A good friend from college with a hugely successful New York City-based PR firm called me to discuss doing social media for one of his clients. Now, I’d like to mention that this client is 1. A New Jersey township that is looking for a better way to communicate with their population, 2. Seeking to improve their town’s image, and 3. Not-so-very-digitally-savvy.

My friend suggested social media in a meeting and promptly had one of his employees call me for a crash course in order to close the deal. While I am a huge fan of my college buddy, I am no fan of traditional marketing agencies positioning themselves as digital. The number one reason is…say it with me: “ENGAGEMENT”.

Traditional marketing and PR are like that uncle who never shuts up at the holiday dinner table—he’ll tell you all about his vacation in Vegas while never asking how your family is. In short, you are not having a two-way conversation and this is precisely how traditional agencies act on behalf of their clients. Their method is to treat digital much like traditional. They’ll pump out content while never engaging with their audience and like all digital marketers know…this is a huge digital mistake.

Part of the great appeal of digital marketing is listening to what your customers want and trying to appease them. At VMG, we act on behalf of our customers and engage with their audience to effectively give them a voice.

The reason this helps is what I call the “Costco shopping cart principal”. One of the reasons Costco doesn’t have to advertise is because they have obnoxiously large shopping carts. Research has shown that when you pass by a fellow shopper, you check out their cart to see what they have and subliminally end up purchasing more. In social media, you see your connections interacting with the brands they do business with and this builds brand awareness. Makes sense, right?

Now, back to my college buddy who was closing the deal on his “social media” offering. A day prior to the final pitch meeting he called me to review the presentation his staff put together. It looked fairly basic and covered the bases for a starter plan. When he asked if there was anything missing I questioned why they didn’t offer to help the township engage with its citizens, local businesses, chambers, and clubs. His response to me was exactly what I expected from a traditional marketer, “If we start that then we’ll have to deal with people complaining all day, it’s best that we just make the population aware of what town events are going on.” Spoken like a true traditional marketer.