Because it can touch everything from Communications to Marketing to Customer Service to Product Development, Social Media has created a muddied playing field that some see as ripe for creating agency opportunities …
Now the question for social media firms is whether they’ll translate the short-term demand for Facebook pages, Twitter campaigns and audits of social chatter about a brand into a long-term strategic business … Otherwise what they’re offering clients will quickly become the domain of established agencies in Public Relations, Advertising and Digital.
The jury is still out on this one
First of all let me state clearly that there is no silver bullet with regards to whether a Digital Agency or a PR outfit should be leading the charge when it comes to Social Media.
Furthermore, one size certainly doesn’t fit all when it comes to whether your company or organization should be utilizing Social Media or not, and if so with whom.
Going back to that quirky quote from AdWeek, it’s like saying, “we can help you build a Facebook fan page or a Twitter profile, but if you need a microsite or some banners to promote it, you’re best off calling a Digital Marketing agency.”
Newsflash: Social Media is Digital Marketing.
Sorry to break this news to the Social Media Gurus and social media agencies of the world. You can dance around this statement all you want … let’s face it: all Social Media strategy and first-contact happens in the online channels.
The results of that strategy and activity may filter through how an organization communicates, markets, handles after-care or customer service, but Social Media starts and lives in the Digital Marketing channel….
And, if it does live in the Digital Channel, but as a social media agency you can’t help your client also build both the platforms and presence online, what does that say about your skill level?
Let’s not make it bigger than it is.
Like a strong direct marketing strategy, advertising campaign or affiliate program, Social Media is one spoke in the marketing wheel (it just looks more shiny than the other spokes because platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are new and exciting).
In fact, Social Media is much more like a spoke in the Digital Marketing wheel. This doesn’t mean it should be diminished, but to think that a strong Digital Marketing shop doesn’t have the abilities or capabilities to lead Social Media is downright silly and unfounded.
A great Digital Marketing agency that truly meets the clients’ needs is one that can develop the digital strategy and then execute on it (the design, content, technology, marketing and communications).
It’s going to be interesting to see what unique offerings these social media agencies bring to the brand table that the Digital Marketing agencies were missing.”
Read the whole post and the comments over at Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel at Twist Image: Social Media Gurus – That Old Chestnut (Who Owns Social Media?)
Challenges for Businesses with regards to Social Media
It´s a scientifically proven fact that there’s only so much meaningful interaction, friends, interconnectivity, sharing, status updates and ReTweets one can take at any given moment in time.
And this isn’t even taking time management or life hacking into account; strictly speaking there’s (Dunbar’s number) a bio/psychologically maximum amount of social interaction and stimulus our brains can handle – be sure to keep an eye on the latest Oxford findings regarding this.
What this also means today is that people in general -becoming ever more acquainted with Social Media and most of its apparent benefits & setbacks- are increasingly critical about whom they connect, or “friend”, with online (quality/potential Vs. quantity). And, as a result, how much time they spend with them on any given social network.
The analogy goes that you could compare it to standing in a café socialising with friends and familiars; you wouldn’t appreciate someone breaking in the conversation or party (with a commercial message) without introducing properly first.
These developments have spin-off effects for your brand in this space as well.
Think about this for a minute.
Now, let’s take a look at the slight nugget called Legal, as Clorox has done:
That could help explain why the marketer has taken the unusual step of advertising for a full-time in-house legal counsel to focus on social media — a rather surprising sign of how entrenched social-media marketing is becoming even for relatively established household products.
Currently, having such expertise in-house and full-time at a marketer is rare, said Jack Greiner, an attorney with Cincinnati’s Graydon Head & Ritchey, one of the few attorneys on LinkedIn to list social-media as a specialty. “It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he said.
“Social-media channels are a growing focus for consumer communication and stakeholder engagement for our brands and company,” a Clorox spokesman said in an e-mail.
“As a newer communication channel, the application of existing laws to this medium is evolving. For those reasons and the rapid pace of communication in the Web 2.0 world, we’re seeking an attorney to focus on social media as well as talent rights.”
The primary duties, he said, are to clear and procure intellectual property rights regarding production and distribution of advertising, including Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Recording Artists issues, consumer privacy and video licensing.
Comment addendum by Antone Johnson:
Regarding social media policies, I think it’s helpful to divide the universe of communications into two distinct buckets.
The first category is the everyday online chatter by thousands of individual employees, which may or may not touch on the company’s business or products.
This kind of communication can and should be regulated by a well-thought-out social media policy, enforced by HR and/or IT in the same way they enforce other employment-related and IT usage policies. (A little training during employee orientation goes a long way.)
The second category is messaging from authorized corporate communicators:
Senior executives, PR, MarCom, Customer Care, Community Managers on online forums, etc. A social media policy alone isn’t enough; these folks need individualized, timely, thoughtful legal guidance.
Their statements can and will be taken as the corporation’s official view of things. Social media make it easier than ever to make misstatements that can be used against the marketer as “Exhibit A” in litigation.
This is particularly true for large corporations, which are perceived as having deep pockets and become targets for class action plaintiffs’ lawyers and government regulators.
As the quotes above underline, social media expertise should occupy two seats: one inside the advertiser itself (I’ll get back to this in more detail later on) and one inside dedicated Digital Agencies, since, inherent to their DNA, they’re better suited at this than pure traditional Agencies are right now.
Dedicated social agencies can’t create effective Social Strategies
Though I’m all for entrepreneurship and an avid fan of innovation, I’m quite sceptical about yet another specialist niche branch forming, (viral seeding agencies anyone?) be it inside or independent of traditional or Digital Agencies: yes, I’m looking at you, social media agency.
Especially since in this specific case the subject matter ties so close –too close- with the core business of any organization: i.e., taking for your customers / prospects / leads.
Why exactly is your company contracting a newly formed “social agency” to do the crucial interaction with these people in such a delicate environment (sometimes volatile even)? A few more questions:
- Can this freshly formed organization handle the scale 6, 12, or 18 months from now (community management, moderating in real-time 24/7, mob behaviour even)?
- What about legal liability (see the quote above from Jack Greiner) when it comes to international operating brands on Facebook?
- What about accountability (towards customers/end-users, partners and B2B clients), lead follow-ups, customer retention and so on?
- What about integration with the online display, SEA campaigns and the mini site?
- And what about the connection with the core brand values “as seen on TV”?
- Do they understand the finer intricacies of your business goals on the one hand vs. customer service & needs on the other hand?
Make no mistake about this, many industry thought leaders are (the dotcom bubble freshly in the back of their mind no doubt) rightfully questioning this trend of social agencies and self-proclaimed guru’s:
Do they even know your competitors, the field your operating in, the challenges you face, regulations, et cetera? You know; the stuff any Marketing Agency worth their salt actually takes into account before helping you set a long term strategy? If so, then why set up a separate one-trick-pony-entity instead of integrating it in the (digital) media mix? It just doesn’t add up.
Social Media is Anthropology, meets PR, meets Customer Service, meets Sales, meets DM, meets Sociology, meets Business Intelligence, meets Legal, meets… what-have-you, all for the greater good of meeting Business Objectives at the end of the day.
So. Exactly what are the business credentials of the people employed in this social agency, apart from having set up a Facebook fan page for their local small-town barbershop?
[Note: I’m not talking about credentials in a “certified social media company” kind of way, nowadays most of us are aware that in IT -for the most part- certificates (Google AdWords and the like notwithstanding) don’t prevent disasters, nor do they guarantee a pleasurable partnership or outcome. How many big IT projects had multiple Black Belts overseeing certified .NET implementing professionals and failed big time?]
Getting and staying involved in Social Media isn’t the same as setting up a one-way Interruption Marketed Advertising campaign for six weeks and it isn’t action based Sales Promotion with a short term focus either.
Nor is it about hiring a Web Care Team after the damage has been done in order to clean up the online response on a subpar product coupled with bad customer service.
UPC (Cable giant) has felt this here in The Netherlands as recently they’ve been indexed as the company with the worst customer service in a research conducted by the Customer Insights Center from the University of Groningen, intelligence agency MIcompany and Dutch research firm MetrixLab.
This despite being an innovator online by being the first Dutch company to deploy a Web Care Team with varying success. Sweet Irony to some, Social Media in full effect to others (as sharing bad customer experiences has become ubiquitous).
Social Media is a mindset ideally to be adopted throughout the whole organization, just like company values. Larger organizations will have to act on this in the coming decade.
Joseph Jaffe: In my opinion, this isn’t about tactics or platforms….it’s about a mindset shift. Commitments versus Campaigns. Retention versus Acquisition. Conversation versus Communication. And in the former cases, we’re dealing with decidedly post-marketing platforms that are – for the most part – decidedly brand unfriendly.
It’s an ongoing process, not to be automated.
Au contraire; it’s actually about interacting with human beings(!) in a passionate and authentic way, all whilst keeping the mutual interests of the organization, as well as the customer in mind. Though balance to strike.
Earned Media vs. Paid Media (Dealing with The Shift)
Who knows? Maybe over time they’ll embrace your efforts and your brand.
Then again, maybe they won’t because a few days back your Call Centre Manager was focussed more on her maximum allowed Average Conversation Duration Per Service Employee instead of solving the problem of a frustrated customer. So, said customer has started a flame blog, which TechCrunch has picked up, turning it into a trending topic on twitter overnight, which in turn has been indexed by Google in less than an hour, effectively making your SERP turn off potential customers and would-be B2B partners, despite that carefully planned and crafted Super Bowl Ad…
As you can see, Social Media is much as it has always been in real life actually, with the critical difference that these interactions between your brand and “them” are online, out in the open, for all to see, to monitor, to be spread in real-time and archived. Forever (or until Singularity at the very least).
This, combined with the fact that your organization has to structurally change internally for any meaningful long-term results, make this quite a complicated and challenging era, as you cannot afford not to be at least somewhat social, yet it can backfire significantly when implemented in the wrong way. Or with short-term focused expectations from shareholders, the board or senior management for that mather. Oh, and I’ve left the whole Social Media ROI debate out of the equation.
Still convinced that fancy social agency is well equipped and worth the check/PO?
Possible solutions: Internalizing the knowledge
The point I’m trying to make is that these new upstarts are either interested in making a quick buck over the back of you and your customers, or they’re focusing on the “What?” (“Which social tools should we deploy? YouTube or twitter?” -in other words: operational tactics), instead of focusing on the “Why?” and on what Social Media could mean for you and your customers.
Take heed of the former, and as for the latter, well, benevolent though their intentions may be, know that the way to hell is paved with good intentions…
Notable exception / leading example in this discussion are the Social Media Monitoring companies like Radian6 as they have a very tasty asset, or two actually: hard data and experience.
They’ve been busily beavering away for the past years, before Social Media became de rigour and have actual added value in the partner chain around your project/organization. They have the data, the knowledge and experience to translate social media output into actionable insights.
To my eye the solution is as follows:
Your organization must internalize Social Media as soon as possible -not tomorrow or next week necessarily, but do start as soon as you can (word has it your competitors are already a few laps ahead -sensing the urgency yet?).
Then, drilling further down, you should have one or more internal champions, digital marketers along with their traditional kin, who can sit down at the round table with IT partners, Social Media Monitoring Companies, Digital Agencies & Traditional Agencies alike, and get down to business.
You don’t outsource Sales, you hopefully are not outsourcing your Customer Service* and you definitely should refrain from outsourcing direct contact with your target audience and customers. If you’re not convinced yet, then feel free to take a look at an interesting development over at one of the biggest brands on the planet: Coca Cola are internalizing Social Media as they go .
Ford Motor Company is, arguably, one of the leading big brands in the world when it comes to having garnered considerable achievements in/with Social Media; admittedly having Social Media rock star Scott Monty (@ScottMonty) aboard as an internal accelerator or catalyst as well as a CEO backing him helps a lot. Ford’s Scott Monty has the following take on this topic:
“If you have a dedicated social media agency they need to be well integrated with the rest of your team because none of this stuff stands alone,” said Scott Monty, digital and multimedia communications manager at Ford.
Rather than have a single social media shop, Ford works with several for different needs. It leans on the social skills of OgilvyPR, while also working with Social Media Group and Undercurrent. “This is the year that will separate the pretenders from the practitioners.”
[* In twenty years time we’ll have a jolly great laugh looking back on the days when you actually didn’t help the customer yourself because… err, business books and MBA’s thought us it was the right way, we never questioned its merits out loud towards senior baby boom management and the internet, social media et al didn’t exist to expose this mindset, but I digress…]
Off course, your mileage may vary, depending on whether your organization is strategically focussed on either Cost Leadership, Innovation or Customer Intimacy.
And it could be both Mitch, Scott and many others in our field, are proven wrong over time as, like I said above, the jury is still out on this one.
Speaking of Mitch Joel, he posted the following piece regarding ROI and Social Media:
Richard Binhammer (from Dell‘s Social Media team) gave a presentation and when one of the audience members asked about how Dell measures the ROI of their Social Media strategy, Binhammer responded that ROI was nothing more than an accounting term and probably has little to no place when it comes to measuring the success of any Social Media marketing initiative.
How would that make your clients, team members and supervisors feel?
Binhammer … concluded by saying that he doesn’t think about ROI, rather he looks at the overall business objectives and if Social Media can help him meet those objectives, then that is what is ultimately the most important thing.
Let’s repeat: forget the ROI and look at the business objectives.
In looking at business through this prism, Dell has changed the way they do business and – in doing so – they have made lots of money by being engaged and using everything Social Media that is under the sun.
In a more primal way, they’re focused on using Social Media to meet practical business objectives and not looking at the overall ROI…
My argument is not against metrics and measurement as it relates to social media and business. My point is that we sometimes get lost in the forest for the trees….and one step further, some of the traditional metrics and insights need revision when we think about social media and business….but fundamentally we do measure measure and measure more.
Conclusion: Due Diligence/Beware the Snake Oil
All in all, the debate regarding ROI in social media and the added value of social media agencies still has yet to give birth to a definite, industry wide accepted outcome, and maybe won’t for some time.
To my eye, all facts point to one conclusion which I’ve summed up in the title of this very column.
Dunno, like viral agencies we’ve yet to see a yearbook worth of big brand cases produced by dedicated social media agencies that showcase their worth, yet they tend to position themselves with the swagger as though they have seeded viral or social media campaigns with an 80 to 99% success rate…
Should anyone care? Aren’t we “all in it for the money”?
Well, yours truly is not and I’d like to believe most of us are “in it” out of a passion, which happens to provide us with the means of getting food on the table, paying the rent/mortgage, etc.. Make no mistake, I’m an entrepreneur at heart and a positive minded one at that, but with great power comes… (well, you know the drill)
Remember the dotcom bubble bursting less than 10 years ago? We’ve seen what self-proclaimed consultants in green field markets/industries are capable of if left unchecked: wrecking havoc amongst clients eventually seriously damaging everyone in this space.
Sounds farfetched? The Credit Crunch demonstrated to us what happens when an influential industry is left unchecked and nobody calls out the cowboys.
Granted, social media is new, standards are yet to be fully understood, found and implemented. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take pride in our work, our profession, our science, our art. It is a professional responsibility to call out the snake oil sales men.
Perhaps more than anything Social Media is also about the “echo chamber”; about memes being spread. By adding my voice to the ever increasing echo of industry specialists, agencies and bloggers, I hope to amplify the growing consensus that social does not an agency make. That you should be mindful of letting your company in with any self-proclaimed guru or social agency. Due diligence.
This column turned out somewhat longer than expected, so thanks for bearing with me. I will be keeping a close eye on this topic as it continues to evolve.
In the mean time I’m really curious if there’s an angle I might have missed, so feel free to drop a comment below.
“But maybe… just maybe, we need to stop looking at when the Internet will surpass television and benchmark it against something else entirely. The Internet is much more than a media channel and it is much more than a communications platform. It’s both of those and so much more.
We should start benchmarking the Internet against electricity.
Electricity is a utility. The phone is a utility. The Internet is a utility (and so much more).”
Mitch Joel (Twist Image) on Benchmarking The Internet Against TVNo comments
“…there is a group of executives inside the company that believe “Pay With Facebook” could end up a bigger revenue source than Facebook’s advertising revenues. We’ve estimated Facebook’s advertising revenues will reach $475 million in 2009.
To get an idea what kind of challenges Facebook will have to overcome to get there, consider that during the second quarter, eBay subsidiary PayPal’s revenues were $669 million, up 11% y/y.
It got there with:
- 75 million active registered accounts
- A total payment volume of $16 billion in the quarter
- With accounts containing approximately $3 billion in stored value that is spent every 2 weeks
- Supporting 19 currencies
- With a .30% fraud rate
Facebook can’t approach any of those numbers yet, but it does possess one distinct advantage — nearly 300 million monthly active users.
What’s more, the rousing success that is Facebook Connect — the service that allows users to log in to participating third-party sites using their Facebook IDs with one click — hints that Facebook users might appreciate a similar “one-click” simplicity when paying for merchandise on the Internet.”
Privacy concerns aside, one can imagine that Facebook’s One-Click payment solution, along with the social sharing of articles and posts through Facebook Connect, could be the panacea for newspaper publishers looking for ways of monetizing content beyond the stale and flailing “generate-pageviews-sell-banners” business model.
Well, besides the general mentality that digital content should be “free”, one of the major issues in monetizing content on the web by surrounding it with a “Pay-First wall”, is the fact that visitors don’t know in advance what (quality) they’ll exactly be paying for; consumers fear buying a shrink-wrapped magazine purely based on its cover, only to be disappointed afterwards.
Whereas on iTunes or with Steam you usually know that what your getting is guaranteed to have a substantial replay-factor or, in the case of iTunes, since the price is relatively low, you can afford the risk of a dud every now and then.
This, arguably, is not the case with ubiquitous news, or in-depth articles.
Utilizing Facebook’s micro-payment solution combined with Facebook Connect however, publishers will have the opportunity of using a “hassle-less” One-Click online payment solution, powered by trusted(?) recommendations of friends: “Hey Todd, here’s an article I just read about Obama’s healthcare reform, touching it from a viewpoint I believe you’d find interesting, check it out. Cheers, Brian.” Ching!
Farfetched? For a showcase of the true power of social sharing: Think the Bit.Ly-shortened links being universally shared on twitter, spreading idea’s, content (and malware) virally. Only this time it’s done by folks with verified Facebook ID’s so you know they’re actually real and can be trusted.
Off course, should the scenario sketched above come to fruition, Facebook will have to get a piece of the revenue pie too, but the publishing moguls ‘d be wise to carefully re-consider jumping into their fabled “No-Can-Do” reflexes, since it’s becoming increasingly clear that the other option for them and their companies’ stakeholders is not having a pie to share at all…
(PS please note that I deliberately left all privacy concerns regarding Facebook out of this exercise, since I believe that we should topple the online publishing troubles in a concentric way; shilling away to the core, tackling the multifaceted problem layer by layer, instead of pre-maturely obstruficating any possible solution by thinking in limitations only.
This, however, does not imply that I don’t see the possible dangers of Facebook not only owning your social graph and personal data, but also knowing when you bought what (and whom approved said purchase!) and where you’re likely to go to form a political opinion or otherwise.
Though I feel and see that having this kind of aggregated combined profile data of possibly more than 300 million people in the hands of one party could pose a real threat when falling into the wrong hands, I urge you to go and take a look over at Alexander van Elsas’s blog, as he has already indentified and dissected this problem with great abandon.)
Why the Click Is the Right Metric for Online Ads (On Adding Value and Thinking Beyond the Display Advertising Business Model)
“…many advertisers in the past gave most of the credit for a sale or conversion — which in the web world could include anything from visiting a website to printing an online coupon — to the last ad clicked on or seen by a consumer. But that means brand-focused sites such as NYTimes.com and MarthaStewart.com and even social-media sites such as Facebook and MySpace lose credit because they are often not where a consumer will see that last ad. And when they lose credit, they lose advertisers, and when they lose ad revenue, well, you’ve read that story.
“Publishers have a lot to gain,” said Steve Kerho, VP-analytics, media and marketing optimization at Organic. Mr. Kerho has been doing lots of analysis on how online-display ads affect search and conversions and found that in some cases, a display ad can increase a search ad’s click-through rate 25% to 30%. If he had simply measured the clicks from search, he would have missed the display ads’ influence.”
So… If we’d translate the above model to, say, a real world situation; that’d mean that the sales guy in the local electronics store should get a piece of the provision pie, and maybe you’re neighbourhood whiz kid should be offered a small fee too, since they were the ones that influenced you before you decided to shell out on a new bleeding-edge desktop and order it directly by mail-order, no?
Of course, the conclusion presented above is preposterous to say the least. Not giving full credit to the last click shows a lack of common sense and of everyday reality:
If we’d were to apply this model to the offline advertising industry we’d might as well start charging less for TV ads during the Super Bowl or advertisements in general, since it has never been empirically proven that said ads actually sell significantly more cars, to name but an example.
(Actually I hereby challenge thee naysayers to tell me why the fledgling automotive industry in the US can’t be saved by throwing more money against Interruption Campaigns now that the going is though… Odds are it’s because it just doesn’t work that way nowadays…)
Publishers would of course love to use such a model, since suddenly those abysmally low Click Through Rates on social networks ´d become a license to print money, yet that’s not where the problem lies: it’s about engaging with the visitors of the Facebook’s of this world if and when they feel like it, adding value to the community, giving them something to talk about or a good reason to get rid of their friends. The engagement model is a far more viable one since it makes it very clear for all stakeholders what the true value of those brand interactions are for everyone.
Conjuring op schemes to charge more for a product -display banner- that, on it’s own, has failed to truly deliver on its promise up until this very moment, is not the way forward out of this recession. The research budget would be well better spent on innovation, adding value to the visitors, strategic alliances -you name it, just do not waste it on taking undercover pot-shots at “Go -Emperor CPC- Gle” et all.
There is one thing that does ring true about the statement that a conversion shouldn’t be attributed to just the Last Click alone; and that’s the reoccurring coincidence that carefully crafted, creative Crossmedia campaigns drive word-of-mouth & website traffic, allowing for a tighter control on conversion, ánd they also have the uncanny ability to tip the Attitude scale in your Brands’ favour. A little…
It’s common sense and it’s what marketing should be all about: influencing as many factors as you can to get the prospect to turn into a consumer, making her loyal, spurring her on to buy more and in the end becoming a brand-ambassador.
The communication mix as well as the quality of your product combined with the customer centricity level of your organization all contribute to that end.
As well as a million other tiny factors (does the sun shine, did THAT girl on the train give you a smile, do you have enough money to spare, etc., etc..)
Yet, if we’d follow the philosophy of Mr. Kerho to it’s conclusion, it’d mean we’d have to split the Cost-per-Click revenue and spread the wealth over all communication channels and creatives -and not just the display banner- in order to get a somewhat “fairer” representation of value/conversion for money.
[The Adage article starts with this quote: “The great paradox of the web is that it’s an interactive medium and everything can be measured. And that’s wonderful — unless you’re measuring the wrong thing.”
I’d think what they should be stating is: The single greatest asset of the web is that it’s an interactive medium, perpetuously capable of reinventing itself. And that’s wonderful — Unless you don’t keep your feet firmly on the ground and try to look at opportunities with a positive mindset!]No comments