How do you to choose a social media agency?

You shouldn’t.

By Gillian Findlay

That is, you shouldn’t select a stand-alone “digital” or “social” agency. That is simply a red herring. If you want to succeed in social media, you ought to look for an agency which can implement a stakeholder relations and reputation management programme across all media. Social and digital media simply offer different channels through which to spread your message. They complement traditional media and should be utilised holistically.

Your efforts need to be part of a rounded programme, seamlessly integrated across all media. And if you do opt for different agencies or practitioners, be sure to keep them fully informed regarding your projects and activities. For example, we found out that one of our clients had a radio advertising burst when we heard it on air for the first time. What a pity we weren’t informed earlier, as the message could have been amplified via social media.

We have previously written about the option of outsourcing your social medial campaign (Are most small and medium businesses wasting their time on Twitter?, but how do you know that an agency can handle social media?

There are essentially three reasons to outsource the management of your social media campaign, and these give insight into the way to choose an agency.

1. Talent: running a social media campaign requires specific skills in terms of:

• An understanding of marketing,
• An understanding of the different social media,
• An ability to generate quality content, and
• A sensitivity to maintain your brand’s integrity and to keep a cool head in times of crisis.

To assess these qualities in a prospective agency, consider the following factors:

• Do you feel confident that this agency will be competent to reply to interactions or enquiries on your behalf?
• How good is the agency at marketing and sales?
• Can the agency craft good tweets? Writing a good tweet requires skill and good tweets get retweeted.
• What credentials does the agency have in terms of content creation?
• Does the agency offer a full range of services that give it expertise in the areas of marketing, advertising, business and public relations?
• Do you get to meet the person who will be producing content for you and who will managing the tweeting process and do you have confidence in this person? If not, why not?
• How does the agency use social media to market itself?

2. Time: a well-run social media campaign is time and labour intensive. It is “social” for a reason: it requires human interaction. This cannot – and should not – be faked, whether it is proactive or reactive engagement. Companies and agencies often resort to using automated programmes to deal with the issue of time management. These can be excellent tools to organise and manage accounts, especially across different accounts and different media, but they need to be used with caution: imagine the scheduler pumping out tweets at night or over a weekend when some heart-breaking disaster occurs which make your tweets seem very inappropriate or even insensitive.

“Bot” accounts are absolutely fine, if they are clearly identified as such. Two examples would be @MarmiteBot which replies with “My mate marmite” to every tweet with the words “marmite” and “toast” in it, and @RedScareBot which responds with a random comment each time “socialism”, “communism”, “communist” or some other variation feature in a tweet.

So how do you identify an agency that would have the capacity to handle your account and use intelligent beings to manage it on your behalf? Look for the following factors:
• What method of tweeting will be used?
• To what extent will there be a hands-on manager?
• What degree of input does the agency require of you in order to make a social media campaign work?
• Will outsourcing enable you to focus on your key competencies and grow your business?

3. Topics: We have frequently referred to the importance of quality content in social media (see: Content is King This is no different to ANY stakeholder relations programme and the agency should be able to reflect that.

To determine if an agency can handle the generation of suitable, high-quality content, ask the following questions:

• Does the agency understand business in general and your business in particular?
• Is the agency able to talk the language of your business?
• Does the agency understand your target audience and can it relate to your audience? This is essential given that engagement is a prime objective of social media.
• Does the agency focus too narrowly on products or services rather than taking a more strategic view, encompassing industry trends or customer needs?
• Are the social media activities support by blogging and other activities?
• Will the agency you use be able to write interesting articles for your blog?
• How does the agency handle criticism and negative commentary? (Negative comments should be welcomed. Remember that a customer complaint is your biggest marketing opportunity.)

And finally, you need to consider the agency’s overall ability:

4. Track record: you need to take into account an agency’s success factors and overall ability within stakeholder relationship management in general and social media in particular.

Consider the following elements:

• Does the agency look at the campaign strategically and integrate across all platforms?
• Can the agency accurately determine which social media platforms are most suited to your business and unique goals?
• What social media case studies within your industry can the agency provide? What has the agency done for existing clients?
• How does the agency measure the return on investment (ROI) and are its measures aligned with your social media objectives?
• What reporting does the agency provide?

Outsourcing a social media campaign can be liberating for a business, but only if the correct agency is selected and the two parties can operate together for the overall benefit of the business. By taking the time to uncover the most suitable constancy to manage your business, you will be in a better position to reap the rewards of a social media campaign.


Gillian Findlay

Gillian has over 30 years’ experience in the financial and investment field. She began her working career with stockbrokers and was a rated Mining Analyst in the Financial Mail Survey of investment analysts. She left stockbroking to join the marketing team of an asset management company, where her role included institutional investment marketing, PR, media relations and corporate reputation management.

Gillian also has extensive experience in a variety of financial media, having worked for both the Financial Mail and Finweek. She was a panellist on the weekly TV programme Diagonal Street, winning the coveted Panellist of the Year Award twice. She contributed to the TV economics programmes “Egoli” and “Gauteng”, aimed at Zulu and Sotho speaking viewers. She is a member of the Investment Analysts’ Society of South Africa, the Economic Society of South Africa, the Institute of Directors and is Accredited in Public Relations by PRISA, the South African industry body. Gillian is the Chairman of the Public Relations Consultancy Chapter (PRCC), sits on the Board of PRISA and represents the PRCC on the Council for Communication Management (CCM).

Follow Cambial communications on Twitter: @Cambial

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Are most small and medium sized businesses wasting their time on Twitter?

As active managers of our clients’ social media accounts, we have looked at over a thousand small and medium sized business (SMME) Twitter accounts. And we have noticed that although these accounts have been opened, it is clear that most have become dormant: if you have not tweeted in three months you are effectively not on Twitter. In fact, if you have not tweeted in a week, you may as well not be using the medium.

There are, however, some SMMEs that do tweet – but this is often what happens:

• The account ends up being used for frivolous chit-chat, not in any way related to the business itself, or
• Tweet schedulers that mindlessly pump out commercial messages have been set up. Many of these will not inspire potential customers to follow a link or make contact. Few, if any, other messages that contain useful content is ever tweeted.

SMMEs are attracted to Twitter because it is free, and then the social-media box can be ticked. However, the production of good content is not free: it is time consuming and labour intensive to be produced in-house. An alternative is to outsource the provision of content.

Enter the “digital” agency. The production of content is often outsourced to entities where a “techie” is tasked with the job – someone who knows the medium rather than the client’s business. But, the production of quality content requires a knowledge of the business itself and the industry in which it operates, in addition to marketing and advertising. These then need to be packaged via excellent writing skills.

We have seen that good content can make a big difference. Here are three examples:

Client A
This twitter account was run by a digital agency from October 2011 to January 2013. Over the 16 months, the number of followers had grown to 620. After taking over the account in February 2013, we had grown the following to over 6,500 in only eight months. There is a high level of the useful-content tweets in addition to promotional tweets. Enquiries are regularly received in addition to the interaction which takes place. This client’s Klout score is constantly higher than that of its competitors.

For this client we adopt a “follow-back” policy (see: To follow back or not? That is an important question: ) which has contributed to the high level of interaction of its followers who feel they are being listened to and also accounts for the high level of retweets received.

Client B

This client is a professional consultancy which is owner managed. The production of content was not a problem but time was. A short-term intervention was needed to grow the follower base and provide assistance with content. As a result the number of followers grew from 227 to over 9,500 in a five-month period.

Client C

We acquired this new client with less than 200 followers and we doubled the following in the first three days. However, growing followers for this client will take time as it has specific requirements for its follower base: they need to be either potential clients, or those that offer a route to reach potential clients. The point is that obtaining masses of followers is not an end in itself – one needs appropriate followers.

In each instance, we have grown the following organically: we are strictly opposed to the buying of followers. Businesses should be on Twitter to establish and grow their brands in the social-media area, to listen to their market and, more importantly to generate revenue. It is also important to note that managing a Twitter account is not simply a case of chasing followers, far more important is the quality of those followers, their level of influence and the extent of interaction and engagement generated.

Getting assistance to able you to get the maximum benefit from your social media activities is a challenging task – but the getting right assistance will produce benefits well in excess of the fees involved.


See also:
Social Media: Content is King:

Please follow us on Twitter to receive more information: @Cambial

Cambial Communications
We are a full-service strategic integrated communications company; reputation management; investor and stakeholder relations –

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Stress is caused by not knowing what the hell is going on

You are probably not working hard enough. It’s no use fooling yourself about how tired you are, or how stressed you are. Neither fatigue nor stress are caused by hard work. Think back to a time when you last worked like hell – and achieved something. Did you feel stressed? More likely, you felt physically tired, or even exhausted at the end of the day or week, but after a good night’s sleep you were ready to go again. Hardly the same stress that now wears you down day after day. I say you’re probably not working hard enough, because the stress that you’re experiencing is caused by anxiety rather than hard work. It flows from the uncertainty of not knowing what the hell is going on, or where in hell you’re going. I will prove that to you shortly.

But first, back to my premise that you’re not working hard enough. Do not confuse long hours with working hard. In some companies there seems to be a culture of “long hours”. If you’re hoping for advancement, or just plain worried about keeping your job, you may feel that you have to hang around until the boss leaves – just to show him you’re on the team. Meanwhile, he’s hanging around because he doesn’t want to get home too early while the kids are still running riot. On the other hand, you may work in one of those illogical environments where the measure of performance is input i.e. hours, rather than outputs – what you actually achieve. Your stress stems from not knowing what is happening. Being in the know does not mean being well connected to the grapevine. In fact, the quality of information that flows down the grapevine is generally poor. It raises more questions than answers, and is probably a main cause of your anxiety-induced stress. What you need is quality information about the company that you work for and the industry of which it is a part. And you need to work hard at getting it. Can you answer the following?

• Name the customers that contribute 50 percent of your company’s profits (Obviously you can’t do this if you’re a retailer selling food through large outlets for cash, but in that case you need to be able to profile your main groups of customers)
• Which companies in your industry together have 80 percent of the market? Are they expanding or contracting their operations?
• What technological developments are taking place in the field in which your company’s product competes? Remember how the fax replaced the telex?
• What is changing in the nature of the work that you do? If you are a rep on the road, can your clients effectively be serviced by a telesales operation? Are there changes in technology that will enable your work to be done by less skilled (lower paid) people, or will your company need fewer people at your level?
• What would it cost your company to get an outsider such as a consultant or sub-contractor to do what you do? What do you cost your company?

The point is that as an employee, you need to regard yourself as a business within a business. Your employer owes you nothing other than a cheque – if you provide value. As a good “business” you need to provide outstanding service and value for money. You can do this by establishing exactly what it is you have to deliver, rather than just doing time. Finding this information may be hard work, but it will partially reduce your anxiety / stress. I say partially because you could be doing an outstanding job and still find yourself out on the street. Unfortunately, this often happens. To deal with the stress of this possibility, you also need to look at the total environment in which your employer operates. This will also take work. Reading widely in trade publications and the financial media and finding out things yourself will take effort, but being in the know will allow you to plan ahead. Changes can provide opportunities if you’re ready for them.

Get tired by working hard at the right things. Don’t get caught with a warehouse full of telex machines!

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“If you’re not Content Marketing, you’re not Marketing” – Content Marketing Institute

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”


Lee Odden provides some great information in his blog here:

Where he writes about:

100+ B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2013

It is really worth reading.

I found these statistics to be the most interesting:

• 87% of B2B content marketers us social media (other than blogs)
• 83% of B2B content marketers use articles on their website
• 78% of B2B content marketers use eNewsletters
• 77% of B2B content marketers use blogs

• 87% of B2B marketers use social media to distribute content, up from 74% in 2011
• B2B marketers use an average of 5 social media sites to distribute content
• 83% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content
• 80% of B2B marketers use Twitter to distribute content

• 79% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve brand awareness goals
• 74% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve customer acquisition goals
• 71% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve lead generation goals
• 64% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve customer retention and loyalty goals
• 64% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve thought leadership goals
• 63% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve engagement goals
• 60% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve website traffic goals
• 45% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve lead nurturing goals
• 43% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve sales goals

• 54% of B2B marketers will increase their spend on content marketing over the next 12 months
• 34% of B2B marketers spend on content marketing over the next 12 months will remain the same

• 56% of B2B marketers create content in-house exclusively, an increase of 18% over 2011
• 1% of B2B marketers outsource all content creation and 43% use a combination of in-house and outsourced content creation
• 65% of large companies outsource content creation and 44% overall outsource B2B content creation

Content Marketing

In the words of the Content Marketing Institute “If you’re not Content Marketing, you’re not Marketing” – but the most important sentence I read was “Marketing is impossible without Great Content.”

They go on to say:

“Go back and read the content marketing definition (see above) one more time, but this time remove the relevant and valuable. That’s the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from companies trying to sell you “stuff.” Companies send us information all the time – it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable (can you say spam?). That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day. Good content marketing makes a person stop… read… think… behave… differently.

According to the Roper Public Affairs, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions. Think of this – what if your customer looked forward to receiving your marketing? What if when they received it, via print, email, website, they spent 15, 30, 45 minutes with it?

Yes, you really can create marketing that is anticipated and truly makes a connection! You can develop and execute “sales” messages that are needed, even requested, by your customers. Content marketing is a far cry from the interruption marketing we are bombarded with every minute of every day. Now that is marketing for the present and the future.”

I see this as a problem, “65% of large companies outsource content creation and 44% overall outsource B2B content creation.”

Who is doing the content creation in the organisations that have been chosen to create the content?

In a recent blog I wrote:

Many agencies are engaged to run social media campaigns because they understand the medium, rather than because they understand the business. But this means that content generation is left to someone who does not have the capacity or the knowledge to produce it, let alone to interact with client or potential clients. The result is often a string of commercial messages, leading to follower fatigue.

That blog is here:

Based on what I have seen on Social Media platforms the importance of the production of content is not yet being recognised as being important by businesses.

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Social Media: Content is King

Social Media: Content is King.

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Social Media: Content is King

Social media has been a hot topic for a few years now leaving many businesses, large and small, feeling the need to have a presence on social media platforms. And there is a bewildering array of these. To feed this desire, a large phalanx of self-proclaimed “Gurus” has emerged. They use their tweet-scheduling applications to bombard on Twitter to all who follow them – relentlessly. The links in their tweets go to articles they have written, while many of them have the books they have for sale advertised somewhere on the article page. Some also offer training in the use of social media platforms.

But what is Business doing in the Social Media arena?

Many of the large companies have clearly spent a considerable sum developing their presence on the various platforms. Some of them make very good use of this form of media. I do, however, wonder about those large companies that merely use, for example, Twitter as an extension of their call centres. Twitter allows instant communication with followers and conversely allows their followers to communicate with them. For a follower to then receive a (probably) bot asking the follower to call the call centre number provided somehow takes the “social” out of social media. People want to be heard – not brushed off to some multi-choice menu when they call.

Some small businesses fare no better. I have come across many which last tweeted months earlier, which seem to suggest that they have given up on Twitter.

The point of Twitter is to communicate – but communication needs to be a two-way process, so real interaction is required. It is not sufficient to continuously tweet about how great a business’s products are, nor to fob the Twitterati off with pre-configured, automated responses. People are using Twitter as a means to connect with people, not bots.

For businesses, Twitter should be managed like a radio station. Who would listen to a radio station that broadcasts only commercials? I suspect that nobody would: content is paramount. What is needed is a series of tweets that inform, entertain and educate followers. These can be interspersed with “commercial” type tweets.

So clearly there is a need for the production of good content – and that’s the problem for most businesses.

In February, when I took over the Twitter account of one of my clients, part of an international education organisation based in South Africa, the followers had been hovering in the region of 600. Today they have over 3,500 followers, leaving one competitor in the dust (an account managed by one the largest advertising agencies in the world) and fast closing on the other. Why? A major reason lies in the content.

Many agencies are engaged to run social media campaigns because they understand the medium, rather than because they understand the business. But this means that content generation is left to someone who does not have the capacity or the knowledge to produce it, let alone to interact with client or potential clients. The result is often a string of commercial messages, leading to follower fatigue.

Clearly, the number of followers is not an exclusive measure of a successful Twitter account. It is, nevertheless, a measure. While it is impossible to gauge the quality of followers (from a business perspective), I have learned from experience that behind off-beat noms de plume and cartoon profile pictures, there are real people. And if they are having fun on Twitter, it does not rule them out as potential customers. Just think how many of the people who listen to a radio station advertisement are likely to be good prospects for sales. It’s the classic “numbers game”

I have another client who had 246 followers when I took over the account. In 73 days, I built this following to over 2,000. There is no secret recipe – it’s all about content and interaction.

Blogging, another valuable medium for communicating with customers and potential customers, is also service that I offer. Screeds have been written about the importance of blogs in driving traffic to websites as well as establishing credibility as an industry player. But, once again, it is the content that makes all the difference.

In a blog it is possible to write content that in such a way does not comprise commercial messages but rather give the reader the understanding that the business understands the problems customers experience and suggests solutions – without plugging actual products. If well written, they will generate enquiries for a business. I call this “selling without trying to sell”. It works.

There are a number of tweet scheduling applications available. All you have to do is compose the tweets and enter instructions as to when they should be tweeted. Isn’t that great? All you have to do is set it up and you can get on with other things.

I don’t use them.

This goes to interaction and timing. Imagine your scheduler tweeting away and some major disaster occurs. How many people will even read your tweets, let alone follow any links in them? You will probably irritate a lot of people.

You’ll also be amazed at the extent to which Twitter has transcended “working hours”. Late last Saturday night, I wondered whether there was anyone actually out there reading the tweets. A look at the “interactions” page showed me that there were – 90% of the tweets had been retweeted – including some of the “commercials”.

Running a client’s Twitter account is an 18-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week activity. Sure, this does limit the number of clients I can take on, but it gives me the ability to constantly monitor, interact and retweet any good comments that are relevant to a client’s business. And in this era of absolute mobility, I remain connected wherever I am.

Any comments you have will be welcomed and appreciated.

I am on Twitter @Mel_BrooksSA

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One of my Social Media clients is Henley Business School South Africa. It is the local operation of Henley Business School in the United Kingdom – which is part of Reading University in the UK.

Since I started working on their Twitter account at the beginning of February 2013 the number of followers has increased by 255%. I realise that the number followers in itself is not meaningful but 95%+ of these followers are PEOPLE. I have ignored ‘bots’ and when not followed back they seem to go away. Which is good.

Many of those who use ‘bots’ tweet the same thing over and over and over. This is the same as a radio station that continuously broadcasts commercials.

While the purpose of Henley Business School being on Twitter is to promote its activities I have taken care to intersperse ‘commercials’ with other content.

I do not use ‘inspirational’ quotes. I find these as irritating as many others do. I occasional tweet a quote, for example, of Peter Drucker and Michael Porter but these are not inspirational just good advice to managers.

I also put in my own content – examples of which are below. Many of these are retweeted or result in interactions with me – or between followers which is even better. I also interact with followers when I think I can make a useful contribution.

  • Set aside a short time on Monday evening for work related reflection and planning. The rest of the weekend BE with your loved ones – fully.
  • Good Morning, if you’re setting off on a long journey later today please take care. Keep a 360 lookout on the roads.
  • Good managers understand that they are only as good as the team they build.
  • Good managers know how to build networks across their own businesses & industry. They know that good networks are based on reciprocity.
  • Good managers regard budgets a planning & monitoring tool – not as something imposed on them by accountants.
  • The written word remains a part of communication in organisations. Good managers ensure that these communications are crystal clear.
  • Your career advancement is directly proportional to the investment you make in your own personal development.
  • Good managers always critically evaluate evidence before acting on that evidence.
  • Really good managers always regard themselves as always being at the start of their learning process – they’re constantly open to new ideas.
  • Good managers know that character and integrity are as important as capability.
  • Good managers understand how every one of their decisions will affect the company Income Statement & Balance Sheet – and the Cash Flow.
  • Good managers keep up a positive attitude in the face of adversity – while remaining in touch with reality.
  • At work do you leave (not create) an impression, are people changed for the better because of you, do you know what to do to add value?
  • Good managers spend a lot of time reading; about business, leadership the economy, new technologies. It is part of their personal development.
  • Good Managers are able to configure ideal combinations of work, family, fun and rest. This reduces the risk of burnout.
  • Africa is the second largest continent in the world. The area of Africa can contain all of USA, China, India, New Zealand, and Europe.
  • South Africans should spend time travelling in the rest of Africa. The people you meet will convince you that there are great opportunities.
  • Good managers like Monday mornings just as much as they like Friday afternoons.
  • Good managers are quick learners and they accelerate the learning of all around them.
  • Assets & Profits are like food to humans. We can live without food for a long time. We can’t live without O2. Cash flow is the O2 business.
  • If you don’t understand the saying, ‘Profit is an Opinion – Cash Flow is a Fact’ you need help.
  • Your career advancement if directly proportional to the investment you make in your own personal development.
  • Good managers make the effort to ‘sell’ their message in order to win hearts and minds.
  • Good managers need to master the art of real inter-personal communication in order to be effective.
  • Good managers keep abreast of developments, not only in their own fields, but of developments in all areas that will affect their business.
  • Good managers never participate in the company ‘grape-vine’ activities.
  • Good managers don’t go around barking orders. Good managers ask good questions – which means they’re coaching. Start tomorrow.
  • Take stock of your current skills, compare them to the skills required in the job you would like to have – and make plans to fill any gaps.


I have come to realise that Social Media is more about the content than the technology involved. Sure, I could set up an application to tweet at set times as the ‘bot’ people do but what if someone asks a question that needs an answer. Or, one is tweeting ‘commercials’ amidst some breaking Twitter news storm.

For me it’s all about content, timing and the personal touch. If this limits the number of clients I am able to handle I’ll live with that.


‘Commercial.’ Please visit Henley Business School at to see what they’re all about and follow them @HenleyAfrica – you’ll get my read my ‘Good managers….’ Tweets live.





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