What Your Agency Isn’t Telling You About Social Media

Posted by Dimple Thakkar on February 2nd, 2012 at 5:00 pm

During the 2011 iMedia Agency Summit in Arizona, my business partner Laurel Kaufman and I couldn’t help but notice the conversation around social media getting heated and even uncomfortable for some attendees.  We were in a unique position as we were one of the few social media agencies present at the time.

Many of the advertising agencies questioned it, they didn’t understand it, and they complained their social media ads generated click-thru rates that were far below what is considered to be standard.

Now don’t shoot the messenger here, but there are several things your agency isn’t telling you about social media:

1) Social media and advertising are NOT synonymous. It would be remarkable if social media would play by the rules and act like traditional marketing and advertising, wouldn’t it?   The advertising industry is used to BUYING buzz and their clients have become accustomed to believing the same is true with social media. 

It just doesn’t work that way.  Buying your way into the Facebook community that is 845 million monthly active users strong won’t help your advertising campaign get noticed, especially if your advertising campaign doesn’t know how to manage the community’s expectations.

On a platform where hundreds and thousands of brands and products are screaming “check me out” and “buy this,” you are wasting your time and money unless you take the extra step to understand social media and make something that is worth talking about.  I always tell my clients, an average campaign is going to give you average results. This is especially true if your campaign was set-up by an agency that lacks social media knowledge.

2) Are you interrupting or interacting? Do you even know the difference between the two when it comes to social media?  You’d better.  People use social media to build and maintain relationships.  Usually, those relationships are with friends and family, not brands and products.  That’s why brands have to work extra hard to EARN higher-quality relationships with new and existing customers.  If you spam people with worthless offers and don’t know how to interact, you may have lost your only chance.  The overall lesson: attention cannot be bought; it has to be earned.  So, take the time to create meaningful relationships the right way.  It will fuel referrals for your brand.  If you look at the research, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, only 14% trust advertisements.

3) There is absolutely no value in a Facebook like unless it is an ENGAGED like.  It’s not about a large number of followers and getting a new like on your brand page is only the first step.  In other words, a page with 1,000,000 likes on Facebook means nothing unless those people are engaged with your brand or product.   I personally would rather have a community of 500 evangelists over 5,000 “zombie people” any day.  If an agency promises you a certain number of fans, turn around, and run.  Run as fast as you can!

4) The ROI in social media are relationships. Sorry businesses!  It’s time to see the value in social media outside of dollars and cents because your relationships with customers in social media are more valuable than you think.  What would you rather want as a business?  Five people re-tweeting you to 500 of their friends on Twitter?  Or having a 10% click-thru rate on your email newsletter?  That’s not to say the 10% click-thru rate isn’t important or necessary, but those five people who re-tweeted your business have recommended you to their friends.  That recommendation from a friend is more powerful than any other form of advertising.  Just because you can’t measure it in dollars and cents, doesn’t mean it’s not important. 

5) Social media marketing is an investment, not an expense. Just like any other investment, you are laying out capital to gain an appreciation in value.  Because it takes time to build valuable relationships in social media, you can’t take any shortcuts or lack preparation.  The consumer is in control of the message more than ever with social media.  They can CHOOSE to engage with your business or they can CHOOSE to ignore your business.

Traditional marketing and advertising is just not as effective as it used to be.  You have to stop and think if your marketing dollars are being spent wisely if TV ads are being skipped with DVR, radio ads can’t reach iPod users, un-wanted email gets marked as spam, direct mail campaigns end up in the trash, and online banner ads live in a crowded space, making them harder to be seen.

The consumer is online. The consumer is social. And the consumer does not want to be spammed.

Welcome to the REAL world of social media.

Dimple Thakkar is CEO and Impresario of SYNHERGY MARKETING.  SYNHERGY is a top-nominated social media agency and a Most Innovative Agency Website nominee with iMedia.

9 Responses to “What Your Agency Isn’t Telling You About Social Media”

  1. Mario says:

    Social media it seems is really about getting back to basics -- providing great customer service that spurs word-of-mouth goodness. Good article w/useful insights.

  2. Brilliant. You hit the nail on the head. Pushing traditional advertising messages through social channels just looks like spam. Start listening, start conversing and understanding. I always recall the basics of great marketing was understanding need and then creating solutions around those needs. Focused listening rather than unfocused publishing.

    Great post. Perfect clarity - agree 100%.

  3. Ron Devieux says:

    Kind of an unexperienced marketing perspective you've got, you can never state as fact that a retweet is more important than higher click through rates. While I understand the point you are trying to make, you are misleading people with generalism.

    Instead the message should be that the best approach is to utilize and develop all forms of marketing that are relevant to your industry and brand. And to best integrate all touchpoints, so that your audience is engaged through Twitter AND email marketing. Not one or the other.

    Here are a couple Social Media companies with real experience that are promoting intelligent solutions and answers to Social Media ignorance:


    They have a lot of online information that IS worth listening to. Beware of false prophets people, there are too many inexperienced marketers trying to claim authority in Social Media understanding, be wary of who you listen to!

    • Ron,

      I think you meant to say "inexperienced?"

      Anyway --

      Maybe you didn't Google around enough to research my background.

      I started doing social media marketing FOR BUSINESSES (not leisure) back in 2006 -- isn't this is WAY before any of those companies you mentioned above even existed? That's when Facebook was a social networking site exclusively for college students and MySpace was still relevant.

      I worked with everyone from Fortune 500 companies, Top 10 Billboard charting artists, and everything in between.

      During my career, my agency was nominated top social media agency on Mashable, have been mentioned in the Los Angeles Business Journal, nominated by iMedia Agency for Most Innovative Agency site, and I recently won a Power 30 Under 30 Award for my overall achievements in business.

      I'm not sure why it's so hard for you to believe that a recommendation from a friend is more powerful than any other form of advertising, but if you REALLY want statistics, it's ALREADY in my article.


      "If you look at the research, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, only 14% trust advertisements."

      Furthermore, I never knocked other forms of advertising in my article. I said:

      "That’s not to say the 10% click-thru rate isn’t important or necessary [...]."

      Maybe you should try reading my article again and contact me directly if you have any further questions at the following email address:


      I appreciate your feedback, but I think it's important that our criticism is always constructive and coherent.

      Thank you,

  4. Ron Devieux says:

    Never did I say that peer to peer recommendations are not valuable as they indeed very much are. However my issue is with how you are comparing two forms of marketing and giving a blanket statement that one is more important than another.

    You stated:

    "What would you rather want as a business? Five people re-tweeting you to 500 of their friends on Twitter? Or having a 10% click-thru rate on your email newsletter? ...recommendation from a friend is more powerful than any other form of advertising."

    With my current fashion brands email list of 35,000 people I'd much rather have a 10% click-thru rate on an email promotion than 5 people re-tweeting me. Your information could potentially be giving someone out there poor advice and potentially cause their business harm.

    What you should have suggested instead is that if you cohesively push your campaigns through all touch-points including email marketing AND social media, then you can achieve higher conversions AND brand advocates sharing your message.

    Another example of damaging advice is when you stated:

    "Traditional marketing and advertising is just not as effective as it used to be." and then you go on to indirectly indicate that social media should be done in lieu of more-so "traditional" advertising.

    This is terrible advice. No wonder the only social media work that I could find from you is so poor. You HAVE to engage in other more traditional forms of marketing. One of the more important things for most brands, is to do many forms of marketing, integrate all of those touch-points so that you are pushing the same goal across all messages, and sending people from those "traditional" touch-points to your social media to capture them.

    Yes you are inexperienced... on your recommendation I looked at your site, your facebook and twitter accounts, and other online search results.

    While you may have worked for a company once that served large clientele, the only work I could find that you posted on your own company website and facebook was amateur at best. Even your own Facebook has a very VERY low ratio of people talking about you compared to likes. You have little there to hook or engage people such as campaigns or interactive iFrame pages. You still haven't converted to Timeline - yet you are a Social Media company? There was a lackluster presence and a non-bustling, thriving, organically growing community.

    That's what a Social Media company's OWN social media presence SHOULD be. A bustling, thriving, organically growing community. Just like a life-system, just like our planet.

    That's fine to tout your press, unfortunately I can't find any quality work to back it up.

    But the issue isn't about you - or your work, and it's poor of me to have to call you out for lack of understanding in marketing.

    The problem is that stating authority on a particular subject matter and giving ill-advise is dangerous and something I take offense to because I've been the victim of following bad advice from false prophets. After learning this business for myself for my company, I see how there are fewer people who truly understand marketing and so many more who don't but take the podium anyways.

    • Apologies that it took so long for me to respond back. For some reason, I didn't receive an email notification when you left your comment above like I normally do.

      So here goes!!!

      This article wasn't about the importance of traditional marketing IN RELATION to social media. That's a different topic that requires a completely separate blog (but thanks for the idea -- maybe I'll do my next blog on that!)

      You should do a Google search if that's what you're really looking for because it's causing you to misunderstand the examples and connections I'm making in my article (more on that later).

      Here's what this article is about:

      Important things that frequently get overlooked, misunderstood, or swept under the carpet when it comes to social media. That’s it.

      Now -- here are the points you keep missing from my article:

      1. It is a fact that 90% of people trust peer recommendations and only 14% trust advertisements - then I am CORRECT when I say re-tweets are more important than your newsletter. I am talking about what people TRUST. I am NOT talking about what a company should and should not do when it comes to deciding their most effective marketing strategy.

      2. Going along with my point above, let me be super-extra-friggin-crystal-clear on this:

      I am NOT saying newsletters aren't important.
      I am NOT saying direct mail isn't important.
      I am NOT saying TV commercials aren't important.
      I am NOT saying ANY traditional marketing is unimportant.

      And I am most certainly NOT saying that your overall marketing plan should only consist of social media or that your company shouldn't aim for a multi-faceted marketing approach for best results.

      Moving on from that – let me address a bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with my article or credibility as an individual or company:

      1. Just because our company didn't use the new Facebook Timeline layout when you responded doesn't mean ANYTHING at all. Matter of fact, several studies and research showed that the new Facebook Timeline layout was getting an extremely poor response from users (email me and I’ll send you the research). If you look now, our company has the new Timeline layout because Facebook changed it for all brand pages around March 31st. Even large world-known brands kept the old Facebook page layout until Facebook made them change to the new Timeline. Why would you make your Facebook followers see the new Timeline layout when they clearly hate it?

      Thankfully, recent studies are showing that even though people hate the Timeline layout, engagement is now increasing with the new features within the Timeline layout, which makes us really happy as a company and we hope the trend is accurate and continues!!!

      2. Maybe you should check your math, because as of right now (April 15th) our Facebook page has 947 likes and over 20% of our followers are engaging with our company this week – that is ABOVE average. I have a feeling that data won’t be enough for you, so I welcome you to check out our client Wayne Static. As of now (April 15th) Wayne Static has 57,517 likes and over 6,000 people are “talking about this.” His Facebook page is also growing at an average of 500-1000 likes per week – ALL of this growth is organic. Not a single advertisement or other marketing channel is supporting his Facebook growth at the moment other than his website and Twitter account. Again, these statistics are way above average for a Facebook page of that size and we’re damn proud of it too.

      3. Without knowing what’s inside our contract deliverables, budgets, engagement letters, or marketing reports to clients, how do you know if the work we do is poor? Some clients hire us for consultation. Some clients hire us for ideas. Some clients hire us short-term. Some clients hire us to run their whole social media presence. And some of our clients are small businesses and are bootstrapping it (so NO, they can’t afford the fancy iFrames or custom apps because they simply don’t have the budget for it) – what does any of that have to do with my company’s credibility or effectiveness as a social media marketing company?

      And finally, I encourage YOU to take the podium if you haven’t already. I’m sure you can contact iMedia or another major publication and write what you think is right in your very own OP-ED.

      You seem so angry that there is so much “false advice” out there, so show us what you’ve got since you seem to know better.

      Unfortunately, it really doesn’t seem as though you’re here to seek advice or understand the information being presented to you.

      Instead, you’re here preaching what you think you know and making attacks without the facts.

      Look --

      When everything is said and done, you’re the one who hasn’t shown a single piece of credibility, research, or statistic to back up your argument against the information in my article (except that you told us how big your company's newsletter is). Imagine how the other readers here feel about that injustice?

      In other words, why should anybody here listen to your marketing advice either?

  5. Basscowscuss says:

    I couldn't agree more. Developing new agency social media standards is difficult when all agencies see are the numbers. It doesn't help either when the client only cares about likes. It's tough to change peoples perceptions of social media as an extra effort within their marketing plans, but if we keep talking everyone will listen.

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