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February 8, 2009 / davebirss

Mutual mistrust between agencies and clients


Social Media. It’s the big client catchphrase at the moment – in the same horrendous way that client meetings used to be peppered with mentions of ‘YouTube’, ‘Facebook apps’ and ‘virals’. And clients are not wrong to be interested in it.

But there seems to be a bit of an issue.

Any agency that knows their digital onions understands that ‘social media’ is bigger than just a hip marketing term – it requires a significant cultural change from the client. It needs them to have an openness and transparency that goes against traditional business wisdom. And it requires them to actually listen and respond to what their customers and potential customers have to say about them. However, when agencies are being asked to look at social media by marketing departments, they know that these companies probably aren’t serious enough. Marketing flim-flam doesn’t work in this space, social media isn’t likely to help you reach short-term sales targets and – most importantly – shifting quarterly budgets don’t demonstrate the long-term commitment that social media demands. Sensible agencies who know what they’re talking about can tell when they’re just part of a box-ticking exercise and don’t really want to be associated with the disaster that will result from a half-arsed compromise. And they’re right.

Now I read in Adweek that clients also have reservations about their agencies. And they seem to have a point too!

This is what they have to say:

Clients complained that their agencies — creative, media, public relations, design and others — typically treat social channels like blogs as traditional media. In other cases, their ideas are not backed up by practical skills in the area. What’s more, one client pointed out that his agencies have little of their own experience using social networks or video-sharing sites for themselves.

However, there is a bit of a flaw in the client argument. What I get from the article is that most clients are simply asking the wrong people. Traditional agencies that are used to broadcasting a strategic message don’t have the skills required to hold a dialogue with customers. Read the article yourself and see what you think.

So now I’ve decided that after I’ve finished my banner posts, I’m going to move on to social media. I’m not an absolute guru in the matter but I’ll share what I know. And I’ll be asking my fellow bloggers and tweeters what they have to say about it too.

Stay tuned! And tell me what you think about it. This is about conversation after all!

One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Stan Lee / Feb 15 2009 10:12 am

    You’re no guru. Neither am I. But I reckon we’re better placed to advise on social media than many of the web2.0 goldrush snake oil salesmenn.

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