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Social Disconnect Between Agencies, Clients

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Social media true believers herald it for playing a critical role in toppling Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. In the more humdrum world of marketing, clients aren’t ready to throw their lots in just yet.

Research from the Society of Digital Agencies shows that clients are far more circumspect when it comes to social media like Twitter and Facebook than their agencies.Time and again, agency respondents were more bullish on using social media for marketing, while clients were less sure.

When asked where spending in 2011 should go, more agencies than clients identified areas like social networks (77 percent to 69 percent), mobile (70 percent to 51 percent), viral (52 percent to 43 percent) and games (35 percent to 18 percent). Agencies showed a particular love of Facebook, with 96 percent tabbing it for use, while 69 percent of clients agreed. Twitter showed a similar dynamic, with 89 percent of agencies planning to use it, compared to 69 percent for marketers. The gulf is even wider for newer outlets like Foursquare. Nearly half of agencies plan to use it versus just 19 percent for marketers.

Clients, on the other hand, were more likely than their agencies to believe in the need to put more money into the nuts and bolts of digital marketing, outranking shops in putting importance on ho-hum areas like infrastructure, search optimization and advertising.

It would be easy to conclude this as another example of agencies being attracted to flash over substance.

When asked where they turned to in order to keep track of emerging technology and trends, they ranked industry publications and blogs well ahead of their agency partners.

The split also speaks to the age-old divide between agencies and their clients. “You do find brands thinking our agencies are a bunch of overpaid idiots and the agency thinks the brands are from the 1950s,” said Sally Cohen, a researcher at AnswerLab, which conducted the study. It surveyed 199 marketers, 235 agencies and 233 technologists.

One thing both sides agree on is that more money will flow to digital channels: 80 percent of marketers plan to increase digital spending in 2011.