When you’re a long-time reader, admirer and student of hers, fulfilling a request from Valeria to offer a guest article for Conversation Agent is a difficult task. And, honestly, when she asked me to tackle the subject of social media in the context of an agency, despite the fact that I should be ideally qualified to offer that perspective, I wrestled with the topic for weeks.
Instead of offering a contemplative piece offering the pros and cons of hiring an agency, a consultant or staffing internally (the first attempt, self-effacing yet egocentric) or case studies (the second attempt, staid and predictable) I landed here:
“What does the future of social media hold in the world of the agency? Or, at least, what do I hope it holds?”
While it’s true we’re at the front end of the social media bell curve and most agencies – social media, advertising, public relations or otherwise – have yet to acquire the requisite skill to effectively use the medium to connect and engage audiences on behalf of their clients, many are beginning to produce interesting efforts.
What good firms are doing now, all firms will be accomplishing five or 10 years from now. Now, we are learning, defining and experiencing. Tomorrow, the innovators and visionary social media minds will be pushing the limits of the media, lighting paths never before seen and, hopefully, making the consumer, and human, experience better.
The definition of social media will continue to be revealed as not a set of technological tools but a communications mechanism. Thus, communications professionals will claim responsibility for it. Not in a silo-ed, “you aren’t qualified to do this without us,” approach, but by taking responsibility for teaching, developing strategies and shepherding internal and external efforts using the tools.
Agencies will begin to own more and more responsibility for those communications because the good ones will see it as a way to survive in a world where traditional media, and thus traditional advertising and public relations, aren’t reliable places to hang your hat.
Customer service will migrate its way to the forefront of social media strategies and become the primary focus of these efforts. Direct conversations with consumers will provide businesses and brands with free research, reactions and ultimately remind the companies what their customers want.
Consumers will benefit as, years later, the trickle-down effect of The Cluetrain Manifesto will flood the boardrooms and C-suites of companies everywhere, many of which will begin to see occupants who have never known a world without the web. The social media tenets of transparency and humanness will begin to tear down bureaucracies, both in business and in government.
Agencies will find a renewed spirit of living, making customers happy because the customers’ customers are happy. The pro-bono and non-profit agency partners will then begin to reap the benefits as social media platforms will open new worlds of engagement and passion-building for causes that mean something more than our normal attentions.
My own agency has approached a drug rehabilitation and treatment center with an idea to utilize those currently in the program to serve as community managers for an online connecting point for anyone in need. These are the types of social media programs that can, and I would guess will, change the world.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what I hope will happen. Of course, all of it is dependent upon those of us who see this future and understand how social media can change the world teaching those outside the bubble of its potential.
If we don’t, old school marketing techniques will overrun social media channels with spam and the public will migrate somewhere else. I hear text-enabled walkie talkies are nice this time of year.
Jason Falls is the director of social media for Doe-Anderson, a brand-building agency in Louisville, Ky., specializing in building brand enthusiasts. A public relations professional by trade and writer by craft, Falls is co-founder of the Social Media Club Louisville.