I begin with a disclaimer. This is an opinion piece, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I currently work in online marketing but most of my experience is in traditional media.
If we frame this comparison in terms of the message and its delivery, and tracking the costs, I feel it simplifies our comparison.
THE MESSAGE: With traditional media, you develop a message which you have full control over. The development of the message may have a cost associated with it. There may also be a cost to take that message and prepare it for use in the form of media chosen. For example, there could be substantial costs to create a television commercial. With new media, you don’t always develop a short form message which you control. This is especially true of social media. To do this well, you participate in the community, engage in dialogue with the community and you put your message out there and let the community take control.
DELIVERY: With traditional media you pay to have your message delivered to potential customers. The delivery is the largest expense in this model. With new media, the delivery is very inexpensive, perhaps even free.
TRACKING COSTS: On the surface, new media looks like a way to save a great deal on marketing. If a business is to do social media well, it requires a substantial commitment in terms of time. To do well in this space, you need to be providing compelling content on a regular basis. Creating content can be very time consuming and the community decides if it’s compelling. Unless the content is created by a teenage daughter or son in their spare time, the time devoted to managing your profile online is a cost. Imagine a situation where a one person operation is just starting out and the individual has nothing but time on their hands. They spend large amounts of time creating and managing their online presence. The busy business owner that is straining to manage a growing business doesn’t have the same time to devote and may end up with an inferior online presence.
CONTROL: The last consideration in today’s piece is the control issue. Are you comfortable enough with your offering and the community you participate in to give up control. I am not saying giving up control is bad, it’s whether you are prepared for this. Losing control is not something every business owner can do. If you can, and the community trusts and embraces you, this can work wonders for your business, just know what you are getting into.