Why Media Agencies Can 'Do Social Media'
A recent article by Advertising Age's Social Media and Event Content Manager David Teicher got us thinking. And writing. Here's what we had to say after reading his thoughts on why agencies don't need separate units for social media:
Back in the day when we ran a media department, the public relations department in the agency used to come to us for information about audience research and the media consumed by the audiences in which they were interested. Because, in a certain sense, the media department is the keymaster to the research vault and all the demographic and psychographic nirvana within. Even account planners would come to media looking for insight.
Yes, media is about buying eyeballs but that's just part of what a media department does. Perhaps you've heard of "added value." That's that category where all the unpaid stuff goes. All the stuff that makes the paid media plan look much better than it would be without. All the stuff media people work their asses off to enhance and improve simple paid placements. Stuff like contests and events and studies and parties and promotional tie-ins. Yes, things like a guy riding a lawn mower across the country, giving a product to a person to use for a period of time and events that, hmm...how do we say these days..."build a relationship between brand and consumer."
In essence, everything a "social media department/guru/manager" works to achieve right now.
Yea. The media department was doing "social media" before we had a label for it. Sure, the media has changed over the years and has become...for lack of a better word...more "social" but it's still media. It's still a channel through which content flows.
You think Ford just wants us to marvel at how cool it was to give cars away? No. They want us to buy them. You think Old Spice just wants to make personalized videos for each of us? No. They want us to buy their product. You think Microsoft wants us to care about a girl who travels around the world to meet all her Facebook friends? No. They want us to buy their new phone. Oh, wait. That didn't work so well.
And all of this "added value" stuff was possible only because boatloads of money was being spent...by the media agency. Like it or not, when greenbacks are in play, people will do much more for you than when they are not in play. Otherwise, marketing wouldn't need anything more than public relations to carry out its strategies.
All of this said, there are elements of the public relations practice as well as other practices that are far better suited to handling social media than media. PR, for the most part, works in a world where there isn't financial quid pro quo. The practice is adept at building relationships with media content providers (editors and writers in plain English) and consumers of that media.
In a perfect world, an agency would have one department that did everything in perfect concert with no need for specialization. In the real world, that just isn't the case. People, by nature, specialize in things. That's why we have doctors who practice medicine and not law.
It'd be nice if the entire industry could come together in some sort of come-to-Jesus, kumbaya but, sadly, that's never going to happen. It's just not.
All of that said and as Ford's Scott Monty oft repeats, "Social media is a commitment, not a campaign," it will be incumbent upon any group which handles social media to make that ongoing commitment and never treat a social media effort as if it had a beginning, a middle and an end. Rather, as if it were a being with never-ending immortality. Well, at least until the account is lost or the brand goes out of business.