Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 18, 2010 9:31 PM

Social Media Gurus - That Old Chestnut

Who should own Social Media?

It's starting to feel like we're constantly trotting out the same old dead horse to beat (it's a nasty saying, but it's true). Countless Blog posts (here. there and everywhere) have spent years detailing, dissecting and debating that one question: who should own Social Media? In fact, that old chestnut came back one more time last week in an AdWeek article titled, The New Social Gurus. It is the broken record that never stops being broken.

"Powered joins a new crop of social-media-focused firms that hope to outmaneuver established digital agencies by focusing on new opportunities like Facebook and Twitter rather than the typical Web shop offerings that also include banners and microsites."

What does this mean and who are they talking about?

The idea of "Social Media" in and of itself is intrinsically linked with Digital Marketing. All effective digital media online is now social media (or has components of it), and any shops playing in this field should have skills that can equally strategize a microsite as it can a Twitter opportunity (if they don't, your brand needs to find a Digital Marketing agency that does). Or, are we now saying that Social Media is some kind of niche within Digital Marketing like affiliate marketing or Search Engine Optimization? Whatever the case may be, it's starting to feel like some Digital Marketing shops are simply calling themselves a Social Media Agency because they see this as some kind of quick run at the money. Going back to that quirky quote from AdWeek, it's like saying, "we can help you build a Facebook fan page or a Twitter profile, but if you need a microsite or some banners to promote it, you're best off calling a Digital Marketing agency."

Newsflash: Social Media is Digital Marketing.

Sorry to break this news to the Social Media Gurus and Social Media agencies of the world. You can dance around this statement all you want. You can flex the PR muscles or call in your, "Social Media affects customer service too, it's not just the Web" chips too, but let's face it: all Social Media strategy and first-contact happens in the online channels. The results of that strategy and activity may filter through how an organization communicates, markets, handles after-care or customer service, but Social Media starts and lives in the Digital Marketing channel. If it doesn't, than these Social Media shops should also be handling all inbound physical mail to the company as well as the call center and warranty programs. And, if it does live in the Digital Channel, but as a Social Media Agency you can't help your client also build both the platforms and presence online, what does that say about your skill level?

Let's not make it bigger than it is.

Like a strong direct marketing strategy, advertising campaign or affiliate program, Social Media is one spoke in the marketing wheel (it just looks more shiny than the other spokes because platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are new and exciting). In fact, Social Media is much more like a spoke in the Digital Marketing wheel. This doesn't mean it should be diminished, but to think that a strong Digital Marketing shop doesn't have the abilities or capabilities to lead Social Media is downright silly and unfounded. A great Digital Marketing agency that truly meets the clients' needs is one that can develop the digital strategy and then execute on it (the design, content, technology, marketing and communications).

It's going to be interesting to see what unique offerings these Social Media agencies bring to the brand table that the Digital Marketing agencies were missing.

By Mitch Joel