The trouble with social media

The integration of social media agency The Population into C4 Digital has fired up discussion around niche agencies. It kicked off with this outgoing remark:

Population boss Tony Thomas told Mumbrella: “There is still a gap in the communications landscape between the opportunity versus marketers’ budgets. Social media continues to play a growing role in the digital mix, however it is still a relatively small part of the marketing budget.”

Social media agency The Population to close | mUmBRELLA

So are agencies focusing on social media doomed? What challenges are they (ahem – we) facing?

The extra mile

Pitching social media comes with an extra step to the agency pitch with a timeframe determined by the client. Instead of launching straight into why the agency can best fulfil a brief we’re often having to prove why social media should be in the marketing mix. In a year when budgets were slashed to the bare essentials, those hoping to steer allocated pennies towards a new (and therefore unproven) channel have faced an uphill battle. It’s a long, hard road but a smart strategy (for the agency not just the client) has every opportunity to influence the shift in spend towards social media.

The industry’s poor cousin

When I made the move from client side to agency life I thought I’d finally be free of the constant need to prove myself to internal business units. Fat chance. The industry snark against the legitimacy of social media as a viable marketing channel will most certainly continue. I often wonder how the vocal critics would fair in a corporate environment where 95% of the company think just as little of their discipline. Or in some cases how they would cope with coughing up hard metrics to earn their share of the budget instead of relying on “we’ve always done this”.

The bandwagon

It’s a common roadblock. “Isn’t this all just a fad?” Well yes, plenty of these platforms and applications will be just a flash in the pan. The fact that customers are looking for a different way to communicate is not a fad. And if they want to change their mind every 6 months on how they want to do that, we should be finding a way to adapt to that, not stick our heads in the sand and hope like hell it goes away. That’s why in a constantly changing environment, agencies that specialise in social media will be able to guide their clients through this (r)evolution [or whatever the gurus are calling it these days]. Because we live and breathe this stuff. Right, @ScottRhodie?

Disclaimer: I work for Daemon Digital, the digital communications arm of an integrated comms agency so of course I’m going to believe there is a need for niche social media agencies. Hopefully you’ll see more reason than bias in my argument.

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~ by mandi bateson on December 8, 2009.

3 Responses to “The trouble with social media”

  1. Well put. I don’t think there’s doubt that social media needs to be in the communication mix. That’s a given and progressive brands realise this. The struggle is HOW it fits in the mix. I’ve seen SM agencies work well with other comm agencies (PR, creative, media) and I’ve seen other full service agencies deliver well rounded comms. All I realise at the moment is that SM marketers can’t sit in a room by themselves and bang out a campaign. I’m not sure that anyone has nailed how to integrate this into an agency/client structure.

  2. Hi Mandi – this is a thoughtful post and well-written. It is challenging having to prove all that to every client every time.

    You have to prove the new, relatively untested channel, to a company or business who may not understand or believe, with probably little or no insight into how they communicate or build community with their customers now with tools that may change in 6 months – and then have to do it over and over.

    It’s a labour of love and diligence and heavy in data and analytics (kind of like SEO – heehee). I tip my hat to you for articulating it and being honest about the challenges. But I imagine you still go to work and dig in with gusto to offer your awesome services to clients.

    It’s people like you who will weather these times and come out stronger and smarter (though you are both now).

    Cheers – you always inspire me to think!
    Kristin Rohan

  3. @Nath your reply has had me thinking all week – I think SM marketers can do a campaign without PR, creative and media. They achieve very different objectives though and plenty of campaigns seem to be trying to achieve impossible objectives through social media alone. And then that’s giving the medium a bad reputation. On the other hand we’re definitely looking to meet with agencies in other parts of the mix that we can work with in the future and go to a client with a hot shit team for all their needs instead of working with what they give us. Hopefully that will have a positive impact on the agency/client structure.

    @Kristin it’s very similar to SEO indeed, can you imagine if someone tried to optimise their content going on the way it was done 5 or 6 years ago? At the same time, that’s exactly what draws me in – the fact that I am in a continual learning cycle and will be for my entire career. Love it!

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