We attended the Yorkshire Business Market yesterday and it was interesting to take a new view on how things in the business and marketing world are changing and have evolved over the last six years. When I started blogging, many years and moons ago, there weren’t many people talking about social media apart from the geeks and bloggers of course. In fact, when my team and I used to pitch way back in 2008 for as we called it then “Word of Mouth Marketing Briefs” we were often doing so non-competitively and this was for a number of global brands. For big brands to do this today would be ridiculous but the reason for that was (I beleive) we were well ahead of the curve. I had an interest in how people talked and engaged online and I loved reading blogs about technology, gadgets and sport – I still do. However, today things have moved on massively.

For instance, yesterday I must have seen more than 10 digital marketing, SEO, advertising and website companies all offering social media marketing as a service. This got me thinking – what service are they actually offering? How come everyone is offering that these days? Is it just a magic service people now place on their banners and leaflets because its what people want to hear and it still sounds cool?

At Prohibition we have actually dropped it as part of our main strapline because I didn’t want my team and I to be pigeon holed as another company just selling social media services. I try to explain to people that we come at it from a conversation seeding and momentum prospective rather than we can do a few tweets for you or teach you how to join a group on linked-in. I think the keyword to use here is strategy, anyone with half a brain can set up social channels these days but if you don’t sit down and ask yourself why are you doing this? What is our strategy online and offline? You probably aren’t going to achieve anything.

It’s no doubt the social media sector has matured in the UK and I am sure many of these companies can do a reasonable job for businesses. So although we still offer social media as part of the offering within a digital PR remit its not our core offer anymore. I have been asked a lot to provide social media training and I do this for clients on the job but software training isn’t the reason I got involved in this part of communications. I did it because I liked the way people interacted, I like to research an audience, profile them and figure out what made them tick. I didn’t start this blog for SEO purposes that is just a useful by-product from writing content that (I hope you agree) isn’t shit.

Whilst I have seen the social media marketing space mature, so has the SEO sector. I read share and write blogs on SEO myself and I think there is still a huge place for it to play in online marketing but I am pretty convinced there are more terrible SEO people than there are good ones. If you find a good one, great hire or employ him quickly as the difference between 10th and 1st place can be millions of pounds.

However, the more articles I read up on SEO and the latest tips and tricks the more I think, hang on, this is what we do as part of online PR? Am I an SEO person? Do I wear a magic black or white hat? Do I sit in the corner of the office protecting my magic bag of tricks and tips with my head buried in the Google Keyword tool reading every SEOmoz blog post there is – errrr nope.

No I am just a PR blogger that happens to understand social media, reputation management and SEO. I wonder if they are worried about where they sit in this world now – do they want to be PRs secretly? I don’t mean the fluffier side of PR but are they actually aiming to do our job of reputation management? Do they see this as the next area to move into? Or are they just using the latest techniques which happen to be social media and online PR related?

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.