So it has been with some personal interest that I learned Geoff had signed a letter of intent for Livingston Communications to be acquired by the Social Media Group, which is headed by Maggie Fox and is headquartered in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. If you want the rest of the details, you can read the press release here.
I have been predicting for some time that consolidation in this area is a foregone conclusion. And I also have said that I think the pure practice of social media consulting has a limited shelf life of a few years and that those that can't show value will go extinct. Geoff agrees with me on this point, so his move to partner with SMG in order to better service large clients is a shrewd one in my mind.
I asked Geoff a few tough questions about the acquisition and even though we are friends, or perhaps because we are friends, I didn't sugarcoat it.
Q. Why at the height of the success of Livingston Communications are you selling the company to take a number two spot?
A: There are a couple of reasons. I am trying to restore balance to my personal life, and while my time usage at work may not shift, it may ease some responsibility weight. I need that not just fro home, but also because I feel that I am challenged a lot by the operational, HR, and day-to-day management of the organization. So this helps me play to my strengths — visionary thought leadership, sales and marketing and strategy — while shedding responsibilities that tax my weaknesses.
Secondly, there is an opportunity right now to help the Global 2000 transform into social organizations. That window of opportunity is relatively short, maybe two years at most. Together we can do a lot more damage than I can do alone (and vice versa).
Q. What do you see as your role in the Social Media Group, what are you bringing to the table?
A. My role is to catalyze SMG and help grow it. We have a very specific group of companies we we want to work with and now is the time. I have a long track record of attracting good business, and this is my number one asset that I bring to the table. That and adding myself as another nationally recognized senior social media strategist to the mix.
Q. What do you think of having Maggie Fox as your boss?
A. She’s a little short. It hurts my neck to look down on her, but otherwise I think I can handle it.
Seriously, Maggie is one of the most intelligent people in the business. I believe in her, and am willing to set aside some of my personal responsibilities and power to align myself with her, and follow her lead. It’ll be great to work with and serve her in her continuing role as CEO.
Q. How do you think the Social Media Group will benefit from your background in integrated marketing and communications?
A. SMG believes in business consulting as the core of its strategy. Truly integrated approaches start with the business strategy so what we are seeing is that I fit right into the SMG ethos like a round peg in a round hole. That’s great, and it makes acquisition much easier.
Q. What do you see as the future for social media in corporate campaigns?
A. Integration, integration, integration. These campaigns will increasingly use a variety of media to touch their stakeholders, and the era of experimentation with blogs and socnets is quickly ending. We must show true marketing value that can deliver ROI within a larger campaign. Those that can will be successful. Those that can’t should expect a shake out of “social media experts” in the next 12 months.
Q. How will you compete against agencies that have a more rounded offering of PR, Marketing and Advertising?
A. Very, very well. It’s the expert versus the Jack of all trades, which we have seen often suffers in capabilities. Big agencies have the most to lose from this combined entity, and I expect to take it to them over the next 12 months. In fact, I look forward to it.