As your online community expands, how can your brand balance continuously improving content creativity and performance while providing a high-touch, personalized experience for the community? How do you deliver exceptional, quick customer service while also exceeding the marketing-promotion and revenue-generating goals?
It’s not as black-and-white as hiring a community manager or outsourcing to an agency. In our experience, there are quite a few ways the agency-client partnership can work to strengthen community management while maintaining authenticity and connection to the brand. For example:
- Agency strategizes, brand implements. This works especially well for startups and smaller businesses who don’t have resources to hire people with a lot of experience, but also can’t afford to totally outsource all their social media. When we’ve worked with clients in this capacity, we can provide the campaign strategy, feedback on content calendars, data analysis and insights, social advertising recommendations, direction on overall tone/voice, crisis/issues management support, etc. Then, the client has someone who implements our recommendations and leads the day-to-day community management. If that person has less social media experience, we can also provide coaching and training to help the client build capacity internally.
- Client sets marketing strategy, agency applies online. For companies with talented traditional PR/marketing minds, this option creates an opportunity to remix and apply best practices in the online space. For example, we worked with a major publishing entity that was transitioning into a technology company. In the midst of this evolution, they didn’t have the resources — digital expertise or time — to adapt their traditional marketing strategies for online channels, even though it would be a critical factor in their success. So, their team of invaluable subject-matter experts established the goals and provided background and context that our team needed to develop social strategies (e.g., organic content, geo-targeted sales campaigns, social advertising, etc.) that would accelerate the process of hitting their goals.
- Client supplements internal team with agency support. This scenario works especially well for larger brands with various marketing/product managers. Internally, they have digital strategists, online advertising managers, a creative team, maybe even some digital content creators. But, they lack the bandwidth and resources to handle the community management, most likely because the volume is too high. In this scenario, the internal managers provide the overall context and direction for the products/services and they set much of the broader digital/social strategy, but then rely on the agency partner to provide supplemental strategy and apply the overarching plan to social channels.
- Agency embeds community managers within the client team. Once you decide on the agency/client scope, the next big decision is location. Where will your agency team be located — embedded with the brand, or working from elsewhere? In some scenarios, embedding the agency team with the brand can create better cohesion, more collaboration and a higher-level partnership. We do this with a few clients and it’s a model that works well, especially for larger brands with so many moving pieces.
- Client outsources it all to the agency. And then there are certain circumstances where the brand wants to be completely hands off. This requires a high level of trust with the agency, and an agency willing to fully immerse themselves in the organization, as well as the industry/vertical. For some of our clients that lack a true, full-blown communication department, this relationship works well. We use our weekly touch-bases and monthly reporting to ensure our efforts stay laser-focused on the end goals. While the clients are available to answer questions as needed, for the most part, it’s a very hands off situation — just what they want, as long as we deliver the results!
Want to learn more about how these options can work for your brand? I’d love to share some examples and answer your questions based on our experiences testing and iterating a variety of models. Email me and let’s share ideas!