The popularity of social media has risen dramatically since it’s introduction in the late 2000’s. It has revealed itself to be useful on not only a personal level but on a business level as well. Pew Research Centre found that nearly 65% of adults are now using social networking sites in America — a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade. This will play a huge role in an organizations communication strategy.
However, there is a certain rhetoric that is being circulated quite frequently that suggests the battle between social media and traditional media for business strategies specifically is an “either/or” alternative. This viewpoint fails to take in to account the different roles that these two media play. Bailey Roy, in the April 2016 Public Relations Tactics publication outlines the 5 major differences between the two media:
1. Social media reaches a maximum audience, while traditional media’s audience is generally more targeted.
2. Social media is versatile (you can make changes once published), whereas traditional media, once published, is set in stone.
3. Social media is immediate, while traditional can be delayed due to press times.
4. Social media is a two-way conversation, and traditional is one-way.
5. Social media often has unreliable demographic data, but traditional media’s is more accurate
With these differences in mind, it becomes more clear as to why an organization might choose to use print over their Facebook page or develop a social media campaign over a television campaign. The companies that are leading in their communication strategies are utilizing a merged social and traditional approach rather than thinking of them separately.
As part of my summer job back home I helped organize an annual barbecue for all of the County residents. Our County was essentially nonexistent on social media of any kind, in part due to not having a Communications Professional on staff and to a CAO stuck in the Stone Age. Our advertising for the barbecue had to then rely on the traditional media available, this included a dying town newspaper, a radio station nobody listens to and word of mouth. The old farmers that showed up reflected this. If we had not advertised using traditional media it would be unlikely that many of these people would have heard about it and showed up. On the flip side because we were not able to utilize social media we missed out on a large demographic in our County as well. This assessment is echoed by Roy, “There are places where social media cannot replace traditional — such as developing strategy for regions without strong online presences, or when self-reported demographic data will not suffice.”
The battle between social media and traditional media is therefore not a battle at all, but should be used in collaboration.
Social vs. Traditional Media: Has the battle already ended? by Bailey Roy in Public Relations Tactics Periodical