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Stuart -

Good analogy about the ship and the privateers. I've found some agencies a bit snobbish with respect to the person on the corporate side. Instead, they should partner with them so they can get help in navigating the culture and learning curve.

Agencies often get a bad rap. Especially in the SM space. Lee and others are changing this by coming up with innovative ideas and delivering effective results.

Results, foresight and innovation. If an agency can deliver these they will be extremely successful. The key is being able to drive a bigger ship, in a sea full of privateers.

Hi Rick, great question. We've seen a very large increase in the number of word of mouth and referral sourced inquiries over the past 6 months.

Because TopRank doesn't really do any advertising, the questions we get are a bit different than many agencies due to the fact that they come in "warm".

Tactically, there's been an upsurge in the number of companies wanting to figure out where social media fits within their marketing strategy. Social applications like Facebook and Twitter are getting a substantial amount of media coverage. Companies want to know if it's a passing thing or something that they need to sink their teeth into.

If so, they want to know how. That's why we've developed a process for companies to approach social media at a strategic level that we call a Social Media Roadmap.

It's a familiar situation because the same thing happened with web sites in the mid-late nineties and with blogs in 2003-6.

One of the biggest changes I see is the need for agencies to be able to invest in their clients' knowledge. This comes in the form of regular consulting or structured training programs.

I also see a convergence of disciplines happening between search, social and PR that scares the hell out of some agencies because of what it would take to maintain expertise in each of those areas. However, clients are looking for that expertise under one roof.

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