By Darren Gilbert
“I’d really love to find the guy who said that,” he chuckles. We’re chatting at Roodebloem Manor in Woodstock, Cape Town. Headquarters of The King James Group, he’s currently creative partner at Society, their social media arm. We’re also sipping tea – very British. Just like Pinch.
“I actually had no idea what I wanted to do after university,” he admits. Following a degree in English and Drama at the Queen Mary University of London, he found himself at an online public relations start-up in 1998. “I just knew I wanted to get into the web.” Unfortunately the web didn’t want him. At least not yet. And with the dot-com crash two years later, Pinch found himself moving on to Weber Shandwick, a PR agency, where he resurrected their dormant youth PR division, SLAM.
After three years at SLAM, and having fallen in love with a South African woman, he moved here in late 2004. It was a move that saw him first work at Atmosphere Communications before moving to where he is today: Society, the fastest growing social media agency in South Africa.
“I really enjoyed PR,” says Pinch. “But there were enough people who could do PR well.” At the time, there wasn’t much social media work around. Or at least not enough to make a career out of it. “And besides, I was a lazy PR,” he admits. “I wanted to come up with stories that would make people want to phone us rather than us getting hold of them.” The Kulula campaign in 2010 around the Soccer World Cup was one such story.
“It was the turning point for the agency,” declares Pinch. “Up until then we had found we were doing increasingly more social media work. Steri Stumpie was a client who wanted social media work. Bells too. But the Kulula campaign was what allowed us to spin off and form Society.” By the end of their first year of business, the agency had five employees. Today, four years later, it has grown to over 40.
“It’s amazing how quickly things have changed,” says Pinch. “Social media has exploded.” It has gone from persuading people that a Facebook page was a good idea three years ago to actually having in-depth, sophisticated eco-systems on different social channels. Today, if you’ve done some work and have examples, it’s not hard to convince clients. “The persuasion is no longer the hard part,” says Pinch.
It is now about keeping up with what’s new in social media.
“If you take your eyes off the ball, fall asleep or get stuck doing one thing, you’re dead as a social media agency,” explains Pinch. “You can keep going for years as an ad or PR agency doing essentially what people did 20 years ago. But with social media, even in six months, everything has changed.”
However, Pinch doesn’t have a typical view of social media. For him, it is not just something that happens on Facebook
. It’s not about posting a motivational image and hoping that someone shares it. Rather, social media is what happens in real life. “If you do something that is interesting enough and people want to engage with it; that is social media.” It’s creative and interactive. Above all social media is intrinsically human.
It’s not just him who thinks this though. It’s what you’ll find at Society too. While social can sometimes be driven by the geekier stats - the more techie end of social – it’s important not to forget the human motive behind it. “Stats and techie stuff are important,” points out Pinch. “But at Society, we will always be led by the creative end and storytelling.”
As long as Pinch is around, they’ll continue to do just that. And to think someone thought there was no future in social media.
For more information on Society, visit theworkofsociety.com. Alternatively, connect with them on Facebook or Twitter. You can find Dan Pinch on Twitter here.