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.”
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”.
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.