Ideas vs. Execution

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Everywhere you turn, there is tons of talk from people telling others what they should be doing in Social Media. Then, there are those that are just doing it.

Cutting through the hyperbole is not easy. Just the other week, I was communicating with a peer who owns a Digital Marketing agency, and they were recounting an incident where they were meeting with a client along with one of the client’s traditional agencies (not the general brand/advertising agency, but a niche within the marketing sphere). During the course of the conversation, they uncovered that one of the attendees from the traditional agency side was their newly anointed Vice President of Social Media. The meeting then turned into a game of Social Media bingo as the new VP started saying all of the things that make us cringe from: "you should have a YouTube page!" to "this is how we are going to get a lot of people to follow us on Twitter!"

How’s that throw-up tasting in your mouth right now?

Thankfully, the Digital Marketing folks shot back with some highly relevant questions:

  • How did you define and scope the strategy and the program?
  • Who have you done this for already?
  • What were the results?
  • Did the results meet the business objectives?
  • Was this tied into the overall ROI of the brand?
  • How many people did it take to manage the program?
  • What kind of analytics and monitoring tools were used?
  • What did you learn from those tools, and how did you adapt the program to respond to those learnings?
  • What were the plans after the program ended to maintain the new connections that were made?

Blank stares, stammering and lot of shuffling in the seat followed.

In the end, the agency was blurting out tactics and random digital musings in a sad attempt to steal the business away (and, possibly, to validate the new VP’s role). Look, we all know that the Digital Marketing industry is new (and Social Media marketing is even newer), and that it’s not possible to always find highly qualified professionals who have a real track record of success in some of these spheres, but it’s also not so nascent that those types of credible individuals don’t exist (they do) and are willing to – at the very least – have a serious conversation about how to make this work within a brand and organization.

At some point the regurgitation of what we’ve read on a Blog or listened to in a Podcast has to end and the real work has to begin.


  1. Hey Mitch,
    I’m all for doing but to get experience doing you have to get some initial clients to take a risk on you. I write a blog that shows I understand the need to put strategy first and tactics second but it’s still tough to get clients to take a risk on me.
    Any advice for those of us starting out on how to get clients to take that first step with us?

  2. Although the VP opened himself/herself up for it and wasn’t prepare to answer properly. My question to them that came to my mind as I read your post is: “Who are you exactly and can you answer those questions yourselves? Can anyone out there answer, qualitatively and qualitatively, those questions? Or are you just trying to make yourself look good and justifying your existence by knocking off the VP?”

  3. Why not do some of this Social Media stuff as volunteer work to build your portfolio? Offer to help a non-profit, or speak to a traditional agency with existing clients that may need some help with Social Media. Why not start your own event and use the channels to make the event a success?

  4. Excellent questions to ask before you start a social media campaign. I realize there are a couple I don’t properly address.
    As for Robin’s comment above, I suggest trying your social media theories and strategies on yourself or your company first. Next experiment, or I should say “explore,” your existing client base for opportunities. Use that pool to test campaign ideas. People aren’t as willing to gamble these days on much especially with most lean marketing budgets. You may have to give a little upfront to demonstrate your strategies. To build credibility and authority, it might be worth investing your time and effort at a discount or even free of charge.
    Just my thoughts. Then again, I’m no VP of Social Media.
    ~ jason

  5. Well, that was the point to the story. This is an agency that does it. They have clients (small, medium and large) and have success, experience and understand Social Media. They were being sandbagged by someone whose only experience is reading other people’s Blogs and regurgitating the content. There are a lot of snake-oil salespeople selling this stuff.

  6. The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club. The first rule of Social Media is we don’t know the half of it yet when it comes to Social Media. Those who create great Viral campaigns or that really grasp it are gifted like professional atheletes, they seem to have a natural talent for it. The rest of us must learn from observation, trial and error and practice.
    Read David Meerman Scott or Qualman’s Socialnomics. Follow what those who are sucessful are doing then put your own spin on it and your original ideas to the test.
    Whatever you do don’t say “you should have a YouTube page a blog or we will get you some Twitter Followers!
    My advice go beyond reading a Tweet and read the content linked to it. If it is worthwhile, helpful, informative or entertaining keep following, retweet and learn why those with followers are sucessful. Also realize that they are doing more than just Tweeting they are working hard at a craft that is new and changing everyday.
    Adapt react re-adapt
    The second rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club!
    Thanks Mitch for a interesting story and a thought and comment provoking subject.
    @noblenyc (shameless plug)
    Tony Shimkin
    But whatever you do don’t say we

  7. I’ll vouch for Mitch’s comments Robin. When I first got into Social Media, I gave away strategies for three months straight to anyone who would take them. People thought I was crazy. But the thing was, I got clients to implement the plans, and they worked. The clients got results. Results that surprised everyone. And then I could talk about those results. Once you can talk about results, everything gets easier.

  8. Love that idea of diving deeper below good tweets to learn why people with lots of followers are successful.
    Although, a caution: lots of followers doesn’t always equal success.

  9. Sadly though, there are too many businesses that want to hear regurgitated drivel. Their ears have been conditioned by buzz words. When they hear those terms they respond like Pavlov’s dogs. When they don’t, they grow suspicious. And too often investments (i.e. foolish spending) is based on how well somebody can toss about those terms, not on how effective they can be in helping the business move forward. Easy answers with easy or little effort and big results. Lots of folks are searching for “the secret” to social media – and most everything else, for that matter.
    I enjoy your work. Thank you!

  10. This is brillant!
    We struggle with this issue almost daily. It’s just like SEO spoken like it’s black magic rather than hard work which will be reward with results. Agencies and marketing firms are “preaching” about all the cult of social media and that businesses and organizations should be out doing everything without the creation, implemantation, measurement and eventual fine tuning of a long term investment in a core marketing, advertising and branding platform.
    Social Media is interesting and fun but at the edge of the unknown media world, anyone that says they are an expert and a guru needs to be treated with caution and questions.
    Nothing is for sure without an understanding of the end result and the first step of action.
    Thanks for writing with passion on subject that provide the online community with a moment of thoughtfulness.
    Stella Pop
    Stella’s Pop Factory
    blog –
    We don’t make the Pop, We make the Fizz!

  11. “What were the results?”
    That’s probably the most important question. And it’s not just for social media, it’s for any creative solution.
    Everything we do must have a result – and the number of dormant corporate-branded FB pages and Twitter accounts as silent testimony to the ignorant advice passed on by so-called social-media experts to their clients…
    Great post as always, Mitch.

  12. Hey Mitch,
    Always appreciate it when people take the time to share this distinction. Not all tactical tip sheets can be superimposed across all clients for the same results. And until people do it, they really don’t know.

  13. Good stuff, social media is not new, its just a convenient label for networking. We now have multiple channels creating a whole world of creative opportunities to connect, and to engage in many ways. Music biz (as you know Mitch) was exploring this long time ago.
    Nevertheless, there are way too many self styled experts, mavens or ninjas in our midsts.

  14. “Blank stares, stammering and lot of shuffling in the seat followed.”
    Thanks- this made me laugh out loud. So much style out there and so little substance.
    I got the same result at a conference, after listening to this person describe their “amazing” social media effort that garnered all this free work and let them meet all these famous people, I asked how much revenue they could attribute to the effort.
    You’d think I asked them how to solve a differential equation.
    The same is true for SEO companies, if you can’t rank yourself, how are you going to do any better for me?
    @Jean-Pierre – If you can’t answer those questions, you shouldn’t be pitching the service, those are project scoping 101 questions- it’s not “prove the ROI”, but rather is it tied into the ROI? That’s a softball.

  15. Where do links take you? On this rainy Saturday morning, to this enlightening discussion.
    I’v been working (for free – friends) with a new Missouri restaurant. It’s been a learning experience all around. They wanted Facebook and for their fresh, organic, local menu with weekly changes, it works well – after fits and starts. They wanted Twitter and don’t use it. They just changed their print/online ad, by spur-of-the-moment and accidental good fortune, so we’re plotting out the next several – after I suggested they may want to find out if it works. They may or may not.
    The owner said: “My pop told me, on more than one occasion, ‘If you fell into a heap of dung, you would come up smelling of roses.'” He tempered it with an old Missouri saying, “Even a blind squirrel will find a nut sometimes.” On occasion, believing in success can become a brand business strategy. It is my mission to help them make it work.
    I will continue to work with them, do the analytics, and hope it is a great success – on their terms. Does this make me a soc med/restaurant expert? Not at all. But it has given me great insight into a client’s POV.

  16. As someone who is learning Social Media on a trial by error basis, reading blogs, twitter posts, etc, I am somewhere in between the client side and the digital agency side. The clients want it all, more twitter followers, more sales through twitter, etc. The agency uses a lot of buzz words and jargon, and as a consultant, i am communicating to both sides, and trying to learn from the agency.
    Mitch or anyone else out there, where can you learn how to come up with this question? “How did you define and scope the strategy and the program? ” In other words, how do I as a consultant learn how to become more like an agency on a small scale, but learn scope/strategy? I will take my answer offline!

  17. “Every communication is a chance to evoke conflict, or danger, or humor, or some other emotion to make the juices flow.†Do that well and become brand savvy! Now there is more to the puzzle to make this a success, but most of it comes from …
    Absolute truth…!!!

  18. I agree with Bryan and Brand Activation, it is actually quiet tricky to balance customer request and what you can actually do while adhering to the guide lines of Twiiter, Facebook and other Web 2.0 property.
    Here is another skill to master though and learn, “Teaching your valued clients what it is that you can do for them based on your skills and level of competence but not revealing what it is that you do. Over deliver on the promise and do it well!

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