Social Media Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

Marketing strategies have a clear goal. The process behind building a campaign that gets a product or service in front of the right people, however, is a bit more complex. Thanks to the internet’s influence and the ever-evolving influx of apps and social media platforms, connecting with the target audience is far more layered than it was at the turn of the 21st century.

Those interested in pursuing marketing careers must understand the importance of creating strategies that can incorporate social media and traditional marketing, as the failure to do so can inhibit a campaign’s scope and limit its effectiveness. A key part of developing this understanding is becoming familiar with the differences in social media marketing vs. traditional marketing.

Marketing team discussing a campaign.

Defining Marketing Concepts

To comprehend the differences between social media marketing and traditional marketing, it’s vital to gain a full understanding of each concept.

Traditional marketing, occasionally referred to as offline marketing, entails any marketing strategy that was deployed before the advent of the internet. It incorporates tactics and strategies built around print, such as newspaper or magazine ads, mailers, and door-to-door fliers, as well as TV commercials and radio ads.

Social media marketing, on the other hand, is a key part of the overarching concept known as digital marketing — a blanket term typically used to describe online marketing strategies built around the capabilities of cyberspace. As its name suggests, social media marketing leverages the prevalence of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

The two concepts, when used together, can help marketing professionals build comprehensive strategies that maximize their reach to current and potential clients. A bachelor’s degree in marketing is a good starting point to better understand the concepts and to prepare for careers that rely on both approaches.

How the Concepts Are Similar

Traditional marketing and social media marketing strive to build awareness of a product or service. To that end, those who contribute to either type of marketing strategy focus on fostering public engagement. This could mean seeking out potential clients or maintaining trusted consumer relationships with existing clientele. Whether reaching out to new customers or engaging with current ones, businesses can implement organic marketing strategies that rely on word of mouth rather than overt sales pitches, or partner with outside parties to create paid marketing materials, such as news feed ads or advertorials.

It’s important for those using traditional and social media marketing tactics to be cognizant of the latest trends associated with the campaign’s desired target market. It’s equally important to know when these trends fizzle out, as deploying a campaign built on concepts on the wrong side of the cultural zeitgeist looks dated (consider an ad campaign based on Myspace outreach). Additionally, it’s vital to be culturally aware when building strategies, as mistakes of this nature can damage a company’s reputation.

To use these concepts effectively, those in marketing must have well-developed research and analytical skills. These competencies allow professionals to gain a thorough understanding of a target audience, which enables them to build engaging campaigns. Advanced communication skills are essential when presenting the vision for a marketing strategy to colleagues and stakeholders. Because marketers may be working on multiple projects simultaneously, they also need to have strong organizational skills. Marketing degree programs can help students cultivate these core competencies through coursework that combines essential marketing concepts with fundamental business principles. In turn, graduates are prepared to enter the marketing field at full stride and understand marketing’s role in a business context.

How the Concepts Are Different

While traditional marketing and social media marketing have the same goals, each concept approaches them differently. Some of this ties to the nature of the respective techniques. Social media concentrates on interactive social media platforms, such as Instagram, while traditional marketing targets offline media, such as television and print. Social media marketing allows for more fluid and personalized messaging, but traditional marketing tactics are usually more static with a broader reach of audience .

The two approaches also use key performance indicators, or KPIs, differently. KPIs are metrics that enable marketers to measure how successfully different kinds of outreach engage customers. Because of social media marketing’s interactive nature, it tends to use KPIs that measure connection with current customers, such as number of followers on Facebook. Traditional marketing, meanwhile, uses KPIs that measure customer growth, such as foot traffic to a retail store. Regardless of what KPIs are used, understanding the principles of KPIs requires a basic knowledge of business-related concepts such as economics and finance. A marketing degree can help students learn these vital concepts, which can ultimately help them build stronger overall marketing strategies.

Make a Difference in Marketing

Regardless of the type of marketing you pursue, you’ll play a vital role in extending a company’s reach and fostering its growth. The opportunity to create strategies to engage the public and influence behavior makes it a satisfying career in business, whether you’re building a campaign online or offline. Marketing is a growing and rewarding field, with marketing and social managers earning $50,000 to $65,000 a year according to November 2019 PayScale data.

Learn how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Marketing can help you cultivate the skills and competencies needed to make a positive impact on a company’s trajectory.

Recommended Readings
11 Modern Marketing Skills for Business Innovators to Master
Marketing Opportunities in the Future of Retail
What Does the Future of Advertising Look Like?

The Balance, “Traditional vs. Internet Marketing”, “Stand Out: 5 Ways to Combine Traditional and Digital Marketing”
Inc., “7 Simple Social Media Moves That Work”
Maryville University, Online Marketing Degree
PayScale, Average Marketing Manager Salary

PayScale, Average Social Media Manager Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “You’re a What? Social Media Specialist”

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