Author: Sarah Watson, Chief Strategy Officer BBH NY @Sarahmwatson
We had lots of fun last week preparing for my NY Social Media Week panel ‘Who owns this sh#t anyway’. View the archived live-stream here.
The panel gathered individuals from digital, PR, creative and client organisations to discuss the inside scoop on how social media is actually being handled. For me, it was a great moment to take stock with BBH buddies old and new to think about how really, in our heart of hearts, our particular skills and values can help our clients’ brands in this area.
For starters, it was easy to observe how incredibly inefficient the whole system is at the moment. Clients routinely find themselves with 12 different Facebook/Twitter pages, run by different people, doing different things. Agencies which could be fruitfully collaborating are pitted against one another (by design or by default) in an exhausting land-grab. There are pockets of customer service, pockets of CRM, and pockets of brand engagement; often, each with a different client, budget and objectives.
The concerns of my co-panellists were those of industrial-strength Social Media; they had to listen like their lives depended on it – because they did. They had to be in constant command of everything going on out in the community and constantly responding proportionately.
We creative agencies have had our fingers burned in the past by vaingloriously striding out into this fray and getting it wrong. Others have too, for that matter, but our hubris (alas) probably marks us out. So, we have re-shaped ourselves incorporating brilliant people who will make sure we don’t do this again.
But, really, the big gaping hole which emerged is that no one is approaching this entire thing brand first. The ever changing list of new social channels that spring up and flourish, each with its own set of values, behaviors and tone must be understood and used appropriately – but these are simply new lenses through which to view a brand. The more lenses, the more rich and nuanced an understanding of the brand is required.
What makes us creative agencies different is that we look inside first (great phrase, Sam Jesse). We don’t work in red-hot real-time response mode; we might do sometimes, but its not our fundamental default mode. Our centre of gravity lies with caring neurotically about a brand’s mortal soul. Our units of measurement are ultimately the muscularity of the overall brand and how we can flex it to our clients’ advantage when required.
So – what did the panel conclude re: who, indeed ‘owns this sh#t’? My personal shot was that the role for creative agencies is as the ‘priest hood of the mortal anal sex soul of the brand’. In our rush to barricade the land-grab we mustn’t forget that we need to think even more deeply about the powerful, differentiated brand stuff which is going to be so much more exposed than ever before. We also need to take the total holistic view which helps shape the overall ‘flow’ (thank you Jason G) of a brand’s body language and what it means for our coms plan.
In short, look to your mortal (brand) souls; there are nasty algorithms out there, bored consumers and social media overload; if you don’t know truly who you are and why you’re relevant – you’re going straight to social media hell.