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Image courtesy of badjonni

I have a very cruel, but accurate, joke about why planners have adopted social media with more enthusiasm than others in the advertising business. In advertising only planners blog, account handlers have nothing to say and creatives have better places to say it.


Indeed planners have taken to the world of online self-publishing with an alacrity they once reserved for pouring over extremely dull quantitative research. The same goes for virtually every other online or mobile tool that enables people to share their lives, photos, films and even powerpoint presentations. The online planning community is so vibrant that it even has its own name, the plannersphere.
This enthusiasm is very specific to the nature and role of planners. These are naturally the most geeky people in an agency, obsessed with why people do things and how to get them to do something else, so they have always naturally gravitated towards shiny new things.
They also crave community, since outside the major English speaking advertising cities planners are often on their own or in very small and isolated departments. The opportunity to join a network of people doing the same job and experiencing the same challenges has been a godsend to the planning diaspora.
There is also the distinct possibility that in many agencies planners lack a voice and and audience for their ideas and thinking and so have latched onto social networks as a way to ensure their ideas and opinions are met by welcoming ears.
Which simply leaves one critical question unanswered. How come there are precious few examples of brands using social media well? How come the great social media case studies of the moment start and end with Wispa and its army of Facebook fans. After all aren’t planners, as the architects of brand ideas and communications strategies, in a perfect position to influence brand behaviour online. Why haven’t planners translated their personal enthusiasm for blogging, tweeting, poking, uploading and sharing into the activities of their brands?
I maintain that it is precisely our familiarity with these tools that has placed a brake on their widespread adoptions in communication planning. It has always been the case in advertising that the more a medium means to the people in the business the more care we take over it. This partly explains why more love and attention has traditionally gone into TV advertising than into Direct Mail and Telemarketing.
So it is with social media, planners get what is going on and understand the nuanced etiquette that is expected of anyone wishing to participate in these communities. We understand the two key rules you must abide by if you are to take part in online social networks. That brands, like any of us, have to let go of the control they crave if they are ever to gain influence. And that social networks are built on simple human conversations, and a brand only has a role if it can make that conversation better. Above all we understand that the most rewarding presence that any brand can have is through the natural enthusiasm of its fans much like the devotees of Mad Men have done in twittering as members of the cast.
So forgive us for being slow in delivering plans that involve the mass adoption of the social networks that we love, it is precisely because we use and care about them that we are extremely cautious about the involvement of brands in this space. Meanwhile we will continue to use social networks in the way that best benefits our clients at the moment, as a means to listen to the conversation.

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