16 Differences Between Social Media and Traditional Media

Major Differences Between Social Media and Traditional Media

These differences aren’t just interesting — understanding how social media is different from traditional media has a major impact on whether you’re successful with social media. Run your social media campaign like your traditional media campaign and you’re likely to see more damage to your brand reputation than benefit and you’ll waste a lot of money doing it.

   Social Media                                                                                 Traditional Media

Two-way conversation

Open system


One-on-one marketing

About you

Brand and User-generated Content

Authentic content

FREE platform

Metric: Engagement

Actors: Users/ Influencers

Community decision-making

Unstructured communication

Real time creation

Bottom-up strategy

Informal language

Active involvement

One-way conversation

Closed system


Mass marketing

About ME

Professional content

Polished content

Paid platform

Metric: Reach/ frequency

Actors/ Celebrities

Economic decision-making

Controlled communication

Pre-produced/ scheduled

Top-down strategy

Formal language

Passive involvement

16 Differences Between Social Media and Traditional Media

Highlights: How Social Media is Different

How social media provides value

If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that traditional media provides value through subsidizing content — free TV and radio programs, lower-cost magazines, and chances to win prizes. In exchange for this content or other value, we ALLOW advertisers to interrupt our day to tell us about their products.

The difference is that social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc — are already FREE. So, advertisers can’t expect us to allow them to interrupt us with commercial messages. I mean, face it, no one really LIKES commercial!

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So, the key to making social media work is to provide some other type of value — be it entertainment, information, support, or other types of rewards — in exchange for hearing your commercial message. And, the ratio can’t be 1:1. You HAVE to provide about 90% value to 10% commercial message. A good example is Taylor Swift. She shares cuts from her albums before they’re available in stores as well as insider information about music and bands.

Social media is ALL about community

Social networks increasingly replace more traditional communities and this is what draws billions of people into social networks and convinces them to spend significant time engaging in the social network. The trick of social media marketing success is to JOIN this community and harness its power.

So, rather than disrupting the conversation, join the conversation. Become an integral part of the community — someone everyone recognizes and welcomes because you share fun and interesting things with them. Guy Kawasaki is a master of this and employes a staff to find and share interesting images, videos, and news at Alltop and really interesting stuff is posted as “Holy Kaw”.

Use the community. Studies and experience show people engage more when they’re a part of something. So, ask the community to contribute content such as a cool video or suggestions for a brand name. For instance, I built a brand community on Facebook called my Social Media Marketing Tribe. Anyone can join and we share interesting tips we find, ask questions, get support for projects we’re working on, etc.

One on one marketing

While most advertising (traditional media) is designed for mass consumption, social media involves one on one marketing. That means the message should appear addressed to individual users. Hence, marketers need to understand their target market ON EACH NETWORK so messages appear tailored to the individual. While you may have a broad target market, the ones on Facebook may be entirely different from the ones on YouTube and adapting your approach in each network is key to your success.

What Do YOU Think?

  1. Do you see other differences between social media marketing and traditional media marketing?
  2. How are you achieving social media marketing success?

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Comments: 5

  • Amber King says:

    Great comparison Angela. Marketing has gone a long way, from one way to communication to customer engagement.

  • Ed Kish says:


    I am you this topic gave an emphasis to the world of communication and social media. I have posted this to my site and link it back to you.


  • Really great lists Angela! Definitely sharing.

  • Jesslyn says:

    The golden rule to social media success is to be transparent and honest with your customers. Companies can no longer hide any things anymore.

  • Roberto Villarreal says:

    The contrasts between social media and traditional media presented in the article are quite clear. I was further thinking if there is also another very important contrast: traditional media can be influenced/biased by corruption through bribery and trading in influence, whereas this is unlikely to happen -I guess- in social media. Any reactions to this from participants in the discussion?

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