15 May, 2012 - 15:17 By News Desk

Social media specialists – back in the bottle?

I’ve never tried to get a genie back in a bottle. In fact anyone who knows me well could tell you that I’ve never tried to get anything back into a bottle at all – it’s strictly one-way traffic as far as I’m concerned.

However, if I was tempted to try such a delicate manoeuvre, I suspect that it would be best to try with something that hadn’t expanded to several million times it’s original size in the meantime.

So welcome to the genie that (according to some) is social media! The reason I mentioned the genie analogy is simple. The president of the social media agency Ignite, Jim Tobin, used it to introduce his thoughts re a comment entitled “what will you do when social media isn’t special anymore?” which claimed social media agencies would be a short lived phenomenon.

He took issue with this line of thought and pointed out that since the ‘big hitters’ in terms of marketing spend already used specialist social media agencies, they had obviously managed to carve out a significant piece of territory already and call it their own (as opposed to the lions share of the work being absorbed by the large, multi disciplined agencies as proposed in the original comment) and that this was not going to change anytime soon.

He also predicted that, instead of being threatened by the big agencies from above, specialist social media agencies like his would be more threatened from below, by individuals specialising in specific social media subsets. As had happened with advertising, PR and SEO services in the past.

The reason why I admire this man is that he made these comments in February 2009, just over three years ago, and has been proved pretty much spot on – lets face it three years is a long time in any kind of marketing, let alone in this most fluid of promotional worlds!

In retrospect it’s not hard to see that exactly the same thing would happen to this area of activity as had happened to every other element of the promotional mix, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I can clearly remember most of the business population thinking that this social media thing was a fad that would blow over, possibly good for a bit of PR and to show how up to speed they were, but nothing else.

Some of the others were busy enthusiastically following the siren call of the latest social media ‘guru’ busy selling their book, course or training – often at even greater cost to themselves in terms of both their time and business than simply doing nothing.

However, social media marketing has survived, thrived and is evolving every day. The good news is that Jim Tobin was right and there are specialist agencies, and talented individuals who can help you achieve success in this area.

The bad news is that there are still those out there without any talent or skill; who sell social media solutions as a numbers game and justify their fees on that basis. These will turn you into the online equivalent of the ‘pub bore’ and deserve to be given just as wide a berth.

Done properly, social media promotions can work really well. Done badly it can be truly awful. In the first instance it can engage, inform and encourage interaction with your audience like no other element of the promotional mix. In the second it can manifest itself as the worst kind of corporate chest beating imaginable, guaranteed to destroy most of your hard-won credibility.

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