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It's 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Your brand is buzzing on Twitter and there may be an opportunity to capitalize. Do you know where the folks at your agency are at?

While anybody who has worked in agency world for any length of time is familiar with long hours and grueling schedules, there's a decent chance that the people you need to reach on that hypothetical Sunday afternoon aren't sitting in front of the office at a computer manning your company's social media dashboard. 

Brian Mandelbaum, an agency executive who has worked at Razorfish and Saatchi & Saatchi, believes that needs to change. So he's starting a social media-focused agency that promises around-the-clock staffing to ensure that its clients can respond to buzz -- good or bad -- whenever it strikes.

Mandelbaum tells AdAge that while many agencies are technically 24/7 operations due to their global footprints, most don't have the social media expertise to effectively manage their clients' social media presences. There's also the issue of which offices handle which clients; a client may have a global agency, but most of the time, one or two offices are responsible for its account.

Social media sets its own hours

As Mandelbaum sees it, this won't work in the age of social media. And there's evidence to suggest he's right. AdAge's Rupal Parekh points out that a recent Buddy Media survey found that brands in certain verticals are more likely to see higher engagement rates on Saturdays and Sundays -- two days when brands are less likely to be manning the helm. Another study conducted by YesMail came to similar conclusions about Facebook.

The research makes logical sense: while many consumers use social media throughout the day, most will probably have greater access to it during non-work hours. If your agency is technically running a nine-to-five operation, your brand may be out of luck because consumers expect their schedules to drive brand interactions.

24/7 skepticism

Even if we accept that social media has its own schedule that agencies and their clients need to work around, there are reasons to believe that Mandelbaum's model will face an uphill battle.

One of the biggest problems: recruiting talent. Agency life can be demanding, and adding a 24/7 proposition to the mix doesn't make for an easier sell. One recruiting firm MD told AdAge:

For my candidates, salary wouldn't do it; they are being paid pretty well, and people in social media and digital can get good jobs right now. More and more are pushing back and trying to protect their family time. I think there'd be tremendous resistance.

There's also the issue of quality. When crisis hits, an immediate response may (or may not) be necessary. But when the day-to-day management of social presences and campaigns puts agencies in the position where they feel the need for speed outweighs the need for prudence, agencies may be putting their clients in harm's way. After all, it's easy to learn to execute something quickly, but getting strategy right and making sure that what you're doing fits with the strategy usually takes time.

Looking at the future

If Mandelbaum is successful with his new agency, expect to see others like it pop up. But clients will need to do some deep thinking before they decide that the 24/7 agency is the solution to some of social media's many challenges.

The best agency relationships are collaborative and given how important social media has become to so many companies, clients will need to ask themselves a simple but profound question: if our agency is capable of managing the social mediascape on a 24/7 basis, can we be there at all hours to give them the support they need to do a good job?

Patricio Robles

Published 24 July, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2391 more posts from this author

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HC

While I can see the logic behind the "24/7 agency" and believe it's a perfectly feasible business model, I don't think it is a necessity. I think what it comes down to is having the right employees at the agency; ones who are truly passionate about their clients. For instance, at the agency I work for, we aren't expected to be "always on" but our employee commitment to our clients means we generally are. Agencies should find those passionate employees, equip them with a portable device (e.g. a tablet PC) and let them take the reigns.

about 4 years ago

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JLM

Educate clients is the best way to avoid that, with these 24/7 you allow them to have an irresponsible behaviour...
Anyway crisis communication may be needed anytime but surely not every night neither every weekend of the year, so in my point of view it would be silly to have a full staff working day and night each single day of the week.

about 4 years ago

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Menancing Sparrow

Clients will expect it, but will the be willing to pay for it?

Furthermore, manning the social media decks really should belong to someone INTERNAL at a company. Agencies are the right fit for providing strategy, campaign lifts, tone of voice, and risk/opportunity response plans, but really?

The voice of the company should be owned by the company.

about 4 years ago

Ed Lamb

Ed Lamb, Client Services Director at Propellernet

Totally agree with the last comment - this is a brand/client issue rather than an agency issue. If an agency picks up on something and needs client input, will multiple people from the brand/client be available on the weekend? Much better (and cheaper) that the conversation is managed by the brand themselves with in-house personnel.

about 4 years ago

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Ashwin Naiksatam

Clients are always demanding, but for the agency to maintain their relationship, might have to go the extra mile (offering 24/7 services).

I have worked for a sport betting client wherein the highest traffic and sales to the site via paid search and social media was driven on Saturdays and Sundays. To cater to their needs I worked on many weekends and helped them achieve a positive ROI.

What really worked well with us was the understanding shown by our client after educating them wherein based on the importance of the activity we were able to support wherever needed.

Similarly, if the demand for the clients brand is every weekend then a working model has to be defined in agreement (commercially) with the client for a win win situation. One should not enjoy profit at others expense.

about 4 years ago

Dennis Koraen

Dennis Koraen, Global web marketing manager at Helly Hansen

I think there is a set of outfits this could work for, like the case Ashwin mentions.
But fundamentally the brand voice in social needs to sit and come from within the brand. And if the brand is big enough with a global span of offices there will be marketing/customer service resources around to relay the baton of joining the conversation so to speak.

And for most of us i think a social media monitoring tool with a clever set of automated alert criteria's will do to pick and handle situations of opportunities/crisis when staffing is low, like the weekends

Dedicated and caring agency staff that can relate and live the brand is invaluable to help build campaigns/strategies for brands but i wouldn't leave it up to them to speak for the brand.

about 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Menacing Sparrow makes a great point--clients may wants 24/7 social media service, but how many are going to be willing to pay for it? Since the typical business day is about 8 hours long, 24/7 service is essentially three days of work every day--that's 90 days of work a month! How many clients are willing to triple their costs like that?

about 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I also believe there is a big need for 24/7 social media staffing. Whether it's through an agency or in-house.

This is not necessarily true for smaller businesses as I think customers expect them to not be available out of hours, but for large organisations there is a need to respond to comments 24 hours a day. I think customers of large brands expect this because they are subjected to advertising of these brands throughout all hours of the day: TV, billboards, radio, online banners, etc. Some businesses may even have 24 hour phonelines so why not apply it to social media?

My concerns are that those running the social media must be experienced and responsible enough to provide responses that promote a brand positively rather than encourage flaming. I worry that if 24/7 social media management becomes mainstream that businesses turn to cheap 'labour' not expertise in customer services. Whatever is said online can be shared with thousands so its important to get it right.

about 4 years ago

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Michelle Carvill

Takes me back in the day (20 years ago) when I had a pager and used to scout the press daily for any mention of client accounts and when found, 'page' the account and client team if that just happened to be on the weekend.

Clearly that was 7 days a week and what we're talking about now is 24 hours too.

Now our smart phones are the 'pagers'.

Shift working has been around for ever - and I wouldn't be surprised to see it making a return in the social agency landscape to ensure all conversations are covered - regardless of time scape.

about 4 years ago

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Ruisliply

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almost 4 years ago

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