Traditional Advertising vs. Social Media Advertising

by | Dec 30, 2020 | Digital Marketing, Social Media Strategy

When it comes to traditional vs. social media/digital advertising, choosing the right one for your business can be as simple as making a comparison/contrast between the two. Long gone are the days of only choosing between print, radio, television, direct mail, and so on. Social media marketing offers more reach and opportunity for anyone who desires to go that route with little to no spend. But what exactly are the two in technical terms, and how do they differ?

First, let’s discuss the basics: traditional marketing is marketing and advertising funneled through more traditional mediums such as television, print, radio, and billboard. Digital or social media advertising is marketing and advertising online. This includes the ads you encounter on social media platforms, as well as websites.

Both are effective and have the common goal of increasing brand awareness and winning over customers, but their differences are significant. Let’s talk about cost, measurement, engagement, and convenience.


The metric used to calculate the cost of advertising for the business owner is cost per 1,000 website impressions (CPM). The average CPM for social media advertising falls around $2.50 per thousand viewers, while the average CPM for traditional advertising not only varies depending on the medium; it can also be significantly higher. On the lower end, billboards come in at $5.00 CPM, while television hovers around a whopping $28.00 CPM.

Even more costly than television is direct mail, coming in at $57.00 CPM. This is HIGH! The reason is simple: Direct mail targets specific customers at their home, office, etc. The chances of a customer seeing an ad mailed to their home are much greater than any other medium due to the specificity of the target. But the chances of them also throwing it out is also high. I mean when’s the last time you saved a direct mail postcard or coupon. Noodle on that for one hot second.

Instead of paying top dollar for a direct mail campaign where you’re not sure the messaging it quite right, I encourage clients to give social media advertising a go first. Why? It allows you to test messages and offers for WAY less moolah, while still serving it up to a targeted audience.

Specific target audiences is what separates digital advertising from those of traditional mediums. I’m sure you’ve noticed how social media advertising is becoming more tailored to your specific interests? Well, to put it in the least creepy way possible, it’s because your preferences, interest and online customer behaviors are being collected (insert eerie movie soundtrack here).

So, if you Google “penguin cozy socks,” you better believe that you’re going to know where to find them. Within a matter of seconds, ads for socks (or penguin paraphernalia) will start trickling into your social media timelines.

We could talk all day about the reasons or how-tos behind this, but that’s a convo for a different day and an entirely different blog post! Just know that the personalization of social media advertising is powerful and be the boost in your businesses bottom line and driving your ideal prospects to your digital doors.


When measuring how many eyeballs viewed your ad, tracking this with traditional advertising is much harder than social media advertising. The latter allows you to track everything from how many times your ad is shared, to pages viewed on your website, and the return on your investment in dollars and cents.


Social media wins the engagement battle. Social media allows for just that, ability for brands and companies to be social and have conversations with prospective buyers, answer their questions immediately, and give gratitude when purchases are made. This is something traditional advertising and marketing doesn’t offer…can you imagine TV commercials talking back to you?


The convenience of being able to advertise on social media is much greater than traditional advertising. It’s definitely more accessible and the cost for entry is low. All it takes is a few clicks of a button here and there to promote your brand, products, or service to well, the world (or at least the 2.6 billion on Facebook.) Traditional advertising methods are a bit pricier and often you have to involve a third party who has developed the media buying relationships and know-how to getting your ad placements finalized.

These are just a few of the stand-out differences between social media and traditional advertising. When it comes to choosing the best one for your business, it all depends on your goals and to be candid, your budget. In terms of cost, convenience, reach, and measurement, however, I would say social media advertising gives you more bang for your buck. If you decide to go the social media route, we’re here to help!