The following is a guest post by Marjorie Clayman (@MargieClayman) a third generation agency marketer and an up and coming online marketer. She’s appeared out of nowhere and is quickly making friends with pretty much every important name in internet marketing. Her bio will tell you “I am a proponent of carefully planned Social Media marketing, I’m passionate about fully integrated marketing, and I’m a nut when it comes to research. When I’m not engrossed in marketing, you can find me doing any number of crafts, doing Yoga, or reading a history book of some sort.” be sure to check out Marjorie’s site at reallifemadman.wordpress.com
Watching the world of Social Media from the vantage point of an agency person is kind of like watching Godzilla fight King Kong from a very close vantage point. At least in our agency, we try to be skilled experts in whatever might help out our clients. If there is a new design program, we try to learn it. We are in Social Media. We do e-newsletters.We do traditional print ads, but maybe in new ways.
What you find in the Social Media world is that there are a lot of people who have taken one facet of the marketing world and made it their own. While this might be viewed as a good thing – more jobs, more opinions, more experts to lean on – I think that there are more negatives than positives.
From the agency perspective, of course, this means that we are competing with all of the experts who are out there, no matter what their practice. But I am most concerned that having all of these realms of experts is going to be like a bunch of unsinkable Titanics skimming an iceberg and sinking fast. It’s going to be a hard hit to the marketing world, and it is those who need marketing services that will suffer the most.
Why do I think about this segmentation of the marketing world in such a negative way?
Let me talk about some of the categories of expert that are floating around right now and why I worry that having such specialized experts may have us on the pathway towards a tragic shipwreck.
Social Media Experts
There is nothing inherently wrong with this category of people. They jumped onto the Social Media Marketing bandwagon when people were still publishing articles captioned “Social Media is just a fad.” The problem is that as Social Media experts, the sweet spot for these people is, well, Social Media.
For some companies, that might work out just fine, too. However, what I worry about is the company that says, “Oh, well, Social Media is going to be so successful for me I don’t need to continue to do some of that old fashioned stuff like advertising or PR or trade shows.”
This kind of thinking can backfire for the Social Media expert and for the company. If a company has advertised in all 12 issues of a publication for 20 years and then suddenly stops without warning, the message being sent to the industry is that they can’t afford the program anymore. Maybe they went out of business. People monitor things like that. Without a strategy to bridge existing tactics to new ones, there is no promise that people who are familiar with a company’s brand will make the leap to a new Facebook fan page. In this scenario, existing branding strategies are being erased and new strategies are working at a disadvantage.
No one benefits.
(Tommy here! This is why I hate any self proclaimed “expert”. There are so many different elements to a successful marketing campaign, and no one path is the road to marketing salvation. Anyone who gives themselves the title “expert” is arrogant and needs to remove themselves from the industry. If you’re one of these people, feel free to flame me in the comments below)
Customer Service Experts
There are satisfaction experts out there who insist that marketing doesn’t matter if you have good service, or put another way, good service is the only marketing and PR you need. These folks may talk about Social Media, and they may hit on technology (should CSRs be using Skype, Twitter, phones, or what?), and some go so far as to say that Social Media is really the realm of service (think Comcast cares).
The worrisome thing about this approach is that whether it is a happy fact or not, there are other departments in the company. There might just very well be a marketing department or agency in the mix. There is a sales team. There is probably a C-suite. If the Customer Service Department insulates itself too much, it cannot be supported by other facets of the company.
The company will not be made aware of potential product flaws because there is not a system for internal communication. The hesitation on the part of some Customer Service experts to integrate could be deadly for a company.
(One of the main reasons for this “just service” online media approach is because Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com says ” service is everything” and think that is the only part of their online marketing. It may be where Zappos focuses most of their attention, look closely at some of the other things they’re doing. It’s not just service, they’re also doing email marketing, video, and many more of the 14 disciplines of online marketing.)
Public Relations Experts
Another Titanic racing towards an iceberg is the ever increasing number of PR experts. These folks, like Customer Service, tend to believe that the marketing department is just redundant. These folks may hedge towards the argument that Social Media is really the domain of PR. After all, PR people can listen in to conversations, identify problems, and rush into brighten the picture right away.
Customer Service would not be able to repair damages if it wasn’t for PR. That new product wouldn’t be a household name if PR hadn’t done its job. Again, the danger is insulation. Let’s say PR is your mouth. When you get into trouble, your mouth can get you out of it through the words that you choose to say next. But how do you know you’re in trouble? How do you know what the rest of you is doing?
Integration of PR into other marketing tactics, including advertising, sales, service, and more enhances all of those tactics and also affords PR a greater chance for success.
(One of my favorite chats to join on twitter is the #pr20chat because it consists of a bunch of seasoned Pr professionals. A few of the common themes in the chat are “what department is responsible for social media” and “do you have a blogger outreach strategy?”
To me, I’ve always found these questions a little funny, only because the public relations folks are seeming to jump into the online marketing game a little late. “Blog outreach” for example is a PR term that anyone else would call “Commenting on others blogs”.
I love the PR community, I really do, I just think that sometimes they over complicate things by over delegating and compartmentalizing everyone’s roles in online media)
The fastest growing group of people that I see in the world of Social Media is the group of self-proclaimed business consultants. Rather than indicating that a company just needs Social Media or just needs service, these people often preach that a company just needs them.
From what I see, a lot of these people actually are trying to fit into the Social Media expert crowd. They don’t really have a solid grasp on that part of the puzzle, and they really do not have a way to integrate Social Media with other marketing channels. And yet, if they tell a company that Social Media is the way to go, and they show up with some pretty sparkly case studies, who is going to tell the company that they are walking in the wrong direction behind the wrong leader?
These folks are risking a great deal by offering advice before fully understanding the big picture. As the old saying goes, make sure you can swim before trying to help someone who is drowning.
(This section had resonated with me because I consider myself a consultant. Like anything, there are good consultants and there are bad consultants. Marjorie is talking about bad consultants. A good consultant realizes that it’s not just “Social Media” or “Public Relations” or “Customer Service” but that they’re all smaller components of a much larger machine.
They understand how different elements work together and know that success is a team effort. In most cases, the team just needs a quarterback.
Be cautious though if a consultant is showing up with pretty sparkly case studies that aren’t their own. Just because someone else is able to pull off what they propose to do, doesn’t mean they can. Always use your instinct when hiring any third party vendor.)
Back to the Titanic
When the Titanic was first built, everyone said that it was an unsinkable ship. It was the tiptop in every way, or so it seemed. A small brush from a hunk of ice proved all of those people wrong.
A lot of people are going off on their own as an “expert” of some kind, and they are claiming that their logic is infallible and they are unsinkable. There have already been some gashes and bruises because of this approach.
Ultimately, what will happen is that all of these experts will realize that they are all saying the same thing in different ways. “Pay me to help your company because my way is the only right way.” They are all going to run into each other. They are all going to be sunk by icebergs. And there are definitely not enough lifeboats.
So how can we get around this?
Why not consider working together? Why not have meetings that integrate PR people with Social Media people? Why not have panels where these different kinds of experts can just plain duke it out and come to an understanding?
Ultimately, a company that needs marketing help needs all of these people. A company needs PR. A company needs good service. Why stand in each others’ way? Why sink the clients we are all trying to earn?
The truly unsinkable ship is made strong by lots of links, lots of networking. We have the capacity. We have the capability. All we’re lacking is the will to collaborate.
Something to think about before we all drown in hubris, no?