A couple of years ago I was talking to a friend of mine. She’s the head of a decent sized ad/PR agency here in the DC area. She had someone that had been doing SEO work for her for just a short period move away. It was more project work and he’d no longer be avialble. Now no one else at the agency knew SEO or even SEM.
That’s typical of this area. So I mentioned to her that she had a great opportunity to hire someone to provide the service as it is becoming increasingly important in the marketing world. Her agency would stand out.
She responded by saying that she should look to “hire someone young and train them”. Problem is, no one at the agency was knowledgeable enough to teach anyone anything on SEO. It was hire someone young (read cheap) and have them wing it.
Unfortunately, that’s been the attitude of many ad agencies when it’s come to anything related to online marketing. They don’t seek out to learn best practices first. They don’t play a role in any social media. They don’t got to the same conferences. They don’t think they need to. Because they often don’t respect it.
That’s why a lot of ad agencies will build websites full of flash. It looks great but it takes too long to download and search engines can’t find them. Big mistakes but it’s done all the time. It’s part of their portfolio and the client seems pleased, so they consider themselves experts.
That’s why a lot of marketing agencies shove marketing messages down peoples’ throats on social networks. It doesn’t work that well, but the client is on this site and that site and those sites are currently hot.
That’s why a lot of PR firms use less than transparent methods (like flogs) to push forward brands.
With social media, it’s my guess that it will only get worse. A lot of those same ad agencies and PR firms that are currently resisting social media will be finally adopting it in two or three years. Sure, some will still resist and many that go that route will disappear. But those that do take on social media will do so in typical fashion.
Between now and then, they won’t really have attempted to learn much about social media. Sure, they’ll have an agency blog that they’ll post something on every 11 days. Key people may have a Facebook account. But they won’t know the intricacies of the industry because they’ve never paid attention.
So they won’t care about concepts like authenticity and transparency. They’ve never “done” those two things and they won’t understand why they should start now. It will be inconvenient. Just like the 15 out of 16 that Forrester studied are finding out.
But they’ll want to jump in the game. To say they “get it”. So what will they do? They’ll hire someone young (read cheap) and “train” them.
The people they hire may be right out of school. It’s their first job. They’ll be doing what the ego-driven boss says. This new young employee may be pumped that they’ve got this cool new job at the agency downtown. They may not be up to par on the standards that we’ve talked about for years. Or if they are, they may be so desensitized to ethical breaches that they won’t care.
They’ll go along to get along. After all, MOST PEOPLE DO.
I’m saying this because I think that social media is a couple years away from really taking off. Right now it’s big, but it’s not huge. Marketing communications is changing, but often social media types don’t have a set seat at the table. But those PR firms and ad agencies do. And they’ll have the client’s ear just as the client wants to jump into social media.
So this means these marketing communications companies – which should still outnumber social media agencies by far – that are entering the social media space, will be hiring people without extensive backgounds in this field. These new hirees will be carrying out projects designed by their superiors who’ve got the results-driven “shove it down their throats” mentality. It may not seem right, but today we’ve got different level of honesty. Cutting corners is no big deal. Everyone does it. Why challenge the boss?
So incompetently run campaigns will be more common. They’ll be more cleverly hatched than the ones of today. But they’ll still be done poorly. Many won’t get caught. Some will, sullying the industry. Sort of like the way spammers have hurt email. Clients may not know the difference between actual expertise and fluff because they hadn’t been paying attention to online trends. So they’ll go with their current agencies.
This could be commonplace. It could almost become the norm. It could be the way things are done.
I’m just thinking that the standards and guidelines that we talk about today aren’t going to be respected by many practitioners of tomorrow…because they’re too inconvenient to follow.