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THE REMIX: Are You Paying Unqualified Experts?

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I wrote a post, and you (insert liked or hated) it

Last week I wrote a post suggesting a social media service provider should possess marketing acumen. 

While I stand behind that, I thought it interesting that several people pointed out that all marketing types aren’t suited for social media.  On this point I agree.  So I’d like to dive a bit deeper and share more of my thoughts, fwiw.

I stumbled upon this quote from Scott Monty, who heads Ford’s SM program, and thought  it relevant:

“Let’s not kid ourselves.  Using social media as part of your marketing mix is far more than recruiting some über-connected individual who can bring attention to your brand. It starts with crafting a strategy and understanding what your business objectives are.  And it means never, ever taking your eye off the customer and doing what matters – providing value to them. After all, isn’t that what you’re in business for?”

Two points I zeroed in on: 1) That social media is part of marketing and 2) There are skill sets required beyond the ability to amass followers.

So, if it’s a marketing program, doesn’t it make sense to have a person with some marketing background head the program?  Or, at the very least contain the overall program within the marketing department?   

Once upon a time ….

“Interactive” agencies were born – from a need.  I remember those times well, and (as a marketing leader) it was a hassle to hire two separate agencies for what – IMO – needed to be integrated efforts.

I had each whispering their specific agenda into my ear, albeit with good intentions, but their viewpoint was decidedly one-sided.  They weren’t thinking around the sum total of all efforts/programs.  My job was to look at the bigger picture:  The overarching strategy, how these executables supported my company’s strategic imperatives, and how I benchmark and measure each.

I was caught in a tug-o-war between experts in their particular, specific fields.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I needed experts.  However, if the web shop had more “traditional” brand strategy experience (and appreciated its magnitude), or my agency had web capabilities it would have made my life easier.  

Fast forward to smart “traditional” agencies that, foreseeing the coming paradigm shift, staffed up with the specialized talent (creative, strategic and techie) to offer all services under one roof.   (Can you imagine any agency now failing to offer web development?)  

Now, while a plethora of specialty shops (agencies or consultants) exist, be it by industry- or discipline-specific, for the most part the great divide of “traditional” vs. interactive is arguably lessened.

See where I’m going? 

No matter the offering (creative services, social media, product development, user experience, etc.) a strategic roadmap must exist. 

If social media consultants/agencies lack the depth to understand how to build their engagement roadmap around a company’s specific brand, positioning (and other) strategic requirements and know how to measure results against business objectives, how can the company possibly execute successfully and  without diluting brand? 

I’m not talking about contrived or canned conversation.  I’m talking about engaging in a manner that is consistent with the brand, be it in tactic, tone or voice. 

We can rebuild it

I agree that marketers don’t automatically or necessarily have the chops to execute against social media initiatives.  Having said that, smart social media consultants/agencies that lack “traditional” marketing experience will be wise to take a page from the history books and staff up (or partner) with marketing types in order to offer a deeper, more well-rounded set of offerings.

Note: IMHO, while they’re at it they’d be wise to bring in folks that understand how the move toward the semantic web could shift things to best position themselves for where the puck will be, as opposed to where it is now. 

My bet is, as this happens and these new bundled service offerings evolve and then become main stream, we will lose the term “social media”.  But that’s another post.

Another point was raised regarding programs, trainings or seminars on social media.  I was not referring to programs that teach about social media concepts, tools, how-to’s, etc.  Rather, I was speaking of firms or consultants paid for services provided.

p.s.  Wow, long post.  I feel like Rob Hahn, except a girl and not as smart.

 

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Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Duke Long

    November 5, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Only Rob Hahn truly knows. 🙂

  2. Benn Rosales

    November 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Brandie, initially, social media was a concept understood by those in the small circle as unmarketing. The problem today is the need to market accelerated by the recession- the old rules were crushed to some extent as the mob joined the conversation at what feels to be ‘all at one time.’

    I still believe it to be true that old fashioned push methods will be ‘unfollowed’ but what has become an interesting case study is how people that need to market are using the ‘they’re doing it’ as an excuse to do it themselves to gain some edge in down times.

    The abuse of the system by ‘marketers’ (not all) is killing the culture, and just like I forward thru commercials on my DVR, I unfollow push marketers.

    Marketers for the most part have not spent nearly the time you have to really understand why social media is actually successful, and have head-on attempted to bend it over and show it a traditional spanking, thus corrupting what was a very cool way of reaching new people.

    It’s so damn noisy now- everyone’s a headline, everyone’s a content producer, everyone’s an opportunity that no one is actually a consumer anymore- time will burn it out, and tune it out. Today, the small town is louder than television, more annoying than junk mail, and more rapid fire than email spam.

    I would take someone who understands the culture as my guide over an experienced marketer who doesn’t if it meant I would keep and maintain the trust of my online community, thus keeping me tuned in- that’s the long term key to survival.

  3. Lani Rosales

    November 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    In our conversation, Benn just noted (and I thought it was interesting) that it’s great if someone has been on an African Safari while vacationing, but he’d rather have an actual African to communicate with African natives and survive in the jungle (because lions like to eat you n stuff). 🙂

  4. Brandie Young

    November 5, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Benn –
    I hear you about the abuse … side note: I wonder how many of those abusers have a true marketing background – or as you said – see the various channels as a way to shill products/services? Would be interesting to learn. But I then I like to understand such things…

    My question for you is around the comment in your last paragraph “I would take someone who understands the culture as my guide over an experienced marketer” … First, my question is broad, as it depends on the goal of your program (customer service, lead gen, positioning, sales, etc.). Assuming it’s a marketing initiative as opposed to customer service (mostly b/c my whole point was when sm is a marketing initiative) where would the program “live” in your scenario? Who’s budget does it hit? And, if it didn’t measure up, who is responsible ? IT, BusDev … or … marketing?

    • Benn Rosales

      November 5, 2009 at 1:39 pm

      … Lani didn’t mention I’d want the native African to speak English as well 😉

      The desicion maker is ultimately responsible. If social media is seen only as a marketing component with their eyes wide open that it is so much more (and fail at the so much more part), then ultimately it’s their budget to lose. I say this fully believing that the original appeal of social media still remains true- it’s un-marketing, and the grass roots element still maintains that it shouldn’t be thought of as marketing at all. And why not? We shouldn’t reinvent the wheel, but that doesn’t mean we can’t build a new paradigm within the wheel.

      Which is why in my opinion it is best to bring in an educated (has worked within the corporate universe in communications, advertising, public relations, marketing) social median to sit along side a marketing team, advertising, and/or public relations team in order to really understand the product, and/or service or barrier needs. For me, it is easy to see a big picture being painted and how it integrates into the medium if I’m fully aware of the traditional campaign already in motion.

      Let me put this in a different way. If you’ve been watching television commercials for 30 years, that doesn’t make you an advertiser, you have no real concept of the research that is involved before going to air with a campaign- you wouldn’t want to just go willy nilly into advertising without understanding who its target is and how message is recieved by the culture receiving the message- I simply say the same of any traditional marketer, advertiser, PR, etc… and I know you agree.

      I’ve been in your shoes undoing problems created by folks who do not understand traditional natures of corporations, nor budget needs, nor corporate structure. I’ve seen eyeballs rolled back in executive heads because a young anti-corporate mud slinger goes in and says the word ‘transparent’ to a hospital. Ultimately, what in the hell does “transparent” really mean?

  5. Brandie Young

    November 5, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Lani,
    I’m with you – always best to find someone that’s :”been there”. No argument. I’d probably want the actual guy that can speak to the natives AND negotiate with authorities just in case … Then again, I’m demanding in my expectations that way 🙂

  6. Brandie Young

    November 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Benn – Do we agree?? >>> “best to bring in an educated (has worked within the corporate universe in communications, advertising, public relations, marketing) social median to sit along side a marketing team, advertising, and/or public relations team in order to really understand the product, and/or service or barrier needs.”

    Also, help me understand what you mean by “un marketing” …

  7. Benn Rosales

    November 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    The difference between push and pull is un-marketing. Although I think we’re seeing some pull to hard imo.

    Brandie, we do agree, I’m saying if a company’s thought leaders are ill equipped to the ideals and concept of social media (1.0 traditional) then what you quoted can be a very inexpensive way to to continue operations without skipping a beat. This would remain true for a traditional marketing company used in an outsource scenario that needs to very quickly and dynamically blend a campaign. The person they hire will be more success if they understand corporate movement.

    Budgetary needs would then fall to the marketing effort, because the company is only leveraging one possible component in social media.

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