Why should you use an agency to handle your social media efforts?
I just read an Adweek article advocating that companies should “keep it simple and keep [their] social media interactions in-house.”
I think that the article makes some good points, but here are some reasons why I do recommend using an agency:
- proper planning / execution / measuring / reporting
- familiarity with the audience / language / protocol
- they stay up on trends for you (Facebook privacy settings change every day, new sites emerge, search algorithms change, etc.)
- they make social media a priority, not a side project
- they see the bigger picture (how does social tie in with your overall brand image & marketing efforts?)
- they have connections (think: blogger outreach, Facebook reps, etc.)
- they know upfront how much it should actually cost your company in time & money to implement social media
- they know the rules (did you know that you can’t run contests on Facebook? Do you know how to work within those guidelines to run your contest?)
- they have knowledge of and access to the tools you need for posting / monitoring / tracking efficiently (and they can negotiate the best rates for you)
- they have advanced design capabilities
- everyone can focus on what they’re best at
When it comes to your online presence, you want to put your best face forward. Ensure that the person handling your social media accounts is someone who understands the communities and who is authentic in his or her desire to spend time in those crowds. A common scenario is that a top exec will hear rumors about “this social media thing” that is generating revenue for other companies. So, they say, “Someone get on it. We need to be doing this social media thing, too.” Then the task lands on someone’s plate, alongside a mountain of work they are already responsible for. They begin to fiddle around. No plan. No goals. No strategy. No metrics to measure success.
Often the in-house person tasked with implementing the social media efforts is someone who either doesn’t like social media or doesn’t see the value in it. We often hear that it takes a backseat to other work, and that it feels like a chore. If the person handling your social media feels like it’s a chore, then you are doing your business a huge disservice. No one wants to hang out with someone who doesn’t want to be there.
The article says, “This person is speaking on behalf of your company, but no matter how good they may be they can’t offer the same experience your in-house employees would provide.” This suggests that an agency works in a silo, rather than hand-in-hand with its clients. When we work with clients to provide social media support, we become very integrated into various departments in the client’s company, including customer service, marketing, internal communications, legal and product development. The agency person becomes part of your team(s).
“What happens if a customer asks a question in a tweet that your rent-a-moderator can’t answer correctly, completely or quickly?” asks the article. Have you ever been to a store and the sales associate had to grab the manager to help get the question answered? Same thing. There will be times when the person designated to monitor the comments needs to reach out to someone else to get more info. This will happen regardless of whether the person is in-house or with an agency.
Or, the article asks, “What happens when a golden nugget of insight is shared through a customer exchange and this is completely lost on the rent-a-moderator?” Proper reporting will ensure against this. A good agency partner will get you all the information you need. By having a section of the report dedicated to product research and customer feedback, the social interactions will get properly relayed to the necessary parties.
And, while we’re on reporting, it should be noted that agencies take the time to do that, while – based on experience – many in-house employees do not. Since agencies are held accountable for the results, agencies measure ROI.
Finally, I recommend using an agency because they’ve done this before. They understand how social media works and how it integrates with your brand image overall and your other marketing efforts (tv, print, radio, SEM, display ads, etc.). They have the design capabilities to match your website’s look and feel. They also have a broader view of opportunities beyond Facebook and Twitter. They should also understand how social media affects search engine optimization and how your website’s functionality can and should be built out to leverage your social media efforts.
Of course this is all contingent on finding the right people at the right agency
Besides, it’s up to you to determine which services are comfortable getting help with. Think of agency services as a-la-carte. Perhaps you want the agency to provide the strategy and training so that your in-house team can implement. Or maybe you want the agency to do the design work, build custom apps and monitor the page, but then have your employees respond to comments. Often, agencies work to triage comments and pass them to the appropriate parties (some go to customer service, some go to sales, some go to product development, some go to legal, etc.)
I could go on. What are your thoughts for or against using an agency for social media?
photo by: Mai Le