Author Archives: Alex Greenwood

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5 Types of Social Media Clients

By Alex Greenwood

We view a consistent, strategic social media presence as a vital component to communications and marketing success, and often handle this area for clients. We do our level best to add value with measurable ROI.

Social Media logos memeIt occurs to me that sharing the perspective of a social media agency might be helpful to not only our colleagues, but prospective clients in understanding the most common dynamics we experience.

This is not to indict, attack or provoke–it’s just my observation of scenarios and outcomes that often occur when we engage in a social media partnership with a brand, person or company.

Ultimately, the business relationship with clients evolves (or devolves!)  into one of five categories:

  1. Hands Off. This client approves of our strategy, understands it’s not a numbers game and maintains a generally hands-off attitude while we build their brand voice in the social media sphere.
  2. Hands On. This client can’t help themselves. They break into approved strategy and post messages or content whenever the mood strikes, even if it disrupts content your firm has strategically scheduled.
  3. That’s Easy! You’re Fired. After watching your firm perform the social media duties for a while, the client decides that it’s not all that hard and takes it “in-house.”
  4. It’s Been A Month. Why Aren’t We Bigger? The client feels that if there is not huge growth in followers, customers beating down their door (or website) or a “viral moment” right away, you aren’t getting the job done. 
  5. We Got This. The client has a handle on their brand voice, knows the messaging they want to share, and learned enough from us to do their own social media successfully.

The #1’s are the clients who recognize social media is not their core competency, don’t have time to do it and trust us to handle it. That doesn’t mean they do not have input or critiques, but they respect the business relationship and leave us to go about the business of building their online brand.

Mutual frustration mounts with #2’s. We want clients to share all information about their brand with us, including goals, “lanes of content,” things to avoid, key messaging, customer service procedures, etc. However, when we embark on a strategy, clients who jump in impulsively and start posting can create a logjam of content going out nearly all at once.

For example, when we schedule Facebook posts for 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and the client starts posting without checking what is scheduled (or telling us of their plans to post), we get a Facebook page with four or five posts in one afternoon. That makes the brand look unfocused, dilutes views on some of the posts and irritates followers who feel spammed. If it happens often, it causes a disruption of the entire social media strategy.

We see a fair amount of #3’s. From where we sit, it looks like the company tsk tsks at their bottom line and says, “Hey, that stuff the PR firm is doing? That’s easy! Let’s give it to Matt to do. He’s what, 23? A graphic artist? He’s creative! He can do that social media stuff.” Part of that is a compliment–we do a great job and the client believes it must be easy, so they take it on.

That’s not to say we have not seen some #3’s go on to manage their stuff just fine, but more often than not, clients who do this have a track record of performing social media consistently for about one month. Then updates becomes sporadic, lack message cohesion and eventually halt altogether. Not good.

Going to the gym and eating right for a month is a good start, but won’t make you “buff.” Similarly, social media generally does not “blow up” in a short time. Authentic brands take their time, build trust and credibility and understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Ultimately, an impatient customer attitude is on us–as we have not done a adequate job of managing client expectations.

A corollary to #4 is when we must rely on the client to tell us where customers heard about them (saw it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and the client neglects to do this. Web analytics can cover site visit referrers, but in retail campaigns we often must rely on clients gathering this sort of data “on the ground” to demonstrate ROI, tweak what we’re doing, etc. Help us help you!

Yup, some #2’s turn out to be #5’s, even when we think they won’t. We worked with a startup brand and the last thing they should have time for in their first year is social media. However, they made communicating to followers via social a part of their daily routine and have built a loyal, quality following.

The brand is growing quickly, and they started becoming more and more hands on with the social media. I have to admit: at first it was frustrating. However, we soon realized they know exactly what they are doing and that their brand voice was obviously more authentic and “in the moment” than one we could create. This wasn’t because we did a poor job–it’s because the brand made the time to connect with followers in an authentic, consistent way. We wished them well and take pride in the fact that we helped launch a successful new brand.

Social media isn’t a panacea. It’s a tool. When engaging a firm to manage your online presence, it’s helpful for clients to remember why they hired a firm in the first place: usually either lack of time to do the work or lack of competency with the tool. It’s also incumbent upon agencies to manage expectations well to avoid frustrating outcomes.

What do you think? Have you worked with 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s or 5’s? Or are you one of them? Please feel free to comment below and share your experiences.

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