Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing in 2021

April 1, 2021


As a whole, we no longer see a TV commercial and think to ourselves, “Gee, that product must be as great as they say it is. I’ll go buy it.”

Instead we do our research. We head online and seek out things like customer reviews and side-by-side comparisons.

This says a lot about how we’ve evolved as buyers. It says even more about how companies need to be marketing themselves these days.

In the past, traditional marketing was the only way to spread your message (hence the “traditional”).

Today, digital marketing allows brands to focus their efforts on their ideal buyer and build a community around their product or service.

Maybe this comparison shouldn’t be titled “Social Media vs. Traditional Media.” Instead we could have called it “Past vs. Future” or “Obsolete vs. …”. You get the picture. For now we won’t worry about the title. Instead let’s dive into the comparison between the old and the new.

What is Traditional Media?

When comparing social media vs. traditional media, it’s a good idea to know just what you’re stacking up.

The category of traditional media is a rather large. You’re likely exposed to many outlets (if not all of them) every day. If you turn on the TV at home, listen to the radio in the car, or read a magazine at the dentist, you’re experiencing marketing through traditional media channels.

Your newspaper over morning coffee, those direct mail fliers when you open the mailbox, and every billboard you drive by on the way to work are all traditional media working their way into your day-to-day life.

They’re everywhere, doing their best to influence us with flashy ads and sales-heavy copy. But are they doing a good enough job? Are they influencing you in a way that builds trust with their product or service? Or are they just bombarding you repeatedly with the same message?

Does digital marketing and social media do a better job than traditional media? Let’s find out…

How Social Media Has Changed Marketing

When pondering the benefits of social media vs. traditional media, it’s important to consider the effect social media has had on marketing as a whole.

The world of marketing has changed in a major way and social media has played a significant role in that transition. I’ll be the first to say that we are all better for it.

Like a one-way SOS radio, traditional marketing meant broadcasting your message to as many people as you could afford to reach over blanket networks like radio and television.

Then came the sitting, waiting, and hoping. Hoping that the search party on the other side—the consumer—picked up what you had been broadcasting. Hoping that it had influenced them enough to buy what you were selling.

This was the only way and, for a long time, it worked.

Along came the internet. Social media was soon to follow. To make a long story short, there has been a monumental shift in the way that we conduct our day-to-day lives.

There are few places this shift had a more powerful influence than in communication and commerce. Consumers buy in a new way, and businesses sell in a new way.

Today marketing is more strategic, more effective, and in turn, cheaper. You’re also able to determine the digital marketing ROI, which makes the investment into social media much more valuable.

Brands are specifically targeting their ideal buyer rather selecting a broad market to bombard with their message. These brands are building relationships with these ideal buyers through increasingly powerful marketing strategies that foster trust in their product or service.

Speaking of trust—that most influential of emotions (when it comes to buying)—people used to believe advertisers when they made bold statements like, “our product is superior” or “it will provide you with this result.” This is no longer the case.

These days, consumers simply do not trust advertisers. In order to garner a buyer’s trust, you must be willing to bear your (brand’s) soul. Thanks largely in part to social media, transparency is paramount in today’s marketing world.

Trust comes along with the transparency of informative content that has the user’s best interest at heart. Content that’s backed up by peer reviews, which tell other consumers exactly what to expect from a brand.

Social Media vs. Traditional Media

Social media vs. traditional media may be beginning to look like a no-brainer comparison, but we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet.


Social media marketing is far less expensive. You’ll pay a fraction of the traditional media price to reach the same number of people (or more) and you’ll be reaching the audience you want. And we have the numbers to prove it….

The metric used in this assessment is Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions (CPM). The CPM of social media is less than $3. Radio comes in at around $10 and (big surprise) the CPM for TV is a whopping $28.


Traditional media uses a cannon to fire it’s message hoping to hit anyone that will listen (read, watch, etc.). Social media has the ability to target with laser precision.

Social media marketing allows you, if you so desire, to market strictly to women over 60 who live in Cleveland, are interested in skydiving, and were recently married.

This may not exactly represent your ideal customer but it gives you an idea of how specific you can make your marketing.


Social media marketing uses content to cultivate trust over time. Traditional marketing forces an opinion on a buyer in hopes that it will take if repeated frequently enough.

You can use social media marketing to give your ideal buyer an opportunity to learn everything they need to know about your product before they buy.

It also gives you the opportunity to foster relationships with them by including them in special offers (coupons, limited runs, freebies, etc.).


Social media marketing is a two-way street. You get the added bonus of hearing back from your customers.

Do they prefer that your product function differently? Should it look a certain way?

You can use social media to gauge interest in new geographic markets as well.

Make the Transition to Social Media

Social media vs. traditional media. The results are in. Social beats out traditional across the board.

Switching from traditional media to social media can be one of the most impactful things you decide to do for your business.

Social media gives you multiple outlets to market your brand efficiently and effectively. You may find that you need a full-scale Facebook Ads strategy implemented and continually tested and optimized. Maybe you’re ready for expert-level content marketing.

We’ll help you define your goals and implement the perfect strategy to make this your most profitable year to date. Request a Free Strategy Session today and take your first step toward a successful social media marketing transition.

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