Sometimes I feel like agencies still treat social marketing like it’s a new trend. There’s this childlike excitement about it. Slowly, it’s easing, but not quickly enough. Because with this childlike wonder comes the tendency to covet the social marketing, to carve it out and put it into a little box in our office and … ultimately … to limit its potential.

We even argue about who “owns” it. Is it the PR firm or the digital agency? Even when we know that for years we’ve shared duties (such as traditional agencies taking on PR practices for clients, or PR firms designing websites). While we bicker, specialty shops are springing up, intently focused on securing the business we fight over.

In fact, a recent article in WSJ.com quoted a Domino’s Pizza spokesperson as saying “A lot of companies right now that specialize in PR or advertising are trying to do this on the side….

“On the side?” Yeah. That’s what she said. The kind of firm Domino’s chose? A specialty shop. A sign? You betcha. It’s time to buckle down and get this right. Social marketing may be exciting, and perhaps a little intimidating, but it’s still marketing. And it’s attached to digital. At Band Digital, social (in some form) is a part of many of our client relationships; the two aren’t easily separated.

Agencies Need to Be Leaders

Unbelievably, I still hear “What should I do with Facebook?” Why is that? With most other initiatives, the need begets the channel. Yet for some reason, giddiness and maybe even fear of missing out on an opportunity prompts brands to think about moving into Social without really understanding why.  It’s our job to hit the reset button and ask the right questions.
And let’s remember why social marketing has become so important so quickly. The fabric of the consumer-marketer relationship has been altered. Social marketing has become a way to infuse a brand into a buyers life – to channel desire, to add value, to add convenience. These relationships have the potential to improve the longevity and lifetime value of a customer, to evolve products and services and to extend awareness through community.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone is doing this wrong. What I’m saying is that collectively, we have some work to do. Agencies exist to be expert at our craft. We make educated and strategic recommendations, execute creatively and prove our strength through measurement. Most importantly, our recommendations are typically based on how they fit into a total brand strategy – we compile an understanding of what programs are already running and why. This means that our executions ladder up to the brand’s overarching attributes in order to best meet objectives. Social marketing shouldn’t be treated any differently.

That being said, there is certainly a place for “playing around.” In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I encourage it, particularly with new trends – sampling the waters, having test budgets, etc. But, broadly, the time has come for agencies to get serious about how we use the many pieces that make up Social Marketing.

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