At a recent presentation on the importance of social media, members of the audience asked some valuable questions regarding the balance between social media, like Facebook and Twitter, and traditional media, like television and print.

I think it would be beneficial to continue the discussion here. After reading this article, feel free to post a comment or send me an email with your thoughts.

Q: Why and when would you use social media?

A: Social media requires advertisers and marketers to completely shift the previous way of thinking. Traditional media is typically delivered through campaigns that have a definitive start and stop state. Social media doesn’t have an end date. It is an ongoing conversation between the advertiser and the customer.

The “why use social media” question can be answered in a myriad of ways. Put simply, social media is an easy and effective way to share, listen and gather valuable information with customers that are interested in your company.

Q: What are the differences between marketing with new media and more traditional avenues?

A: The major difference between the social media and traditional media is how messages are delivered and consumed.

Traditional media delivers a single message through one-way communication to the largest audience possible. It can deliver that message through any number of media, but that one message goes out while the advertiser waits and “hopes it sticks”.

Social media delivers several messages through two-way communication to an audience that is interested in the brand. Those messages may be delivered through blogs, Twitter feeds or Facebook posts, but the goal of each message is to generate a response from the user.

Q: What is the determining factor when choosing one media over another?

A: When comparing apples to apples in traditional media, the old metric was Cost per Thousand or CPM (M stands for mille. Why media went metric, we’ll never know). In social media, the comparison is more on the psychographics (who your target is) rather than demographics (where they are).

When comparing social media to traditional media, it gets more complicated. There is no magic bullet when it comes to media. You need to have a media strategy that includes research, execution and evaluation. By educated trial and error you will begin to learn what marketing mix works best for your company on your budget.

Q: How do you get started [in social media]?

A: Do your homework. Have an understanding of what each social media platform offers and how it can benefit your company. For example, a retirement community wouldn’t be very successful on a platform like MySpace that caters to a young audience. However, that same retirement community would benefit from a platform like Facebook that continues to gain significant members over the age of 60.

After you’ve selected your media, decide on what you are going to talk about with your audience. If you are only going to post your weekly specials, you’ll find that social media won’t be very effective. On the other hand, if you post specials and someone comments, a response to that comment will most likely increase readership. Always remember that social media is about listening and responding.

Q: How do you measure the effectiveness/ROI of a particular media?

A: Traditional media can be measured in a number of ways. Ratings and rate cards for broadcast or display media tell advertisers what they should expect. Redemption of coupons or store offers is the main way to gauge what media led to sales in traditional media.

Almost every social media has some form of analytics that include the number of users (friends, followers, etc) and a click through rate. Some sources, like Google Analytics, are free and go much deeper into who visited your site and what items they were interested in.

Q: How do you integrate traditional marketing tactics into new media? How would you alter the approach?

A: Promote your social media with traditional media. Traditional media works to generate new customers. It is not obsolete nor is social media the be all and end all of marketing. There needs to be balance.

Q: Do you use the same message in your blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc or do you change it up with each media?

A: Consistency is key. How you deliver the message is what will change. For example, say you have written a very long and informative blog post. On Twitter you could use the 140 characters to tease your followers into checking out the post. On Facebook, you could post a status update with a little longer description and a link to the post or you could simply put the entire blog into a note. For an email newsletter, you could post the first paragraph of the blog with a read more link. The blog post is still the same, but it’s the delivery that changes.

Q: How do you keep your message fresh when using multiple media sources?

A: Remember that social media is a conversation. The same way you keep a real life conversation fresh is the same way you can make your social media conversations fresh. Have something interesting to say. Ask people questions, then listen and respond.

Another way to keep the message fresh is to share things that may only tie loosely to your product or service. Social media is branding. Branding means personifying your business. Maybe the tone of your company is really inspirational. Why not post something inspirational to your fans and followers? Use the analytics to evaluate what your users find interesting and then keep giving them more of what they want.

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from your competition when marketing with social media?

A: If you think of your brand as a person and communicate through your social media like a person would, you’ll begin to see that no two businesses, just like no two people, are alike. Maybe that’s the biggest difference between branding in the traditional sense and branding in social media. Traditional branding forces an image onto the public. Social media lets that image evolve into something that people can relate to.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Absolute Marketing Group has traditional media buying experience and continues to be a local leader in social media. Contact us at 701-478-1111 and ask to speak with a Marketing Advisor or visit if you have any questions.