For quite a while now the thinking has been that “traditional media is low engagement with high reach & social media is low reach with high engagement”. I think this is false. I think that it should actually read “traditional media is low engagement with nebulous reach. Social media is high engagement with definite reach”.
Think of it this way. Just because a commercial pops up on my TV doesn’t mean I watched it. Just because an ad is placed in a magazine I bought doesn’t mean I paid attention to it. In fact I can’t tell you one ad for one product in the magazines (and comic books) on my coffee table right now. Nor can I tell you one commercial that played on Hulu last night except for the one that belongs to a client of mine.
However, I can tell you which brands I’ve actively shared content from recently. Content I actually shared with friends and drew attention to of my own free will. You’ll never see me rip a magazine ad out and take it to poker night to show my friends. But I will whip out my phone and show a funny video (even if it is a brand created video) at poker.
All social activities are measurable based on activity. Was I interested enough to actually click? What % of the video did I watch, etc. and I’d wager that recall rates with engaging content is much higher than recall rates from flipping through a magazine.
I’d also wager that if you were able to talk to every single person that an ad went out to via a “we’re in 10 million homes” traditional media, and found out what % actually saw it and of that what % it actually made an impression on (pun intended), and then compared that to the % of people who engage on a piece of content that got 10 million impressions, that the % would be quite similar. Because, when you’re putting an ad in a magazine with “10 million subscribers” that’s all you’re paying for. 10 million “impressions” and, unlike with the tracking in digital, you have zero idea if anyone actually saw your ad (unless they talk about it using social media that is).
I see the point people with this attitude are trying to make, but they’re also holding social to different standards. Traditional media costs millions to create and place. If you did the same with social content you could get far more impressions, targeted at EXACTLY the right people, actually know how many eyeballs saw it, and how many of those actually cared to enough to click, share, etc. All of which you never truly know when it comes to traditional media… unless they talk about it using social technology.
Social & engagement is just a representation of what’s actually happening in the real world. Even if it is scaled down due to a smaller budget than it’s traditional counterpart. The only difference is now that you actually know vs the “educated guess” that traditional media makes to come up with it’s subscriber and “impression” numbers.