Social Media Wars Update: I Was Wrong

I was wrong. Yep, I admit it. I was wrong on this one when I said digital agencies would win social media. First, there is the whole issue about pigeon-holing "social media" as an offering versus recognizing it as the state of the web and therefore altering your offerings and position as a digital agency all together. But that isn't the point of this post (as that is a whole other issue about agencies in general).

While it initially seems that the digital agency should win out the battle for social media strategy-- indeed they have all the right ingredients with creative, dev teams, search & market research insight, etc to stand poised as leaders in this space-- there is a fundamental and pervasive lack of understanding of the current state of the internet today in the industry. Mention social media and they get excited. Talk about "dialogue" or "engagement" and you'll get a blank stare. You see?

This issue, however, is more fundamental to agencies and the inherent problems with their organizational structure and standard offerings (and standard way of approaching/understanding the internet) that is to blame and not any one company.

And really the question is not so much "who will win social media?" but really one that is much bigger and scarier than any digital agency is willing to admit...the question is "who will win the internet?"

Correction: as Eric Weaver points out more specifically..."WHO WILL WIN THE DIGITAL COSNUMER?"

My new take: companies not steeped in stagnant agency traditions of structure, who understand the current state of the internet, the culture shaping it, and the future of the digital consumers' lives that acquire talent with varying talents in communications/PR/WOM, creative, user/design experience, web development, and content development/publishing.....these stealth firms will be the one's to watch..and the ones to win the future of the web.


Eric Weaver said...

Sadly, I completely agree on both counts. "Social media" is the entire rest (95%) of the conversation around companies/brands/products/whatever, rather than a single outbound comm channel, like direct or events. To avoid/ignore the conversation is like standing in the road with your eyes closed.

Secondly, digital agencies SHOULD be the first to see the opp and take home-court advantage. I've been stunned, however, at recent conversations where a few planners may get it but the agency is mirroring client risk aversion rather than blazing amazing new trails.

There are a few CMO/VP Mktg types out there who are experimental and empowered. Many live in fear and perpetuate the monologue through repeated webinars and email blasts, while the consumer din roars about them.

One area where I disagree is in the "who will win" question. To me, it's less about the plumbing (internet) and more about winning the voice of the digitally-empowered consumer...winning the leveraging of consumer dialogue as a means to better connect with your market. Winning the conversation. And through that, winning advocacy, peer referral and trust. :)

mikemookie said...

don't disagree with your "take", but I see a hurdle that is necessary to climb if a type agency is going to "own the internet" and that is the scale of their offering.
Stealth Agencies that are lean, agile, quick to evolve, not held down by unnecessary process (process is necessary, just not a lot of process) at the end of the day also tend to be on the smaller side. And those agencies that are "smaller" tend not to have the scale necessary to "own" any one discipline.
You can argue that as a group, the smaller/stealth agencies can "own" the space together. But, if they are doing it really well, how long can/will one hold out until they get bought-up? And from experience, once you are bought-up by someone bigger, no matter what they say, you're gonna have to follow their rules (read: a lot of process) that turn you from stealth to stale.
...Thinking on this right now for the first time, but there is something to say about how the best and the brightest in the industry today are sharing with each at such a rapid pace with such transparency and passion that it wouldn't surprise me (and would be extremely exciting) if a group of them joined together to create one of those Stealth agencies and just started killing it in the industry.
Because at the end of the day, it is the thinking behind the agencies (big, small, stealthy) that make it all possible.

MST 1948 said...

@eric weaver

thanks for the insight, and yes i see what you mean about winning the conversation/ the digital consumer vs. the "internet" per se...and part of that is understanding the digital life (the keystone of which, right now, is the internet), and its evolution...the "digital life" is about being connected, portable, and instantly accessible-- elements which are made manifest right now in the current state of the web..

@mikemookie...well, what are we waiting for?