Social media advertising vs. mainstream media online advertising: advertisers weigh in

Like mainstream media, social media platforms have been dabbling with native advertising. Facebook and Twitter are both fans of the sponsored ad, and LinkedIn has gotten into the craze as well. According to USA Today, which cited eMarketer, LinkedIn is expected to double ad revenue from $376 million this year to $763 million in 2015. It would seem that both social media and traditional media are vying for online ad dollars. So what do advertisers prefer? inVocus spoke with a number of professionals in the advertising and marketing world, and social media advertising came out on top of the list. And yet, there are some who argued that both are equally important in this digital landscape.

Alan Blashaw, director of sales and marketing, Grizzly Group LLC

“Social networking platforms, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+, are, and will continue to be the most effective advertising channels available. Traditional mass market advertising is struggling to compete with social media for the following reasons: Traditional advertising is not engaging. How many times have you checked your Facebook account from your phone during a TV commercial? Traditional ads fall on deaf ears. Why waste time and money advertising to people who have absolutely zero interest in your product or service? Traditional advertising is expensive. Having a basic presence on social media is free…Measurement—it is more difficult to measure ROI of traditional marketing campaigns and strategies.”

Andy Groller, director of digital advertising, DragonSearch

“Given the amount of new social platforms being launched and the need to monetize those platforms, we can only expect more opportunities for targeting niche audiences on those platforms to pop up, which is great for us as marketers.

Social advertising certainly has the capability to beat out other types of advertising such as paid search, banner advertising through various ad networks and other forms of online advertising. The real question is the goal(s) associated with each of those vehicles. Are social ads being used primarily for lead generation/sales, or is their goal more towards building a community that can be actively engaged through ‘normal’ social media activities such as tweets, page posts, etc? If social ads are trying to achieve the same goals as other online advertising channels, for this example we’ll say leads, then it’s imperative that the entire conversion funnel is optimized for each channel, especially social ads.”

Claire Celsi, director of public relations, Lessing-Flynn

“I think there’s a place for both, but it depends on your audience and the objectives of your campaign as well. For example, our agency does a lot of ad buying for agriculture clients. Our research shows that many rural residents still depend on printed publications for news and information—rather than in a
digital format. So, we continue to buy print ads in those popular ag publications. But, we also realize that a segment of the population uses social media, so will adapt the ads for social or digital as well.”

Eric Schumacher, managing partner, Picture Arizona, LLC/SpinArizona

“I think it depends greatly on your budget, your product and who your target audience is. I’d recommend TV advertising for almost anyone IF they can afford it. Social media advertising is a lot less expensive, however, and a lot more direct. It’s more difficult to navigate social media advertising and more difficult to reach a broad spectrum of people. but it’s fantastic for the small advertiser to reach a specific group of people and get valuable data on the effect of the ad. As it evolves, I think social media advertising will replace TV advertising. Magazine advertising and radio advertising will probably still exist, but will go mostly online, and online radio and magazine ads will likely be blended with social media campaigns. Long story short. For the small advertiser it may be the best option, especially if your target market spends a lot of time online and your product is accessible online. In the future, I think it will be the most common form of advertising.”

Eszter Kiss, director of marketing, 1928 Jewelry Company

“Here at 1928 Jewelry, we use both. The company has traditionally been advertising in magazines (e.g. Accessories Magazine) that are aimed at retailers and buyers of department stores. While we still continue to place ads in those types of media and attend trade shows, we’re also developing our online platform. Since our online sales primarily aim to reach the consumers directly, we use PPC ads (Google Adwords, FaceBook ads, etc.), as well as the regular social media channels (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, blogging, etc.).

For our company, it’s not an either-or, because we have two very different buyer profiles: B2B and B2C. That’s why we’re using both traditional advertisements and social media ads.”

G. Keith Evans, communications director, MyUS.com

“Social media and mainstream advertising are two distinct marketing channels that are effective for different types of businesses. Social media advertising is really the hyper, over-caffeinated evolution of word-of-mouth advertising. Instead of telling one or two people about a good experience somewhere, customers and brand advocates can now tell hundreds of friends about your business in a few seconds and with only a few keystrokes.

For online businesses, a focus on social media advertising works very well for quickly and effectively spreading the word. For more traditional businesses like stores and restaurants, social channels work very well as a supplement—or low-budget alternative—to mainstream advertising that quickly gets the word out to tens of thousands of prospective customers.”

Kim Lawson, owner, OohLaLuxe.com Fashion Boutique

“I recently relaunched my shop, and I now use social media advertising for about 80 percent of the advertising budget on my shop, and it has worked out extremely well for me. The other 20 percent of that budget goes towards advertising on fashion blogs, but I have found that paid advertising on Instagram brings in the vast majority of my sales, with Facebook in second place.

Whether it beats out mainstream advertisement definitely depends on your niche. For my particular niche, traditional advertising doesn’t convert. Although Instagram isn’t a good match for non-lifestyle products, I would say any business can benefit from advertising on Facebook, since there’s such a wide variety of demographics present.”

Mike Poller, Poller & Jordan Advertising

“Social Media will not replace what you call ‘mainstream advertising.’ Like so many things in life, we need to find the optimum balance of social and offline advertising. The balance will be different for each business. Now more than ever, advertising needs to be thought of as an ongoing trial/error/optimization (iterative development) process, not a set-it-and-forget-it campaign ‘spend.’”

–Katrina M. Mendolera

Katrina M Mendolera

Katrina Mendolera took the helm of inVocus as editor in chief in 2009, and has been running the site ever since. She initially joined Vocus as a senior media researcher for newspaper content in 2007. Prior to that, Katrina worked in daily and weekly newspapers. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is also an editor with Booktrope Publishing and the author of Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga). Email: krandall(at)vocus.com.

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