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Boutique social media firms carve a market niche

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Articles - November 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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Boutique social media firms carve a market niche
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By Ron Knox

 

1111_BoutiqueSocialMedia_01
Rachel and Jeff Selin, co-owners of DoJo Agency in Portland. They incorporate social media into every aspect of their client services. 
//Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina

The wall-sized whiteboard inside Portland’s DoJo Agency is dotted with what have become the most important words in Portland’s ever-dynamic media ecosystem: Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Rachel Selin, co-owner of the agency, sits on the arm of a couch and tries to explain how the agency got here. From the time she and her husband, Jeff, launched the boutique advertising agency in 2009, she says the agency has understood that weaving social media into everything its 20-or-so clients do is not only helpful, but at this point, necessary. “You can’t do the job well without incorporating the social media aspect,” she says.

She’s far from alone. Over the past few years, the exponential growth of Twitter and Facebook has given rise to scores of boutique agencies acting as de facto voice coaches for clients navigating the often-choppy waters of the social web. Although the market has yet to be studied closely, Jamie Sexton, who heads the Portland Advertising Federation, says that over the past few years, she’s seen “wonderful growth” in the number of boutiques and individuals focusing on social media. And she expects that growth to continue.

Now, Portland’s new crop of marketing firms are all working to carve out a niche for themselves, attempting to zero in on clients from among the state’s more than 300,000 small businesses, many of whom can’t afford the services of the city’s bevy of big, talented but typically expensive advertising shops.

The need is certainly there, Sexton says. For businesses large and small, Twitter and Facebook have become home for everyone’s customers, not just a segment of the population or a niche market. Sexton and others say that to promote and, at times, defend their brands, they have to be there, engaging in the social web’s perpetual conversation.

But knowing exactly how to do that can be a confusing proposition. The social media ecosystem is a lava lamp of constantly shifting and changing platforms, all with their own specific — or, in some cases, amorphous — uses. And wading into social media raises a slew of questions.  What are best practices? What are the ethics? Trouble is, very few know what the right questions are, but everyone says they have the answer.

 



 

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