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? http://www.cambial.co.za/1/post/2013/09/are-most-small-and-medium-businesses-wasting-their-time-on-twitter.html), 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 http://www.cambial.co.za/1/post/2013/06/-social-media-content-is-king.html). 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 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).
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