I came across two interesting stories yesterday. First, Ad Age reported that Coca-Cola had issued an RFP for an agency to handle social media listening. The piece notes that, “Kerry Tressler, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, said some 20 agencies have been involved in the selection process. She noted the company is looking to select a single agency and expects the decision will be made “fairly quickly.” She also said that roster shop 360i is among the agencies participating in the process.”

As an agency guy, and a social media guy, this is concerning. In general, I think less agencies is better than more agencies. Yes, you want best in class but at some point the task of managing a dozen agencies across your marketing department can outweigh their individual skills. I’ve been involved with a lot of big brands, for a number of different agencies, and getting them to communicate and work in harmony can be an effort, even when there roles are clearly distinct. But today, clearly distinct roles is a thing of the past. What agency doesn’t think it can handle the social media duties? Now Coca-Cola is going to add a social media monitoring agency?

Econsultancy.com seems to support the notion, stating in an article on the Coca-Cola RFP: “Just as, for instance, an analytics guru who identifies a problematic page correlated with shopping cart abandonment is likely not going to be the person who fixes the usability or copy problem responsible for the abandonment, an agency that is capable of helping a client engage effectively with consumers through social media isn’t necessarily going to be the most capable of analyzing social chatter and applying the results to social and other marketing channels.”

No, they aren’t necessarily going to be able to, but they could. I don’t believe gettinganother agency is the answer, rather getting the right agency is the answer. Surely there are agencies that can use the wide variety of tools now available to monitor social media conversations, and then execute against the strategies to engage or convert or whatever is the appropriate action.  I would be concerned about the potential lag time between Agency A identifying an opportunity to engage (or more seriously, identify a potential crisis) and Agency B taking the appropriate action. I’m sure the “listening” agency is going to have ideas about how to respond that may be different from Coke’s other social media agency. In all, I see more potential problems than benefits.

The other story came from Andy Sernovitz, who looks at what Intel is up to with their social listening and engagement program. Interestingly, Intel’s Becky Brown talks about the need to “[c]entralize, consolidate and focus.” Here’s her full presentation fromBlogWell here.

Intel’s approach is inline with what I heard from Ethan McCarty, Sr. Manager, Digital and Social Strategy at IBM, in my interview with him (Part 1Part 2).  Intel, like IBM, is evolving into a Social Business.  Getting all departments and all employees on the same page. Harnessing internal experts and leveraging them to engage with consumers/customers will be essential for businesses. Those, like Intel and IBM who are moving in that direction now will have an advantage over their competitors.