When it comes to building out a social media strategy, firms have three choices. One, to go it alone. Two, to outsource every component of this activity to a social media agency. Or three, adopt a hybrid model in which both entities — the client company and the agency — execute a set of predefined tasks. Our experience suggests that this hybrid model is the best options for small firms, but of course, you'd expect us to say that since, well, we're a marketing agency.
Therefore, we'd like to briefly make the case as to why a hybrid arrangement makes sense and then look at how both parties interact within this framework.
First let's look at the "go it alone" model. As any firm will tell you, it's incredibly difficult to keep up with all the changes in the social media landscape. Small marketing departments can be forgiven for not knowing about Facebook's new Insight refresh or the lowdown on LinkedIn's new Showcase Pages. Social media agencies, on the other hand, make a living by understanding these developments and their expertise can prove invaluable to your company. This isn't to suggest you should outsource every element of your social media strategy to a third party. Agencies don't know your customers, brand, products, and "voice" like you do. These are important things and they shouldn't be entirely left in the hands of third party.
Which bring us back to the hybrid model. Like any outsourced relationship, the key to this arrangement is a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. So let's start with the social media agency itself. The agency's primary responsibility is to build out the client's social media foundation. That means making sure their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and other applicable accounts consist of timely and accurate information, compelling content and sufficient followers.
The agency can then articulate a strategy for expanding the client's presence on these networks. Central to this activity is creating a baseline of content to populate these accounts: articles, blog pieces, customer testimonials, white papers, etc. The agency may write these pieces without client involvement, but generally speaking, the client will have a hand in pointing the agency in the right direction.
For example, let's say you're a residential solar firm in Northern California. There's no shortage of content out there to enable your agency to write compelling blog posts to share on social media. That said, the agency needs to know who the target audience will be, what specific issues will resonate with them, and what product landing pages should be included.
Once these posts are published on social media, the client company can then respond to comments as they arise and encourage followers to share. This bring us to our next point: you'll notice that across each of these steps, the client company has almost consulting-like role in its relationship with the agency. That's not an accident, but this relationship will only thrive if there's transparency: both parties need to establish ground rules around who does what and how often!
Finally, there are some roles that will not necessitate agency involvement. For example, if your auto dealership is live-Tweeting an event, you'll naturally want someone from your dealership, and not an agency rep, doing the Tweeting. Ultimately, client firms will want to assign a team member as a social media agency relationship manager. For more information on this relationship manager role and how it interacts with the agency, click here.
Now we'd like your feedback. Does your firm work with a social media agency? What roles are outsourced? What roles are kept in-house? How do you track the effectiveness of this relationship?