Why Ad Agencies Should Own Social Media

It Shouldn't Be a Silo, Right? So Who Better to Handle It?

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Tom Martin
Tom Martin
It's in vogue these days to make fun of how far behind ad agencies are in the understanding and adoption of social media. On Twitter, in blog posts and in the hallways at all the cool social-media conferences, the social-media agencies/consultants love to sell against the big, old, traditional ad agency. It's really becoming a bread-and-butter kind of pitch tool for them.

Unfortunately, many an ad agency is making it rather easy to play the "your ad agency doesn't get social media" card. In truth, a good many of the agencies in the country are way behind the ball on this one. I don't say that in a bad way. In fact, I'm working with a few right now that are trying to change this inconvenient truth. But overall, it is true. Truly social-media-ready agencies are few and far between. But it doesn't have to be that way, and I'd argue it shouldn't be that way.

I have always felt and continue to feel that ad agencies should own social media.

Think about it. So much of what you see in social media is the creation of stories, content, photos, videos, information and entertainment. Now I'm not tossing aside the customer-engagement aspect of social media -- that is and will always be the heart and power of the channel. But frankly, that part isn't really all that hard. After all, most of us have grown up talking to other people, so it's not like finding people who know how to talk to other people and actually care about what the customer is saying is all that hard.

Far more difficult to find are folks who can create strategically sound, effective content. Most folks don't really possess the creative skill set required to do content. I'm not talking any old content (cue the childish viral video that has no strategic communication underpinning). I'm talking about content that is designed to achieve business objectives. Content that drives consumers to take a favorable action like buying what your brand is selling. Where are the folks that have been doing that for the last 50-plus years? That's right, working at ad agencies.

Furthermore, while the client-agency relationship continues to evolve in our business, for the most part, brands are still turning to ad agencies -- and often full-service ad agencies -- to create integrated communications campaigns. Thus, as social media is little more than the newest channel on the block, what better place to house it than with the same team that is responsible for creating messaging in every other channel?

Lastly, and even the social-media experts agree on this point, social media cannot be a silo. To truly leverage the power of the channel, it must be integrated with a brand's total communication program. It must be integrated both operationally and in terms of the brand's communications programs. Given that the modern day brand manager is stretched pretty darn thin, there is a wonderful opportunity for digitally fluent agencies to grab the social media channel and own it in the brand manager's eyes.

Look around the marketing world, and I think you'll quickly see that only agencies have all the necessary creative, strategic, analytical, public relations and production management folks on staff to easily create and integrate social media efforts into a client's mainstream marketing efforts.

So if it makes so much sense, why isn't it happening in greater numbers than we're seeing today?

I have my opinions, but I'd rather hear yours. Care to share?

Tom Martin created Converse Digital to help companies and agencies monitor, create and engage in digital conversations. Want to talk? Just email [email protected] or follow @TomMartin on Twitter.
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