Is Social Media Marketing a Threat to Traditional Advertising?

The popularity of Social media has significantly increased in the last 5 years. The reach of Social...

The popularity of Social media has significantly increased in the last 5 years. The reach of Social media has increased enormously as more people are getting active on social networking sites. Social networking sites have spread across the globe by offering free text, video chatting and other interactive services. Facebook has already crossed 1.44+ billion users worldwide. Twitter has more than 300+ million users, LinkedIn has 380+ millions users and Google+ has 540+ millions active users.

Is Social Media Marketing a Threat to Traditional Advertising?
These figures have proved that social media can’t be ignored if we want to reach a mass audience. Marketers use different offline advertising media like TV, Print, Radio, Outdoor, etc. They spend heavily on these advertising channels to reach their mass audience. However, they now acknowledge that the social and digital media have grown and spread across the globe and that these media are as important as traditional offline media.

We can reach users through various social media channels:

  • Social Networking Sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.)
  • Blogs (Own, Third Party, Guest Blogging Sites etc.)
  • Articles (Third Party Sites)
  • Forums
  • Question and Answer Sites
  • Press Releases (Free and Paid)
  • Review Sites
  • Video Distribution
  • Image Sharing
  • Social Bookmarking

Why social media is important?

Social networking sites are more popular in the metro cities in India. But the popularity of social networking sites is also growing fast in rural areas. In India, 78% of people live in rural areas, whereas only 22% people reside in urban areas. As per the latest survey, 150+ millions users are active on Social Media from India. If the Internet and smart phones penetrate into rural India then this figure might change to 300+ millions. This is why Facebook is trying to make the Internet free in rural areas of India by using solar-powered drones. They want the internet to reach all rural areas so that they can get a wider reach across rural areas for advertising. We can target users on social media by using their age group, interest, designation, qualification, topics, geo location, mobile devices, remarketing etc. But, this is not possible to do via traditional advertising media.

How social media helps business?

Suppose Motorola is sharing information of their latest mobile devices on their official sites, blog or social media profiles. This creates a one-way communication with users. Ideally, they should create a two way communication on social media, as it is the best media to get real time consumer reviews within minutes. We can access review sites, social networking sites, blogging sites to check the features or performance of the mobile devices. Some users first post their mobile phone or any other services on their social profiles to get instant replies from their friends. Users then decide which product or services to buy and from whom. We don’t have to invest a single penny on social media, to get such responses and feedbacks.
Every business has to upkeep their social profile with company updates, to keep their users abreast. Social media forms a two-way communication with users. Users get the opportunity to provide their feedback and suggestions directly to companies. Companies then get a chance to improve their product or services. It has helped many companies to make their product or services innovative.

How Social Media Marketing is done for Brand Building?

It is not easy to build a brand on social media platforms. You need to invest some money initially to get likes and followers on official social profiles. Once you create a fan or follower database (greater than 100K) on social media profiles then you can run offers (discount) to get product or services-sale without investing money. If your fans or followers like your offer then the same offer will be visible to their friends and followers. In this way, social networking forms a link between a company and unknown users. You can’t do such a thing with traditional advertising as communication happens only one way.

Live Example:
AMEX i.e. American Express ran one campaign on Twitter for the Whole Foods Market. They asked users to use #amexwholefoods in their tweet to get a $20 discount on their next purchase of $75, at Whole Foods Market. This campaign got viral and AMEX got thousands of followers and Whole Foods Market’s sale increased significantly. This Twitter campaign benefited AMEX and Whole Foods Market together.

One of the traveling agencies in Mumbai ran a campaign on Facebook for brand awareness. They asked users to like their FB post and share it on their wall by tagging as many friends as possible. The user who tags the highest would get 2- day holiday package to Kulumanali. This campaign got tremendous response and the post got 100k likes and 10k+ shares. This brand was able to reach 2500k users on Facebook. The above two examples have proved that social media has massive reach compared to traditional advertising media.

Traditional Advertising Example: If you have 100 business cards and you give them to your friend for direct marketing – who then distributes them to all his friends. Your friend gives you the list of names and numbers, to whom the cards was distributed. Now you make calls to all 100 people who have your business card. In most cases, you will not be able to contact all 100 people who are part of your direct marketing network. Thus, it shows Traditional advertising has a limited reach. But if you would do the same thing on social networking sites then you would have reached up to 10,000+ people.

Let’s compare Social Media and Traditional Media:

Social Media Marketing Traditional Offline Advertising
Cost Effective Not Cost Effective
Monitoring is Easy Monitoring is Difficult
Can Reach Mass Audience May Reach Mass Audience
Custom Targeting is Possible Custom Targeting May be Possible
Cost Per Enquiry is Low Cost Per Enquiry is High
Can Target Users Through Income, Age Group, Location, Mobile Devices, Interest etc. Can Target Users Through Location, Interest etc.
Can Pause at Any Time Can’t Pause at Any Time
Real Time Optimization is Possible Real Time Optimization is not Possible


Social media marketing has become more popular worldwide and small businesses are also taking social media seriously as a marketing tool. Social media is free or partially paid and SMEs can invest some amount in social media to market their products or services online. Social media has widespread reach whereas traditional media has a limited reach. 

Marketers can market their products or services globally by effective use of social and online media. Cost per enquiry through social media is cheaper as compared to traditional advertising mediums. We would say that social media has become a bit of a threat to traditional advertising but can’t fully replace media like TV and Print, as they too have widespread reach. However, in the future, social media could be a real threat to traditional advertising media.

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