Oh, Pioneers! Feigning expertise, ad agencies grapple with social media.

December 4, 2009

Web pioneers bring a shovel…

At our last agency director’s meeting a question was put to senior management: What are we doing to improve (as an agency) with regard to social media? In reply, one of us remarked on thought leadership we were sharing, providing examples of various programs being implemented across the network. Another brought up a fantastic new “platform” idea currently in development for a client. And there was the new ACD we hired who specializes in social media. He starts in January. We of course mentioned him.

But, to be honest, none of us really answered the question. Just what are we doing to improve with regard to social media? The closest anyone got to a legitimate reply was our President, Jamie King. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Quite frankly, since we are all pioneers in social media we are learning as we go.”

Oh, Pioneers! That’s what we are. What a wonderful way to couch our agency’s naiveté. Lest you think I’m pointing out a soft spot in our integrated approach, I’d ask you to reflect on your own agency’s acumen in the social media space. Because the “we” Jamie was referring to is not just my agency. “We” is your agency, too. “We” is you. For we are all pioneers and we are all learning as we go.

Think about it. The experts and gurus of the Internet got their first computers 20 years ago (give or take), many much later. The inventors of Facebook, Craigslist, You Tube, Amazon and just about every dot com are not only still alive, they are still working. They are still pioneers, still learning as they go.

In my opinion, they (and we) are only writing the third chapter of Earth’s digital history. First came science: the hardware and the codes. Then came the land grab -with everybody rushing to own a domain. Remember AOL and Pets.com? Like it was yesterday.

Chapter three is the “social” phase: where blogging replaces journalism and social networks TV; where millions upon millions watch “virals” of kittens playing with themselves; where frantic 50 year-olds pay cocky 25 year-olds umpteen dollars to design pages on Facebook…

In other words, there is not a protocol on how to do social media because there is barely a precedent. We learn as we go.

The Happy Soul Industry

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-Special thanks to George Parker (Adscam/the Horror!) for finding the hilarious photo pictured above.


10 Responses to “Oh, Pioneers! Feigning expertise, ad agencies grapple with social media.”

  1. SRP said

    Our own Marian Salzman (Euro RSCG, NYC) wrote a nice piece on social media: http://www.eurorscgprcampaign.com/?p=438

  2. To compete, it is demanded that we be experts. The minute you think you know everything, you stop learning and improving. Not a good position to be in, especially in a field like Social Media which is evolving at warp speed.

    One might be better off applying the Zen concept of Beginner’s Mind. Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki says : “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is a truth that many potential new clients or employers would find palatable.

  3. SRP said

    Like it or not, the “beginner’s mind” is exactly the right answer.

  4. Brook Boley said

    Everyone is asking the wrong question. The question should be does social media even make sense for your product. Being a fan of Snickers candy bars on FaceBook is a weak stab at being viral. Or being social.

    I personally am appalled at the term social media expert. Social media experts are 13 year-old girls from San Diego, not 30 year-old ad people with a power point deck and a projector. Unless of course they have a stormtrooper suit on reciting Shakespeare in a pool of Jello.

    Other than that, Smiles everyone.

    • SRP said

      “Social media experts are 13 year-old girls from San Diego, not 30 year-old ad people with a power point deck and a projector.” Funny because it’s true…

  5. CynDAles said

    Right you are, how right you are!

  6. Easily, this article is really the most informative on this deserving topic. I agree with your conclusions and am eagerly look forward to your future updates. Just saying thanks will not just be enough, for the extraordinary clarity in your views and writing. I’m signing up to

  7. Pitching to others that Social Network Advertising has some new secret power of viral persuasion over people’s 10 seconds of attentive thought reminds me of trying to convince my grandmother that Nivana’s Nevermind was a sea change in the world of music.

    I sat her down in her living room and made her listen to the whole album. After which she honestly said she would have to take my word for it, she said she didn’t get it… not that it was bad, but that she didn’t “get it”.

    I was a 13 year old expert. I knew I was right but I also knew there was seriously short shelf life.

    So as with all expertise, it was fleeting. It demands maintenence. It needs to be renewed, reinvented and reinterpreted almost as quickly as it is aquired. I mean here we are 2010 and in 40 years I will have to explain to my grandson how he owes his rock allegiance to three Pioneering guys from Seattle from just before the turn of the century.

    The faster the tech development and whimsy train chugs the faster applicable knowledge fades. The cycle reinvents false prophets for profit every day.

    So us realists out there are then left to actually wonder how these new toys that everyone is playing with can fit into a LEGO castle from a couple of years ago-that’s the foundation for all of our marketing success. Read about a developing field on a teen blog and become an expert then start a Frenzy? That’s one way, there’s no marrow in it, but there is cash. So, I would say earnest answers are in short supply while pioneering…especially when a VP asks “Are we there yet?”

    “Experts often possess more data then judgement. Elites can become so inbred that they produce haemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.” C. Powell

    • SRP said

      Too many good thoughts in here to single one out. Love the VP asking “Are we there yet?” Captures the reality (impatience, ignorance, desire) perfectly. As for teaching your g’mom Nirvana, you’re on your own! Thanks again for the superior comments.

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