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Think BR: Is the notion of social media redundant?

Once upon a time, saying you were a digital agency meant something, writes Adam Cleaver, executive creative director, Collective London.

Adam Cleaver, executive creative director, Collective London

Adam Cleaver, executive creative director, Collective London

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Digital is no longer a channel, it is part of the fabric of our modern age, seamlessly interwoven into our lives.

As a result, all agencies should in theory be digital and the term’s ability to differentiate is diminished. 

It's why Collective doesn't have a head of digital, and why agencies and clients need to think digital from the start rather than treat it as something to be added later. 

I think we can increasingly say the same about social media.

Whether you’re watching a video on YouTube, finding out if that delightful French cottage is up to scratch on TripAdvisor, catching up with friends on Facebook or scouring the internet for first-hand reviews of that car you want to buy, our daily experience of the web is characterised by its social component.

Social is now an inherent part of the way we live our lives. As digital has become all-pervasive, so has social.

This has big ramifications for brands and for those of us helping brands gain loyal customers.

Why? Because the notion of social media as separate from rather than intrinsically of the web is causing real problems.

For starters, if it’s separate you need to give social media an 'owner’ and for brands this is fraught with difficulties.

Customer Service? PR? Marketing? All have a legitimate right to own the various social channels but who should do so? Sadly battles over ownership inevitably push coherent strategies out of the water.

In addition, creating social media specialisms - whether at agency or client level - has the effect of legitimising a lack of knowledge throughout the rest of the organisation.

Social becomes siloed off as something other people do. Even worse, it becomes a bolt on like the ubiquitous share icons sprinkled liberally onto web pages - a box ticking exercise rather than a thought through or cohesive social plan.

To my mind, meeting the challenges of the new consumer is not about creating a social media department or specialism within your agency or brand - it’s about putting social thinking at the core of the business.

It’s about educating and informing your entire organisation about how customers gather, process and share information socially.

It’s about starting from the social consumer and building strategies out from that - whether you’re launching a new product or raising your PR profile.

It’s about social thinking built in.

As a term, social media is useful in describing a certain set of activities. But as a means of differentiating elements within a campaign or people within an organisation, it can create more problems than it solves.

Social is no longer something you can separate out from the way we use the internet. And the sooner we all start putting that fact at the centre of our thinking, the better.

Adam Cleaver, executive creative director, Collective London

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