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Following is a guest post from Shannon Johnson (@shannopop), Radian6 community manager. Shannon left the agency world as social strategist to join the Salesforce Radian6 Community Team to develop educational resources about becoming a social enterprise, developing and executing social media strategies, and gathering business insights through social media monitoring and measurement.
She’s also actively involved in managing the Salesforce Radian6 online community, and works with the internal agency sales team to ensure company content meets the needs of agency clients. She’s a dog lover and ASU graduate based in Phoenix, Arizona.
The digital marketing industry is booming. And luckily for digital agencies, brands are allocating more dollars to online marketing.
Forrester predicts that social media spending by U.S. companies will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 26% from 2011 to 2016. All of this growth—this shift from traditional to digital—is going to continue to disrupt the way agencies service clients.
Agencies that can socialize brands beyond a campaign have a bright future, and the key to it is ongoing client training.
Here’s why consultative, training or otherwise educational services should complement the social media strategies, campaigns and community management you offer (if they don’t already).
As content drives search and social media interdependence, smartphone adoption increases, and new social technologies crop up year after year, communication channels are becoming progressively fragmented, forcing agencies to achieve measurable results by developing more integrated campaigns than ever before.
In turn, agencies also have to help clients become inherently social businesses prepared for two-way communication with customers at any possible digital touch-point. That’s a wee bit different than a neatly packaged monthly service involving Facebook-only content development and community management. Social media services will continue to evolve beyond managing distinct social channels.
As Jay Baer (@jaybaer) puts it, “The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media.” Although social media does involve tactical applications like blogger outreach campaigns or Pinterest contests, successful social businesses have moved beyond the tactics, and fundamentally changed their business philosophies and operations.
Inherently social companies foster a company culture that embraces social media interaction across all departments—not just within marketing or PR. Some agencies are already noticing the demand for help with this transformation. In a recent interview, MRY agency founder Matt Britton (@mattyb123), said:
"This [social media] space is constantly evolving and changing. It’s impossible for most clients to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s new and what’s coming down the pipeline. That’s why brands should be playing with their agency partners. Many of our clients are talking about how they want to be social by design. We are being elevated to a much more consultative role rather than just managing the old channels"
One thing I often hear from Salesforce Radian6 sales reps is that it’s common to arrive at a client meeting prepared to talk about all the capabilities of our social media monitoring platform and have clients steer the conversation toward broader social media concepts instead. They’re looking to us as a social media company to help with everything from long-term strategy to what to tweet today.
There’s still a huge demand for social media education, and our industry has a lot of growing to do to bridge the gap between consumer expectations and company preparedness.
Every client has a different social media maturity, and agencies have the opportunity to bring each client to the next level through tailored training programs.
Without the training element, a 40-page social media roadmap goes nowhere. In order for a client to truly make use of the social media audits, strategies, reporting and recommendations agencies provide, the client has to be ready to implement it all.
This means agencies need to lend a hand by arming direct contacts with the data and rationale to get client leadership on board, providing engagement playbooks and hands-on community management training, and assisting in the development and training of a company social media policy. The more socially prepared every client employee is, the better off the company will be in the long term. Client success leads to agency success.
But there’s more: Training also allows agencies to further demonstrate the expertise that earns client trust, resulting in longer, more entangled partnerships. This is especially important in a world where the internet has lessened the degrees of separation between brands and potential spokespersons, videographers, bloggers or other talent who can reduce the dependency on agencies for their relationships, content creation and distribution.
The Dollar Shave Club CEO made his video independent of an agency. Nike reached out to YouTube filmmaker Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) directly to request he make a film for the Make It Count campaign. Creative, content and advertising can be internalized, but there will always be demand for strategy and training. Baking training into your menu of social media services makes disintermediation less of a possibility, and that’s the biggest agency win of all.
It’s your turn to chime in. Are your agency clients starting to look to you to help them solve more complex business problems? What are you doing to help your clients succeed in social media?