Social Media Pros: Where Do We Go from Here?
Social Media Pros: Where Do We Go from Here?
by
Kat French
Kat French

I called Chris Brogan a dirty word a while back.

Yup–Mr. Helpful Nice Guy himself, who along with Jason, is probably one of the most universally well-liked people in social media.   And  I was genuinely, really mad.

So what provoked my unladylike display of Brogan-aimed profanity?  While it was a good indicator that my vacation last week was way overdue, mostly it was a sign that he hit a nerve.   I had posted A Day in the Life of a Social Media Manager, a humorous rundown of my routine that included a lot of the actual tasks that make up my workday as an agency social media specialist. Later that day, Chris wrote a post that included the following:

“What are people doing taking titles like “Social Media Manager?” To me, this is a scary thing. Why? Because it’s like being the fax manager or the email manager. You’re naming yourself after a tool.”

It also didn’t help much that some of the tasks I’d listed were mentioned in Chris’ post in a way that seemed to imply they were fairly meaningless and lacking in business value. I didn’t take it well. On the positive side, Jason thought my emailed vent was hilarious. So hilarious that he forwarded it to Chris.

Which is the short way of explaining how it all worked out. Chris hadn’t seen my post, the topical overlap was coincidental, and on a second reading I realized that I actually agreed with a lot of what he’d written.

There’s a reason I’m bringing up the whole kerfuffle almost two months later (besides the intrinsic entertainment value of you folks picturing me cursing Brogan like a preschooler with Tourettes).

The two posts present a real, relevant issue for those who work (or want to work) in social media. On one side, you’ve got a vision of social media as a way of making business communication more human and more effective, while making the bottom-line results more measurable. In that vision, social media is integrated fully into existing business disciplines. It’s obsolete as a specialization in itself.

On the other side, you’ve got the day-to-day life of someone paid to help clients use social media tools to their advantage—within their comfort zone, within their restrictions, and within their existing business paradigms.

The distance between the two, on some days, seems like an enormous gaping canyon.

My anger at Chris was less about what he wrote, and more about the fact that it reminded me painfully of the wall that I beat my head against daily. I want to do high-value work for my clients. I’d love to be able to tie my work more directly to their overall profitability. Much of the time, reality fails to live up to that ideal.

I can’t often do all the things I’d like to do for my clients. They’re just not there yet. They trust that the advertising agency I work for understands their marketing and business goals. They trust that I understand social media. They don’t yet trust the value of social media. (And for the record, this is still largely true of search engine marketing as well.) We work in a very idealistic, futurist focus area (social media), in an industry (marketing and advertising) that is often jaded, cynical and married to past processes and conventions.

Skepticism (often born of failed efforts), risk-aversion, legal restrictions for their industry, corporate culture issues, and the sometimes complicated morass of different interested parties get in the way of being able to push the needles that would prove that value.

I provide the value I can, with all the honesty and integrity that I can. I make sure that the low-hanging fruit is harvested. When a client gets excited about a shiny new social media toy, I investigate the potential value and try not to quash their budding enthusiasm. I measure whatever I can, hoping that it will demonstrate enough value to get clients to a comfort level that will let them take the next step. I come up with strategic recommendations, editorial calendars, and content ideas, and hope that they decide to move forward with them. I prod and poke and cluck as much as I can to move them forward. It’s not ideal, and for an idealist like me, that can be hard.

There are still many clients for whom having a Facebook page where –Oh, my God—the public can post what they think, is a huge leap of faith. And I can’t say I much appreciate gurus and innovators who continually devalue the fact that I’ve actually gotten the client over their fear enough to publish the damn thing and see what happens. When a client musters the boldness to interact, I applaud their authentic first efforts (even if those efforts are authentically awkward). I give guidance and advice but I try to restrain myself from polishing or reworking things too much, in the same way a parent has to restrain herself from just tying her kid’s shoes for them because it’ll be faster and easier. That’s how they learn.

Can I enjoy that little victory a bit? Without getting slapped in the face and told I’ve accomplished nothing of value there? It’s a step, for heaven’s sake. It’s often the first tiny crack in a corporate wall that has separated “us” (the company) from “them” (those lousy customers) for decades. Can I not celebrate my crack a little?

[Waiting patiently while the Beavises and Buttheads in the audience get over their giggle fit at that last sentence. Okay, moving on.]

Most companies are at least starting to see the potential. They understand word of mouth, and they understand that this is word of mouth in 2009. They’ve still got a lot of ground to cover between a willingness to experiment and a willingness to embrace social media. That’s my role most of the time: finding the path of least resistance between my clients’ willingness to explore social media and the results that will hopefully move them towards embracing it in a way that can transform their business. This is the present, for me.

That said, I live with the understanding that this isn’t a business relationship that can continue indefinitely. For some, social media will end up being something they tried once. For others, they’ll eventually embrace it, own it, and integrate it into those existing disciplines, as Chris’ post described. Both scenarios leave me with no real role left to play.

Which makes me wonder where I’m headed next. That isn’t to say that I’m going to leave social media. Or that I’m convinced that a traditional advertising agency, with mostly traditional clients, has no room for social media related services.

But things are going to have to change at some point.

Maybe the change needs to be in how we refer to the services we provide. Advertising, web marketing and PR professionals have slapped the “social media” label on so many diverse strategic and executional disciplines and services, I’m not sure we even know what it means anymore. We did it for the same reason people were slapping “widgets” or “viral” or “web 2.0” on everything for a while: because that’s what clients are asking from us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of having to prove the value of “social media” when for so much of the actual work I perform that falls under that giant umbrella, the value is head-slappingly obvious. Maybe it would be better to just talk about all that obviously valuable stuff instead.

Content strategy, online public relations, brand enthusiast cultivation, and blogger outreach are terms that are meaningful, and whose business value is pretty self-evident. Creating specialized online tools to connect interest groups is a clear service set description with an implied business value.

This is where I think the future lies for today’s social media managers/strategists/specialists—in developing new roles based on clear service sets whose value is self-evident and which are grounded in our core vocational competencies, our social media fluency, and any other handy skills we’re picking up.

Most social media people I know are consummate jacks-of-all-trades. Being a jack-of-all-trades is a horrible specialty, but it does provide you with a lot of options to develop into a real specialty.

In our case, it may be a specialty that doesn’t yet exist, or exists now in a nascent form. Because when social media fluency is integrated with traditional business disciplines and other skills, you often actually get something entirely new. Sort of like cross-breeds are a whole new species.

I believe what I’m doing now has value, in the present. I also recognize that I need to start weaving my parachute now for the day when clients aren’t knocking down the doors of agencies demanding “social media.”

Are you weaving yours?

About the Author

Kat French
Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.
  • social media has been spammed by people who don't know what social media means and how to use it for sharing knowledge with friends and family.

  • Hey great info. Some how you are right. People have so many options while doing social networking. Nice stuff

  • Hey great info. Some how you are right. People have so many options while doing social networking. Nice stuff

  • SocialSteve

    Kat – Thanks. Good information. It is very important that social media “implementers” connect with executives/management. I reference this requirement in a recent posting “Social Media – What Companies Are Looking For.” I also recommend that social media managers take a look at another article, “Before You Start with Social Media,” that highlights how to the integrate top level marketing plan and social media. Both can be found at my blog.

    Social Steve
    http://www.socialsteve.wordpress.com

  • SocialSteve

    Kat – Thanks. Good information. It is very important that social media “implementers” connect with executives/management. I reference this requirement in a recent posting “Social Media – What Companies Are Looking For.” I also recommend that social media managers take a look at another article, “Before You Start with Social Media,” that highlights how to the integrate top level marketing plan and social media. Both can be found at my blog.

    Social Steve
    http://www.socialsteve.wordpress.com

  • KatFrench

    Glad you found it useful, Marcy. And FWIW, I'm over the mad. Chris and I got our “make up hug” last week when he was here in town. He's a good guy–it was just really odd and unfortunate timing.

  • KatFrench

    Michelle – Thanks for your response. I mostly agree with your points with one caveat. While it's true that everyone won't necessarily read everything you tweet, the converse, that everyone COULD potentially read any tweet, is also true.

  • KatFrench

    Thanks! And that is a FANTASTIC metaphor, BTW.

  • KatFrench

    That was very zen, Gerard. And quite true. Thanks.

  • KatFrench

    Absolutely. When “get them to stop talking about us” isn't an option, really, what's left is participation, right?

  • KatFrench

    Woot! Woot!

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  • lizEwards

    It's quite informative for thinking what's the role social media is playing in marketing. But what do you think of its impact on the traditional media? As Bob Garfield said in his book The Chaos Scenario (thechaosscenario.net), other media is all dying. Maybe social media will dominate the ways we communicate in the future, marketers will no longer use the traditional media.

  • lizEwards

    It's quite informative for thinking what's the role social media is playing in marketing. But what do you think of its impact on the traditional media? As Bob Garfield said in his book The Chaos Scenario (thechaosscenario.net), other media is all dying. Maybe social media will dominate the ways we communicate in the future, marketers will no longer use the traditional media.

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  • Hey really informative post indeed. I didn't know enough about social media before but after join this blog. I really got many info. Thanks mate.

  • After reading the part about his reaction(just the first part), I couldn't blame you for being raging mad! I would have been too. It would have appeared to be an insult.

    Anyway, thanks for the information! Very useful!

  • After reading the part about his reaction(just the first part), I couldn't blame you for being raging mad! I would have been too. It would have appeared to be an insult.

    Anyway, thanks for the information! Very useful!

    • KatFrench

      Glad you found it useful, Marcy. And FWIW, I'm over the mad. Chris and I got our “make up hug” last week when he was here in town. He's a good guy–it was just really odd and unfortunate timing.

  • Kat – wow – first time I've happened onto your post because I saw a Tweet on @RyanStephens page today……I agree with everything you are saying.

    I feel, especially with Twitter, that there are two very common misconceptions when it comes to being “present” and companies need to consider this before they jump onto the “social media bandwagon”.

    1. Everyone will read everything I tweet (so not true – we are all pushed for time and it's nearly impossible to read everything everywhere). Don't we all have some RSS feeds that we really don't stay on top of – despite our best intentions?

    2. That business will come to us overnight – rarely do things of great value happen instantaneously – developing a strategy, prior to launching a social media platform, is necessary. Relationships are even more crucial. If all you do on any network is push, push, push – people will veer away from you.

    Before people jump onto the bandwagon thing about Strategy, time and building the relationship. Even though most SM is free….we must still invest into it with our time. If you can't afford that time or to pay someone to invest it for your company then it may be best to rethink jumping on board.

  • Kat – wow – first time I've happened onto your post because I saw a Tweet on @RyanStephens page today……I agree with everything you are saying.

    I feel, especially with Twitter, that there are two very common misconceptions when it comes to being “present” and companies need to consider this before they jump onto the “social media bandwagon”.

    1. Everyone will read everything I tweet (so not true – we are all pushed for time and it's nearly impossible to read everything everywhere). Don't we all have some RSS feeds that we really don't stay on top of – despite our best intentions?

    2. That business will come to us overnight – rarely do things of great value happen instantaneously – developing a strategy, prior to launching a social media platform, is necessary. Relationships are even more crucial. If all you do on any network is push, push, push – people will veer away from you.

    Before people jump onto the bandwagon thing about Strategy, time and building the relationship. Even though most SM is free….we must still invest into it with our time. If you can't afford that time or to pay someone to invest it for your company then it may be best to rethink jumping on board.

    • KatFrench

      Michelle – Thanks for your response. I mostly agree with your points with one caveat. While it's true that everyone won't necessarily read everything you tweet, the converse, that everyone COULD potentially read any tweet, is also true.

  • You keep doing what you are doing. Bringing people to the door of the airplane and getting them to believe that the parachute will open is a huge thing. I respect your ability to do that. Keep the faith!!

  • You keep doing what you are doing. Bringing people to the door of the airplane and getting them to believe that the parachute will open is a huge thing. I respect your ability to do that. Keep the faith!!

    • KatFrench

      Thanks! And that is a FANTASTIC metaphor, BTW.

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  • gerardmclean

    High-value work is built one brick at a time, one wall, one building, one village, one city. To continue the analogy, one tweet, one blog post, one network, one sale, one IPO.

    Every success is always a series of really small success, whether they looked like failure at the time or not.

  • gerardmclean

    High-value work is built one brick at a time, one wall, one building, one village, one city. To continue the analogy, one tweet, one blog post, one network, one sale, one IPO.

    Every success is always a series of really small success, whether they looked like failure at the time or not.

    • KatFrench

      That was very zen, Gerard. And quite true. Thanks.

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  • gingerdodds

    I really enjoyed your blog. First time reading it. I understand the feeling of joy & relief when you do have a client get beyond the fear of someone posting something negative about their company on a site such as Facebook. That's one of the biggest obstacles I see when talking to companies with whom I work. People will find a way to post those comments regardless of whether or not your company has a facebook or twitter page. Convincing them that they have to join the conversation on social media sites is an uphill battle some days. I see it as a positive sign that companies are now reaching out to my agency (http://www.shaker.com), understanding that social media is the new “word of mouth” as you state in your blog and it's not going away. They are beginning to truly understand it's time to join the party.

  • gingerdodds

    I really enjoyed your blog. First time reading it. I understand the feeling of joy & relief when you do have a client get beyond the fear of someone posting something negative about their company on a site such as Facebook. That's one of the biggest obstacles I see when talking to companies with whom I work. People will find a way to post those comments regardless of whether or not your company has a facebook or twitter page. Convincing them that they have to join the conversation on social media sites is an uphill battle some days. I see it as a positive sign that companies are now reaching out to my agency (http://www.shaker.com), understanding that social media is the new “word of mouth” as you state in your blog and it's not going away. They are beginning to truly understand it's time to join the party.

    • KatFrench

      Absolutely. When “get them to stop talking about us” isn't an option, really, what's left is participation, right?

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  • margaretfrancis

    Celebrating those tiny cracks right along with you.

  • margaretfrancis

    Celebrating those tiny cracks right along with you.

    • KatFrench

      Woot! Woot!

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  • KatFrench

    Don't hold back, there, Adam. Tell us how you really feel. ;-)

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  • I normally don't agree with Chris Brogan. There's a whole history my issue with him, Laura Fitton, and others – but that's a story for another day.

    His analogy of the fax manager couldn't be more spot on. Anyone who brands themself a social media expert, manager, consultant, etc. is literally saying “I can only do one thing really well.” and let's be honest, in a “space” that's roughly 2 years old, I'm skeptical of anyone that claims to be a manager or expert of social media.

    Nope, sorry; what I want is a marketer. I want someone that understands what we do needs to matter and generate an action. That action could be a sale, opt-in, etc. If we're all saying is that “social media is about a conversation” I've got to tell you, good luck getting my business and the business of other very smart people out there.

    Social media, at best, is a phrase that has given too many people the right to claim the need for “transparency” and “conversations.” Reality check time – social media is not the panacea for what ails you. It doesn't fix everything and it's not a sure fire method for success. Don't believe me? Here's a list of 5 brands that are failing despite social media http://www.thekmiecs.com/marketing-advertising/… and here's a list of 5 brands succeeding without it http://www.thekmiecs.com/misc/5-brands-succeedi

    Thank god, you've got the presence of mind to realize that you need to be a more well rounded marketer. You've at least got a plan; too many people don't and just assume clients will blindly keep handing over money to “experts” that will guide them through social media.

  • I normally don't agree with Chris Brogan. There's a whole history my issue with him, Laura Fitton, and others – but that's a story for another day.

    His analogy of the fax manager couldn't be more spot on. Anyone who brands themself a social media expert, manager, consultant, etc. is literally saying “I can only do one thing really well.” and let's be honest, in a “space” that's roughly 2 years old, I'm skeptical of anyone that claims to be a manager or expert of social media.

    Nope, sorry; what I want is a marketer. I want someone that understands what we do needs to matter and generate an action. That action could be a sale, opt-in, etc. If we're all saying is that “social media is about a conversation” I've got to tell you, good luck getting my business and the business of other very smart people out there.

    Social media, at best, is a phrase that has given too many people the right to claim the need for “transparency” and “conversations.” Reality check time – social media is not the panacea for what ails you. It doesn't fix everything and it's not a sure fire method for success. Don't believe me? Here's a list of 5 brands that are failing despite social media http://www.thekmiecs.com/marketing-advertising/… and here's a list of 5 brands succeeding without it http://www.thekmiecs.com/misc/5-brands-succeedi

    Thank god, you've got the presence of mind to realize that you need to be a more well rounded marketer. You've at least got a plan; too many people don't and just assume clients will blindly keep handing over money to “experts” that will guide them through social media.

    • KatFrench

      Don't hold back, there, Adam. Tell us how you really feel. ;-)

  • Oops. Thanks, Kat. I'm new in this country.

  • KatFrench

    Good to hear from another girl in the trenches, Katie. I like your online advertising parallel, and agree that lots of advertising professionals are still on the learning curve in that discipline.

  • KatFrench

    “I really don't want to feel guilty because my clients are only using a few basic elements of the overall potential of social media tools.”

    Me neither. Is it my job to keep offering fresh ideas (that make sense for them?) Sure. But getting buy-in and adoption is usually a slow process.

  • KatFrench

    Bob- I think you may have meant to comment on this post.

  • As the “social content manager” at @sitewireagency, an interactive marketing agency, I read this post and all I can say is “AMEN!”

    I've heard from several people (who I admire) this notion that social media is so ubiquitous that no one will need to hire someone to consult on it. I've heard the analogy of calling yourself an “email manager” but these people are so deeply ingrained into this stuff that that's the way they see it. I think they don't realize how many companies out there still don't get it so I think they're overestimating the speed in which this is going to change. I mean you could say the same thing about online advertising – that people use the internet so much it should just be lumped in with being an advertising professional, but the truth is there are still brands that struggle with PPC/SEO/etc and so they DO come to agencies that specialize in those areas. And if we haven't reached the saturation point for this to occur with online advertising we certainly haven't reached it for social media.

    Great post. Great insight. I absolutely loved it. And again “amen” :)

  • As the “social content manager” at @sitewireagency, an interactive marketing agency, I read this post and all I can say is “AMEN!”

    I've heard from several people (who I admire) this notion that social media is so ubiquitous that no one will need to hire someone to consult on it. I've heard the analogy of calling yourself an “email manager” but these people are so deeply ingrained into this stuff that that's the way they see it. I think they don't realize how many companies out there still don't get it so I think they're overestimating the speed in which this is going to change. I mean you could say the same thing about online advertising – that people use the internet so much it should just be lumped in with being an advertising professional, but the truth is there are still brands that struggle with PPC/SEO/etc and so they DO come to agencies that specialize in those areas. And if we haven't reached the saturation point for this to occur with online advertising we certainly haven't reached it for social media.

    Great post. Great insight. I absolutely loved it. And again “amen” :)

    • KatFrench

      Good to hear from another girl in the trenches, Katie. I like your online advertising parallel, and agree that lots of advertising professionals are still on the learning curve in that discipline.

  • christinashaw

    It's refreshing to hear feedback from someone who is actually in the trenches every day with regular ordinary clients who may not be making social media history with the next big earth shattering strategy. While I respect and follow the big thinkers in this industry, it sometimes feels like they don't understand marketing at all because while there are a few companies and thought leaders pushing the social media envelope – most marketers and most clients are learning, trying, doing and using it the best they can to their best advantage. And there is nothing wrong with that. As a traditional marketer, I may not be a social media expert myself, but I really don't want to feel guilty because my clients are only using a few basic elements of the overall potential of social media tools. Unfortunately, some of the biggest minds in our industry, can sometimes make the rest of us feel, well, inadequate. More importantly, the marketers who have been around a while understand that these tools, like many others, will be integrated into our arsenals and become standard fair at some point – just like websites were 20 years ago. No need to panic about it – learn, use it, integrate it and then when the next “big idea” comes along – learn that too.
    Anyway, thanks for your post.

  • christinashaw

    It's refreshing to hear feedback from someone who is actually in the trenches every day with regular ordinary clients who may not be making social media history with the next big earth shattering strategy. While I respect and follow the big thinkers in this industry, it sometimes feels like they don't understand marketing at all because while there are a few companies and thought leaders pushing the social media envelope – most marketers and most clients are learning, trying, doing and using it the best they can to their best advantage. And there is nothing wrong with that. As a traditional marketer, I may not be a social media expert myself, but I really don't want to feel guilty because my clients are only using a few basic elements of the overall potential of social media tools. Unfortunately, some of the biggest minds in our industry, can sometimes make the rest of us feel, well, inadequate. More importantly, the marketers who have been around a while understand that these tools, like many others, will be integrated into our arsenals and become standard fair at some point – just like websites were 20 years ago. No need to panic about it – learn, use it, integrate it and then when the next “big idea” comes along – learn that too.
    Anyway, thanks for your post.

  • christinashaw

    It's refreshing to hear feedback from someone who is actually in the trenches every day with regular ordinary clients who may not be making social media history with the next big earth shattering strategy. While I respect and follow the big thinkers in this industry, it sometimes feels like they don't understand marketing at all because while there are a few companies and thought leaders pushing the social media envelope – most marketers and most clients are learning, trying, doing and using it the best they can to their best advantage. And there is nothing wrong with that. As a traditional marketer, I may not be a social media expert myself, but I really don't want to feel guilty because my clients are only using a few basic elements of the overall potential of social media tools. Unfortunately, some of the biggest minds in our industry, can sometimes make the rest of us feel, well, inadequate. More importantly, the marketers who have been around a while understand that these tools, like many others, will be integrated into our arsenals and become standard fair at some point – just like websites were 20 years ago. No need to panic about it – learn, use it, integrate it and then when the next “big idea” comes along – learn that too.
    Anyway, thanks for your post.

    • KatFrench

      “I really don't want to feel guilty because my clients are only using a few basic elements of the overall potential of social media tools.”

      Me neither. Is it my job to keep offering fresh ideas (that make sense for them?) Sure. But getting buy-in and adoption is usually a slow process.

  • Thanks, Jason. I appreciate the kind words.

  • Thanks, Jason. I appreciate the kind words.

  • Thanks, Jason. I appreciate the kind words.

  • Thanks, Jason. I appreciate the kind words.

    • KatFrench

      Bob- I think you may have meant to comment on this post.

      • Oops. Thanks, Kat. I'm new in this country.

  • KatFrench

    “I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.”

    THAT is MONEY. And even if the client wants a cathedral, you have to build the bricks first. Or mason the stone. Or whatever.

    Thanks. From a bean-counting perspective, there's a whole OTHER post in here somewhere about the logistics of having to provide strategy, execution, and reporting, while figuring out even WHAT to measure and explaining and re-explaining the whole service set, all within a certain budget of hours, and still providing value.

    But I'm too tired to chase that rabbit at the moment.

  • KatFrench

    “I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.”

    THAT is MONEY. And even if the client wants a cathedral, you have to build the bricks first. Or mason the stone. Or whatever.

    Thanks. From a bean-counting perspective, there's a whole OTHER post in here somewhere about the logistics of having to provide strategy, execution, and reporting, while figuring out even WHAT to measure and explaining and re-explaining the whole service set, all within a certain budget of hours, and still providing value.

    But I'm too tired to chase that rabbit at the moment.

  • KatFrench

    “I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.”

    THAT is MONEY. And even if the client wants a cathedral, you have to build the bricks first. Or mason the stone. Or whatever.

    Thanks. From a bean-counting perspective, there's a whole OTHER post in here somewhere about the logistics of having to provide strategy, execution, and reporting, while figuring out even WHAT to measure and explaining and re-explaining the whole service set, all within a certain budget of hours, and still providing value.

    But I'm too tired to chase that rabbit at the moment.

  • I love GMOOT (“get me one of those”). Totally agree: marketers need to exercise more discipline too.

  • I love GMOOT (“get me one of those”). Totally agree: marketers need to exercise more discipline too.

  • I love GMOOT (“get me one of those”). Totally agree: marketers need to exercise more discipline too.

  • KatFrench

    Jim, your analysis is more spot-on than you could possibly know (see my response to Joe Mescher below).

    In psychology-speak, probably a lot of “transference” going on. And yes, my clients are like my kids. Except they generally look a lot less like me, and listen more often.

  • KatFrench

    Jim, your analysis is more spot-on than you could possibly know (see my response to Joe Mescher below).

    In psychology-speak, probably a lot of “transference” going on. And yes, my clients are like my kids. Except they generally look a lot less like me, and listen more often.

  • KatFrench

    Jim, your analysis is more spot-on than you could possibly know (see my response to Joe Mescher below).

    In psychology-speak, probably a lot of “transference” going on. And yes, my clients are like my kids. Except they generally look a lot less like me, and listen more often.

  • seanwilliams

    Kat – any of us who've been in PR for a while sympathize with your situation. It's not so long ago that I had to literally make up on the spot a “process arc” to help a skeptical bank exec strategy monk understand the way an internal communication article got written. This person didn't think there was any process to it, no intrinsic value to to the business to write and publish internal communication. A waste of time, obviously.

    Lawyers and accountants rule — both are of the typical personality types that prize facts and data and mistrust emotional appeal. What seems head-slappingly obvious to us seems poorly thought out or a giant leap of faith to them.

    That's why many of us are searching for the right metrics to both describe the impact of social media in business terms, and find a model or pattern that can predict that impact. We speak in strange whispers, now — share of discussion, engagement. Or we apply mainstream media metrics — reach, impressions, pass-throughs. Businesses want to know what they get on the revenue side for their investment in any communication medium or method. Our marketing cousins have done well with that — our industry is still modeling the impact of news media coverage on business outcomes and some are still merely counting clips.

    Patience. The leaders will lead, the fast followers will follow fast and everyone else will wait to see what happens. Indeed, take pleasure when you do get a client to take the plunge! I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.

    Sean Williams
    @commammo

  • seanwilliams

    Kat – any of us who've been in PR for a while sympathize with your situation. It's not so long ago that I had to literally make up on the spot a “process arc” to help a skeptical bank exec strategy monk understand the way an internal communication article got written. This person didn't think there was any process to it, no intrinsic value to to the business to write and publish internal communication. A waste of time, obviously.

    Lawyers and accountants rule — both are of the typical personality types that prize facts and data and mistrust emotional appeal. What seems head-slappingly obvious to us seems poorly thought out or a giant leap of faith to them.

    That's why many of us are searching for the right metrics to both describe the impact of social media in business terms, and find a model or pattern that can predict that impact. We speak in strange whispers, now — share of discussion, engagement. Or we apply mainstream media metrics — reach, impressions, pass-throughs. Businesses want to know what they get on the revenue side for their investment in any communication medium or method. Our marketing cousins have done well with that — our industry is still modeling the impact of news media coverage on business outcomes and some are still merely counting clips.

    Patience. The leaders will lead, the fast followers will follow fast and everyone else will wait to see what happens. Indeed, take pleasure when you do get a client to take the plunge! I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.

    Sean Williams
    @commammo

  • seanwilliams

    Kat – any of us who've been in PR for a while sympathize with your situation. It's not so long ago that I had to literally make up on the spot a “process arc” to help a skeptical bank exec strategy monk understand the way an internal communication article got written. This person didn't think there was any process to it, no intrinsic value to to the business to write and publish internal communication. A waste of time, obviously.

    Lawyers and accountants rule — both are of the typical personality types that prize facts and data and mistrust emotional appeal. What seems head-slappingly obvious to us seems poorly thought out or a giant leap of faith to them.

    That's why many of us are searching for the right metrics to both describe the impact of social media in business terms, and find a model or pattern that can predict that impact. We speak in strange whispers, now — share of discussion, engagement. Or we apply mainstream media metrics — reach, impressions, pass-throughs. Businesses want to know what they get on the revenue side for their investment in any communication medium or method. Our marketing cousins have done well with that — our industry is still modeling the impact of news media coverage on business outcomes and some are still merely counting clips.

    Patience. The leaders will lead, the fast followers will follow fast and everyone else will wait to see what happens. Indeed, take pleasure when you do get a client to take the plunge! I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.

    Sean Williams
    @commammo

  • seanwilliams

    Kat – any of us who've been in PR for a while sympathize with your situation. It's not so long ago that I had to literally make up on the spot a “process arc” to help a skeptical bank exec strategy monk understand the way an internal communication article got written. This person didn't think there was any process to it, no intrinsic value to to the business to write and publish internal communication. A waste of time, obviously.

    Lawyers and accountants rule — both are of the typical personality types that prize facts and data and mistrust emotional appeal. What seems head-slappingly obvious to us seems poorly thought out or a giant leap of faith to them.

    That's why many of us are searching for the right metrics to both describe the impact of social media in business terms, and find a model or pattern that can predict that impact. We speak in strange whispers, now — share of discussion, engagement. Or we apply mainstream media metrics — reach, impressions, pass-throughs. Businesses want to know what they get on the revenue side for their investment in any communication medium or method. Our marketing cousins have done well with that — our industry is still modeling the impact of news media coverage on business outcomes and some are still merely counting clips.

    Patience. The leaders will lead, the fast followers will follow fast and everyone else will wait to see what happens. Indeed, take pleasure when you do get a client to take the plunge! I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.

    Sean Williams
    @commammo

    • KatFrench

      “I, at least, won't think less of you for not building a cathedral when the client wants a good brick.”

      THAT is MONEY. And even if the client wants a cathedral, you have to build the bricks first. Or mason the stone. Or whatever.

      Thanks. From a bean-counting perspective, there's a whole OTHER post in here somewhere about the logistics of having to provide strategy, execution, and reporting, while figuring out even WHAT to measure and explaining and re-explaining the whole service set, all within a certain budget of hours, and still providing value.

      But I'm too tired to chase that rabbit at the moment.

  • KatFrench

    Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. It's always good to hear from the client side (in truth, I spent most of my career on the client side, so I'm not unsympathetic at all.) So, no cursing for you!

    I agree that there are a lot of both “vague idealism and breathless enthusiasm” salespeople and outright snake oil salesmen pushing social media services on the provider/agency side. Very true–and a point of frustration to those of us who want to provide concrete value.

    There's also a lot of GMOOT (“get me one of those”) on the client side–which in my experience, especially in this economy, springs from their own answer to your #3 above: “Because the things we're doing now AREN'T working and we're desperate to turn things around.” Which I'm sure is also frustrating to everyone on both sides.

    At a certain point, I do think it's the agency's responsibility to be clear and accurate about our service set and the value proposition for those services. We do our best. We could probably do better.

  • KatFrench

    Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. It's always good to hear from the client side (in truth, I spent most of my career on the client side, so I'm not unsympathetic at all.) So, no cursing for you!

    I agree that there are a lot of both “vague idealism and breathless enthusiasm” salespeople and outright snake oil salesmen pushing social media services on the provider/agency side. Very true–and a point of frustration to those of us who want to provide concrete value.

    There's also a lot of GMOOT (“get me one of those”) on the client side–which in my experience, especially in this economy, springs from their own answer to your #3 above: “Because the things we're doing now AREN'T working and we're desperate to turn things around.” Which I'm sure is also frustrating to everyone on both sides.

    At a certain point, I do think it's the agency's responsibility to be clear and accurate about our service set and the value proposition for those services. We do our best. We could probably do better.

  • KatFrench

    Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. It's always good to hear from the client side (in truth, I spent most of my career on the client side, so I'm not unsympathetic at all.) So, no cursing for you!

    I agree that there are a lot of both “vague idealism and breathless enthusiasm” salespeople and outright snake oil salesmen pushing social media services on the provider/agency side. Very true–and a point of frustration to those of us who want to provide concrete value.

    There's also a lot of GMOOT (“get me one of those”) on the client side–which in my experience, especially in this economy, springs from their own answer to your #3 above: “Because the things we're doing now AREN'T working and we're desperate to turn things around.” Which I'm sure is also frustrating to everyone on both sides.

    At a certain point, I do think it's the agency's responsibility to be clear and accurate about our service set and the value proposition for those services. We do our best. We could probably do better.

  • Excellent (reset, reset, reset)…

    I love your Mom analogy, that's so money! You're right about the misperception that 'more equals better' in the Twitter following game (as I've put it before, 'Twitter Followers are Useless, Twitter Listeners are Priceless').

    Writing in a stream of consciousness style is hard work, but I'm so glad that's how you chose to share your ideas. Killer post.

  • Excellent (reset, reset, reset)…

    I love your Mom analogy, that's so money! You're right about the misperception that 'more equals better' in the Twitter following game (as I've put it before, 'Twitter Followers are Useless, Twitter Listeners are Priceless').

    Writing in a stream of consciousness style is hard work, but I'm so glad that's how you chose to share your ideas. Killer post.

  • Excellent (reset, reset, reset)…

    I love your Mom analogy, that's so money! You're right about the misperception that 'more equals better' in the Twitter following game (as I've put it before, 'Twitter Followers are Useless, Twitter Listeners are Priceless').

    Writing in a stream of consciousness style is hard work, but I'm so glad that's how you chose to share your ideas. Killer post.

  • I had this picture of you being told you were not a good parent. It's what I think of when someone tells me I'm doing it wrong. I get all bent of out of shape and think about it in that sense. I picture you helping them take their first step (buying into Facebook) and the joy you get when they take a couple of steps before falling back into your arms of safety. Did you do it wrong? Well maybe in the eyes of those that do it differently but in the end we are all trying to raise a child in our clients.

    That and Chris is a doody head. ;)

  • I had this picture of you being told you were not a good parent. It's what I think of when someone tells me I'm doing it wrong. I get all bent of out of shape and think about it in that sense. I picture you helping them take their first step (buying into Facebook) and the joy you get when they take a couple of steps before falling back into your arms of safety. Did you do it wrong? Well maybe in the eyes of those that do it differently but in the end we are all trying to raise a child in our clients.

    That and Chris is a doody head. ;)

  • I had this picture of you being told you were not a good parent. It's what I think of when someone tells me I'm doing it wrong. I get all bent of out of shape and think about it in that sense. I picture you helping them take their first step (buying into Facebook) and the joy you get when they take a couple of steps before falling back into your arms of safety. Did you do it wrong? Well maybe in the eyes of those that do it differently but in the end we are all trying to raise a child in our clients.

    That and Chris is a doody head. ;)

  • I had this picture of you being told you were not a good parent. It's what I think of when someone tells me I'm doing it wrong. I get all bent of out of shape and think about it in that sense. I picture you helping them take their first step (buying into Facebook) and the joy you get when they take a couple of steps before falling back into your arms of safety. Did you do it wrong? Well maybe in the eyes of those that do it differently but in the end we are all trying to raise a child in our clients.

    That and Chris is a doody head. ;)

    • KatFrench

      Jim, your analysis is more spot-on than you could possibly know (see my response to Joe Mescher below).

      In psychology-speak, probably a lot of “transference” going on. And yes, my clients are like my kids. Except they generally look a lot less like me, and listen more often.

  • KatFrench

    “I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat.”

    Ironic truth? This post probably got more editing than any post I've ever submitted here. And it STILL sounded like stream of consciousness.

    “Set the Expectation”

    Yes–and be prepared to re-set it. And re-set it. And re-set it again, if you're lucky enough to have a lengthy relationship with them.

    I sometimes imagine it as a variation on a mom and her kids:

    “Joey's agency told HIM he could have 10,000 Twitter followers, and now he's one of the cool kids.”

    “Remember what we talked about?”

    “I know… 'collecting followers if I'm not going to engage them is a waste of time…'”

    Then again, I may just be carrying my vacation “excess momness” back into my work life…

  • KatFrench

    “I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat.”

    Ironic truth? This post probably got more editing than any post I've ever submitted here. And it STILL sounded like stream of consciousness.

    “Set the Expectation”

    Yes–and be prepared to re-set it. And re-set it. And re-set it again, if you're lucky enough to have a lengthy relationship with them.

    I sometimes imagine it as a variation on a mom and her kids:

    “Joey's agency told HIM he could have 10,000 Twitter followers, and now he's one of the cool kids.”

    “Remember what we talked about?”

    “I know… 'collecting followers if I'm not going to engage them is a waste of time…'”

    Then again, I may just be carrying my vacation “excess momness” back into my work life…

  • KatFrench

    “I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat.”

    Ironic truth? This post probably got more editing than any post I've ever submitted here. And it STILL sounded like stream of consciousness.

    “Set the Expectation”

    Yes–and be prepared to re-set it. And re-set it. And re-set it again, if you're lucky enough to have a lengthy relationship with them.

    I sometimes imagine it as a variation on a mom and her kids:

    “Joey's agency told HIM he could have 10,000 Twitter followers, and now he's one of the cool kids.”

    “Remember what we talked about?”

    “I know… 'collecting followers if I'm not going to engage them is a waste of time…'”

    Then again, I may just be carrying my vacation “excess momness” back into my work life…

  • KatFrench

    “it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.”

    Exactly. And the bitter irony? Most of the time, they're the ones imposing the very language that confuses them. I've been trying for a year to steer clients away from “viral” and towards the more honest “socially-distributed.” No luck so far.

    I'd love to call what I do “brand enthusiast cultivator and content strategist” (because in truth, that's what I'm doing when I'm not training and explaining). But I have to admit, it is kind of a mouthful for a business card.

    I also really like BingTweets. It's the heart of what I was trying to explain to a tradtional media guy a year ago about “ads as premium value-add content.” Flash doesn't make content premium–usefulness does.

    I really do appreciate your respect–it means a lot. For the record, you are not a [word I used in unfortunate email], and I would LOVE a make up hug, since being a chick, I'm not eligible for one of @hallicious' “man hugs” that he apparently gives out on the streets of Louisville…

    Oh, and never send Jason anything you don't want him to forward. Seriously.

  • KatFrench

    “it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.”

    Exactly. And the bitter irony? Most of the time, they're the ones imposing the very language that confuses them. I've been trying for a year to steer clients away from “viral” and towards the more honest “socially-distributed.” No luck so far.

    I'd love to call what I do “brand enthusiast cultivator and content strategist” (because in truth, that's what I'm doing when I'm not training and explaining). But I have to admit, it is kind of a mouthful for a business card.

    I also really like BingTweets. It's the heart of what I was trying to explain to a tradtional media guy a year ago about “ads as premium value-add content.” Flash doesn't make content premium–usefulness does.

    I really do appreciate your respect–it means a lot. For the record, you are not a [word I used in unfortunate email], and I would LOVE a make up hug, since being a chick, I'm not eligible for one of @hallicious' “man hugs” that he apparently gives out on the streets of Louisville…

    Oh, and never send Jason anything you don't want him to forward. Seriously.

  • KatFrench

    “it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.”

    Exactly. And the bitter irony? Most of the time, they're the ones imposing the very language that confuses them. I've been trying for a year to steer clients away from “viral” and towards the more honest “socially-distributed.” No luck so far.

    I'd love to call what I do “brand enthusiast cultivator and content strategist” (because in truth, that's what I'm doing when I'm not training and explaining). But I have to admit, it is kind of a mouthful for a business card.

    I also really like BingTweets. It's the heart of what I was trying to explain to a tradtional media guy a year ago about “ads as premium value-add content.” Flash doesn't make content premium–usefulness does.

    I really do appreciate your respect–it means a lot. For the record, you are not a [word I used in unfortunate email], and I would LOVE a make up hug, since being a chick, I'm not eligible for one of @hallicious' “man hugs” that he apparently gives out on the streets of Louisville…

    Oh, and never send Jason anything you don't want him to forward. Seriously.

  • KatFrench

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, the day they edit their own website via CMS helps make up for the times they call and ask you to edit it anyway.

    “social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.”

    Ding! You've summed up in one sentence what I ranted on for several. Brevity: it's not my strong suit. Clearly.

  • KatFrench

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, the day they edit their own website via CMS helps make up for the times they call and ask you to edit it anyway.

    “social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.”

    Ding! You've summed up in one sentence what I ranted on for several. Brevity: it's not my strong suit. Clearly.

  • KatFrench

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, the day they edit their own website via CMS helps make up for the times they call and ask you to edit it anyway.

    “social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.”

    Ding! You've summed up in one sentence what I ranted on for several. Brevity: it's not my strong suit. Clearly.

  • KatFrench

    You know, I once drew my “USP” as a pie chart on my office whiteboard:
    33.3% “Wow, that was useful!”
    33.3% “Holy cow that was funny!”
    33.3% “Whoa, that was deep/profound.”
    And you're right–those three things will probably never change. Item one keeps me gainfully employed, and items two and three make people feel good about working with me.

    I do get frustrated with the harder sell folks a bit. ;) From time to time.

  • KatFrench

    You know, I once drew my “USP” as a pie chart on my office whiteboard:
    33.3% “Wow, that was useful!”
    33.3% “Holy cow that was funny!”
    33.3% “Whoa, that was deep/profound.”
    And you're right–those three things will probably never change. Item one keeps me gainfully employed, and items two and three make people feel good about working with me.

    I do get frustrated with the harder sell folks a bit. ;) From time to time.

  • KatFrench

    You know, I once drew my “USP” as a pie chart on my office whiteboard:
    33.3% “Wow, that was useful!”
    33.3% “Holy cow that was funny!”
    33.3% “Whoa, that was deep/profound.”
    And you're right–those three things will probably never change. Item one keeps me gainfully employed, and items two and three make people feel good about working with me.

    I do get frustrated with the harder sell folks a bit. ;) From time to time.

  • Kat, allow me to share a perspective from the client side. I don't pretend to speak for all clients here, or even my company — just myself.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the “Social Media” label has been slapped on everything from PR to customer service to plaster, stringbeans and moonlight handstand tours of the Grand Canyon.

    It's confusing. And the cynics among us might fairly wonder whether that is a deliberate sales tactic.

    If “Social Media” means everything, it means nothing. Trust me when I say it's very hard to sell “nothing” (or even “evangelism”, “blogging” or “Twittering”) up the line to top management.

    Management needs very basic, plain English answers to very basic, real questions.

    1) What, exactly, will this do?
    2) How, exactly, do we think this will work for our brand?
    3) Why, exactly, does it make sense to shift $$ from things that we know are working OK, to this different tactic?
    4) What are the potential rewards? What are the risks?
    5) Who's doing it right, and what can we learn? Who has done it really badly, and what can we learn?
    6) How will we know if it's working?
    7) What are the staffing implications?
    8) What are the opportunity costs of doing this vs. our current methods?
    9) Is this the best place for us to focus our efforts? How do we know?
    10) Who should own this function in our company?

    Understand that I'm not asking for answers to these questions. My guess is that truly thoughtful answers would vary quite a bit for different brands.

    What I *am* saying is that (at the risk of being cursed out), I agree with Chris Brogan: naming a position — or an industry — after a tool isn't smart.

    Clients have good reason to be skittish about tactics they haven't tried yet. And they are wise to run for the hills when what they're being offered is vague idealism sold with breathless enthusiasm.

    When I started an early-stage digital agency years ago, I used to pitch new clients by saying “Ignore the hype about the Internet, and forget computers. Here's what matters. You have two levers in your company. One boosts sales. The other shrinks costs. Please tell me how your company's levers work. If these new digital tools I'm selling can help them work better, I'll tell you exactly how and why. If not, I'll leave and apologize for taking your time.”

    IMHO, what Social Media needs is less breathless idealism and more concrete.

    What you propose in this post is a good first step. A lot of the truly useful stuff in what is too-broadly called Social Media shouldn't be a specialty. It should disappear into “normal”, existing marketing functions.

  • Kat, allow me to share a perspective from the client side. I don't pretend to speak for all clients here, or even my company — just myself.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the “Social Media” label has been slapped on everything from PR to customer service to plaster, stringbeans and moonlight handstand tours of the Grand Canyon.

    It's confusing. And the cynics among us might fairly wonder whether that is a deliberate sales tactic.

    If “Social Media” means everything, it means nothing. Trust me when I say it's very hard to sell “nothing” (or even “evangelism”, “blogging” or “Twittering”) up the line to top management.

    Management needs very basic, plain English answers to very basic, real questions.

    1) What, exactly, will this do?
    2) How, exactly, do we think this will work for our brand?
    3) Why, exactly, does it make sense to shift $$ from things that we know are working OK, to this different tactic?
    4) What are the potential rewards? What are the risks?
    5) Who's doing it right, and what can we learn? Who has done it really badly, and what can we learn?
    6) How will we know if it's working?
    7) What are the staffing implications?
    8) What are the opportunity costs of doing this vs. our current methods?
    9) Is this the best place for us to focus our efforts? How do we know?
    10) Who should own this function in our company?

    Understand that I'm not asking for answers to these questions. My guess is that truly thoughtful answers would vary quite a bit for different brands.

    What I *am* saying is that (at the risk of being cursed out), I agree with Chris Brogan: naming a position — or an industry — after a tool isn't smart.

    Clients have good reason to be skittish about tactics they haven't tried yet. And they are wise to run for the hills when what they're being offered is vague idealism sold with breathless enthusiasm.

    When I started an early-stage digital agency years ago, I used to pitch new clients by saying “Ignore the hype about the Internet, and forget computers. Here's what matters. You have two levers in your company. One boosts sales. The other shrinks costs. Please tell me how your company's levers work. If these new digital tools I'm selling can help them work better, I'll tell you exactly how and why. If not, I'll leave and apologize for taking your time.”

    IMHO, what Social Media needs is less breathless idealism and more concrete.

    What you propose in this post is a good first step. A lot of the truly useful stuff in what is too-broadly called Social Media shouldn't be a specialty. It should disappear into “normal”, existing marketing functions.

  • Kat, allow me to share a perspective from the client side. I don't pretend to speak for all clients here, or even my company — just myself.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the “Social Media” label has been slapped on everything from PR to customer service to plaster, stringbeans and moonlight handstand tours of the Grand Canyon.

    It's confusing. And the cynics among us might fairly wonder whether that is a deliberate sales tactic.

    If “Social Media” means everything, it means nothing. Trust me when I say it's very hard to sell “nothing” (or even “evangelism”, “blogging” or “Twittering”) up the line to top management.

    Management needs very basic, plain English answers to very basic, real questions.

    1) What, exactly, will this do?
    2) How, exactly, do we think this will work for our brand?
    3) Why, exactly, does it make sense to shift $$ from things that we know are working OK, to this different tactic?
    4) What are the potential rewards? What are the risks?
    5) Who's doing it right, and what can we learn? Who has done it really badly, and what can we learn?
    6) How will we know if it's working?
    7) What are the staffing implications?
    8) What are the opportunity costs of doing this vs. our current methods?
    9) Is this the best place for us to focus our efforts? How do we know?
    10) Who should own this function in our company?

    Understand that I'm not asking for answers to these questions. My guess is that truly thoughtful answers would vary quite a bit for different brands.

    What I *am* saying is that (at the risk of being cursed out), I agree with Chris Brogan: naming a position — or an industry — after a tool isn't smart.

    Clients have good reason to be skittish about tactics they haven't tried yet. And they are wise to run for the hills when what they're being offered is vague idealism sold with breathless enthusiasm.

    When I started an early-stage digital agency years ago, I used to pitch new clients by saying “Ignore the hype about the Internet, and forget computers. Here's what matters. You have two levers in your company. One boosts sales. The other shrinks costs. Please tell me how your company's levers work. If these new digital tools I'm selling can help them work better, I'll tell you exactly how and why. If not, I'll leave and apologize for taking your time.”

    IMHO, what Social Media needs is less breathless idealism and more concrete.

    What you propose in this post is a good first step. A lot of the truly useful stuff in what is too-broadly called Social Media shouldn't be a specialty. It should disappear into “normal”, existing marketing functions.

  • Kat, allow me to share a perspective from the client side. I don't pretend to speak for all clients here, or even my company — just myself.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the “Social Media” label has been slapped on everything from PR to customer service to plaster, stringbeans and moonlight handstand tours of the Grand Canyon.

    It's confusing. And the cynics among us might fairly wonder whether that is a deliberate sales tactic.

    If “Social Media” means everything, it means nothing. Trust me when I say it's very hard to sell “nothing” (or even “evangelism”, “blogging” or “Twittering”) up the line to top management.

    Management needs very basic, plain English answers to very basic, real questions.

    1) What, exactly, will this do?
    2) How, exactly, do we think this will work for our brand?
    3) Why, exactly, does it make sense to shift $$ from things that we know are working OK, to this different tactic?
    4) What are the potential rewards? What are the risks?
    5) Who's doing it right, and what can we learn? Who has done it really badly, and what can we learn?
    6) How will we know if it's working?
    7) What are the staffing implications?
    8) What are the opportunity costs of doing this vs. our current methods?
    9) Is this the best place for us to focus our efforts? How do we know?
    10) Who should own this function in our company?

    Understand that I'm not asking for answers to these questions. My guess is that truly thoughtful answers would vary quite a bit for different brands.

    What I *am* saying is that (at the risk of being cursed out), I agree with Chris Brogan: naming a position — or an industry — after a tool isn't smart.

    Clients have good reason to be skittish about tactics they haven't tried yet. And they are wise to run for the hills when what they're being offered is vague idealism sold with breathless enthusiasm.

    When I started an early-stage digital agency years ago, I used to pitch new clients by saying “Ignore the hype about the Internet, and forget computers. Here's what matters. You have two levers in your company. One boosts sales. The other shrinks costs. Please tell me how your company's levers work. If these new digital tools I'm selling can help them work better, I'll tell you exactly how and why. If not, I'll leave and apologize for taking your time.”

    IMHO, what Social Media needs is less breathless idealism and more concrete.

    What you propose in this post is a good first step. A lot of the truly useful stuff in what is too-broadly called Social Media shouldn't be a specialty. It should disappear into “normal”, existing marketing functions.

    • KatFrench

      Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. It's always good to hear from the client side (in truth, I spent most of my career on the client side, so I'm not unsympathetic at all.) So, no cursing for you!

      I agree that there are a lot of both “vague idealism and breathless enthusiasm” salespeople and outright snake oil salesmen pushing social media services on the provider/agency side. Very true–and a point of frustration to those of us who want to provide concrete value.

      There's also a lot of GMOOT (“get me one of those”) on the client side–which in my experience, especially in this economy, springs from their own answer to your #3 above: “Because the things we're doing now AREN'T working and we're desperate to turn things around.” Which I'm sure is also frustrating to everyone on both sides.

      At a certain point, I do think it's the agency's responsibility to be clear and accurate about our service set and the value proposition for those services. We do our best. We could probably do better.

      • I love GMOOT (“get me one of those”). Totally agree: marketers need to exercise more discipline too.

  • KatFrench

    Glad you found it valuable, and good luck on your own career path!

  • KatFrench

    Glad you found it valuable, and good luck on your own career path!

  • KatFrench

    Glad you found it valuable, and good luck on your own career path!

  • julianna01

    Well thought out and valuable for those of us who'd like to have a job like yours.

  • julianna01

    Well thought out and valuable for those of us who'd like to have a job like yours.

  • julianna01

    Well thought out and valuable for those of us who'd like to have a job like yours.

  • julianna01

    Well thought out and valuable for those of us who'd like to have a job like yours.

    • KatFrench

      Glad you found it valuable, and good luck on your own career path!

  • Well stated. I've been preaching for a long time that Social Media is a buzzword.

    If I were you I'd keep doing what you are doing the same way you are doing it. You are providing a service of value. Over time the details of it and the tools you use internally may change. But your value and your USP should remain fairly consistent and true.

    Why would you change? People will get it or not. It feels like you are frustrated with those that may not get it and are the harder sell.

  • Well stated. I've been preaching for a long time that Social Media is a buzzword.

    If I were you I'd keep doing what you are doing the same way you are doing it. You are providing a service of value. Over time the details of it and the tools you use internally may change. But your value and your USP should remain fairly consistent and true.

    Why would you change? People will get it or not. It feels like you are frustrated with those that may not get it and are the harder sell.

  • Well stated. I've been preaching for a long time that Social Media is a buzzword.

    If I were you I'd keep doing what you are doing the same way you are doing it. You are providing a service of value. Over time the details of it and the tools you use internally may change. But your value and your USP should remain fairly consistent and true.

    Why would you change? People will get it or not. It feels like you are frustrated with those that may not get it and are the harder sell.

  • Well stated. I've been preaching for a long time that Social Media is a buzzword.

    If I were you I'd keep doing what you are doing the same way you are doing it. You are providing a service of value. Over time the details of it and the tools you use internally may change. But your value and your USP should remain fairly consistent and true.

    Why would you change? People will get it or not. It feels like you are frustrated with those that may not get it and are the harder sell.

    • KatFrench

      You know, I once drew my “USP” as a pie chart on my office whiteboard:
      33.3% “Wow, that was useful!”
      33.3% “Holy cow that was funny!”
      33.3% “Whoa, that was deep/profound.”
      And you're right–those three things will probably never change. Item one keeps me gainfully employed, and items two and three make people feel good about working with me.

      I do get frustrated with the harder sell folks a bit. ;) From time to time.

  • Thanks Kat, for this post. I hold a vision for a day when all communications are integrated with business strategy… I work in strategic communications, and I do a lot of online projects – and I see the same symptoms you do. I love to see a client take that exhilarating, awkward first step, whether it's the first time they ever edit a website from a CMS or they set up a facebook page.
    I haven't read Chris's post yet, but I think it is more about helping people share their message and build their communities (customers or constituents) than it is about any tool. That said, social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.

    Now if we can only get them to use the editorial calendars and content strategies we've so lovingly designed. :) Good luck!

  • Thanks Kat, for this post. I hold a vision for a day when all communications are integrated with business strategy… I work in strategic communications, and I do a lot of online projects – and I see the same symptoms you do. I love to see a client take that exhilarating, awkward first step, whether it's the first time they ever edit a website from a CMS or they set up a facebook page.
    I haven't read Chris's post yet, but I think it is more about helping people share their message and build their communities (customers or constituents) than it is about any tool. That said, social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.

    Now if we can only get them to use the editorial calendars and content strategies we've so lovingly designed. :) Good luck!

  • Thanks Kat, for this post. I hold a vision for a day when all communications are integrated with business strategy… I work in strategic communications, and I do a lot of online projects – and I see the same symptoms you do. I love to see a client take that exhilarating, awkward first step, whether it's the first time they ever edit a website from a CMS or they set up a facebook page.
    I haven't read Chris's post yet, but I think it is more about helping people share their message and build their communities (customers or constituents) than it is about any tool. That said, social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.

    Now if we can only get them to use the editorial calendars and content strategies we've so lovingly designed. :) Good luck!

  • Thanks Kat, for this post. I hold a vision for a day when all communications are integrated with business strategy… I work in strategic communications, and I do a lot of online projects – and I see the same symptoms you do. I love to see a client take that exhilarating, awkward first step, whether it's the first time they ever edit a website from a CMS or they set up a facebook page.
    I haven't read Chris's post yet, but I think it is more about helping people share their message and build their communities (customers or constituents) than it is about any tool. That said, social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.

    Now if we can only get them to use the editorial calendars and content strategies we've so lovingly designed. :) Good luck!

    • KatFrench

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, the day they edit their own website via CMS helps make up for the times they call and ask you to edit it anyway.

      “social media tools involve a special effort toward education, capacity building, reassurance, and plain old behavioral change for many.”

      Ding! You've summed up in one sentence what I ranted on for several. Brevity: it's not my strong suit. Clearly.

  • Way down in there, I saw something that hints at what I wanted to say that day I pissed you off: it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.

    If you sold sales marketing down a different channel, they wouldn't flinch.

    I'm really impressed with how Federated Media launched BingTweets.com as a Bing-and-Twitter mashup, because if you realize what they've done, they've launched a *functional* ad.

    What the hell label do you slap on THAT? Microsite? No. Mashup? Well, I guess, but it doesn't cover the value.

    So that's the point.

    And even when you're mad at me, I respect you. I don't have all the answers, nor do I have many of them. I just have ideas that you can work from and make your own game.

    I'll be in Louisville Thursday. Make up hug? : )

  • Way down in there, I saw something that hints at what I wanted to say that day I pissed you off: it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.

    If you sold sales marketing down a different channel, they wouldn't flinch.

    I'm really impressed with how Federated Media launched BingTweets.com as a Bing-and-Twitter mashup, because if you realize what they've done, they've launched a *functional* ad.

    What the hell label do you slap on THAT? Microsite? No. Mashup? Well, I guess, but it doesn't cover the value.

    So that's the point.

    And even when you're mad at me, I respect you. I don't have all the answers, nor do I have many of them. I just have ideas that you can work from and make your own game.

    I'll be in Louisville Thursday. Make up hug? : )

  • Way down in there, I saw something that hints at what I wanted to say that day I pissed you off: it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.

    If you sold sales marketing down a different channel, they wouldn't flinch.

    I'm really impressed with how Federated Media launched BingTweets.com as a Bing-and-Twitter mashup, because if you realize what they've done, they've launched a *functional* ad.

    What the hell label do you slap on THAT? Microsite? No. Mashup? Well, I guess, but it doesn't cover the value.

    So that's the point.

    And even when you're mad at me, I respect you. I don't have all the answers, nor do I have many of them. I just have ideas that you can work from and make your own game.

    I'll be in Louisville Thursday. Make up hug? : )

  • Way down in there, I saw something that hints at what I wanted to say that day I pissed you off: it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.

    If you sold sales marketing down a different channel, they wouldn't flinch.

    I'm really impressed with how Federated Media launched BingTweets.com as a Bing-and-Twitter mashup, because if you realize what they've done, they've launched a *functional* ad.

    What the hell label do you slap on THAT? Microsite? No. Mashup? Well, I guess, but it doesn't cover the value.

    So that's the point.

    And even when you're mad at me, I respect you. I don't have all the answers, nor do I have many of them. I just have ideas that you can work from and make your own game.

    I'll be in Louisville Thursday. Make up hug? : )

    • KatFrench

      “it's the language that screws them (the clients) up.”

      Exactly. And the bitter irony? Most of the time, they're the ones imposing the very language that confuses them. I've been trying for a year to steer clients away from “viral” and towards the more honest “socially-distributed.” No luck so far.

      I'd love to call what I do “brand enthusiast cultivator and content strategist” (because in truth, that's what I'm doing when I'm not training and explaining). But I have to admit, it is kind of a mouthful for a business card.

      I also really like BingTweets. It's the heart of what I was trying to explain to a tradtional media guy a year ago about “ads as premium value-add content.” Flash doesn't make content premium–usefulness does.

      I really do appreciate your respect–it means a lot. For the record, you are not a [word I used in unfortunate email], and I would LOVE a make up hug, since being a chick, I'm not eligible for one of @hallicious' “man hugs” that he apparently gives out on the streets of Louisville…

      Oh, and never send Jason anything you don't want him to forward. Seriously.

  • I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat. This is a very enjoyable post!

    'Social Media' is definitely a buzz word and not fully understood by a lot of businesses, and that's why I go back to one of the first rules I learned years ago as a sales person:

    Set the Expectation.

    When people get hot and bothered about boarding the SocMed Bandwagon, I ask them what they hope to achieve, what their concrete goals are.

    Most of the time this puts us at square one. I explain using Twitter won't make you millions instantly, and the business tells me their story and how they hope to expand and/or speak to an Online audience.

    This can be a slow and steady conversation because lots of people/business managers need simple but thorough explanations of how you go about setting up genuine, successful social media strategies — and the ways current employees can participate.

    People seem to get it once you frame the discussion using their own personal experience (that's why listening is so important, especially in the beginning).

    Social Media Explorer comment folks – feel free to call BS on anything I just wrote or criticize, agree, expand on my thoughts. I'm interested to know what you think…

  • I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat. This is a very enjoyable post!

    'Social Media' is definitely a buzz word and not fully understood by a lot of businesses, and that's why I go back to one of the first rules I learned years ago as a sales person:

    Set the Expectation.

    When people get hot and bothered about boarding the SocMed Bandwagon, I ask them what they hope to achieve, what their concrete goals are.

    Most of the time this puts us at square one. I explain using Twitter won't make you millions instantly, and the business tells me their story and how they hope to expand and/or speak to an Online audience.

    This can be a slow and steady conversation because lots of people/business managers need simple but thorough explanations of how you go about setting up genuine, successful social media strategies — and the ways current employees can participate.

    People seem to get it once you frame the discussion using their own personal experience (that's why listening is so important, especially in the beginning).

    Social Media Explorer comment folks – feel free to call BS on anything I just wrote or criticize, agree, expand on my thoughts. I'm interested to know what you think…

  • I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat. This is a very enjoyable post!

    'Social Media' is definitely a buzz word and not fully understood by a lot of businesses, and that's why I go back to one of the first rules I learned years ago as a sales person:

    Set the Expectation.

    When people get hot and bothered about boarding the SocMed Bandwagon, I ask them what they hope to achieve, what their concrete goals are.

    Most of the time this puts us at square one. I explain using Twitter won't make you millions instantly, and the business tells me their story and how they hope to expand and/or speak to an Online audience.

    This can be a slow and steady conversation because lots of people/business managers need simple but thorough explanations of how you go about setting up genuine, successful social media strategies — and the ways current employees can participate.

    People seem to get it once you frame the discussion using their own personal experience (that's why listening is so important, especially in the beginning).

    Social Media Explorer comment folks – feel free to call BS on anything I just wrote or criticize, agree, expand on my thoughts. I'm interested to know what you think…

  • I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat. This is a very enjoyable post!

    'Social Media' is definitely a buzz word and not fully understood by a lot of businesses, and that's why I go back to one of the first rules I learned years ago as a sales person:

    Set the Expectation.

    When people get hot and bothered about boarding the SocMed Bandwagon, I ask them what they hope to achieve, what their concrete goals are.

    Most of the time this puts us at square one. I explain using Twitter won't make you millions instantly, and the business tells me their story and how they hope to expand and/or speak to an Online audience.

    This can be a slow and steady conversation because lots of people/business managers need simple but thorough explanations of how you go about setting up genuine, successful social media strategies — and the ways current employees can participate.

    People seem to get it once you frame the discussion using their own personal experience (that's why listening is so important, especially in the beginning).

    Social Media Explorer comment folks – feel free to call BS on anything I just wrote or criticize, agree, expand on my thoughts. I'm interested to know what you think…

    • KatFrench

      “I couldn't scroll down fast enough to keep up with your stream of consciousness, Kat.”

      Ironic truth? This post probably got more editing than any post I've ever submitted here. And it STILL sounded like stream of consciousness.

      “Set the Expectation”

      Yes–and be prepared to re-set it. And re-set it. And re-set it again, if you're lucky enough to have a lengthy relationship with them.

      I sometimes imagine it as a variation on a mom and her kids:

      “Joey's agency told HIM he could have 10,000 Twitter followers, and now he's one of the cool kids.”

      “Remember what we talked about?”

      “I know… 'collecting followers if I'm not going to engage them is a waste of time…'”

      Then again, I may just be carrying my vacation “excess momness” back into my work life…

      • Excellent (reset, reset, reset)…

        I love your Mom analogy, that's so money! You're right about the misperception that 'more equals better' in the Twitter following game (as I've put it before, 'Twitter Followers are Useless, Twitter Listeners are Priceless').

        Writing in a stream of consciousness style is hard work, but I'm so glad that's how you chose to share your ideas. Killer post.