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Facebook advertising and integrated marketing concepts seem to be top of mind for 200+ reps of midsize agencies gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona, at BOLO 2011: Be On The Lookout.

It is my second year in a row speaking here—certainly, one of the best events for agencies. I got to run a local marketing superforum with great help from John Triplett, AZ Republic, who discussed hyperlocal and vertical marketing; David Simon, Rovion/, who discussed rich media integration; and Steve Yeich, Relevant Ads, who discussed SMB search marketing.

While local is part of the equation for the agency attendees, many of whom have local SMB clients, discussions among the agencies at breaks and receptions focused on the practical issues of the new marketing.

“Paid, earned, owned and shared media is a virtuous cycle,” notes one speaker.

When it comes to social media services, some of the agency reps in attendance proved to be way ahead of the curve, with great results engaging users with product giveaways, games, check-ins, etc. The “social listening tools” have added a new dimension to their ability to support clients, and mentions, positive sentiment and discovery for their brands.

By following best practices, for instance, and holding special online events (draft day party, etc.), the Phoenix Suns boosted their Facebook fans count by 20,000 users, “likes” by 138 percent and comments by 473 percent. “The Suns partner with a lot of smaller sponsors. This is something to show them,” notes their agency rep. Before all the innovations, the Suns were “not optimizing “their social media count, with just 42,000 of 600,000 fans engaging.

But for agency owners, hiring social media practitioners remains an issue. One owner told me he didn’t really want to shell out $65,000 to $80,000 a year on an experienced account executive to handle social media. At the same time, however, he wasn’t comfortable leaving postings and tweets and Facebook profiles in the hands of inexperienced J-School grads who didn’t necessarily have a holistic view of the account.

Balancing social media with other parts of the marketing budget remains a work in progress. Facebook ad specialists — a new field, obviously — were eager to share details of the various Facebook ad products and tools for measuring activity that are now available. While BOLO attendees, in a vote, gave universally bad results to Facebook’s fairly radical User Interface changes (and few people actually understand them,), the company was admired as one that moves amazingly fast and is compellingly “data driven.”

Acquisio, an agency software provider, has now integrated Facebook ads and Google programs directly into its agency planning and reporting tools. In fact, it allows for direct comparison of Facebook and Google spending, recognizing that while they are different, the budget may come from the same place. “People make the mistake that Facebook is search. It isn’t,” notes a rep. While Facebook gets good results for advertisers, the range of Google products continues to far outpace Facebook, he notes.

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