Social media is a challenge to agencies and clients because it’s so many things to so many people. Many creative agencies see it as an opportunity to have people pass along high-quality brand advertising. Think Nike’s “Write the Future” video. Digital shops lean on the sites they build, calling it owned media or platforms that customers seek out and give them tangible benefits to a product. Media agencies can see it as a new opportunity to place social ads on Facebook and Twitter. Public relations shops tend to emphasize the customer service aspect to social and “influencer” programs that result in earned media.
Now, social media is of course all these things. That doesn’t stop agency types from fighting each other over it. After all, there are budgets at stake. Witness the weekend dust-up between The Barbarian Group COO Rick Webb and Edelman svp of digital David Armano. Both are probably closer in agreement than they think, but Webb set off Armano with a post that made the argument
that social media agencies can’t “polish a turd.” The point: If a creative sucks, all the outreach in the world and priming the pump of influencers won’t do much. Webb cites TBG’s recent experiment with GroupMeh, a faux social network for the apathetic.
It reinforces our strong belief that success in social media begins with great creative, strong execution, with a smart earned, distribution plan, optimized on-the-fly. Without that integration, you have creative being made in a vacuum, divorced from the distribution. You have firms that do PR that have no real say in the idea, handed something and told to “make it famous.” This fact contributes greatly to the rivers of junk floating around the internet, clogging up inboxes and generally being lame.
Those are fighting words for Armano, who works for a large public relations firm and often derides web shops for their addiction to “flashburbation.” Armano called Webb’s post “shallow”
and sought to put a framework (with nifty graphic) around how he views social media’s many flavors.
[T]he businesses which succeed in the long run (and the CEO’s driving them), understand that it’s the coordination of a good product and service, combined with an integration of ecosystems, support and marketing initiatives which will result in long term value for not ony customers but all stakeholders. My advice to business and agency alike? Take a pass on spinning the wheel of marketing misfortune and work on integrating these efforts today.
The debate continued on Twitter where the particulars got messy as each side chose its own examples and analogies most beneficial. If anything, the lesson that arises is social media remains a difficult nut to crack for clients. This so-called “flyball effect” leaves a vacuum that ends up attracting competition from all corners of marketing services, all of which are prone to emphasize their own specialty.