For many companies who are making the transition from a purely push approach to communicating with their communities to one of engagement and pull, hiring an agency to carry out social media activity can feel like a godsend, especially at campaign time.
It’s true that being social is hard work; social media admin is time consuming, running engagement campaigns take up a lot of internal resource, and creating great content can mean hiring in new people with new skills. So until we reach that place where feel confident enough to let go of some of the traditional push activity which has become less effective, take the plunge and reallocate that time to pull channels such as social, we’re always going to be increasing our workload.
Agencies can be a great way to kick start your social culture by working with you to develop your strategy and creating creative campaigns which should quickly increase your presence and engagement within the community. I’m going to write another blog on how to choose a great social agency, but my advice in a nutshell is to check out the agency’s own social media channels before you even pick up the phone. I’m amazed at the number of PR agencies out there offering to bundle social in with your traditional PR campaign contract who don’t actually have any branded social themselves. A massive red flag.
If you do decide to bring an agency in to kick-start your social or support a specific campaign you must ensure that you’re also bringing these community engagement best practices into your internal company culture; avoid the temptation to outsource your engagement activity and then forget about it after you’ve ticked that all important social box, otherwise when your agency contract comes to an end, so will your engagement.
Outsourcing your social can also mean that you could be overlooking some of the wider business benefits of being plugged directly into these channels, namely: market research, idea generation, and product development. By actively being engaged as a business, rather than via your agency, you’re able to hear firsthand what your target communities are talking about, their challenges, what they think of your products; and have those all important knowledgeable conversations that drive tangible leads for your business.
It’s also worth remembering that the best people to be running social media within your business are not always sat in your existing marketing department. Social media touches on everything we do as a business, so it makes sense that your social media team does too (and when I say team I don’t mean that this has to be their fulltime role, it can and should be embedded within their existing one). Look for social stars in your sales department (they talk to your clients on a daily basis and really understand what makes them tick), uncover those colleagues who are passionate about customer service, and remember that social is too important to be palmed off to your most junior member of staff and then forgotten about – remember this HMV incident?
So as Maz Nadjm (Founding Director of SoMazi) points out, it can make sense to share the reins, but remember that agency collaboration must go hand-in-hand with a wider social business strategy aimed at embedding these skills directly into your organisation.