Social media as a service is something many digital agencies try to offer but rarely if ever have I seen them get it right.
When a company hires an agency to execute marketing work they usually demand reporting on how the results affect the bottom line. Digital marketing tactics like SEO and SEM work well for this as you are able to draw clear lines between the efforts and the results and prove your value. Google Adwords and Google Analytics offer a lot of solutions for this out of the box. Social media, particularly the ongoing day to day management of it, is harder to accomplish direct ROI (return on investment) for. It is also much harder to commoditise effectively and it is much harder to sell to people because of this.
The benefits of social media are more subtle and reap longer term results. Social media is the most effective medium for creating brand impressions and brand trust, which is far more important for long term growth and sustainability for your business than getting enough leads this month to cover the costs of your marketing.
I believe that customer experience is the most important thing for an agency to get right if they intend to grow. Client churn is an absolute killer and so is negative word of mouth. Delivering ineffective services creates negative customer experience which inhibits growth. In the past I have shied away from offering social media management as a service because I’ve just not figured out a way to do it effectively.
What Is Social Media Management Exactly?
Good social media management is comprised of several smaller components, all of which have their own set of skills and their own responsibilities.
There is the content production side, where the aim is to create engaging and provocative content that encourages the user to comment on it, share it and like it. This requires a creative thinker and that person has to have the technical ability to produce multimedia content if they are to do it effectively.
There is the customer service side. Prospective and existing customers use social media more and more to contact and connect with the businesses that they want to use. It is important that customer service based businesses understand that clients want to be able to use platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to engage when they need resolutions or their queries answered and that there is a lot of benefit to encouraging them to do so.
There is the pay per click advertising side. Social media makes money because of this. It is the most important piece of all. It is an extremely effective way to deliver your message to customers that fit your ideal profiles and as a result to acquiring new business. This is analytics, numerical but also still requires the creation of good content, perhaps videos and graphics but at the very least good written content.
Then there is the strategy side. Understanding how to stitch it together, and whether social media is an effective tool for your brand is a skill of its own. Who is your ideal customer? If you can’t determine that then you are in the dark. What is the ideal message to deliver to sell your product? A good strategist will determine this and build campaigns around it, that you then use social media as a channel to deliver the campaign through, often in addition to other channels but occasionally on it’s own.
Who is a Social Media Marketer?
There are “unicorns” amongst us who are good strategists, can make great content, know how to run effective PPC campaigns and are amazing customer service people but they are about as rare as hen’s teeth. To deliver social media effectively almost always requires multiple people in a team operating from the guidance of a strategist.
The job title of “Social Media Marketer” is somewhat of a misnomer. A PPC specialist should know how to run Facebook campaigns in their sleep with minimal learning. The metrics of measurement are all very similar. A content producer who is used to developing content for blogs, newsletters and other channels will be able to create good content for social too. A salesperson or customer service person can handle enquiries. So why do you even need social media specifically? The answer is you probably don’t. It’s just another tool, another channel. What you need is someone to tell you whether it’s right for you and explain to you how to make it work. What you need is a good strategist. Social media is so versatile that it’s almost surely going to be effective for you in some way and a good strategist will find a way.
The strategy component in social media is the most valuable part of it and where an agency can offer the most value to a client. It is also usually the part that nobody in the client’s organisation can get right, by either having nobody who specialises or nobody who has time to really think about it. Often they will already have people capable of creating content (designers, copywriters), managing campaigns (performance marketers, Adwords experts, even SEOs can easily cross into this field) and handling customer and community engagement (sales, customer service staff, even receptionists can pick up the slack here). A little bit of training and some engagement with the people in charge of the implementation to get them engaged in and aware of the strategy is necessary but implementation wherever possible should be left up to the organisation, as paying for the full scope of the work (you probably need to be around the clock in many cases) is generally just not cost effective for any business to pay for at agency rate unless they have extremely large profit margins.
Bringing It Together
Agencies who can get the implementation part right will be onto a massive winner. I intend to road test offering social media execution (the day to day, posting and replying to people etc.) at a much lower cost and training less experienced individuals to manage it with very small margins and instead creating the value proposition around strategy, management of campaigns and design of content to support the campaigns. I feel like this is the best way to make social media work in this context.
So Is It Really Worth It?
Tackling social media marketing in a business can be overwhelming but it is an opportunity that if you are willing to put the time and resources into will reap great long term and sustainable benefits. The reason businesses like KFC are still in business today has nothing to do with the quality of the food (it is terrible compared to independent eateries) and has everything to do with the power of the brand itself. KFC is so powerful that they can influence society at scale to desire their food despite it’s subpar quality. That is the power of branding. Social media is a gateway for getting your brand in front of your exact priority market, saying the things you want your brand saying. Patience and pragmatism around the results will pay dividends in the long run.