Social Media or mass media?

Services for Real Estate Pros


FEBRUARY 25, 2015

MediaSocial media campaigns seems to be getting the bulk of attention in marketing and communication budgets these days, but I would argue that mass media still packs a far more potent punch when you are trying to build a brand or generate top of mind awareness among a mass audience.

Skeptical? Let’s look at some numbers.

Super bowl advertisers paid as much as $4.5 million for a 30 second spot this year – a new record – to reach 114 million viewers. That’s just over 4 cents a viewer. In 1993, advertisers paid $850,000 to reach 90 million viewers, just under a penny per viewer.

That means advertisers are spending more than four times as much to reach the same number of people today as they did in 1990. Even adjusting for inflation, advertisers are spending three times as much: $850,000 adjusted for inflation is just over $1.5 million.

Why? Because today there are very few opportunities to reach more than 100 million people with a single 30-second message.

First cable television, followed by the Internet, brought in a wave of fundamental change in how we use media. We have gone from an age of mass media to the age of media choice, being able to consume precisely what we want, when we want to see, hear, or read it.

My thesis in grad school was about how the impact of cable television was going to fundamentally change how we consume media, as channels would continue to fragment a mass audience, delivering narrow topics to appeal to specific market segments.

Later, the Internet and social media would accelerate that trend in a profound way.

The result: Broadcast television has watched its total audience shrink, despite a growing U.S. population: 11 million fewer viewers watch broadcast television in the last decade.

Recently, the head of Netflix predicted broadcast television would die by 2030.  And I see a lot of my colleagues reacting by focusing away from mass media and more toward social media.

I think you have to remain focused on both today, and for a very long time still to come.

Because a funny thing happened on the way to mass media: It’s still the only game in town to reach the biggest audiences.

Advertisers know that, and that’s why they still spend big dollars on mass media: Where else can you reach an audience the size of the Super Bowl that has the same demographics?

And there is this: Mass media still produces some of the best content available anywhere.

Ask yourself, when you read Google News and look to click on a story, are you more likely to click on a link from a mass media source or one from a blog? The truth is most people will look for the trusted mass media source.

That’s the key reason I still believe mass media firms will be around and vital for any communicator for many years to come: They often control the best quality content.

You see I think consumers are a lot smarter than they are often given credit. I would argue we are at the dawn of changing from “content is king” to “quality content is the thing.”

These mass media companies that have survived just might be the ones who really thrive, not die, in the future, because they produce the best quality content.

Think what happens to these big media companies when consumers move away from the “just okay is good enough” philosophy when it comes to content on the net to demanding only the good stuff.

Moreover, mass media companies are repurposing their content everywhere and as a result, and have often become a powerhouse in social media.

I think these trends are happening already as indicated by these numbers: The New York Times has over 15 million followers on Twitter, 9.2 million “likes” on its Facebook page, and a 100 million-plus views on its YouTube channel, and it’s a newspaper.

While it would be pretty phenomenal to have Justin Timberlake with 41 million followers send a tweet out about your firm, what are the chances of that happening, versus getting a story in the New York Times?

One New York Times feature could end up reaching 1.2 million printed newspaper readers and another million through their digital version.

The Times then tweets out your story to reach another 15 million people. Then, one of the major television networks – which often get story ideas from the Times – does a piece.  Radio stations pick the story up from the New York Times news service, and pretty soon the momentum in social media and mass media have combined to deliver more coverage than the all-powerful Timberlake.

More importantly, unlike a JT tweet, your story endures: Google keeps it alive and accessible for millions more to read in the days, months, years ahead.  You post a link to the Times story on your website, share a reprint with key customers, leveraging this one piece again and again.

That’s why I am not willing to give up on mass media.  I think every budget can get a lot more bang for the buck by making sure that mass media remains a core component when you are looking to build a brand or maintain awareness.

Do you have a mass media strategy and is it part of your PR plan?

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Comments (23)

Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

This is a meaty and relevant subject. Consider doing a series. thank you

Sep 06, 2015 12:10 AM
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

I wonder! While a large budget Superbowl commercial does get mass attention, I would think that the smaller budget ads on FB aimed at people who are identified as targets might be more "point of sale"? I don't know. My marketing degree was a long time before Internet

Sep 06, 2015 12:55 AM
Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Doesn't mass media strategy equate to mass budgets? And aren't the chances of the NY Times featuring one of my stories pretty slim?  Sounds intriguing but difficult.

Sep 06, 2015 01:45 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

I will vote it as mass media.......

Sam Shueh

Sep 06, 2015 01:52 AM
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Real estate is local so mass media does not fit in my marketing plan. I agree with Netflix that broadcast tv will be dead by 2030...if not sooner. The reason is the content. People want more than laugh tracks, and tv news "shows" that are pure sensationalism. I studied mass media in college so I know. 

Sep 06, 2015 02:34 AM
Frank Castaldini
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Realtor - Homes for Sale in San Francisco

The best business is from those who know you and refer you. Yet building brand recognition does suggest mass media, at least to the market you are serving.

Sep 06, 2015 02:36 AM
Jerry Lucas
ABC Legal Docs LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Notary Training, Consulting. Colorado Springs, CO

I have a local market, so national mass media is not suitable for me.  For the local mass market, I see mostly personal injury law firms with frequent TV ads during local news programs. 

I look forward to the day when we cut the cable and can watch our favorite programs on mobile devices wherever we go.  Many radio stations are already online, but not many TV stations, except for local news.

Sep 06, 2015 03:51 AM
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

I agree with Pamela Seley. Real Estate is local. If I were to run commercials I'd run them on local shows and local news broadcasts. Not nationwide broadcasts.  

Sep 06, 2015 07:59 AM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

     Interesting polemic, Kevin.  But what about the fact that people are "un-plugging" from Cable TV at a staggering rate?


Sep 06, 2015 01:10 PM
Olympus Executive Realty Inc.
Olympus Executive Realty INC. - Orlando, FL
Home Of The Top Producers

Congrats Kevin on your featured blog, hopefully you can keep them coming, topics that are featured take blogging talent!

Sep 06, 2015 01:24 PM
Sham Reddy CRS
Howard Hanna RE Services, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

Great statement:

Social media campaigns seems to be getting the bulk of attention in marketing and communication budgets these days, but I would argue that mass media still packs a far more potent punch when you are trying to build a brand or generate top of mind awareness among a mass audience.

Sep 07, 2015 03:21 AM
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F

Social media is definitely a great trend but it is just one form of advertising of many.  We still run magazine ads in our local Homes & Land and get tons of calls and emails.  It still works. 

Sep 07, 2015 07:55 AM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Social media serves to enhance mass media - we need both. Cable companies are going to have to wake up and become competitive in their pricing.

Sep 07, 2015 11:02 AM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty

Mass Media - Radio, TV, Print - definitely drives additional transactions and brand awareness.  The only caveat to that is - don't treat your clients like schmucks and attempt to convince them that your "spend" on mass media will get their listing sold, it won't.  It purely and simply drives future additional busines totally unrelated to any specific listing.

Sep 07, 2015 01:04 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I think you make some good points.  I really had not given much thought to these things.

Sep 07, 2015 01:36 PM
Chris Mamone
Keller Mortgage - Tacoma, WA
Senior Loan Officer

Long post! Social media I've come to find is becoming like junk mail. We get way too much of it and its not very relevant most times. There are companies now just auto sending generic social media posts that don't relate very well to who they get blasted to. Not a fan. I like AR over FB anyday of the week. The meaningful conversations are what facebook is missing out on.

Sep 07, 2015 02:13 PM
Kevin A. Guttman-Author, ReverseMortgageSpecialist
NMLS #384936 - Colorado Springs, CO


This is very interesting.

Thought provoking.

Thanks for sharing.

Sep 08, 2015 12:16 AM
Darren Copeland
Leader One Financial - Lee's Summit, MO
Darren Copeland

I think social media is the new mass media! that's why we use YouTube so much, it's free mass media!

Sep 08, 2015 06:01 AM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Kevin Hawkins Real Estate still remains local - and good news is, Local Social Media and Mass Media are very close to each other because of the neighborhood sites like Patch etc. Not to mention social media can penetrate local market with targeted ads.

Sep 08, 2015 04:06 PM
Mery Fernandez Empire Network Realty Luxury Brokerage
Empire Network Realty INC. - Orlando, FL
The Rise of An Empire, Let's Build Yours!

Hello and congratulations on your featured blog post! Well done and hope to see you have many more featured post.

Sep 09, 2015 11:59 PM