June 24, 2014

Why Are Agency Blogs So Unpopular?

Agencies are often asked this question: If advertising is so effective, why don't you advertise?

The answer they usually give is this: Our potential customer group (target market) is so small that mass market advertising is imprudent. Instead we use marketing techniques that are more productive for a company like ours that needs to talk to a very small group of prospects one at a time.

This semi-baloney usually satisfies the questioner.

But this excuse only holds up because of the expense of traditional advertising. The same excuse can't be invoked for their lack of effective use of social media or content marketing. That stuff is "free."

Agencies are constantly haranguing their clients about the need to harness the magic of social media and content marketing -- and the expertise they can deliver if the client will just pay them to do it -- and yet the social media and content marketing efforts of agencies is somewhere between pathetic and non-existent.

Blogs are a perfect example. I recently checked two websites that measure the popularity of advertising and marketing blogs. (As you would expect with online metrics, the lists are alarmingly inconsistent -- on one list this blog is #21 on another it's #55.)

But here's the amazing thing. Put both lists of top 50 advertising and marketing blogs together and you find exactly one agency blog. One.

Now if I'm not mistaken, agencies are supposed to be the experts at social media and content. I mean, companies pay them handsomely to produce this stuff.

Considering that virtually every agency in the universe has some kind of blog, and considering their unique expertise at producing "compelling content" and their amazing online marketing skills, you'd think agencies would dominate the lists of advertising and marketing blogs.

Why don't they?

There are only two possible explanations. The first is that they are not competent to create anything that anyone wants to read. I doubt that this is the reason.

I think the real reason is the second possibility -- they're full of shit.

They tell their clients to invest in the awesome power of social media and content marketing, but they are unwilling to do it themselves. They won't spend their own time and money on this magic, but they're eager to spend their clients'.

Apparently what's good for the goose is not good for the gander.  After all, the goose lays golden eggs.

(By the way, there are several excellent agency blogs. Two of my favorites are written for their agencies by Dave Trott and Vinny Warren.)

(Oh, and while we're chatting....you'd think clients would have the sense to hire people to do their social media work who have proven their skills by being successful at it, instead of agencies who have proven their incompetence by being terrible at it. But that would be way too sensible. Sorry.)


GP said...

You have an agency, and this is a blog, no?

bob hoffman said...

Sorry Dan. Not convinced. Agencies spend enormous time and money on new business. If you really believed in social media, you'd be all over it.

anon said...

I would agree with this comment also - as a small agency we also don't have much time and also any need for "socialism" in fact, we view it as sort of wanking, since I personally don't believe that serious clients would look for advertising agency on twitter or facebook, and if they did, i'm not sure whether I would like to have a client like that.

On the other hand, we don't offer the social media magic baloney, but the more standard design and advertising approaches, so maybe the question remains open to more aggressive "socialists"

Charlotte said...

I don’t read many blogs, but when I do, I read Ad Contrarian.

On a serious note, how many companies of any kind, really have blogs that provide useful, relevant information (beyond the “this one weird trick”); post more than once a month (or quarter or year); or post more than a press release?

The only blogs I read regularly (and have something either useful, entertaining or a combination of the two) are yours and a couple others written by individuals who have one foot in/one foot out of the business they’re writing about.

Perhaps that little distance gives the authors freedom to be a bit more honest, and therefore relatable. But of course, the fact that you were a partner in an agency AND wrote about the numbskull things going on in agencies for most of your blogging career (can I call it that?) blows that theory.

But you’re right. A majority of agency blogs, if they exist, are truly dismal.

bob hoffman said...

No. I have retired from the agency business and am now consulting, writing, and speaking.

Samuel Scott said...

Bob, I would argue that many agencies, like the one for which I work, get new business mainly from personal referrals and not advertising, social media, or content directly. It's why I'd posit that many competent agencies spend most of their time on client work and not on themselves (in this specific context).

Plus, I'd also argue the "quality over quantity" factor. One authoritative blog post per week (or even less frequently) that truly establishes the agency as a thought-leader on the topic is better than some 300-word BS post every day.

So much data has also shown that such quality posts -- no matter if they are published infrequently -- are more likely to rank in Google and be shared on social media. The frequency of publication is not really important (unless it is an extreme example such as publishing only once per year).

David Burn said...

I'm a fan of several agency blogs and email newsletters. Here's one you might also like: http://zambezi-la.com/bites/

bob hoffman said...

Is that a blog or a Drudge-like link aggregation?

bob hoffman said...

By the way, when I said "you'd think clients would have the sense to hire people to do their social media work who have proven their skills by being successful at it..." I was talking exactly about people like you, David, who have a remarkable record of success at social media and content. Why clients hire big dumb-ass agencies when they can hire you for half the cost is an astounding mystery.

David Burn said...

Thank you kindly for the plug, Bob! Big agencies (with shiny trophies encased like butterflies in glass exhibits) make people feel good about their buying decisions. It's like buying from the guy who wears a Rolex on the golf course. It feels like the safe play, even if it is the wrong decision.

David Burn said...

It's a "what we're reading" aggregation delivered as an email newsletter—and much more thoughtful and digestible than something as coarse as Drudge.

bob hoffman said...

Well, it's definitely better art directed.

LeShann said...

Well this is possibly the clue here: organizations usually suck at blogs and social media. They don't have real opinion or content, they only have consensus and agenda and no one is really interested in that kind of crap.

This might be why the real success stories in social media are usually individuals or celebrities. And why the best agency blogs are those of their respective staff.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

I read both Dave's and Vinny's blogs (I don't know if that's grammatically correct), as well as the one at Sell! Sell! They're worth reading. Many many many others, as you indicate, are putrid.

Most agency blogs are written by people too low in the rank (interns?) or too high (Michael "I know Insurance" Roth, as George Parker would say). The people doing the work haven't got time for this shit.

Tiny Jockey said...

To blog successfully, you have to have something interesting
to say.
To have something interesting to say you have to have a point
of view.
To have a point of view you have to show some character.
To show some character you have to have some spine.
To have some spine you have to be prepared to upset some
To be prepared to upset some people, you have to have some
To have some spine, you have to show some character.
To show some character you have to have a point of view.
To have a point of view you have to have something
interesting to say.
And if you have something interesting to say, you’ll blog

That’s why agencies led by opinionated, ballsy, intelligent,
plain-speaking individuals have good blogs.

And why craven, corporate, committee-constrained agencies

Charlotte said...

Like the old days: No one ever got fired buying IBM.

Frank Grasso said...

One authoritative blog post per week?

One per week I understand but you lost me at "authoritative" blog. Is it one written by a policeman? My second question is is i write less than 300 words does that mean that I can't be a thought leader? Can you point me to the data that shows how quality posts rank in google. I really do want to believe you but I am struggling here.

VinnyWarren said...

thanks for mentioning me in the same breath as Dave Trott. i read both your blogs religiously. always looking for something to steal. cheers.

Samuel Scott said...

Here's an example. Say I want to write about international SEO (no, not spam). There are many factors involved such as whether to use different root domains, subdirectories, or subdomains to target different countries with your website; how to target speakers of different languages within a single country; whether to redirect people to a language-specific website based on the language of their browsers; and many more.

I could write ten, 300-word posts all on "international SEO" or a single 3,000 essay that covers everything that a person needs to know. The latter option would be much more valuable in terms of branding me as an authority, encouraging social-media shares, gaining backlinks, and getting found in Google.

I'll cite some data in a following reply.

Frank Grasso said...

Samuel I am sure you are a great SEO guy but I couldn't even get
through your response without losing interest. You would have to pay me
to read a 300 word blog on SEO. Even then I would probably outsource it
to someone in the Philippines. The truth is that digital marketing is
about as exciting as being an actuary. its almost impossible to be interesting.

That is why I dont have a blog

I would love to write like Bob does but I am sure if i did. I would lose most of my customers

Sell! Sell! said...

Thanks CBDM.
Maybe the difference is that we have a point-of-view, and we aren't afraid to voice it.

Irfan said...

Agree. I enjoy stalking Your's, Dave's (all his three blogs), Vinny's, and Sell Sell's on a weekly basis... Blog that is.