Is social media making many ad agencies look and act the same?

 ad agencies the same

It’s time to un-level the playing field. To have success with social media, agencies need to fly a differentiated social media flag.

Small-to midsize advertising, digital, media and PR agencies tend to constantly promote how they are alike rather than how they are different from other agencies. They tend to look and sound just the same.

When agencies gave up fighting against the social media tide and decided to dive in, instead of using this new communications channel to showcase how they were different, they ended up just following the lead of others. Once again positioned as a generalists instead of a specialist and following the “safe-way” rather than the “smart-way.”

I had hoped that agencies would have learned this lesson by now, “if you try to appeal to everyone, you  will appeal to no one”.

Having spent my entire advertising career in new business, I know first hand the financial pressures small to mid-size agencies are under. I understand their reservation for not wanting to focus to narrowly on a target audience or discipline. I know all of the excuses for not wanting to drive a stake in the ground and define themselves for who they are. But agencies are missing a grand opportunity.

Social media provides a way for  agencies to boldly declare who their primary target audience is, their points of differentiation and areas of expertise. Social media allows agencies this freedom without fear of  “throwing the baby out with the bath-water”. It provides favorable, acceptable conditions for the agency’s principals to fly their differentiated flag proudly without fear of missing “other” opportunities that use to come by way of their personal networks and referrals.

Agencies tend to look and act the same because they merely have a check list of social media tools and platforms to prove their participation. But their social media activities have no strategy, no focus, no demonstration of how they are different.

Here are my 5 tips for flying your agency’s differentiated social media flag:

  1. Create an agency blog for a specific targeted audience. If you don’t, it will lack focus and be nothing more than mishmash that has no flavor , appeal or audience.
  2. Have an objective. I would suggest the objective to be using social media for your agency’s new business pipeline. Inbound new business leads through content marketing that positions you as a thought leader to your best prospective clients.
  3. Remember that social is about people. I would strongly suggest that you don’t incorporate your blog into the branding of your agency’s website. Give it room to breath and grow on its own. Let your agency’s blog be a reflection of key persons within the agency instead of trying to socialize an entity. You connect with people online the same way you do offline, but online you can efficiently reach more people over a much broader geographical area. People want to work with people that they know, trust and like. Social media provides you with this great opportunity to network.
  4. Don’t be afraid to use social media differently than the way it was intended. Some social media purists act like Barney Fife and may threaten you with”citizens arrest,”  but there is just one social media rule for you to keep in mind, there are no rules! This is still the wild, wild west.
  5. Never lose your marketing mind when it comes to social media. Remember that it is just another communication’s channel. I have had much better success working with the agency “baby boomers” and their getting up-to-speed with social media than younger staffers who understand this new communication technology but they lack the experience in marketing and advertising. Don’t be intimidated. It’s not as hard as it may appear to get your marketing mind around the social media space.

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photo credit: S.C. Asher 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. Michael, you nailed it. Amen, amen, amen. Fantastic perspective on something you not only write about, but live. Great job, your insights in your specific, non-mish mash approach are a blessing to me and our leadership.

  2. Thank you Geoff. Your comments are very much appreciated.

  3. Great Blog!
    I have a small information, Internet browsers have more control over what they see and what they do than ever before, and they also have far more interaction with other browsers as well. Among which Social media marketing agencies are the newest players in fast changing world of advertising.

  4. You might want to add another tip on “Attention to Detail.” Or at least take another look at Tip 3 and your grammar and typos.

  5. Thanks for the heads up Mike. I am the worse editor of my own writing. I’ll address it immediately.

  6. … And my apologies for the snarkiness of my comment. Not cool on my part.

  7. No problem. It caused me to go back and make a number of needed edits. I should have proofed it more carefully before publishing. If you notice anything else that could be improved to the latest version, please let me know. Have a great week Mike.

  8. Isn’t this the same advice the smart agencies provide their clients about marketing and defining your target group? Walk the talk; the good news is that in social media, you get out what you put in.

  9. Thanks for the comments Debbie. Through social media, the cobbler’s children can finally get their shoes and drink the Kool-Aid.

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