Traditional Vs. Social Media – Chawm Ganguly

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“How can a couple of scattered Mommy Bloggers, between changing nappies, looking up recipes and playing Farmville spearhead your communication strategy? It’s simply ridiculous” said a hot shot ad agency executive – articulating the typical knee jerk reaction of “traditional media” to the emergence and growing influence of “social media”. There were immediate retorts, “it’s not about making pompous statements to the world at large, it is about engaging the true seekers in a conversation. What matters is what you are saying, not who is saying what.”

I personally feel that such a debate between the so-called traditional and the emerging social media of no purport. Simply because, it’s not the means that I am concerned about, focused as I am, on the end. That end being “conversion” – the translation of hits and traffic, of eyeballs and top of minds, – into sales. What drives sales, Rules. OK?

As a matter of fact, to me social media too is a platform to communicate with my target audience – my potential customers, just like traditional media is. I have spent most of my formative years using a variety of platforms – print, television, radio, outdoor media, events – to do so. The facts that needs to be highlighted here being that each of these mediums had peculiar idiosyncrasies that had to be understood and mustered so as to use it for full effect. Again, nothing was ubiquitous or all pervasive in its reach and each could deliver that much and no more in terms of reach. Thirdly, the cost to benefit analysis had to be done right so as to put the maximum power in the punch. The solution used to be in the right mix – how the client’s budget was used across the various mediums to communicate his message and maintain his visibility at the highest possible level.

The emergence of Social Media has not toppled this applecart as is being made out by various quarters. On the contrary, it has added more options (apples, if you may) to the basket. Instead of drawing lines of demarcation, I think we will all live easier if we look at the two types as complementary to each other. The job will still be to find the right mix based on the needs of the client, the target to be engaged and the costs involved.

The basic principles of advertising, communication, marketing or brand building are the same, irrespective of the medium. What changes is how these rules are implemented, customized to fit the vehicle so as to maximize the impact. If designing a hoarding was different from creating a television spot or pushing a press release and required people with different skill sets to maximize the connect in their respective mediums, new age communication too is no different. Here too, depending on the format, one has to mould the message to attract and arrest the attention.

If that be the case, then why are so many people shouting at the top of their voices? The answer like so many other things in India is cricket. Just like cricket has evolved from the leisurely five day test through the 50 over one day version to the swashbuckling 20:20 adrenalin rush, so has communication per se. From the traditional to the social, the media has become more direct, focused and on your face instant. In these days of instant gratification, technology has given us the tools that allow satiation the moment the need is felt. That is why, the android yielding crowd that throngs the 20:20 fixtures are hard to find in the test matches. They don’t have the inclination to witness the classic battle between the willow and the leather, having tasted the blood of power play, nor do they have the time to spend five full days in the ground. They are used to accessing news as it happens and will certainly not wait for the pleasure of the crisp morning daily telling their tales.

There is another important thing. A Sachin may be equally comfortable in all the formats, being a God of the game. But lesser mortals will find it increasingly difficult to adapt their game to the different formats, especially as the competition heats up with increasing specialization. Same is true for social media as well – over time, more and more people from the traditional media will become redundant as the readers switch their loyalties and move on to where the action is. The young will continue to replace the geriatric following the rules of nature.

Now does it make sense as to why so many old and wizened men are so concerned about the menace of social media? Well, that’s not cricket, gentlemen!