— blending the mix

Supplier-side Social Media Services – time to shape up? Part I

I was really pleased a luminary such as Jeremiah decided to add his voice the topic he did yesterday. It’s long been on my agenda to write about, so I guess there’s no time like the present to do something too! Wadds, Will, Stephen, Neville, Stuart, i’d value your thoughts and opinions too. What do you, the practitioners of all this good stuff think is the state of the market?

I did some work with a colleague a few weeks back along similar lines (although with a purely UK perspective) and arrived at the following general list of company types that were offering social media services.

The list is not exhaustive and not intended to cast opinion on the value or otherwise of each business type, but I would be interested to see how you see the UK’s social media services offering. Have I missed a category? Is there anything you think should be added to the list? Let me know. Maybe in time, this could develop into a wiki…

The dedicated Social Media Agency

A collection of social media enthusiasts with a typically digital (but also pr) background and (sometimes!) good commercial heads. Know social media and know how it fits into a wider digital strategy.

The Social Media Specialist

The freelance social media fan-boy/girl who is looking to (generally) help small businesses adopt social media. Some technical skills, some pr skills.

The Digital Marketing Agency

The “traditional” digital design & build agency who is being asked about social media and who approaches social media from a platform point of view.

The Ad Agency

The traditional advertising agency who bring creativity and customer insights from their other roles.

The Dedicated Social Media Division

The aforementioned social media agency but whose parent company is a larger digital or pr agency. All the credentials/reputation/skills of the parent company with specific social media focus.

The PR Agency

The smart pr firms who have realised that pr is all about developing relationships – now with (mass) online audiences too, using different tools.

The Media Agency

The display ad agency who own online display moving into social network ads, which also covers social ads.

We then pondered what were the core “skills” of social media delivery, or rather, what skills would a client, looking to engage in social media activity need to have at their disposal to be able to deliver an end-to-end strategy (the likes of Dell for example). These are questions we are asking of ourselves/of the industry in general rather than what the client might ask (after all, many of them won’t know what questions to ask!)

We came up with these, can you add to them?:

Technical skills

Could the agency “build” stuff using social technologies?

Reputation management

Does the agency know how to monitor conversations and respond with expert advice accordingly?

Wider marketing strategy

Do they understand if/where social media fits into the wider online marketing strategy?

Capacity

Do they have the size to be able to handle all the

Thinking that we could develop this into something more visual and easier to understand, we then started to look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of each type of business.

For example, as relevant as a social media agency may be, could it bring with it the level of relationship-building/development skills that the PR company might. In turn, would the PR agency be able to build the tools that the digital agency be able to?

image

I have long thought that social media in itself, with its varying definitions and terminology is confusing for clients – can we as an industry clarify the services we offer to help make the adoption of social media by clients an easier process?

Consider how Prince 2 has helped both agencies and clients work to a common set of principles. Admittedly, client briefs for web design/build range from scatty at best to so prescriptive one wonders why they even asked anyone for their opinion (one for your there Dave!), but the client does still have an idea of the services it needs to be asking for to develop the digital presence it wants to.

Is there a set of principles we can work to in social media to make it easier to buy from us?

Coming up in the next two Supplier-Side Social Media Services Series (wowsers, that was long!):

1) What should Mr. Client look for?

This is something that Brian and Geoff have covered in some depth…but again, ranges depending upon what type of business you speak to.

2) How do you cost for social media?

Not a “how much do you charge?” piece, but one which looks at how you manage ongoing social media activity for clients. With social media being the 24/7 it seems to be, how can you act on a client’s behalf outside of normal working hours. I refer to Mr. Whatley’s “when does Batman sleep?” piece.

I hope you’ll join me for these pieces to see if we can explore the frequently mysterious and “unspoken” side of selling social media – for the betterment of all of us!

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17 comments
  1. Dave Kinsella says: April 9, 20096:48 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the reputation management part. I see so many cases where setting up facebook pages, blogs and twitter accounts are seen as a satisfactory delivery of social media marketing. As you point out, having the right tools is only a part of the equation. I could be handed a Stradivarius but it wouldn’t make me a good violin player.

    Looking forward to reading the next posts.

  2. Dave Kinsella says: April 9, 20091:48 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the reputation management part. I see so many cases where setting up facebook pages, blogs and twitter accounts are seen as a satisfactory delivery of social media marketing. As you point out, having the right tools is only a part of the equation. I could be handed a Stradivarius but it wouldn’t make me a good violin player.

    Looking forward to reading the next posts.

  3. Stephen says: April 15, 20095:41 pm

    Sorry not being ignorant … just so bloody busy. Currently working on a project in Cyprus so have been finding my feet over here. Expect very few blog posts by me in the coming months.

    Great debate and one I’d like to be apart of. Will add to my ever-increasing list of ‘thing to follow up on’. :-)

    Cheers,

    Stephen

  4. Stephen says: April 15, 200912:41 pm

    Sorry not being ignorant … just so bloody busy. Currently working on a project in Cyprus so have been finding my feet over here. Expect very few blog posts by me in the coming months.

    Great debate and one I’d like to be apart of. Will add to my ever-increasing list of ‘thing to follow up on’. :-)

    Cheers,

    Stephen

  5. robin1966 says: April 15, 20098:03 pm

    Nice debate. I reckon it depends on the people in the agency/organisation who are doing the social media thang.I think the best combo is someone who can monitor conversations and advise on the best way to respond and also who has the creativity to come up with cool content to get people talking and/or engage them in conversation with the brand. Maybe I’m downplaying the technical ability as I don’t have much of my own, but I reckon that is a separate skillset that is brought into the mix after you’ve analysed the conversations and come up with something that will get you involved – in a relevant and useful way.

  6. robin1966 says: April 15, 20093:03 pm

    Nice debate. I reckon it depends on the people in the agency/organisation who are doing the social media thang.I think the best combo is someone who can monitor conversations and advise on the best way to respond and also who has the creativity to come up with cool content to get people talking and/or engage them in conversation with the brand. Maybe I’m downplaying the technical ability as I don’t have much of my own, but I reckon that is a separate skillset that is brought into the mix after you’ve analysed the conversations and come up with something that will get you involved – in a relevant and useful way.

  7. Anonymous says: April 15, 20099:37 pm

    @dave – cheers. Great analogy mate. Felt it was very in line with your piece about costings.

    @stephen – congratulations on the gig – hope to hear from you sometime this year 😉

    @robin – for a long time I have erred on your side of the fence. The technology will almost become a commodity – it will be a given that a techie will have fbml or wordpress skills, as they are required .net and html now for example. Knowing what to do with them is quite another matter.

    That said, I also think there is a hyrbid role for peeps like you and I – having a “limited” undertsanding of the technology, but enough knowledge to know how to shape a good idea that the monitoring might throw up as an opportunity.

  8. paul.fabretti says: April 15, 20094:37 pm

    @dave – cheers. Great analogy mate. Felt it was very in line with your piece about costings.

    @stephen – congratulations on the gig – hope to hear from you sometime this year 😉

    @robin – for a long time I have erred on your side of the fence. The technology will almost become a commodity – it will be a given that a techie will have fbml or wordpress skills, as they are required .net and html now for example. Knowing what to do with them is quite another matter.

    That said, I also think there is a hyrbid role for peeps like you and I – having a “limited” undertsanding of the technology, but enough knowledge to know how to shape a good idea that the monitoring might throw up as an opportunity.

  9. Charlie Osmond says: April 21, 200912:44 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Very interesting post. I esp. like the simple chart.

    I think the background from which a team comes to be a “Social Media Agency” is important. In the US there’s a large swathe of technology businesses that have ended up leading the Agency field. This is because they were well funded, had some clever kit and then realised that they had to add services on top of the tech. As a result they have morphed into Social Media Agencies.

    These guys often still call themseleves tech vendors+services (it helps funding valuations) but I believe the market will increasingly see them as social media agencies. And they will continue to fly as they offer a great first step into social media because their sell is a well defined specific product with relatively clear ROI.

    I also think (and I am biased here) that for most brands that best way to take part in social media is through careful management of one’s own online community (be that on or off your own site). In such a case there are really two distinct parts to the Reputation Management role – Listening and Community Management. Listening is often heavily supported with a technology solution. Whereas Community Management is more like an extension of PR and customer serivces.

    When split in this way (and I think in 2 years everyone will see the difference more clearly), the results in your chart are quite different.

    As for your next two posts – what should Mr.Client look for? The same with most professional services purchases, they should pick the Trusted Advisor over the Expert. Explaining the nuance would be too long here.

    Charlie
    FreshNetworks

  10. Charlie Osmond says: April 21, 20097:44 am

    Hi Paul,
    Very interesting post. I esp. like the simple chart.

    I think the background from which a team comes to be a “Social Media Agency” is important. In the US there’s a large swathe of technology businesses that have ended up leading the Agency field. This is because they were well funded, had some clever kit and then realised that they had to add services on top of the tech. As a result they have morphed into Social Media Agencies.

    These guys often still call themseleves tech vendors+services (it helps funding valuations) but I believe the market will increasingly see them as social media agencies. And they will continue to fly as they offer a great first step into social media because their sell is a well defined specific product with relatively clear ROI.

    I also think (and I am biased here) that for most brands that best way to take part in social media is through careful management of one’s own online community (be that on or off your own site). In such a case there are really two distinct parts to the Reputation Management role – Listening and Community Management. Listening is often heavily supported with a technology solution. Whereas Community Management is more like an extension of PR and customer serivces.

    When split in this way (and I think in 2 years everyone will see the difference more clearly), the results in your chart are quite different.

    As for your next two posts – what should Mr.Client look for? The same with most professional services purchases, they should pick the Trusted Advisor over the Expert. Explaining the nuance would be too long here.

    Charlie
    FreshNetworks

  11. Simon Alexander says: April 21, 20092:15 pm

    Hi Paul – interesting post and subject, but I am not sure about the ‘wider mktg strategy’ column – surely all those agency types (caveat: if they are any good) should have this ticked as a given?

    Rad pic of me too – didn’t see that camera when I was down at the gym!

  12. Simon Alexander says: April 21, 20099:15 am

    Hi Paul – interesting post and subject, but I am not sure about the ‘wider mktg strategy’ column – surely all those agency types (caveat: if they are any good) should have this ticked as a given?

    Rad pic of me too – didn’t see that camera when I was down at the gym!

  13. Stephen Waddington says: April 22, 20098:29 am

    Hi Paul – Sorry fella, I missed this as I was on hols. Will review and respond. Thanks, Wadds

  14. Stephen Waddington says: April 22, 20093:29 am

    Hi Paul – Sorry fella, I missed this as I was on hols. Will review and respond. Thanks, Wadds

  15. […] Supplier-side Social Media Services – time to shape up? Part I | blending the mix (tags: socialmedia agency criteria) […]

  16. Anonymous says: May 5, 200911:56 am

    @charlie – I’ve been meaning to reply to your comment for ages! I totally agree with you on the management aspect of things and is something that we, too have been looking at in more detail.

    You have a reputation to manage outside of your own community, but absolutely one to manage inside it. In fact, i’ve found that community moderation is one of the most important aspects most businesses ever consider when embarkling on a community platform route!

    Taking community management further, i’m also a big believer in seeing how the community and its content can steer editorial policy for a site (where appropriate).

    Giving the most vocal participants a voice, reflecting on the big topics of discussion and allowing the community to steer the content is a very important aspect in ensuring a community stays together by giving it relevant content – or bringing out some gems from within the community.

    At the same time, letting the themes behind the conversations drive new topics of discussion is a great idea to ensure that the community’s thirst for content of a specific type is met.

    As for the next post…well, expert versus trusted advisor – they can be one and the same. As long as you find the right one. I’m going to try and look at what makes that person/business.

  17. paul.fabretti says: May 5, 20096:56 am

    @charlie – I’ve been meaning to reply to your comment for ages! I totally agree with you on the management aspect of things and is something that we, too have been looking at in more detail.

    You have a reputation to manage outside of your own community, but absolutely one to manage inside it. In fact, i’ve found that community moderation is one of the most important aspects most businesses ever consider when embarkling on a community platform route!

    Taking community management further, i’m also a big believer in seeing how the community and its content can steer editorial policy for a site (where appropriate).

    Giving the most vocal participants a voice, reflecting on the big topics of discussion and allowing the community to steer the content is a very important aspect in ensuring a community stays together by giving it relevant content – or bringing out some gems from within the community.

    At the same time, letting the themes behind the conversations drive new topics of discussion is a great idea to ensure that the community’s thirst for content of a specific type is met.

    As for the next post…well, expert versus trusted advisor – they can be one and the same. As long as you find the right one. I’m going to try and look at what makes that person/business.

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