Social Media Strategy vs Research

26Oct09

Gawker’s Valleywag picks up Chicago Tribune’s piece on Edelman’s “Rotnem” program, where young Account Executives teach VP’s about all the in’s and out’s of social media/online communities.  Valleywag makes the assumption that these lessons are actually driving the firm’s online digital strategy, and essentially ripping off clients for work any 23 year-old can do:

Edelman, like many of its peers, is a PR firm that will charge your company a hefty fee for all the digital insight that its 23-year-old account executives can deliver. Because the people in charge aren’t really so good on this “internet” thing.

Yes, a 23 year-old Account Executive does know more about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and online communities than VP’s or Account Supervisors.  However, speaking from experience as a younger member of my agency who finds herself teaching others about social media channels, my insight alone does not make up a client’s strategy – it’s a starting point. Don't count on it, buddy...

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Despite being able to cite off top behavioral patterns on social networks, results of successful (and not so successful) online marketing campaigns, knowing the top Web influencers, and all the different channels a company can distribute a video does not make me a strategist – or a social media guru (by the way, the most loathsome phrase ever).  My role, and many of my other younger colleagues, is more of an aggregator of knowledge – acquiring insight from reading others, not necessarily experience.

After over a year and a half of analyzing the space and gaining insight into client’s messaging do I feel comfortable saying, “I’ve helped develop social media strategies for clients.” And I have not gotten to this point alone, I owe many thanks to my mentors who’ve educated me on the finer points of PR.

Thankfully, I work with others who have a lot more experience in PR and survived many trends (*cough*e-commerce*cough*) who know how to process the information I relay into viable, smart recommendations.  Their experience means limited time for exploring Facebook Applications, but they can identify lasting trends that naturally fit with a client’s messaging framework and focus.

Not learning about social network tips from recent graduates, who most likely spent 4 years majoring in Facebook, is a missed opportunity.  A good PR agency will learn about social media user behaviors from younger employees, and will reciprocate by applying a veteran’s outlook to make sure trends are appropriately incorporated into any strategy.

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