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Social media use or the lack of it, from ad agencies

Ever wondered why save for handful of ad agency accounts, a majority of agency brands hardly use social media effectively? I am sure they know that it can be be used to strengthen the equity of the company brand but they hardly get down to ‘doing’ it.  It is not a recent phenomenon.

Traditionally ad agencies (especially the network agencies from India) have hardly maintained an active blog. Even if they had initiated a blog it was not consistent or known for great quality writing. Even after Twitter grew in popularity, I think very few ad agency brands use it effectively. It is not uncommon to see ad an agency blog with the latest blog post dated 2015. Even if it actively maintained and updated regularly one gets the feeling that they are going through the motions and not really enjoying the task. They certainly don’t practice what experts like Hubspot and Moz urge blogs to do: write, regularly, have a point of view, share internal links, convert a showcase piece into several formats (e.g. a video into a blog post, a how-to article into a presentation) etc.

I admit that implementing the many ‘best practices’ blindly  would lead to plain-vanilla blog posts – as we see in the B2B segment. Each company in a category will have similar ‘How to’ article topics with very little to distinguish one from the other.  All of them tend to follow the same ‘best practices’ resulting in hundreds of similar themed, ‘templated’ articles. What I have observed is that majority of such blogs are not original thought pieces but a compilation of views from various sources – an aggregation of sorts.

On Twitter, very few ad agency brands share industry-relevant news & views, invite participation and maintain an interesting profile – notable exceptions being BBH Labs and Ogilvy (of late). There is a case for ad agencies to get better at use of social media: it is an opportunity to show clients that they are not just a TVC and web film producing factory. A majority of ad agencies use Twitter and maybe Facebook to share articles on new business wins, new leadership appointments or announcing new work. Most such articles are in the form of (templated) press releases anyway – so simply linking such articles on a Twitter feed from the official ad agency account or from senior leadership team’s personal handles is just the easy way out.

However, if they bring in seriousness and more importantly, creativity to ‘new media’ usage,  it signals to clients that new media is not rocket science and they ‘get it’ just as well as well as they get traditional media. W+K did some fantastic work for Old Spice on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. They also did some great work for Nike across platforms. Now imagine an ad agency doing such for their own brand – but we hardly find any such examples.

There are several ways in which social media can be used better by ad agencies:

Heritage brands can showcase notable work and case studies from the past. Even those with not-so-distant past can show their early work. This will create awareness among youngsters – those who are new to the industry. We live in a world where the news cycle moves fast and we tend to forget what happened six months ago. Those who are new to the advertising business in India may or may not have heard of work like ‘Yehi hai right choice baby’ for Pepsi or the back stories of several iconic campaigns from the past. Ad agencies have an opportunity here to convey their stories. This will go a long way in building respect for the agency brand among ad agency employees and clients

Use blogs to showcase the thinkers in the agency. Many ad agencies and media planning agencies have robust blogs going. I personally believe that the latter houses some of the brightest minds in the business. Both the entities can do a lot more in terms of showcasing their thinking through own company assets or platforms like Medium and LinkedIn. Some write for trade publications but  you will only have to look at the startup and VC world to see how effectively they use ‘thought leadership’ (I am not a big fan of the phrase but seemed most apt here) through blog posts on Medium and LinkedIn.

There are so many other ways to create involvement. Recently, BBH Labs published an article and ran a a tweet series on The World Cup of Advertising Books, which gained a lot of traction.

But that alone is not going to brighten the halo around the agency brand or enhance their reputation in the marketing & advertising community. The company has been consistently creating thought provoking blog posts (see this and this as examples) which signals to potential clients that they have a partner who understands brand building. So efforts like the World Cup of Advertising Books are like cherry on top. All of this is hard work and requires perseverance and a will to make things happen. Such efforts also build expectations about the final output – the advertising which is seen in mass media. So when good advertising comes from those who have a ‘voice of authority’ perception it strengthens the brand equity.People buy from those they trust – it is a proven tactic in B2B marketing where enterprises invest in gaining the ‘expert’ tag. Social media can play an effective role in gaining or enhancing that perception.

bhatnaturally

Ex-ad man. Love advertising, Apple, tech, digital, design and all things creative. VP - MarCom, @Robosoft. Views personal. See disclaimer for more.

http://www.bhatnaturally.com

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