Let me first start by saying that I have been encouraged by recent observations that so many agencies have started to incorporate social media activities into their services. Now we need to be clear as to what this actually entails because I can guarantee that it varies from agency to agency. There seem to be three broad categories:
– Totally removed: Doing exactly as the title suggests, total non-participation in social media.
– Acknowledged presence: Typically simple toe-in-the-water entry-level activity, where someone is tasked with doing Tweets and Facebook posts on behalf of their brands or clients and reporting on the number of followers, frequency of brand mentions and the main keywords used in those Twitter accounts and the Facebook pages.
– Engaging activist: This is notably a more strategic approach where creative campaigns are designed to engage with their communities. It is in these scenarios that specialist social media departments are being born whereas in the former the social media related work may have been carried out by the youngster in the office who’s most familiar with this mode of communication due to them constantly being active in it during their own time (head down, mobile in hand, limited mumbled verbal interaction..).
Without a doubt, social media will evolve but it’s not going away so there’s no point in ignoring it because it will still be there tomorrow. Admittedly while it’s arguable that it’s not relevant for everyone (but leaving that discussion aside for the moment), businesses clearly need to start embracing it as an integral part of their organisation, key to planning, strategy and communications. You have to ask though as to where these roles and responsibilities should sit or will sit in the longer term. Cast your mind back to the rise of the Internet and you’ll recall it was often the IT departments that took ownership of the company websites before the marketing and PR teams even got close so it’s not hard to see these social tasks hot-desking before too long.
The sheer volume of data will require analysis and that will require knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative research skills. Automated monitoring software can create excellent reports however you still need a human being to identify personal statements and then interpret the discussions into a relevant context. Communications teams need to understand the tone and emotion of the consumer language to be able to respond in kind and PR personnel need to track brand reputation and be prepared and ready in the event of crisis management. Meanwhile the sales teams will be looking to uncover new target markets and business opportunities as the R&D team look to collaborate with consumers for social innovation as the brands look to leverage their contribution to new products and services.
As we struggle to keep up with the pace of change we strive to deliver the best we can for our brands and our clients. We need to be honest, at least to ourselves about our knowledge, the resources available and restrictions upon us. Our creativity is our largest obstacle as to what we can accomplish using social media and collaborating with teams and experts internally or externally will help achieve our aims. After all, just because you can put air in your car’s tyres doesn’t mean you’re fully qualified to rebuild the engine…
“The human body has limitations. The human spirit is boundless”