Venture capitalist Mark Kvamme says the words companies everywhere are longing to hear, and they’re in the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media: “If you can harness social-media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising anymore.”

It’s a really nice idea, isn’t it? But I think it’s dangerous for two reasons. First, it creates unrealistic expectations about what social-media marketing is capable of doing — and what social campaigns really cost. Second, if a company really bought into that line, it would risk missing out on all the powerful ways social marketing and traditional marketing can work together to strengthen a brand.

Kvamme is talking about a handful of specialized projects — all of which his company has a stake in — that lend themselves naturally to social marketing. I firmly believe all companies can benefit from using social tools as part of their marketing strategy, but it’s not always going to make sense to make social the focus, much less the only thing your company does.

It worries me when people tout social marketing as a cheap, easy marketing wonder drug. The truth is, social marketing isn’t well understood, it’s more expensive than it looks and it’s always a little bit of a gamble. When feckless optimism blinds us to these realities, it’s easy to become cynical about social media and blow it off as hype. If you want to be an effective advocate for something, you need to be honest about its limitations and challenges. Then, trust that there’s no shortage of reasons why it’s worth the trouble anyway.

Do you see social media as a total replacement for paid advertising? How are you making the case for social media in your organization? Do we need to confront the problems of social marketing in order to realize its benefits?

Image credit, Skyline, via Shutterstock

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18 responses to “Do you see social media as a replacement for traditional advertising?”

  1. Kavi says:

    You still are paying for advertising, just not in a traditional offline sense. You're paying for advertising that should be well focused, targeted, unique and friendly.

  2. Greg says:

    Social media does not depend on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. Social media has a broad scope, thus pretending to 'encapsulate' it inside those private sites (yeah, try to send a message to someone without being a registered user, and you will understand what I am saying).

    So, when you have to hire or contract the service of some experts related to any medium to develop a social media campaign, you certainly won't find a good consultant doing it for a 5 dollars.

    Its the same that email marketing has faced, although from a different perspective.

    Let them face the reality. If they think social media –and all people, tools and creativity involved in such 'industry'– is cheap, well, what can you do? Reality will be in charge to knock down them.

  3. Caryn says:

    Part of the mix? Sure, in some cases – maybe in a lot of cases. But saying or thinking that social media is a "mandatory ad buy" is a bit like saying that TV, radio, print and outdoor always need to be a part of every media buy. Knowing your target and where they are likely to make the best/most meaningful connection remains the most important factor.

    Secondly, let's remember that (most) advertisers are very slow to adopt to new approaches. In some respects, social media is "old news" already; mobile marketing – and its related applications – may have a greater impact on the bottom line.

    BTW, as a traditional and interactive agency vet, I do *not* think all effective advertising is measurable.

  4. Social Media should be part of your marketing mix… oh that overused phrase! Some poweful synergies sych as combining Social Media with e-newsletters and/or mobile marlketing… creating tie backs to your website.

    Right nowe most businesses are mistakenly going into Social Media from the tactical standpoint… it is like the phrase, " if your only tool is a hamer then every problem looks like a nail"

    For smaller businesses, I can see how a Social Media strategy can replace the many inefficient vehicles they have been using, such as local papers, coupon packs, etc.

    ALthough not Social Media, mobile marketing in its various forms can e extraordinarily effective for smaller businesses that are cosumer based.


  5. Robyn Kiddle says:

    Like a few of the comments above I also believe that Social Media is another part of the mix. It may be the 'darling' of the industry as it gains momentum, just as TV advertising was a few decades ago, but it will be surpassed by some other new wave medium. And as for its affordability – the key is in the ability to focus your message thereby making the cost per potential client much more affordable for many businesses.

  6. Scott says:

    Short answer: Why replace when you can make them work together with better results than either one could do alone?

    No, social media is not a replacement for traditional advertising. There are going to be times when only a traditional ad will do, depending on product and culture. If you're not willing to let go, then social media will never be useful to you. If you're not ready for risk, social media is not for you. And finally, if you're not willing to be patient and think in the long term, don't use social media.

    It's not so much the medium as much the mindset and technique that's so different with social media. Social media means allowing the corporate to become human, to make and admit mistakes, to react to its consumers, to reach out and ask "Hey… what are we doing wrong or right here?" and then actually listen to the answers. The biggest change in giving up control.

    Even if you have this mindset, even if you use social media perfectly — advertising HELPS. A good ad campaign will reduce the time to see results.

  7. DRP says:

    If Mark Kvamme had added just a few words and said – “If you work for a trusted brand, in certain categories, have a solid strategy and are fortunate with your timing, then you might be able to harness social-media marketing, and as a result be able to reduce your spending for mass media advertising” – most of us would have agreed. But then there wouldn't have been any headlines regarding his talk.

    Public and Private Social Media should play and important role in marketing. We all need to learn how we can use them effectively and pay careful attention to the public reaction. Too much over-hype of social media however, won't help.

    Doug Pruden, Customer Experience Partners

  8. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by THGBusiness: Do you see social media as a replacement for traditional advertising?: Venture capitalist Mark Kvamme says the wor…

  9. Brad Crowell says:

    Jesse, I feel your hesitation. I also completely agreed with Scott. Great call. Why replace one, when you can have both (or all avenues) working in tandem?

    It seems like blanket statement for struggling businesses to simply write off their marketing budget and saddle the responsibility on some poor SMM (social media marketer), whilst removing a powerful set of tools that said SMMer would compliment.

    While it is the SMM's job to bring transparency to the company and create that sense of consumer connection, it is also their job to manage the conversation – or create the conversation if there isn't one.

    How do you create a conversation? By creating content. That could be a contest, a viral video, a press release or even a clever ad campaign.

    When you have social media and traditional advertising/marketing working together, you make completely magnify your SM efforts. Think about this: buzz equals something to talk about. Maybe your "traditional advertising" is working with a PR company. Then the two sides pass the torch back and forth – while the PR company waits for the right opportunity for the next press release, the SMMer keeps the conversation about the last release going…

  10. […] Do you see social media as a replacement for traditional … […]

  11. Chris says:

    Social media is nothing more than another communication medium, just like email, telephone, TV, radio, telegraph, newspapers, and everything else that came before it. I think it should be used when it’s an appopriate tool for the job but nothing else. It’s not a magic bullet. Social media requires a significant time investment, and the signal to noise ratio is low. In addition, the social media landscape is very fragmented – there are hundreds of different networks, all of which are “walled gardens” where you can only talk to other people in the same network. It’s like if you had to have a different TV for every station you wanted to watch. This creates a lot of challenges when using social media marketing.

    There are some benefits to using social media but at the same time, there are lots of drawbacks and cannot see it replacing anything else any time soon.

  12. arturo riera says:

    Radio will kill print…TV will kill radio…social media will trump all advertising. "Going viral" is a euphemism for hitting the lottery. How many folks actually do? While it is true there is a shift of power from media/publishers paradigm holding the cards and cash buys the deck to a single individual with a bull horn being able to scale the planet, going viral is still alot like hitting the jackpot. Meg Whitman is killing her competitors and it is not becuase she is going viral. Buzz is one thing, true marketing that brings ROI is something else. You get what you pay for unless Will Farrel is willing to do your youtube video for free.

  13. Nordskar Oslo says:

    Social Media and/or traditional advertising? It all depends on what point in the lifecycle you brand is at, how much and to how many you need to sell your service. It's impossible for Mark Kvamme to insist that new media can kick out old media today. Sometimes, most times not. We all know that good marketing depends on many good efforts working nicely together. And don't be surprised if even good old TV advertising worked well for your project…!

  14. Ajay Tejwani says:

    Traditional Media dn social media are 2 sides of the coin and will need to work in harmony in all times to come. Please read my blog post on thie topic:

  15. James says:

    Social media can drive a lot of traffic, but it has a way to go before it’s as effective as traditional advertising. I think the best policy would be to adopt both into your marketing strategy.
    My recent post Security Issues on Social Network Websites

  16. it keeps changing from traditional to the new formate can someone help please

  17. I firmly believe all companies can benefit from using social tools as part of their marketing strategy, but it’s not always going to make sense to make social the focus, much less the only thing your company does.

  18. Social media is a very large area of communication.It is not depend upon any alone social site.Social media requires a significant time investment, and the signal to noise ratio is low.Radio,Television are come under social media.