Social Media Agencies – 5 Ways To Tell Fake From Real

I have had the privilege to sit in on many agency pitches from Social Media, while some have blown me away with their ideas, but a reasonable number of pitches have left me shocked with their complete lack of understanding of what social media is and what it can do for their clients. I have heard comments from ‘we will make a viral video’ to ‘we will give free burger coupons every week’. My reaction being that you can’t make a viral video but you can hope that your video content goes viral and what do burgers have to do with a tech brand? Anyway if you have been in the social space for long enough you will get my drift and rant on this. I guess since every company on the face of the earth now wants to be on social there is a huge demand for social media agencies, which has given rise to an increasing number of fakes and posers trying to position themselves as social media experts. Here are five easy ways to figure out the winners from the posers. 

1. Do they talk about brand personality and do they understand the personality of your brand?

Everything in Social starts with brand personality. Even before you make decisions on what social platforms and channels you need to be in, you need to figure out your brands personality on social. An agency that makes no effort to investigate that and goes straight into social platform tactics is the wrong agency to talk to. If your brand was a person and had a social media profile what kind of tone or voice would it have, and how it would and should be perceived by people is the starting point to any pitch worthy of mention.  Only when you have a handle on personality then only can you move on to important decisions like Social platforms, demographics and content strategy. Avoid agencies that start their pitch with claims to get you ‘X’ number of fan and followers by a certain time-frame.  You want brand ambassadors and brand enthusiasts to join your communities not fans that are ‘bought’ over by cheap tricks and who leave when the goodies stop.
2. Do they have a clue on Analytical Measures?

Analytics and Buzz measurement is very important in Social media. If you don’t know what’s working and what’s not, how can you take goals for the future? But still I find many agencies have no clue on analytics, on what those numbers mean and how they can translate them into actionable for the future.  The most common tools in social are publishing; community analytics and buzz tools. If the agency in question doesn’t have any experience on working with such tools then don’t make them custodians of your brand on social.

3. Do they respect guidelines and protect your brand?

Another contentious area is platform/ promotion guidelines. I just hate it when social media agencies propose ideas that are not compliant with platform guidelines. For example any good agency should know that Facebook’s like cannot be used as a voting or measurement mechanism in promotions, as they are in direct violation to Facebook’s promotion guidelines. I had one agency recently suggest to me that we do paid tweets and we need not disclose that we are doing that, which against FTC’s guidelines. What if you were to take these agencies on face value and implement everything that they suggested and then your brand got into trouble for it? I have had colleagues in the industry who have lost their communities or their credibility in matter of minutes because their agency didn’t have the adequate knowledge of promotion guidelines on social.

4. Do they have the right community managers?

Managing a community is quite different from running a campaign or developing creative for a brand. Community Managers are pivotal to the success of your communities, whichever platform it may be on. Community managers need to have people skills, they need to have empathy and love for their community. They also need to have the ability to put brand context to the conversations they having. Naturally being great listeners and genuine in their approach towards helping people find the right information they need. More often than not companies don’t care who manages their community within the agency. My perspective is that as a brand custodian you should be concerned who is leading the conversation in your community and that it’s not multiple people, but one person who understands your brand and audience thoroughly.

5. Are they practitioners themselves?

You must eat your own dog food, when I meet people in the social media space I check their profiles out on the popular platforms. If they can’t reasonably manage themselves on social can they do a good job managing a brand? I don’t expect them to have thousands of followers and friends but 10 friends and 5 status updates are not going to do it for me. If you plan to manage my brand on social then how you manage yourself on social is very important to me. As an agency resource if you don’t have a social media profile because you enjoy your privacy then I suggest you have an alternative career for yourself.