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New Biz Outreach Not So Social

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Social media is all the rage in the marketing of brands to consumers these days, but not so much among some shops in their pursuit of business, according to a new survey of agency leaders on business development trends and tactics.

Only 6 percent of the 123 leaders that consultancy RSW/US polled use social media outlets "often" when reaching out to prospective clients and 8 percent "never" use them, the survey found. And the majority of the respondents -- 54 percent -- rarely or never use such outlets in prospecting.

Skepticism surrounds the use of such methods, with 65 percent of the agency honchos estimating that just 10 percent or less of their new business revenue comes after social media outreach. Still, platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook offer new opportunities for connecting one-on-one with client executives, noted Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US in Cincinnati.

"That one-on-one piece is a good complement to all of the other avenues that [agencies] can use to find their way in," Sneider added. "What's more important here is not the tool, but the message. Where people are falling down is in simply pounding their chest and talking about how great they are."

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are among the favored outlets for those who apply social media to business development. Fifty-one percent of the survey respondents cited LinkedIn as the "most productive" social media tool, followed by other means like online newsletters and then Facebook, agency blogs and Twitter.

The survey also found that reaching client marketing chiefs has become more difficult. Agency leaders cited "harder to break through to prospects" as the top reason why it's difficult to gain new client assignments. And while their limited use of social media may hinder attempts to reach some client execs, these execs are recession weary -- overworked, stressed out and unable to digest the flood of messages directed at them, said Matt Ryan, global CMO of Havas Worldwide and president of global brands at Euro RSCG Worldwide.

"I think they've been less good or less compelled listeners," Ryan said, adding that they're "distracted" by demands borne of the recession while trying to grow "their own businesses and keep their heads above water."

Sneider said that budget cutbacks have also left many client CMOs with less resources and more tasks. "They're running around even more so, like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to manage a million things," Sneider said. "People don't have the time to answer their phones, check out e-mail and be active in the social scene. That [fact] even more so justifies a need to make sure you're in all those touch points."

RSW/US conducted its poll online in August. The respondents came from a mix of holding company-owned shops like Leo Burnett, DDB, Mindshare and Initiative, and independents such as Northlich, LeapFrog Interactive and Mediasmith.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL SURVEY RESULTS