Is your accountant also your VP of Sales? Is the intern who you have for the summer handling your crisis communications or PR? What about your programmer doing account management? Unless you have a staff of one, the answer should be a resounding no. Still it amazes me how many companies think exactly this way when trying to choose who handles their social networking.
We imagine the conversations something like this:
“Sure, sure. We can do it!” says the traditional agency, who year-after-year sees more of their offline budgets cut and handed over to the Internet geeks.
“No, we’re the ones to do it for you!” squeak the online specialists who can build pretty websites and know how what to do with search.
The sheer speed and breadth of social networking is a problem for both.
Traditional agencies love to spend gobs of time developing strategies, media plans, and artwork. Most are also still scratching their heads wondering, “What happened to MySpace?” and pushing the least effective mode of advertising possible in the online space – the banner ad.
Online agencies suffer, albeit less so, from a similar problem. Although used to working in a faster environment, they still tend to move slowly by social media standards. Building a great custom and user-centric website takes time.
Now for a quick aside…Yes I know there are numerous inexpensive, templated websites (and I’m not even talking about the WordPress ones which can usually work well for you if done correctly) out there. Guess what? They look cheap, almost as if the companies that use them were too cheap to spend any money on them. On top of that, visitors to those sites usually can’t do much with them because the navigation provides little in the way of usability. Even worse, they are almost always filled with uninformative clichéd copy because an internal employee who once wrote for his high school paper was given the critical job of capturing the company’s culture in words.
Back to the online agency. When they do build a great web site, they typically turn the content management portion of the site back over to the client. This is a huge mistake.
I’m fine with a client making minor updates with the site. However, I have yet to see a client who produced great copy. So why then are online agencies only too willing to step away from content management? Because they can’t write.
Earlier I said your social network marketing team had to have some unique skills to succeed. Here they are, and they are must haves:
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expertise. This is objective number one. Excellent SEO specialists are harder to find than four-leaf clovers. If you find one, hang on to them. Listen to what they advise you to do. They will probably tell you to:
- Change the design and content on your website
- Write about specific topics on your blog
- Add Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for your business
When they do, don’t argue. Just do it. These are the kinds of things that arm them to fight the algorithms and improve your search relevancy. If they don’t tell you to do these things (at the very least!), fire them and go look for a bona fide four leaf clover.
2. Copywriting and public relations capabilities. Creating the content you need for social networking can be difficult. An inconsistent blog is a blog unread. If you are not refreshing your Twitter and Facebook content at least every day, they will not work for you. You’ll also need to protect yourself against negative comments that appear about you online. This is why a crisis management plan has to be a part of your plan, as well.
3. Research skills. As I mentioned before, things change quickly in this space. MySpace is dead. Who knows what current social media star will be gone tomorrow…and who knows what, or how many, new services will become standards by then? You want your team to be forever playing with new services and tools. Someday soon, you will have to seamlessly drop the old and pick up the new.
4. Design experience. There are loads of web-designers out there, and their services can be bought on the cheap. This is good news because you’ll be constantly tweaking your artwork. If your team doesn’t have a designer, you should at least have someone on board with basic design skills to cover the simple things.
I saw a cartoon yesterday that read, “What do advertising, PR and social networking have in common? When they work, they work REALLY well. When they don’t, they’re a big pile of uber-expensive ass suckage.” I completely disagree in regard to social networking.
Social networking shouldn’t cost you a fortune, it should make you one. It is easy to track. It helps you adapt faster. In some cases, the results it produces can be almost instantaneous.
If your social networking team isn’t getting it done, just look at their skill set closely. I guarantee you’ll find an accountant doing the job of a salesperson.
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