The end of the social media consultant?

I got a note this morning (complete with its own press release attached) from Stephanie Agresta telling me that she had moved to a fulltime gig at Porter Novelli.

She writes, "My move to Porter Novelli is symbolic of the fact that the agency gets it: PR has changed forever."

It reminds me of Tara Hunt's announcement that she was moving to Intuit.  She was super excited about getting "a little schoolin’ on corporate America".

PR has changed?  Corporate America exciting?  What kind of social media bizarro world did we enter?

I think if you read between the lines, you'll realize that when two such prominent personalities in the social media world jump to the corporate side, it's a market signal: 

There just isn't enough money in social media to be a fulltime consultant. 

This is also what I heard recently from a very prominent social media expert who told me that actual dollars paid to her for her expertise were tough to come by.  Sure, there are going to be a few exceptions, but when some of the top folks are moving to big firms, if you don't believe this is a market top, then I've got a bridge to sell you.

And hey, I don't blame them.  They landed great jobs!  It's a tough economy and seeking shelter in the stability of a big firm is a smart move--just don't expect me to believe how psyched you are to leave independence for the joys and challenges of the Cube World.  

More people should get out while they can, because, in this economy, if you're not showing companies how all this stuff can directly contribute to the bottom line in real dollars, you're seriously screwed. 

Advertising and PR is becoming much more integrated.  Messaging is going cross medium.  You can't really survive at the strategy level if you don't understand all of the aspects of both traditional and interactive advertising--direct marketing, SEO/SEM, sponsorships, event marketing, etc.  That raises the bar for what it takes to be an advertising expert of any kind--let alone just in social media.  And thank God for that... seriously.  There are too many people going around with social media on their business cards where you say, "I don't get what that person does for a living--what do they actually do again?" 

So if you're smart and you see people like Tara and Steph--successful consultants who had real clients and a track record of success--going corporate, maybe it's time to hangup your "Social Media Expert" hat.