Just as recent as three to four years ago, social media was such a new concept in India that clients and agencies watched consumers tersely, from the bylines.
They were waiting to see if this was a fad that we as an Indian audience were going to embrace or let go. There were almost no social media teams and fewer social media ‘experts’. Nearly all social media work was outsourced to small cost-effective and not so cost-effective setups – investing in teams was not really an option yet for agencies.
From that hesitant beginning, we now have what I call a Social Media Arms Race by agencies to hire and create formidable teams with added services and skill sets. Brands have taken up Social Media with a vengeance and the market is now an open playground for agencies.
Types of agencies and the challenges they face –
Social Media agencies
Being a specialist agency in Social Media definitely comes with its benefits as they are up to date on the latest technology and developments in social media and also clearly understand the scope of work involved.
But it can also mean that initiatives may be run in isolation instead of a marketing mix from a communications perspective.
However, you can see fast shifts now to a non-silo based working environment. We can see the addition of better skill sets and services ( for e.g. advanced research skills), to better compete with others in the market that are now encroaching on what was once pure social media agency territory. Some specialist agencies have turned into full service digital agencies and left the specialist tag behind.
As the lines between digital media and social media blur, digital agencies have naturally progressed to offer social media services as part of integrated digital offerings.
However, as a lot of digital agencies have found out – running a full-fledged social media outfit is very different from the older digital set-up even though both are online. The two way nature of communication and the amount of time involved in social media usually requires it to run as a separate department altogether as a subset of a digital agency.
Digital agencies also usually have a benefit of a very strong technology background and creative teams – that result in applications built in-house and innovative campaigns.
Traditional PR agencies
Creating stories and attempting engagement should ideally be a natural transition for PR agencies.
Since they usually are in touch with media they just need to extend that relationship and network to include bloggers, influencers and online media. PR agencies also are hands on for crisis management and can fully understand and create plans for you immediately in case of a crisis.
Tracking chatter online is a lot like the tracking already done in media for brands so reputation management is a natural extension for PR agencies to offer clients.
Again, PR agencies may also have dedicated teams due to the time consuming nature of work and may be dependent on third parties for technology requirements unless they have the required skill sets in-house.
Traditional Ad agencies
As client and traditional media demands are changing, advertising agencies are now shifting towards adapting their offerings for social.
The challenge faced is of expertise of the agency purely in mainline media that has to convert into digital success.
Since even traditional media is important to a client an agency that understands the importance of both traditional and digital media and can handle both is definitely an asset. An advertising agency is creative and can create progressive campaigns that can help client accounts.
An ad agency can either run campaigns for clients with internal teams or create campaigns/ ideas that can be executed by the client’s social media team. An idea is after all, an idea, and can be marketed across any medium.
There is an on-going debate if companies should outsource social media work to agencies, consultants or do it internally.
The argument is that agencies work across various markets and have more exposure to ideas and have more experience than a team that works internally in a company. Some companies however, feel that Social Media is best done internally since their team would know the company well enough to represent it strongly on the social media space.
The internal marketing person who is social media savvy may be given charge or the team may be hired externally from the market. They may either have a team that directs a social media agency to just do execution of a strategy/ campaign they have already chalked out or they may have the entire team in-house.
As you can see, nearly all agency types are evolving to be more relevant to clients in the present scenario. Feel free to agree or disagree. It’s an open discussion. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Social Media agencies in India. You can leave your comments below.
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