Social Media Marketing – How is it different from Conventional Marketing

“It’s not just about consuming content, but sharing it, passing it on, and adding to it.” – Arianna Huffington


Above Quote highlights the rapidly increasing significance of social media as a marketing platform. Gone are the days when you could come up with a teaser or celebrity laden ad on TV/Print/Radio and capture people’s attention. Increasing media clutter and reducing attention span ensure that the companies are literally fighting it out for you Mind and thereby wallet share. Firms don’t think twice before dolling out huge money for it and expect fair returns against the investment.

However neither they seem to be having a clear metric to measure the ROI nor can they discard it since their competitors would come down heavily on them, if the conventional marketing route is not followed. Conventional marketing therefore seems overloaded and cluttered compared to the social media space. The clutter however has started creeping-in into the social media space as well, for firms apply the conventional marketing principals to social media which obviously doesn’t do well some of them out there. This is not to say that basics of marketing have changed for the social media space; but our goals, expectations and more importantly the thought process has to be different for social media marketing. It needs to be seen more as a partner and less as an assistant.

Ignorance and failure by managers to understand the new paradigm of social media, has also contributed to the incorrect similarity between conventional and social media marketing. We have been trained in the conventional marketing space and many of the principals are no longer valid for social media marketing. This makes us uneasy and we move into the denial mode.

Following are some of the key differences between conventional and Social Media Marketing:

  1. Conventional Marketing is about Product, Social Media Marketing is about Users

The regular 7P’s of marketing talk about the product and tell you how it is better than the competition and then gets involved in the regular chatter. Social Media Marketing however focuses on user engagement and then expects it to be converted into final sales. You can’t go about endlessly praising your product in

Social media as people seek self-expression in the online space and you might be creating avoidable clutter on the name of product marketing. Effort should be to develop creative ways to engage users and positive perception about your brand rather than continuous and mindless throwing of content at users.


  1. Social Media Magnifies the Market Behavior

The intended impact which you may earn using social media could be way intense and effective than the one compared to conventional marketing model. People tweet, re tweet, post comments, raise questions and receive replies instantly in the online space. You could either be at the right side of things or experience a real shocker due to the negative publicity out there. Information literally spreads at the speed of light and escaping the heat is next to impossible, if things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to

Though Conventional Marketing has its own benefits, the flow of information among the users is minimal. People might have heard of your product, or seen an ad on the TV. But they rarely talk about the product in the way they talk of it in social media space. Social Media has a strong network effect which conventional media aspires for.


  1. Flexibility in Marketing Strategy

Due to its real time nature, the flow of communication between the user and the firm is uninterrupted. Required changes in your social media marketing communication strategy could be made in a short span of time, based on the online feedback.

For instance, you wish to promote your JEANS brand and start off with the Facebook page talking about the topic of fashion. You launch a contest and the winner is supposed to receive cash prize etc. People are talking about it and suddenly a user comments that instead of the regular cash prize, the winner should get a dinner with a celebrity. You see a lot of likes on the comment and realize that people are talking more about it. You now have the opportunity to change the offering and involve users further into it. This however would be really difficult to carry out in conventional marketing. The time lag involved would generally coincide with either product acceptance or failure.


  1. Real Time accessibility

You have got to be available online for the users 24 by 7. You can’t post a picture or article and then vanish for a day or so. A day’s delay in social media is similar to a month’s delay in conventional marketing. People wish to interact and talk about the product on a real time basis. They expect a reply in no time and the machinery should be ready to do so. For instance, it’s seen that users generally expect a reply within an hour from the firm related to a query or comment posted online

Conventional marketing however doesn’t necessitate such an action plan. This at times brings down the effectiveness of conventional marketing compared to the social media one.


  1. Social Media Involves evolving technologies and platforms

Gone are the days when companies would have ample time to prepare their responses to customer queries and present to the press. Communication now needs to be real time and accurate. A customer might know more about you than you know about the customer. Hence the marketing function needs to have the communication or content strategy ready all the time. They need to have certain basic ground rules laid out and communicate with a strong presence of mind. A word here or there could mar the prospects of the brand. The emergence of mobile application, review websites etc. have made it easier as well more difficult to manage the online marketing space.

Conventional Marketing provides you with the time lag to prepare the communication text and then interact. But then the lag makes it difficult to communicate timely and more effectively


Are the marketing strategies taught in B-schools becoming irrelevant then? Of -course not. The basics remain the same; however the application has to be different for social media when compared to conventional marketing. Ways of engagement in social media are very different from conventional marketing. It wouldn’t be wise to treat social media marketing as a subset of conventional marketing, but a necessary partner. Organizations and more importantly managers need to unlearn a few things and put on a different lens to capitalize the power of social media marketing.


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