Monday, April 20, 2009

Social Media vs. Traditional Media: Which is More Important?

By Philip Wocken

The latest craze in marketing is the use of social media to virally build brands. The craze is well deserved, too. When websites like Twitter grow 1382% from February 2008 to February 2009, it’s tough to ignore the craze. However, while 65.7 million people visited in February 2009, it’s important to remember that not all demographics understand that a “tweet” is different than the noise a bird makes and that a “wall” can be more than just a vertical divider. So the question becomes: “What’s more important? Social Media or Traditional Media?” The answer is both.

In a junior high physical science class, we scooped some sand into a jar. Next, we added a handful of rocks and had to try to get all of rocks to fit into the jar. It didn’t work. We then emptied the contents of the jar onto the table, and this time put the rocks in the jar first. Then, we poured the sand into the jar. Voila! It all fit. Puzzled, we asked the teacher why it worked the second time. He taught us that it was easier for the smaller sand to fill in the cracks between the larger rocks. When the sand was in the jar first, it was more difficult to squeeze the larger rocks between the sand granules. The teacher mentioned something about it being a rule of physics that couldn’t be broken. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but I do now. The same sets of rules apply to marketing.

Using the above example: the sand represents social media, the rocks represent traditional media channels; and the jar represents the client’s/company’s marketing budget. Often times the budget is predetermined and, as marketers, it is our job to make all of the marketing elements fit into that jar. The rocks provide a solid base that can be targeted in any number of ways. The sand fills all sorts of cracks: everything from reputation management, to promotions, to public relations, to cultivating a following of ultra-loyal brand ambassadors. In that science class, we had to use both the sand AND the rocks. We couldn’t use just one of the materials. The same goes for us as marketers. At this point, traditional media and social media strategies reach different niches, so both forms of media must be used. Fill up your jar with all of the right-sized rocks, and then generously add in the sand. Don’t worry, it’ll all fit.

Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached at http://BuzzBrains.Biz and he can be followed on Twitter @BuzzBrains.

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