Why Social Media is an Excellent Alternative to TV Advertisements

TV and social media, both increase awareness for brands. But do TV ads ever make you a brand loyalist or provoke you to share something about the brand with your friends, family, or colleague? I believe that social media is a far better play and return on your investment than TV advertisement. Think I’ve stirred up some controversy? Read on and join the debate. I want to hear from you.

TV ads start with the production of the commercial. Then you have to buy the sponsor slot. Take the cost and efforts that are poured into commercial production and create your own killer media for use in social channels. And for your companies that do not have the budget for TV ads, I’ll tell you what … you don’t need the pristine production required by TV for use in social media. But let’s first look at the marketing dynamics of television advertisement. (I don’t claim to be a TV ad expert, but I’ll layout some basics.)

TV advertising – for a long time has been marketers’ number one tool for reaching an audience. In the early days of television, shows were sponsored by companies and viewers saw commercial after commercial featuring the same product. Then things evolved a bit and Nielsen boxes allowed advertisers to target specific demographics. Different companies and brands began to purchase time slots for programs and in essence, share sponsorship. Cost of these time slots varies based upon the ratings of the program. Nielsen extrapolates a small audience sample size to estimate overall viewership numbers and advertising reach. The GRP or Gross Rating Points has been used to measure TV (and print and radio) advertising. GRPs are the product of % reach against a target audience multiplied by average frequency against that target (i.e. 15% reach x 4 frequency = 60 GRPs).

Television serves to increase brand awareness and brand reputation and in some instances drive a direct sale (i.e. Veteran’s Day $2,000 cash back incentive ends Monday). Social not only aims to increase awareness and brand reputation, but takes this one step further by its inherent interactive nature. When successfully implemented, it builds strong relationships between consumer and brand.

Television advertisement is designed around demographics and target markets. That is why you will see beer commercials on televised sport events as opposed to seeing their commercials on say, “Desperate Housewives.” Know where your target audience is and appeal to them there. When it comes to social media implementations, this is where so many miss it. They think they are done by simply putting up a Facebook and Twitter page and posting there. No, no, no. A complete social strategy must consider where the target market exists and congregates just as brands target their audience on specific televisions programming. In social media we call this Digital PR and Outreach as I recently covered in another article. You go to where the crowd is from the start, connect with them there, and then invite them to you social assets. There are two important points here: 1) You cannot just expect your prospect to come to you – you must go where they are and 2) engage with them there – it is about building a relationship.

Now it is true that the social media audience you sought to gain attraction and affinity for is probably smaller than that of the television audience. But let’s peel into a couple of layers here. First off, you can be much more targeted in your social approach and target exact prospects. For example, say your product is automotive. You can access forums, blogs, and portals that are specific to car content, discussions, and reviews. You can use social listening tools and determine where specific auto conversations are happening. You can identify influential people and sites. You can also expect your social activities to go beyond your captive audience. If you plan how your brand gets your owned media shared and also how you can win earned media, word of mouth marketing increases the number of prospects you reach. The mere nature of social media is social (how profound :)). Thus, you may actually reach a greater number of true vetted prospects than that which TV provides.

I realize many will view my stance on social media as being subjective. But come on now. Can you really rationalize TV advertisement over social media? In a nut shell, here is my take on why social media is a superior investment.

1) Cost – TV advertisement is substantially higher. In fact, it is prohibitively high for many businesses. Social media is something all can work into their budgets.
2) Reached Audience – Social media, when implemented correctly, allows brands to reach a higher percentage of the primary target market. Yes TV attracts a larger audience, but a high percentage of that audience is not all part of the desired primary audience.
3) Engagement – Relationship building hinges on conversations. TV is a broadcast vehicle allowing for only one way conversations. It is much easier to develop loyalty and advocacy via social media.

Early in this year 2011, economists predicted that TV advertising revenue in the U.S. would increase 6% this year as reported in the Los Angeles Times . But the summer was actually a cool off period for the TV ad market, and the growth pace actually tapered off to less than 2% for the year. TV ad revenue is expected to end the year at nearly $68 billion. While this is still a record, it does signal a slowdown and a reminder of TV advertising’s vulnerability. Furthermore, as DVR viewing increases, television ads will be seen less and thus the effectiveness of TV ads will diminish.

It is time to evaluate marketing spend on a number of activities and today I am questioning TV ad budgets. Has investments in TV advertisement ever been scrutinized to the extent that social media RIO has been? We have accepted TV ad effective measurement in terms of “share of voice” and GRP. I have drawn attention to the importance of social media measurement in numerous articles. (Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel and Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term just to name two.) Measurement is important and cannot be avoided. So yes … I think social media effectiveness can go toe-to-toe with TV advertisement effectiveness. I have outlined my rationalization. Now it is your turn to join the conversation and add your take.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, TV ads

15 responses to “Why Social Media is an Excellent Alternative to TV Advertisements

  1. A prime example of how powerful social can be is the latest Old Spice campaign, 1.4 billion impression (the majority of which came from social media platforms). That’s exposure you just can’t get on television.

  2. Bryan Brandenburg

    Nice article Steve. Thanks

  3. Jacquie

    Very strong argument Steve. Thank you. As a digital marketer working in collaboration with TV ad sale reps, I can attest that the biggest challenge is the old school media buyer. Clients should demand better.

  4. Great piece, Steve. I appreciate the reduced costs, more targeted marketing and ability to start true engagement in social media versus just pushing marketing content via TV. That engagement aspect is what also allows you to cultivate true brand advocates who become proactive with helping you get your message out.

    I wrote a post several weeks ago about “don’t get DVR’d” with your social media efforts because they become yet another form of interruptive advertising. Interesting that you point out that same scenario on why TV advertising (and radio spots) may not be the best approach for today’s consumer.

  5. Good article Steve! You point out some clear advantages social media offers: (1) Target, rather than spray; (2) Deeper engagement between brand and consumer; and of course, (3) good old cost effectiveness.

    May I suggest something more fundamental that is happening with social media? The traditional marketing model assumes a funnel approach – from awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, purchase… to loyalty. Traditional marketing programs and media vehicles were constructed to fit and support different parts of the funnel (eg, TV for awareness, promotions to drive trial, etc.) Social media is upending this model. An opinion from a trusted party in one’s social network can immediately trigger purchase! A social media strategy that can drive this behavior among consumers will change the way marketing gets done.


  6. I think that tv and social media can go hand-in-hand as well. For example, many people wouldn’t have known about the old spice campaign if not from tv, but social media is what made it go viral…at least from my knowledge.

  7. Efi

    excellent Luke You pointed out some clear advantages social media I like it.

    I dont think so that tv and social media can go hand-in-hand as well… is that ccorrect ???

  8. The key is that an ad is a broardcast, not a communication, which only happens when someone recieves the communicastion, understands it and does something with it. Social media is one on one, or at its best, can be, and that delivers engagement, person by person.
    TV is great to get the word out there, generate mass awareness, quickly, but does a lousy job of building real brand loyalty.

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