Previously, I’ve written about how PR firms are missing some key skillsets that they need to win integrated social media business. The post generated a lot of great feedback, Tweets and Likes, and I think it’s because it really hit a nerve with a lot of agency folk – PR and otherwise.
So here on my own blog I’ll make the correlating argument that there is an opportunity now for pureplay social media agencies to really grow and thrive. Of course, I’m completely biased, having spent nearly five years at award-winning social agency Converseon, and now as principal of my own social and digital marketing agency (I did work in PR for a year in between – so have some credibility on the PR side as well). Please bear with me as I make the case and then tell me at the end whether you agree or not.
New discipline, new agency
I predict that within 18-24 months many corporations, particularly those that are consumer-focused, will have a new, cross-disciplinary department or group to manage social media (some already do). And many will start to hire social media agencies between now and then to help them learn to manage their social programs and platforms in this new, integrated way.
Tactics and technology
To develop and deliver fully integrated social media programs, social marketers need to be able to consider the entire range of tools and tech that power every type of campaign, or else they will be too narrow in their thinking and their campaigns will start to look stale and repetitive. So don’t broaden your firm’s skillset if all you want to do is recommend Facebook pages to clients. Just know that it won’t take you (or your clients) to the next level.
Budgeting and extending the engagement
Social media agencies seem to be pretty creative and flexible in budgeting and pricing. Some projects are monthly retainers – those projects are often bigger strategy engagements, day-to-day executing on social media, or providing a safety net for clients who are engaging in social on their own. Other projects are fixed-price, encompassing a particular campaign or project or covering things like training or creation of a social media policy. Most social agencies that I’m aware of may conceptually scope projects based on people-hours but also account for the roles that non-client-facing staff may fill in technology, design, or ad buying. These newer agencies may also be less rigid in terms of their costs – with less expensive office space and lower overhead generally.
Additionally, when it comes time to ask for more money, social media agencies could again have the advantage. If they have someone on staff who understands and has run Facebook advertising campaigns, they can bring that person in to win the ad business. If they have the capability to build a mobile app (using either in-house or partner resources), they can make a nice profit on that work. Again, the social media generalist rules here – if the blinders are off and you can see a broader world, you can sell a broader scope of work.
Creativity and communications
So are you with me? Can you see the case for the standalone social media agency? Or are you convinced that traditional (PR, advertising, digital) agencies will either win out, or just swallow up social agencies whole? I’m looking forward to the next chapter in this debate.
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