Enough! Calling Out the Hucksters Peddling Social Media

11 Aug

image from jasonlong.netThere’s some crazy crap happening in marketing world these days, with snake oil salesmen falling from the woodwork offering their services to companies trying to crack the social media nut.

A former colleague told me her company was shelling out big bucks to some self-proclaimed expert who’s scintillating insight was to use social media monitoring to see what people were saying about the brand. This genius actually wanted the client to write his proposal because his time is too valuable to do anything for free.

Igor Beuker went even deeper into this emerging world of madness with a great post on the Viral Blog dissecting the weirdness in this space where companies tend to either relegate social media to interns or let themselves be held hostage by assholes. He notes that CMOs trying to do right by their brands are encountering a brutal sellers’ market if they want to hire an expert and arrogance if they seek assistance from a so-called social media agency. He notes that many of these agencies are refusing to participate in pitches, instead picking and choosing what clients they deem worthy of paying their bills.

All of this poses more than a passing interest for me as I ponder my next career move. After 14 years working for advertising agencies I find myself disheartened by the lack of desire to truly create value for consumers online. Perhaps the solution is in the world of public relations agencies, where substance is as important as style. Or maybe it’s time to work directly with clients, helping them find the valuable content lingering in their halls that social media demands.

No matter where I land, it seems only fair that I provide complete transparency for future employers, and put my money where my mouth is by laying out to expect if you work with me.

  1. We define success up front. It seems simple enough, but I’ve seen it left until the end far too many times. What are we trying to do? How will we measure it? Define those two questions and you’re already well on your way to disaster-proofing your work.
  2. Listening is a pre-requisite, it’s not a strategy. Look, you don’t conduct any other piece of business in a vacuum, nor would you consider listening to your customers the destination. It is a means to an end. Let’s figure out what they’re saying. Do we need to counter a misconception? Is the volume of discussion too low? Or are people telling us what your business needs to do and we just need to let them know we’re listening?
  3. Your company is going to produce something of value for consumers. If you aren’t willing to invest then this isn’t an arena for you. If you’re willing to spend hundreds of thousands on a commercial (if not millions) and tens of thousands of dollars on marketing materials, why would you try to talk directly with consumers on the cheap? The good news is that a smart strategy will find ways to re-purpose content already in-house.
  4. Recognized social media is earned media, not free. The currency you spend may be time or it may be production budgets, but success in social media requires investment. True, it can be cheaper than traditional media, and if successful the results are disproportionately higher for the investment. But get ready to roll up your sleeves, this isn’t a task you delegate to an intern.
  5. Social media is part of the mix. We aren’t going to jettison your other marketing efforts. Those are your mass media tools. We are working on a means of making those efforts work harder and more effectively. The good news is that in all likelihood we’ll find money to move from mass media to social media.

So why will you hire me?

  • Because there’s a realization you need your marketing efforts to work smarter.
  • You’re leery of relying on your teenager at home or the interns walking through the door to be your experts in the digital space.
  • Because you want to do more than check the box for emerging channels like social media. You want to walk into the next meeting with your boss or the board with something more than reassurances that you’re on it.

Oh, one more thing, social should never equate to arrogant.