5 reasons ad agencies continue to have problems understanding social media

five reasons ad agencies continue to have problems with social media

I’m not the only one that one that thinks most agencies still don’t get the social media.

My personal experience is that most agencies are social media posers. They do not embrace social media for their own agencies yet recommend it for clients. – agency search consultant, Hank Blank, Blank and Associates

Forrester’s recently projected social media marketing spend to increase at an average of 34% a year through 2014. But Marketers are still finding it difficult to locate the ad agencies that are credible and capable within the social media arena. According to Forrester’s research, marketers don’t trust traditional agencies to run their social media campaigns, but neither do they trust  interactive agencies their entire marketing program to smaller interactive agencies. Marketers find it difficult to find credible and capable ad agencies experienced in the social media arena.

In 2010 more agencies had surrendered and started participating in social media. But, they left their marketing minds on the bank when they jumped into the water. A lot of agencies don’t have a clear objective for using social media and it almost seems like they have a check list to check off to show they are social media credible. We have a agency blog, Twitter account, Facebook Fan page and LinkedIn. They fail to connect the dots to make social an effective tool for new business.

Here are 5 reasons why ad agencies continue to have problems with understanding social media:

1.  Thinking you MUST use social media the way the early adopters intended

Social media was not invented for marketing purposes. The purists are quick to reprimand efforts to use social media to generate  business. But as social media consultant Jason Falls, in his post, Why Social Media Purists Wont Last” said, “a conversation never paid the damn electric bill!” For agencies and clients to benefit, we must be able to monetize social media or it is a tremendous waste of our valuable time.

Social media can be a great tool for ad agency new business. It is more efficient use of time, allowing you to network with more people than you ever could in person, without geographical limitations (just as I’m doing now from my office above my garage in a small suburban town outside of Birmingham) and affordably.

Your niche plus social media can propel your agency to the head of the line, generate a strong appeal to a particular target audience but only if you willing to participate and press the envelope for how it can be used for your agency’s new business.

2. A mindset of income first (and your prospective clients aren’t dumb, they can sense it)

This may sound like a contradiction to the first reason. Many agency principals are too anxious to sell. We must be able to monetize social media, but many agencies still are talking capabilities and credentials and aren’t leading conversations with benefits. You have to create a genuine value for prospective clients if you are going to have appeal.

My very first position as new business director for an ad agency, the agency’s co-owner and I were having lunch. I’ll never forget him telling me this, “When I’m sitting across from a prospective client, I’m constantly thinking, MY money is in YOUR pocket. How do I get MY money out of YOUR pocket into MINE.”

No matter how veiled his motive was, prospective clients could always sense it and that made new business harder.

Here’s my philosophy, “the key to successfully building an online community is to genuinely care about the people you want to reach.”

Just like in our offline networks and referrals, it’s relationships first. People want to work with other people that they know, trust and like.

3. No social media strategy

Agencies create a blog to “check it off their social media to do list.” But these blogs have no guiding strategy, no focus, few comments and NO TRAFFIC. The content you find on many agency blogs is a lot of self-promotional posts of little interest or value to a prospective client.

Agencies are going about their social media strategy bass-ackwards. They are selecting the most popular to-date social communications technologies instead of focusing on what they want to accomplish.

The first step in creating a social media strategy for your agency, you MUST have an objective (I suggest new business) and secondly identify who you are trying to reach.

A helpful resource to get you started is the POST Method. POST is one of the most effective acronyms since the four P’s of marketing. It’s a four-step approach that helps marketers define a social media marketing plan for their business and/or clients. It is highlighted in Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell blog post, The POST Method: A systematic approach to social strategy. The POST Method serves as a guide to help you determine the right strategy for the right audience.

4. Waiting  passively for prospects to find them

I have a consistent SEO strategy but still generate most traffic to my blog repurposing my blog posts through Twitter and a bi-weekly eNewsletter. I don’t passively wait for traffic. I’ve been proactive in reaching out into a number of online communities where my target audience resides.

“Syndicate your blog content to strategic, high-traffic social sites like your Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and iTunes so you can attract new prospects and bring them back to your home base with opportunities for conversion.  Most people miss this easy opportunity to boost visibility and get a lot more traffic.”    Denise Wakeman, online marketing advisor, co-founder of The Blog Squad

Some additional “proactive” traffic building tips:

  • Comment on other blogs.
  • Consistently write valued content and post frequently.
  • Submit your blog to directories
  • Include your blog’s URL in your email signature, link from your Website and all your off-line literature such as business. cards, letterheads and brochures.
  • Build a targeted Twitter following.
  • Automatically publish new posts to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
  • Encourage comments and interaction.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Identify the key words that you want to dominate in search. Be consistent in using key words in your posts titles.
  • Develop relationships with other bloggers but don’t be selfish.
  • Check your blog’s analytics often to make adjustments to your writing.
  • Make your blog mobile friendly.

5. Lack of appreciation for those that are helping promote you

There are scores of people that are willing to be of help to you online but they’ll be quickly turned off if you don’t show appreciation. Your agency’s credibility rests upon what others are saying about you. Be sure to show your love to those who go out of their way to promote your services. Also be willing to reciprocate.

You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want. — Zig Ziglar

Additional articles that may be of interest:

photo credit: Leo Reynolds via photopin cc

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Hi Michael,

    I like what you wrote and the quote at the end carries the reciprocal nature of social media so well. To do well in social media, it’s key to start with others (the right ones obviously as we hate spam) vs me.
    The ‘enough other people what they want’ is critical. People want first that you bring something to them (something they want) be it a solution to their problem, a new way of thinking about something, or as you said just plain recognition. If you can do that (and it has to be done in the purist way I think as a first step), you have the key to talk about what how you can help them/they can help you if there’s fit.
    It’s a bit like consultative selling with the good news that you can really do a lot of groundwork by yourself and find relatively easily the ‘other people’ and ‘what they want’.


  2. I agree with these points, my experience is that many agencies don’t get the whole picture how important networking can be for some business! Yes, they already learned that SEO is important, yes they learned presence in virtual social networks is important, but the strategy they offer is mainly static. Create profiles, write few articles, don’t forget to offer custom made graphics, that’s it, cool. But where is the socializing?!

  3. About 100 years ago, people who had done very well in the horse and buggy industry were dismissive of what the nascent automobile industry would bring and didn’t see much point in evolving, even if they could. They stuck with what they knew and were comfortable the old model would never go away.

  4. Glad to see you and Artillery Marketing to move beyond your comfort zone and embrace social media when so many agencies have sat on the sidelines.

  5. Well, Michael Gass played a BIG role in that transformation!

  6. I just tapped into what you already knew! Kind of a no-brainer.

%d bloggers like this: