I often get asked, “How does a marketer know when to rely heavily on social media and word-of-mouth and when is it time for mass media like TV?” Good question. Many businesses currently look at social media as a silver bullet because of it’s low cost compared to mass media like TV. Though affordability may be a factor, it shouldn’t dictate what is best for your company. I believe in doing things on purpose is better than doing things by default. Doing something because it’s cheap, well… just makes you cheap.
The key comes down to size of your footprint. If you are in several markets and have a good size footprint, then mass media becomes an important component to your marketing efforts. If, on the other hand, your presence is limited, then relying on social media to do the heavy lifting makes the most sense. When you are more localized, it’s easier to gather momentum through tweeting your special offers or blasting out to your facebook friends that there’s something cool going down at 7 p.m. tonight at your local retail outlet. Getting your customers who live within a 20 mile radius of your location to participate in something special is easily manageable with all of the current social media tools.
If your footprint is larger in size and you are in multiple markets, then mass media can be the primary tool you use to communicate to your customers to do the heavy lifting in your marketing strategy. Social media is still important, but not as a primary driver. It can be effectively used to supplement the main message and distill it down to the grassroots level. Social media becomes the grassroots interpretation of the overall brand message.
The danger of relying totally on social media is you leave out a vast majority of your customers who don’t regularly use it. Though there are millions who are on social media, there are tens of millions who only use it occasionally or hardly not at all. Why isolate many of your customers and risk them not learning or hearing more about your brand? The danger of relying totally on mass media is you can’t effectively communicate to the mass of niches that are your varied customers. Each niche needs to hear something different along side with the overall brand message. This brings the brand message to life and makes it relevant to them.
When it comes to knowing whether social media or mass media should do the heavy lifting, remember the old saying… size matters.