A personal announcement about the future of Social: IRL from agency principal, Ben Smith.
Social: IRL launched in the summer of 2010, after I left the media industry in which I had worked for 10 years prior to that.
At the time, social media was reaching a point of acceptance as a serious business tool, but relatively few businesses were looking beyond its most obvious marketing function.
My goal with Social: IRL was to help businesses understand the true impact and potential of social media: engaging consumers throughout the journey from prospect to customer to advocate, and connecting and empowering employees and fostering innovation and collaboration. Also to help businesses move beyond their social marketing goals to aligning social media with higher-level corporate goals.
The “IRL” in the company name stands for “In Real Life,” reflecting a key belief that while it is an online media, the true potential with social is to sync online and offline communities to the point where they seamlessly overlap and co-exist, with a very tangible “real life” impact on individuals, businesses, organizations and communities.
Over the last three years, Social: IRL has been fortunate to work with a diverse group of national brands as well local and regional businesses. In addition to the client work, a key focus has been on education and advocacy. We developed a national conference series featuring acclaimed experts such as Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Solis and Jason Falls, in event formats going well beyond the typical keynotes, focused on providing attendees with depth of learning and practical takeaways that empower them to drive change within the organizations they represent. Most recently, we conducted a series of workshops that provided free in-depth training for over 700 nonprofit attendees within a six-month period. On a personal level, I am also proud to serve on the Global Board of Directors of Social Media Club, a nonprofit organization focused on providing digital education and advocacy through a network of more than 300 local chapters.
Much has changed in the three years since Social: IRL launched. The focus is less about channel or media-specific solutions, and more about overall consumer engagement and experience. It has progressed beyond social engagement to digital engagement, and ultimately simply “engagement.” All businesses must evolve to not only “do social” but to “be social.
With this imminent shift, I am excited to announce my new partnership with Callahan Creek, a full-service marketing agency that has spent the last 30 years working with national and regional specialty brands. As Callahan Creek’s social media director, I will help grow the agency’s social media service offerings and at the same time continue to build the Social: IRL business.
The challenges and opportunities for specialty brands are unique. Their products and services are distinctive, often more expensive and sometimes harder to find. Callahan Creek has developed an unparalleled understanding of those brands’ challenges and their unique customers: category enthusiasts. It has learned how to connect specialty brands with the passions of the category enthusiast and needs of the trade while crafting strategies and messages that help brands not simply engage those consumers, but grow them from enthusiasts to influential advocates.
Callahan Creek is headquartered in Lawrence, Kansas, with additional offices in Torrance, California, and additional staff onsite at several of the national brands they represent.
The partnership between Social: IRL and Callahan Creek will provide a true focus on integrated consumer engagement and experience.