Our President, Brad Bogus, and I recently spoke to a group of delegates from Pakistan about U.S. Social Media practices. During the Q & A session, some of the delegates asked what makes a good Social Media company. Pakistan is an incredibly tech-savvy country from what we could tell, but the Social Media game is still developing, so their question was really “how do we know what to look for when determining how to choose an agency?”
This got me thinking about what separates the chumps from the professional Social Media agencies. Although some of our secret sauce is within this article, I would honestly rather be copied (and have to prove my worth) than have to defend what I do against the other guys.
— Speak Social (@SpeakSocial) February 11, 2013
Is the Agency a Practitioner or a Preacher?
It takes very little work to be able to talk-the-good-talk about Social Media. Writers have taken on the theory countless times in addition to the workshops, boot camps, webinars and everything else under the sun. I have spoken with some “Thought Leaders” (yes I put that in quotes) who can paint a picture of Social Media marketing that will make you think all of your marketing problems are over.
They will tell you they believe in your voice, and they understand communities. They will tell you they wrote an e-book, and their Klout score is off the charts. They are great preachers of Social Media, but are they great practitioners? It’s actually pretty simple to tell.
If an agency really practices what it preaches, you will understand exactly what they are going to do for you, and exactly why it is important. Let me tell you from experience, it takes extreme intelligence to make something complicated sound simple and relatable. Preachers throw data at you; practitioners tell you how they have done it before in a way that you can understand. If they can’t, it is because they haven’t really done it before, or they aren’t smart enough to get past the jargon. Talk is cheap people, even in Social Media.
Do the Other Guys try to Box you into a Strategy?
Most Social Media companies offer packages. They love packages! I’m not going to lie, we were victims to this mindset early on as well. You give me XXX dollars per month, and I will tweet for you XX number of times. It’s money for labor, clean and simple. It sounds great, but it doesn’t work that way. Every brand is different, with its own set of goals, and – more importantly – its own expectations. How could a one-size-fits-all approach ever be realistic for a dynamic agency?
That very question is why we start every new client with our proprietary Brand Profile, which is an in-depth look into the past, present and future of a business or brand. This process generally requires a 4-hour interview between key staff and our Community Manager and Head Writer. With that content, we create a document – usually between 30 – 40 pages – that gives a full picture of the brand’s current presence, areas of opportunity, voice & messaging, goals, as well as multiple other criteria including a competitive analysis. This document allows us to define a proper strategy that actually serves a purpose.
Once we have strategy in place, we work with the client (as partners) to create the most effective and efficient campaigns that position the client towards achieving goals. Maybe this work takes a monthly retainer, or maybe we work on a project-by-project basis, whatever fits the client … not whatever fits us.
Does the Agency want to Work with you?
This sounds obvious, but it’s important to note my question wasn’t, do they want your money? When we started two and a half years ago, we needed clients. Our main criteria at the time was do they have a checkbook. That strategy got us clients, but what we soon realized was those clients were not always the right fit. We brought them value for their money, but we did not bring them a voice online.
In the beginning, Social was a mathematical formula. I give you this much money, you sell this much product. We tried to make it work, but in the end, we always either divorced the client or the client divorced us. Now we carefully select who we want to work with, and we pursue specific relationships. We choose based on criteria like: heart, voice, independence, vision, goals and culture. When we want to work with you, we want to work with you, and we will do anything to be your partner. We don’t have a call center pounding the phones looking for any business that we can convince to sign a 6-month contract.
In the end Social Media is both an art and a science … in mixes that are never consistent. It’s a witch’s brew that cannot easily be duplicated from client-to-client. Business owners cannot ignore Social Media, but they don’t have to jump into it either. Take time to vet your Social Media agency, and you will save yourself frustration down the road.
If you have any questions email or message me. Don’t let the fear of the unknown prevent you from action.
And watch out for the “Thought Leaders.”