Social Media campaigns: Whose job is it? 

A war has started in media land. Who is going to own the digital PR space?

By digital PR I mean social media campaigns that incorporate the creation of content, organisation of events etc on social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or Flickr.

Unlike most wars, this is a 3 way war, the parties being:

  • Traditional PR agencies
  • Digital departments of traditional media buying and planning agencies and
  • Digital creative agencies

They all claim that this space belongs to them.

PR agencies claim de facto rights, although they have, so far, failed to show exactly why they should be responsible for digital PR campaigns, other than they are PR agencies. Replicating offline campaign will not work with online and a better understanding of the power of social media is required, which I am not convinced that PR agencies have. Firstly an online press release will not work, it is not engaging enough, in fact it seems patronising within the social media environments, where dialogue is key. Secondly, when it comes to online, you need to be ready for the public’s reaction; this means that the responsibles for these campaign have got to be able to move swiftly towards any directions required by the users, being ready to respond to a great or a not that great public reaction. A great degree of proactiveness but a greater degree or reactiveness is requires when dealing with social media which I am not convinced the traditional PR agencies possess yet.

Digital departments within media agencies were the first to test advertising, albeit display, on social media. They were the first to understand the importance of some sort of social media presence for their clients. There is no doubt that they have been great contributors to the growth of social media.

However there is a clash between social media campaigns and what media agencies are employed to deliver to their clients, which is return on investment (ROI). The objective of dvertising is to sell. Social media should not and cannot be used as sales platforms. The results of advertising are scalable, social media are not.

Also media agencies are strustured in such a way that the planning floors have got the last word on the budget splits. As it is rare to find planners with a sufficient understanding of social media, most of the money still go to TV and press.

Finally, social media need a long term commitment, not budget coming out of a campaign PO. As long as social media is seeing as part of a campaign only, instead of a stand alone project which aims at engaging the brand with the consumers, clients will not be able to see their real potential.

Having said that, some media agencies forsaw the growth of social media, creating relevant departments and employing passionate social media strategists. These agencies have got a good chance of winning this war, as long as their agencies understand that they cannot treat these departments the same way they treat their display planning and buying media teams.

The last contenter in this war are digital creative agencies. Creative agencies need social media campaign ownership, as they predict that the need for display banners will decrease in the future, making digital PR a new source of income for them. However, there is a cultural clash between social media and creative agencies. Web designers tend to focus on how their creations look rather than engagement. Social media campaigns often do not require any creative at all. Creative agencies often fail to build websites that make the customer journey quicker and more pleasant; often they fail to reflect the brand’s culture with their creative executions. How can they be expected to draft social media strategies designed to listen to the consumer and to reflect the values and culture of the brand?

If I could place a bet, I would put my money on full service digital agencies. There has been a lot of doubt on whether the niche digital agencies can survive at a time that clients consolidate their accounts to save money. Full service digital agencies can offer client teams that consist of creative, PR and media people that can work closely to each other to ensure the utmost consistency in their campaigns. They have a clearer picture of the effect of one medium on the other which puts them in a better position to draft future strategies.

This is a great chance for the underdog to shine!

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