-to-business company targeting 45 to 59 year old bulk product buyers, a home inspection firm that serves the local real estate industry, or an outfit with customers who are elderly, maybe not so much.

Myth #2: Social marketing works just as well as brand marketing

Social marketing is a great way to cultivate leads. It's the perfect customer service arm for your company. It's a wonderful way to expand positive public relations, challenge negative PR, and offer details that commercials and quick, conventional material (such as print ads) cannot. It is also a must for any kind of promotions.

Nonetheless, large, institutional firms understand that social marketing alone will not build the level of awareness they need to generate enough sales across the board, particularly on a national or global scale.

Let's face it: commercials still work. A large media buy during the Super Bowl, American Idol or CNN will earn more eyes than a month of blogging possibly can (unless, of course, your PR team manages to get you on page one of Huffington Post - with over 58.7 million visitors a month), or your video goes viral (something that cannot always be controlled).

As a result, most large firms will commit to a mix of traditional, digital and social to meet their goals. Canon's Project Imagin8ion (hosted on YouTube) has been enormously successful. Would it have been so if it had shunned its TV spots, huge banner ad buys, and its association with Ron Howard?

Myth #3: People don't watch TV or read magazines anymore

While this myth has a good degree of truth to it, it's a little deceptive.

Does your family sit around your computer to watch the World Series? Do you get all your information on a dramatic news event solely through Twitter? Does your company shun the popular trade magazine of your industry when it produces a special issue on your type of product or service? Once again, if you're under 25 the answer may be different, but some events in this world are cultural touchstones and family traditions. Until two more generations die off (or Apple produces a foldable iPad you can stick in your pocket), it's hard to believe all the traditional media will die out.

Myth #4: "Joining the conversation" with your customer trumps white papers and case studies

Do you converse with your potential customers on Facebook? Many companies do, but is Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest the first or last avenue your customers arrive at when pondering a purchase? For some companies, particularly business-to-business firms, customers don't base their purchasing decisions solely on the word of a blog or Amazon.com commenters (some of whom may be company shills). As vital as blogs and forums are in cementing opinions about products and services, many B2B buyers still need to download PDFs of product specs and white papers on product performance, and get first-hand confirmation of what to expect when buying in, if only to show their bosses that they've covered their bases.

Make no mistake. Traditional media has been undergoing a sea change for quite some time now. The way we did business 10 years ago is gone for good. Nonetheless, some clients still find value in traditional media for their categories. Smart marketing requires consultants and agencies to recognize this and not simply throw the baby out with the bathwater because they no longer believe in the tub.

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