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Are social media management companies worth it?
Although ‘horses for courses’ applies, I’m going to attempt to address this question with the help of a few brand case studies.
Personality and rigour
These are arguably the two sides to social media management. These words sum up what it takes to engage, to serve and do it all quickly.
Is it possible another company can display enough personality and rigour to properly promote your brand?
Snapple is an interesting example. Let’s look at some campaign activity.
The Snapple Real Facts campaign was roundly criticised for, well, not being factual. See this great article on the Atlantic explaining how quickly one can disprove some of these ‘facts’.
You can read the Real Facts on the Snapple website. The campaign involved printing caps with these facts, but it was carried through to social media, too.
And, to be honest, the campaign didn’t prove particularly inspiring on social. Check this out. Not exactly brimming with personality and rigour.
@southernsh1988 What do you think of this Real Fact?— Snapple® (@Snapple) June 11, 2014
Let’s look at some reactive Twitter action. Here’s a strange one, below. Leticia clearly shows negative sentiment, but looking back through her timeline one can see the cause. It’s nothing heinous, just Snapple’s glass bottles that cut her leg.
One would think Snapple would have some content ready on their website about why it uses glass bottles. The brand could show sympathy and then point to that page and wish Leticia good health. Instead, Leticia is invited to call a phone number. Nobody wants to do that.
To me, this is not the best social media management and if your agency provides this, you have to better equip them to deal with these enquiries.
@leticiavaldes16 Hey Leticia, please give us a call at 1-800-790-4754 so we can address your concerns.— Snapple® (@Snapple) June 11, 2014
Is the answer in engagement?
This article from UBERVU shows a worrying sign. Snapple beats Nestea for mentions and sentiment, showing that there is good awareness and love out there. But Nestea trounces Snapple for engagement.
This is the worrying sign of poor social media management.
I must state that I don’t know if Snapple outsources its Twitter account. I know the group uses multiple agencies. What we’ve looked at suggests that if they don’t use one for social, maybe they should (or get some training). And if they do, this shows the perils of using a management company that isn’t up to the task.
Don’t decry my inconclusiveness here. My points still stand. Snapple’s approach can be improved upon.
I’d say FMCG is a sector where social media management companies work well.
FMCG brands often work on a campaign basis that an agency can be well briefed about. There generally won’t be the immense amount of social customer service demanded by other sectors, such as travel, retail etc.
And in most cases personality is easy to display as the risks of appearing inappropriate are fairly low.
Speed of resolution
Not just speed of response, speed of resolution.
This can be quicker when social is done in-house, but also relies on social being well-integrated with other teams. KLM does this well.
And a brand that doesn’t? Virgin America is a good example. The account has great tone and information, but look at this example of a customer query. It just isn’t great service.
This could be because departments aren’t yet talking to each other, but there’s definitely work to be done.
Dampening agility is another side effect of using a management company.
By that I mean if you suddenly decide to do a Twitter chat or to jump on a quickly developing hashtag, this can be done quicker in-house. Using a management company entails getting in touch to ensure there isn’t an overload of content and that they know what is planned.
But they’re really good at it!
There’s no doubt there are social media management companies that have experience with social media that you and I can only dream of.
Here’s an example (Arena Flowers) of a brand that uses a company to increase engagement and awareness through humour. Not many marketing teams can boast this kind of talent in-house.
OK, it’s not an example of savvy service and isn’t related to the proposition, but it’s definitely an area to be exploited. Some gambling companies such as Paddy Power do the same to great effect.
No matter how many sauces, sprinkles, nuts or flakes you add, it never seems to push a 99 up to a 100.— Arena Flowers (@ArenaFlowers) June 13, 2014
How complex or sensitive is your proposition?
The Trainline is a great example of a brand that takes care of its own social media activity. All customer care staff get trained on Twitter.
This is great in a sector where tension often arises and bookings need to be looked into.
Long term expertise
If an agency runs your social channels, how will knowledge within the group grow?
Social media management costs thousands a month, and the strategy still needs to be done or outsourced on top of that. This can be too high a cost for some SMEs.
Of course, if you successfully outsource social to a team that fits the bill, you’ll save time, and ultimately that’s the goal for those outsourcing.
Whether it’s worth it is a subject that’s still up for debate, even as the trend for in-housing continues.
In conlusion, I know I've painted a slightly negative picture and in the poorer examples I've given I can't be sure if Twitter management was outsourced.
There are loads of skilled social media consultants and management companies out there, though I know not all can talk about their clients. If you've got any great examples please do highlight them in the comments.