Marketo published an infographic (displayed below) arguing for content marketing (social media marketing) as the new rival to traditional advertising. While the infographic does a good job at exploring how folks use social media versus traditional media and how budget allocation for content marketing remains a small fraction of advertising budgets, what doesn’t come through clearly is the strategic and tactical implications of using social media versus traditional media.

Strategic difference of social media versus traditional media

Traditional media

Social media is really a paradigm shift or change in world view rather than simply a new set of tactics.

Traditional media relied heavily on a one-to-many paradigm — the brand creates a message and transmit that message to the masses through broadcast, print, radio, or signage. Traditional media is a one-way communication system that doesn’t create engagement or work toward promoting word of mouth — the hallmarks of social media.

Why should brands care about engagement and word of mouth?

Because consumers don’t believe brands.

Now, maybe at one point consumers DID believe brands, but they don’t anymore. Will that toothpaste make your teeth whiter, that laundry detergent make your clothes brighter, that fertilizer make your grass greener that competitors? After years of testing out your claims, we found too many of them lied, so we’re immune to your propaganda.

And, your generic message shows you don’t really care about ME and it doesn’t give me a way to talk back to you. I am a passive consumer of your message, which doesn’t really provide strong motivation for me to get out there and do anything, let alone buy your brand.

Because I can’t talk back, you never learned I would love your brand if it only came in a smaller (larger) size, a different color, or was simpler (had more features). You brand failed because you didn’t know what I wanted, so you didn’t give it to me.

Social media

Social media (done right) gives you all this because it’s inherently a two-way communication system.

Rather than getting brand messages, you get recommendations from friends in the form of reshares and recommended posts, which de-commercializes the brand message. De-commercialization, while a mouthful of a word simply means that brand messages no longer carry the patina of the brand, but reflect the endorsement of your friends.

Don’t believe me? An example may help.

If you’re old enough to remember when you used to go to the store to rent videos, you likely experienced de-commercialization. Remember, you’d wander aimlessly through the wall of new releases looking for something to rent. Someone (often a perfect stranger) would walk up behind you and recommend one of the titles. Now, even through you might not know the person, you give their recommendation serious consideration because you value their opinion a lot more than the movie studio or some professional reviewer.

Social media exists to create word of mouth advertising by encouraging reshares that not only amplify their message (thus increasing reach), but make brand claims more believable. And we know word of mouth is much more powerful than traditional brand messages. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers believe word of mouth more than traditional advertising.

Of course, this is nothing new. Marketers always knew word of mouth was much more powerful than brand messages. In the days of traditional media, however, you didn’t really have the tools to generate word of mouth. Sure, you could use catchy jingles and bizarre images in hopes people would talk about your brand, but generating word of mouth from commercials was hard to control, develop, and measure.

Ro Social Media Versus Traditional Mediato-Rooter did a great job when they introduced their “Pimped out John” — a contest celebrating the birthday of John Crapper (who invented the modern toilet). This contraption was so bizarre, folks couldn’t stop talking about it. The company landed gigs on all the morning talk shows and features in several business papers, as well. All that talk increased awareness for Roto-Rooter and kept them top of mind so folks needing a plumber thought about Roto-Rooter as an option.

But, how many times can you think up something so bizarre as a toilet equipped with a laptop, beer cooler, TV, and sound system?

Done right, social media consistently generates word of mouth.

Possibly best of all, social media provides analytics difficult to get from traditional media. When a brand broadcasts a message on network tv, they have little idea how well it worked. When a brand sends a message through social media, I know how many people saw my message, how many shared or endorsed my message, and how many sales resulted from my social media efforts. This control and accountability alone make social media a valuable tool for brands.

Tactical differences of social media versus traditional media

Actually, I have a post highlighting the 16 differences in social media versus traditional media that shows major tactical differences between the two.

Thinking social media simply involves posting traditional media on social networks is so wrong it’s laughable. Yet, every day I see brands doing just that. Their Facebook page looks like a series of press releases and Twitter is one self promotion after another. Efforts that use the tactics of traditional media in social media are doomed to fail.

Content marketing in social media versus traditional media

Traditional media

In traditional media, content marketing consists of messages that are carefully planned and executed by teams of highly trained professionals. The brand spends huge amounts of money crafting these messages and much more distributing them (the average Super Bowl ad in 2014 was $4 million for each 30 second spot).

Due to the lead time necessary for traditional advertising, brand messages aren’t very flexible — they don’t change often, media buys are committed far in advance, and brands can’t easily adjust to take advantage of new opportunities.

Content marketing

 Social Media Versus Traditional MediaContent marketing is often constructed on the fly, with a relatively short lead-time and flexible schedules. Even with a good content marketing calendar, flexibility to pop in a new message or replace an existing piece of content if it no longer fits exists. Of course, sometimes this backfires, such as when brands jump on a disaster by promoting their brand — see Gap’s epic failure.

Content marketing is you focused, not brand focused, which is a big difference between social media versus traditional media.

Creating content your target audience loves and curating content from other sources on a consistent basis is challenging and expensive. This likely accounts for rapid increases in spending on content marketing shown in the Marketo infographic.

Likely, the future holds more increases for content marketing and outsourcing more common just as most brands currently outsource traditional media. Content marketing is both art and science better left to those focusing full-time on such endeavors.

Read more: