Do Agencies Get Social Media?

There was an AdWeek story titled “Agencies Don’t Get Social Media” (subscription required) last week. Former Forrester Analyst Jim Nail (he’s now CMO at TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony) was quoted in it:

“The perceived lack of social media competence at agencies will present opportunities for new providers, Nail predicted, as too many agencies hew narrowly to their niche, whether it’s media, creative or PR — something backed up by client feedback.”

I’ve been speaking with lots of creative leaders at agencies like R/GA, Organic, and Avenue-A for my Gen Y research at Forrester lately, and in my view this is only a perceived lack of social media expertise, not a missing competency.

Agency clients see social media campaigns as another marketing channel, while forward-looking creative types inside agencies see social media work and community building as a natural way to support brands in a Web 2.0 world. How can agencies communicate the value of social media more effectively to their clients? I think the answer lies in brand monitoring, and building an ROI case for social media investments. But I’m curious to hear your thoughts — why are today’s interactive agencies seen as missing the mark with social media?