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Do-Brands-Still-Need-Agencies-for-Social-Media

This post first appeared on the Hootsuite Blog – and my next instalment, Five Ways to Focus on Creating Awesome Content with your Client will be published later today on the Hootsuite Blog.

 

Your clients are raising their heads above the murky waters of social media. They are starting to understand what social media actually is, who can do what, and most importantly how to do it.

Social media is growing out of a brand’s marketing department and maturing across organisations to be a core part of business. Part of this transformation means more community management and social media is coming in-house.

Does this shift spell the end of your agency’s social media practice? Far from it, but you need to focus, more than ever, on how your creativity can have an impact on your client’s business objectives.

Perfect sense

Creative, Digital, PR, and Marketing agencies have been the holders of much of the knowledge around social media—seeing long before many that it can change businesses for the better.

It also made perfect sense for them to be the voice of clients, often managing channels on their behalf, understanding their brand and how it translates on social.

Let’s also not hide from the fact that it made sense commercially—all you needed to do was hire a copywriter to write a few short snippets a week, post it, and manage the few responses it rustled.

Today, social media is different. Thanks to your work as pioneers in the industry, community management can require armies of staff to moderate, service, and engage with billions of people. Where once you only needed a few community managers in your agency, you now need hundreds. It no longer always makes sense for a client to pay you to hire people when it would be more cost effective to hire directly.

Strategise

Agencies should focus on having an impact on your the client’s bottom line—which can be delivered through being strategic.

Combine your knowledge of social media and your client’s business challenges to help them use social media effectively across their organisation, and plan with them on how they can achieve goals such as:

  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Reducing cost of acquisition
  • Increasing sales
  • Securing online reputations

Don’t be booted out of the room by grasping onto your client’s twitter password—change the conversation and work with them to open opportunities for your agency with wider parts of their business.

Focus on creating awesome content

I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that agencies should never again write a client’s Facebook post. But you have to ask yourself, is it really worth your client’s money to put together a post about a product recall and respond to all the angry comments?

In fact, collaborating with your clients on their social is completely possible. Using a social relationship platform can easily improve communications and reduce email ping pong between the agency and the client.

Lean your strategies towards enabling your clients to own the day-to-day management of their social channels.

Freeing up your agency-side social media team’s time, means you can focus on creating awesome content that makes an audience love your clients and explore more ways to achieve their business objectives.

Even lions are interested

My favourite example of creativity having an impact on real business objectives was the campaign promoting the new mobile app of one of our enterprise clients Expedia.co.uk. TheTravel Yourself Interesting (#TYI) campaign, by Ogilvy & Mather, took home three Cannes Lions this year and increased downloads of Expedia.co.uk’s mobile app by 25% during the campaign period.

A mastermind behind #TYI, Social Media Director at Ogilvy & Mather James Whatley, realised the importance of focussing on creativity to enhance the campaign:

For Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, our vision is always to deliver the best work that is loved and shared by millions. The Travel Yourself Interesting brand positioning has been hugely successful for Expedia, across all media, and the social element was just one component of the overall integrated piece. For the #TYI campaign our ambition was to only handle the creative execution of Travel Yourself Interesting in social media.

More and more you see clients take social media customer care in-house, and we made it clear from the outset that we had no intention of pretending to cover that off. Basically, if it had #TYI on it, we’d pick it up. If it didn’t, we’d leave that to Expedia’s existing community team.

Here’s a super informative case study on #TYI– and yes real lions eat a boring tweet.

You have challengers

Knocking on your door are management consultancy firms. Their focus on business process and transformation may also win the hearts and minds of the CEO or CIO more easily than an agency could.

The big advantage agencies have is that social is much more embedded into the organisation whereas management consultancies on the other hand have had to pay to play. To win, being strategic around social is king, not just to the CMO’s requirements, but to what your client’s objectives are across their business.

This post is the first in a three-part series from Rylan on Agencies in Social Realms. Next week: “5 Ways to Focus on Creating Awesome Content for Your Client.”

Want to learn about how agencies can work with Hootsuite? Check out Hootsuite’s Agency Partner Program.

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Social Summit

February has been a busy month for me and events, and this is no bad thing. I’ve met loads of fascinating people, picked up a ton of new information, drank far too much filter coffee and most importantly had some brilliant buffets! Here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been involved with in February:

Social Brands – #SocialSummit

Social SummitIt was great to be a member of a panel on Approaches to Measuring Success and ROI at this Brand Republic event. Andy Porteus, former SVP of Digital at Unilever led the debate, and I was joined by Pete Markey of RSA, Alanah Donnel from the Department for Work and Pensions as well as Paul Fabretti from Telefonica.

There was too much to discuss, and it was a shame we couldn’t have gone on longer. It was reassuring that all the panelists seemed to agree on one major point – social must be aligned to your core business objectives in order to show return. And as Alanah rightly highlighted it does not necessarily need to be monetary.

Increased sales, brand awareness, hiring the greatest talent or customer retention – find out what is important to your business and align your social to that. It’s the only way you will talk the language of the c-suite who may not yet see the value social media and therefore a surefire way to show ROI.

Saying all that, I think we were secretly most proud that we were able to help provide some advice to an audience member about targeting Cornwall farmers with their farming machinery.

Tech Forum for Financial Services

Technology Forum BreakfastIt’s been nearly a year since I left the legal industry, however I still haven’t lost my enthusiasm for making social business work in what can be deemed a tough environment where regulation, compliance and risk can wield their often uncompromising heads.

The panel was chaired by CGI’s Matthew Grisoni with Stephane Clark from HSBC, Warren Roy from Global Relay and Simon Appleton from Kinetic Partners covering: E-discovery, Risk Management and Compliance within Finance 

As I discussed on the panel, the financial services industry must keep an eye out for the upcoming social media guidelines to be released by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) and prepare for them by looking at the recently released FFIEC’s Social Media Guidelines in the States – which I have heard will be a basis for the UK guidelines.

Be sure to check two great resources on this:

No matter what the guidelines say though I really believe that in any regulated industry you can be a social business, but you have to treat social as you would any other business project or process. Start with creating a strategy and write your policy. Then ensure you are compliant and reducing risks by providing infrastructure through technology and ensure you educate all your employees on your social media guidelines and policies.

Modern Marketers Forum – #ModernMarketers

There is some really awesome technology out there – and it was great to share the stage with, Tamsin Fox Davies from Constant Contact, Krista LaRiviere from gshift and Laurent Boninfante from Acquisio. My highlight of the event was definitely Krista’s definition of SEO:

It’s no longer just about Google – it’s the whole digital eco-system.

What’s next? Social Media World Form – #SMWF

Up next is the Social Media World Forum at the Brewery in London on 31 March and 1 April. I’m totally stoked about this event having attended two years ago, coming away impressed with all the great insights shared and the high-level of conversation.

So it’s great to be back to do a keynote this year and I’m going to be talking on day 2 at 10.20pm around this:

The social media manager is dead. Long live social media

As a business solution, social has evolved, moving well beyond the marketing department. In the last year, 13 times as many jobs involve the use of social media in some way but growth in positions with the title “social media manager” slowed to 50%. Behind this decline is a sea change in the way that social media itself is used within organisations.

  • As a social specialist, ensure your unique specialism continues to be valued within your organisation
  • Learn the skills to manage change within your business and win over the non believers
  • Review what social issues really matter to your CEO

Hopefully I’ll see you there and I pray you won’t regret leaving that bag of rotten tomatoes at home!

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IMG_6022

IMG_6022

This week I’ve been visiting Hootsuite HQ in Vancouver. It’s been awesome soaking up the atmosphere in the big nest, putting faces to names and catching up with my family that live here.

The main difference between London and Vancouver office life: people don’t shake hands, they fist bump. To be honest that’s about it.

Thankfully the similarities are much more profound, we work hard to achieve the vision of Hootsuite and, importantly, have fun whilst we hustle towards that goal.

Here’s the owl mural in a meeting room – owls are all about the eyes

They’ve got beer on tap, which means owls can hang out after work on Fridays

Vancouver is a beautiful town, this is the view from the rooftop of the office, just look at those snow capped mountains:

Also here are my grandparents, I hadn’t seen them for 7 years, so it was great timing to be here at the same time as Tet. Happy New Year everyone!

Thanks Vancouver, hopefully next time it won’t be so long.

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everyone

Everyone

“We want to make office IT as good as the experience you have at home”

That’s what an IT Director at a former employer confessed to me. It’s perfectly understandable – the nature of an Enterprise means upgrading to the next version of Windows is usually an unfathomably protracted project. Therefore many organisations are years behind what’s now available on Amazon for the home.

To the bewilderment of many employees across the globe, when they power up their work computers they find Windows XP running an antiquated version of Office. Then the real fun starts when they venture online – their internet is pretty much broken thanks to IE6. Yes, IE6 – a 12 year old browser!

But don’t be too hasty to shake a fistful of blame at IT. I remember a frustrated Project Manager, tasked with propelling the firm to somewhere near to modern technological standards, sharing with me a Magna Carta of tools, web apps and internal systems that had to be upgraded before they were able to move to the next browser.

Social Business is for Everyone

Aside from the clear obstacles upgrading IT to home standards throws your way – there is another key message from the IT Director’s dream: In order for technology to be adopted across the enterprise it needs to be as easy to use as what you would find at home.

So how does this apply to Social Business? Your employees need a platform that is powerful to support a socially empowered enterprise but is accessible for everyone.

If the platform you choose to support a social business is too complicated your workforce are likely to give it a go, get confused and probably run away. Failure to drive adoption of a social management platform will see employees gravitate towards using native Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter clients, because it’s so much easier for them. But the dangers for companies allowing that kind of access are clear:

  • Lack of security, with passwords on spread sheets in all kinds of places
  • Accountability or archiving is much more difficult
  • There is no way to know who is responding to queries

And don’t forget – you will have wasted your company a lot of time and money if they don’t use it.

Holding hands

Training is another major roadblock to the social enterprise – it costs a lot of money, takes a great deal of time and is difficult to scale. No matter how intelligent lawyers, accountants, store managers, the c-suite or whoever the faces of your brand are – do not overestimate their technological knowledge. You really need to guide these people through a mixture of training and follow up – both online and person to person.

Before I trained anyone face to face, I’d ensure they get certified through HootSuite University so they learn the basics of the platform and social media, and then we could focus on higher level details of their new socially empowered working life. Another approach is to train a group and then leave them with an e-learning platform for homework. Combining these two methods means you can scale training across an organisation at a much faster pace and help reduce churn on your social media management platform.

There’s also place for purely online training – especially powerful when you want your employees to abide by your company’s social media policies or engage in a way that’s acceptable to your bran. For this, find an e-learning platform that allows you to track completion across the organisation, have clear links to your policy documents and guidelines and make sure that completing the course is mandatory for everyone.

What you should think about

So the three main (and very high level) things I’d look at when considering what tool to use to support your social business strategy:

  1. Consider a tool that allows you to scale social business across an entire organisation
  2. Ensure that tool is easy to use and accessible for everyone
  3. Plan how you’re going to train a large number of people with often limited understanding of social media and its impact on their business life
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High Line View

New York – wow, what a city. There are too many stories to tell about our trip to the Big Apple, so won’t bore you with them. Here are a few of the photos that I think sum up some of my time there best…

Here’s the gallery in full on Flickr:

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