Planning and executing a successful social media marketing strategy sometimes requires that brands look outside their own companies for assistance. Businesses may partner with consultants or agencies to tap into the expertise, skills and resources they can offer, to help with strategy and tactical execution of the plan.
However, things can go wrong in social and when they do, the fallout can be massive and instantaneous. I wrote about a few examples of epic social fails recently and sometimes, brands find themselves having to defend their image over the damaging actions of an external resource. Tsk, tsk, people say. They should have handled their social media in-house and this never would have happened. This was certainly the case with Celeb Boutique, who publicly laid the blame for their insensitive #Aurora tweet at the feet of their PR agency.
Not so fast, though. Social media fails originate in-house and from external partners alike. Internal processes and failures can cripple your social strategy as surely as external resources.
Working with an agency, consultant or other resource can help your brand execute a successful social media strategy while still reducing the risk of a slip up. In fact, a solid resource will help you scale your social efforts, tap into new markets, perfect your messaging and take your social strategy places you hadn’t even expected. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Before I jump into tips to ensure your agency or consultant relationship works to your maximum benefit, let’s look at a couple of reasons social may fail when working with an external partner:
- Slow response times. Social fans – especially those on Twitter and Facebook – expect a quick response, especially when they’re voicing a complaint. In fact, 42% expect a brand response in 60 minutes or less. The need for approval of messaging can slow down response times substantially and hamper conversation.
- Inaccurate or uninformed responses to questions/comments. The people creating your social content need to know your business and understand your audience inside and out.
- Inconsistent or infrequent community management. If your content is being broadcast but interactions are not monitored often, you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect and may be doing more to harm relationships than build them.
- Inappropriate messaging. This may range from irrelevant to entirely inappropriate, but if the message is off, your company isn’t being well represented on the social stage.
- Lack of consistency in situation management, brand voice or content. Regardless of who is involved in your social strategy, to your customers, your online presence should be unified and consistent.
Understanding your own social pain points and where things may break down across your social strategy enables you to plan accordingly. The first step is finding an external resource with the skills, experience and knowledge to help you elevate your company’s social presence. With PR agencies, SEOs, social specialists, digital marketers and more, what are you looking for in an agency?
Ask the following questions (at the very minimum) to help discern whether the agency is a good fit for your social needs:
- How will you collaborate with our internal team (and any other external resources) to make sure our efforts are coordinated across SEO, print, paid search and other marketing/advertising activities?
- Do you understand our business goals and what tools/processes will you use to help us achieve them?
- Can you share examples of successful social campaigns you’ve managed for other clients?
- How will we communicate throughout the relationship and which types of situations will be brought to our attention immediately?
- Which members of your team will be involved in each facet of our social strategy?
That’s an incredibly basic overview, but you need to make sure the external partner understands what makes your business unique and that they will be able to convey that through social media, in tandem with your other marketing efforts. Once you’ve chosen an agency:
Establish their role… and yours.
How will information flow between the agency and your company? It is critical to understand how this will work for both parties. Weekly meetings and reporting are great, but what happens when a customer needs an answer to a question after hours? How should the agency ask for information they need to complete content and social amplification tasks in a way that best enables you to respond quickly with what they need? Is the agency expected to provide customer service, or should they refer certain types of inquiries in-house?
Brands and agencies work together in different ways; your agreement may have them acting in a consultative role only. Or, they may assist in content creation, amplification and measurement. They may even handle your entire social strategy, start to finish. Establish who is responsible for which area to prevent misunderstandings or lost opportunities.
Tips for Working with a Social Media Marketing Agency:
You’ve hired an agency, you’ve established roles and you have a social content plan in place that aligns with your business goals. Now, make the most of your agency relationship by:
- Setting clear goals and expectations.
- Getting any budget concerns out of the way. Deliverables, timeline, responsibilities and obligations must be clear to prevent issues down the road.
- Being available when they have questions or need information.
- Providing training as to your brand voice, core messaging, and existing resources.
- Keeping your agency in the loop as products or services change, other types of campaigns launch, etc. They can’t answer questions or hold your brand’s end of an intelligent social conversation if they don’t know what’s happening inside the company.
- Being open to change driven by logic and substantiated by research. This may mean increasing/decreasing a social ad budget, focusing more resources on one social network than another, or any other of the myriad of situations that can crop up in the constantly evolving social space.
- Establishing a social protocol that establishes messages your external partner can share and which situations require in-house approval or involvement before proceeding.
- Staying involved throughout the working relationship. Would you give someone your television budget and let them run with it? Social media is incredibly public and you absolutely need to stay involved in how your brand’s presence is managed.
Careful planning and diligent management are key to the success of your social media marketing efforts when partnering with an agency or consultant. Can you think of other tips to help brands work more effectively with external resources? Please share yours in the comments!