Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Knowledge Rules When It Comes to Social Media

Last month, just after the SXSW festival in Austin, I read a column by Eric Schwartzman on Spinfluencer. My first reaction was “I wonder if I’d have missed The Strokes’ set to sit on this panel?” closely followed by “No, probably not, but it seems interesting nonetheless.” But blogging about it definitely beats listening to the Stokes new album again, so here goes…

Schwartzman raises an interesting – and I think valid – namely that by “outsourcing” the minutiae of social media maintenance, companies are ceding most of the efficacy of the channel. His position is that social media is a bilateral pipeline direct to consumers, and that a company that allows a PR, marketing or advertising agency manage that pipeline, then the social media strategy becomes anemic. No agency, argues Schwartzman, can know as much about a company’s products or services as the employees of that company, who by the way, are more invested in the company’s survival than any agency might be. He goes further (a bit too far, really) to say that agencies that tout their social media capabilities as an inducement to land clients are behaving unethically.

While I agree with the principle behind Schwartzman’s argument: in order for a social media strategy to be effective, it must be predicated on a give-and-take of information, and to be truly valuable, that information must be sound. And going through the social media motions does not deliver any discernable benefit – just ask the thousands of enterprises out there with double- to low-triple-digit Twitter followers or Facebook fans that keep posting or tweeting banal, self-serving bits of nothing, ignoring comments, and scratching their heads over why their brand engagement isn’t skyrocketing now that they have a handle and a fan page. Of course, if these companies are relying on a third-party agency to execute this limp strategy, they’ve made a drastically irresponsible choice in agency.

Which brings me to my real point…

It’s the knowledge behind the social media strategy that matters, not who signs the paycheck of the person executing it.

Yes, a company employee may have more insight into the company’s core business than an agency representative might, but that’s not an inherent quality. Schwartzman may be writing from his own experience, but with all due respect, mine differs significantly.

My agency delivers social media solutions to clients, but we pride ourselves on having both the industry and client-specific knowledge to make those solutions effective. Yes, that means personalized attention. Yes, that means making sure that every one of our agency staffers tweeting on behalf of a client knows at least as much about the client’s operations as whatever internal intern they might have charged with maintaining the Twitter feed were we not their agency.

And yes, all of that means a little more investment in our clients than the big agencies might be willing to make.

I’d go so far as to say there are plenty of agencies like mine out there that understand the power of social media marketing and are dedicated to getting it right.

Or maybe there aren’t, in which case my email is right at the bottom of this post.

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