We all know that social media is increasingly becoming an important part of the marketing mix and harnessing the power of this channel to show a return is on top of many marketing managers agenda.
As a digital marketer however I have begun to ask myself, if I am to build myself a successful strategy which type of agency do I turn to? With search agencies, digital agencies, PR agencies and even media agencies all vying for a piece of the action just who should marketers choose to help formulate and execute a strategy?
We know that social media cuts across an organisation so does this mean you need all types of agencies to bring together a successful strategy? This article explores the value and shortfalls of choosing one type of agency over another.
The search agency
Search experts threw their hat into the ring early in the piece as it is a great way to build inbound links through viral distribution of content. What concerns me however about putting your social strategy in the hands of a search agency is that social media is more than building links to your site. As engagement, interaction and dialogue is essential, you need to ask yourself, is my search agency able to effectively engage and interact with the audience. Past behaviour of many SEOs have shown a disregard for the user experience in favour of rankings and this is where the core problem lies. In addition as content is becoming a core part of any digital strategy are SEOs the best people to be producing this? Of course SEO is a crucial consideration BUT I have never allowed my internal SEO team to solely manage social media because of their narrow focus on rankings.
The PR industry has been slower out of the blocks but now many will claim that social media naturally fits within the PR remit. Are they equipped? Traditional PR has always been in a more controlled environment which web 2.0 is clearly not. Many practitioners are of course adapting their approach to suit the new flow of communication however is it enough? PR professionals have the skills to bring that great newsworthy story to the table, but what is newsworthy for the media is not necessarily what is popular amongst the masses. The other key ingredient PR agencies bring is the ability to effectively manage PR disasters which we know have been common in Australia with Toyota being one of the more recent examples. But is this enough? I believe there are some inherent problems with the ownership of social media by PR agencies, and this became apparent with the iSpy Levi campaign. A particular agency didn’t understand digital, and measurement enough to effectively execute the campaign effectively and demonstrate ROI for the investment. For years PR has struggled with demonstrating the link between actions and sales and under the bright digital lights there is nowhere to hide.
And then there is the digital/traditional marketing agency. Agencies know that their repertoire of offerings need to include social media thus it is an add on service but the question remains what success have they had in the space. In general Australia has seen many traditional agencies move into the digital space and offer social media campaigns in an effort to use the client campaign as a testing ground, and some have failed dismally. What these agencies lack is crisis management skills which are usually bought to the table by PR professionals.
So what does this mean for your planning and execution of a social campaign? Well that depends on your objectives and the expertise your current agency brings to the table. Maybe it is a matter of using a social media consultant or maybe a combination of experts across different agencies. I believe the next 12 months will enable us to see just which style / mix of agencies is having most success in the space and it will demonstrate just where we as client side marketers should turn to for expertise.