Do marketers really help with social media?

There have been a few tweets and discussions recently on twitter about the value that marketing firms and consultancy may or may not offer when it comes to social media.  The other night the discussion really took off and it’s prompted at least 3 people to write a post on the matter, here’s mine.  (Go get a cup of coffee and get comfy).

First off, let’s take a look at some of the tweets so you can see how the discussion went.  This one kicked it off.

Which elicited responses like this

So it seems even on twitter we can agree some points and not others.  But that’s life, you’ll never please all the people all the time.  It’s no different on social media.

But back to the question in hand – Does anyone need professional help with social media?  Can marketers always really add value, or are they an expensive way to wreck your reputation?

Let’s start with the bigger picture and a confession

Let’s start with the bigger picture and a confession.  I confess, I have a fundamental love for social media.  I believe it can change the world – for the better.  There are plenty of examples where this is already happening every day, in big ways, and little ways.  I love social media because it allows us, the general public to have a voice.  You, me, your neighbour, a kid down the street, we all now have a platform, a stage where we can share our views.  And if those views resonate with others, then you can really cause a stir.  But of course, I’m an optimist, I will think this way.  See the best in others.  Phil Young will be tearing his eyes out if he reads this.

Let this idea spill over to social media use in business.  In the same way that when email came into our lives, and in business it started out with one account for the company.  Then slowly it became necessary for pretty much everyone in the company to have their own email account.  That’s how it’s going to be for social media.  And in the same way we often use a work email address for mostly work, there will be times we use it for personal, and sometimes we use our personal email to talk about work – the same will invariably happen with our social media accounts.

Of course the difference between social media profiles and email is that email is sent between one person to another, or to intended others.  Yes emails can be shared and forwarded, indeed today with email a screen capture can be made and shared across more public social media channels.  But generally emails are more private than social channels.  You’re explicitly giving the ‘public’ an over the shoulder view of your views when you use most social media channels.  There are of course different privacy settings on different channels you can control.  But let’s stick with the premise that most social media channels used in business will be open.

Social media connects people and allows us to freely communicate.  It’s got social, business, learning, development, career, marketing, hobbies, personal and a whole host of other conversations going on.  Thinking social media can be contained and it’s use limited within your business, is like thinking today’s mobile phone is just used to make work calls.  When you know it’s about making personal and work calls, texting, emailing, surfing the internet, telling the time, an alarm, a camera.  They’re both so much more.

Most importantly it’s changing the way business is done and buying decisions are made.  It’s also already creating disruptive businesses within the financial sector.  Companies that have social media in the DNA of their business are taking market share, in the form of peer to peer lending and mirror funds.  How up to date are you with crowd funding?

Social media will reflect how your workforce feel

This means your employees will have the ability to share their views publicly.  Not every employee will want to.  But those that do, what are they going to say?  Is it in line, is it congruent with the message your company is sharing?  For most businesses, the answer is probably no.  Certainly not yet anyway.

The reasons for this discrepancy will be many, and I think a large number are also the same for the cause for an unhappy workforce.  As listed in this post, the 20 signs on an unhappy workforce.

You only have to look at the statistic showing the highest number of sick days globally are taken in the UK,  (a recognised indication of an unhappy workforce).  Mental health conditions were again cited as the single most widespread cause of long-term absence from the workplace.  As a nation we’re a long way away from working happily with a company that shares and acts on similar values to the ones we personally share.  When your actions are out of kilter with your values,  you feel stress.

Social media means change

Although many companies prefer to keep social media at bay, or at least ‘under control’, technology marches forward, and just like email has become widespread among employees, so will social media (if it hasn’t already happened in your company).

Understandably then, something’s got to change.  Commercially businesses won’t survive if they find themselves in a situation where their employees are telling a different message to the company’s and the outside world chooses to listen.  It’ll put off consumers, clients, suppliers, potential employees – the impact on a business will be too great, it will fail.

Conversely a business who is able to talk about their values, their product, their service, what they’re about is permeated in everything they do.  That business can happily have it’s employees sharing their views, on the whole they’re going to be in alignment with the company message.  Why?  Because they’ve grown their culture, they’ve hired employees that are attracted to that company’s values and fit in to help grow the company in line with it’s vision.  Their social media will attract consumers, clients, suppliers and new employees, that impact on this business will be too great for the competition.  Sound too good to be true?  Take a look at the Zappos story.

If you want to know more about the benefits of starting with your values, with Why you’ve chosen to go into business, or your employer has chosen to go into business, then enjoy the hugely popular Simon Sinek TED talk video Start with Why.

I believe social media has the power to bring change into companies, to bring change to what people are looking for in their working lives.  I believe it will help more employees be matched to the right company, and more employers find the right employees and to take better responsibility for making sure the messages they wheel out through their marketing machines and PR departments matches what they’re doing in house.  Let’s face it the inside needs to match the outside and the outside needs to match the inside.

Social media is about much more than marketing

Until this happens you’ll continue to see social media faux pas making the news.  Whether it’s #ASKJPM or #ASKBG or the HMV firing story.  Blame it on the marketers if you want, but the responsibility is far more reaching than one marketing department/consultancy firm.

It also brings up an important consideration when looking at engaging your business with social media.  Recognise that it’s more than just marketing that needs to be considered.  The culture of an organisation needs to have time to adapt and change to fast paced engagement of social media.

For instance, any firm that has a policy that says it’s compliance department will have a 3 day turn around, and the company wants to talk about something topical today, or be involved in a conversation that’s happening online right now, then a 3 day turnaround just isn’t going to work.

Relevant employees need to be identified and trained.  Social media and HR policies need to be considered.  If an existing employee is doing a great job in their role, and now you want them to add using a social channel to that role, what happens if they’re resistant to this?  You can’t force someone to do social media – not successfully.

 The truth is successful integration of social media into your business is hard work

Taking this into account you’ll appreciate the truth is, successful integration of social media into your business is hard work, enjoyable work, rewarding work.  Arguably the bigger the organisation, the harder the work, the longer it will take to integrate social into your business.  And let’s be honest, most businesses aren’t prepared to put in that work.

Whether they know it needs to be done or not.  It’s not as if anyone is sat at work with a free schedule, time to take on and tackle more responsibility.  Work with other departments and convince them to change they way they’ve been working to accommodate ‘social media’ in the business.  And do all of this when the ‘board’ still haven’t bought into the value of social media.  Faced with all of this, do you fight to integrate your business with social media, or do you outsource the work, the responsibility?  Get a marketing firm to deliver?

 If you outsource all responsibility to a marketing firm, then expect things to go wrong

Simply put, if your company chooses to outsource of all it’s social media, marketing, engagement, customer service and management, then you’ve got to expect something to go wrong.  How can it not?  Your company has chosen not to address many of your firm’s in house issues, they’ve chosen to pay someone else to deal with it.  Let’s face it something will undoubtedly go wrong if you keep all your social media in house too.  Something always goes wrong, the important issue is how you recover from it.

How well you recover from any social media fail will depend on the strength of your brand and the strength of your reputation.  (Which you’ve just outsourced to a third party).  Toyota is a great case study of how a company can weather the storm when they had the recall issue of their cars, yet because of their reputation, survived.

The question is will the benefit you’ve got from outsourcing your social media outweigh the impact when something goes wrong, assuming it does go wrong?  If the answer is yes, the benefits outweigh the risks then it seems a perfectly acceptable business solution.

The best way to work with a social media marketing firm

So let’s get back to the question in hand:

Yea or nay on social media? “professional, skilled marketers will always get better results.” by @EMRrecruitment

Clearly I believe businesses can gain value from working with professionals who understand social media, that’s the business I’m in.  I choose to work with clients who are just bursting to help their community and clients, to share their message with others and make a difference.  So it’s important to understand their business, who their clients are, what their message is, and then help them to share this online.

Sometimes that means working with the client to help them break down their message(s).  Always it starts with helping the client to:

  • Organise how to share their message.
  • Choosing which social networks they wish to engage on.
  • How frequently they choose to post on each of these channels
  • What they choose to post
  • In what format (video, photo, written, audio, pdf, case study, white paper, status update)
  • The importance of integrating social sharing into their website
  • The importance of call to actions
  • Capturing visitors contact details
  • The importance of respecting your visitors, prospects, clients time always by ensuring when you ask them to read something it offers value to the reader
  • Training
  • Social media management tools
  • Best practices
  • Creating social media policy

There is a lot you can outsource.  Planned content, agreed posts and updates, blogs, images etc.  Campaign, monitoring, analytics.  These all take time, offer value and you can choose to do them yourself, or you can choose to spend your time working on your business and pay someone else to manage these activities.

Let’s face it, social media is huge.  The social networks are changing all the time.  There are social network specialists, like G+ or facebook specialists, even specialists within the different ways to use facebook, organic posts v’s paid posts etc.  It makes sense to work with someone who’s main job is to keep abreast with this changing landscape.

I never, however, recommend that the engagement piece is outsourced.

Nobody knows your business as well as you do.  Nobody knows the opportunities and connections you can best make for your business or your role as well as you do.  In financial services, clients want to deal with someone they know and trust.  How can you outsource those conversations and engagement?  How can you learn about the other opportunities that social media can offer your business if you’re not using it, making connections, learning new things because of these connections?

But some firms still feel they’d prefer to pay for someone else to do the engagement piece than do it themselves. In this case, it’s outsoure your social media or have no presence.  In this situation I feel it’s Yea on social media: professional, skilled marketers will always get better results.

There are other individuals and firms out there where the business owners gets social media, they understand marketing and they do a great job on social themselves.  These business owners generally have something they want to say.  In these instances I’d say nay on social media: professional, skilled marketers will always get better results.

But I believe that any business that works in PARTNERSHIP with professional, skilled marketers will always get better results.



4 thoughts on “Do marketers really help with social media?

  • Wow, that’s quite a post Bridget. This is clearly a topic that means a great deal to you personally. I hope I can do your original post justice.

    I have every empathy for business owners that look at social media as a waste of time. I said the same about text messaging when I launched the first business mobile phone service for Mercury in the mid 1990s. In fact, many of the small businesses we were selling to said the same about having a mobile phone. Yet today, we have more mobile phones in the UK than we have people. Ofcom says people check their smartphones over 30 times a day for updates, 18 of those times looking for fresh social media posts.

    Social media is the Internet, and the Internet is for knowledge sharing to evolve our real life human relationships. We can either see this as the biggest opportunity to reinvent the way we do business since the printing press (because that’s what it is). Or we can try to hold on to the way business used to be done. Like HMV CD sales, Morrison’s no ecommerce channel, branch banking, insurance brokers and those annoying meerkats and do you remember Encyclopedia Britannica?

    New technologies change the way we communicate with each other, and with change comes the need to learn new skills. Every industry has its good and bad players. In the last 3 months I have helped my Mum buy an annuity. I almost doubled the annual income she will receive over the quote she had from the life company her employer had chosen to collect her savings. I did it for her because the 3 advisers we spoke to were either dismissive/negative (bordering on the depressed), expensive or didn’t do what they said they would do. In short, I did a better job on what should be quite a straight forward transaction to ask a professional to do for me.

    Equally, I can give you many examples of where my firm has transformed adviser’s social media. We took on an adviser’s Twitter account that had the same 7 followers since it was started in October last year. In 10 days we grew that to 60 followers with multiple daily interactions such as retweets of the advisers original content and some referrals.

    Another advisory firm had been talking about setting up a Twitter account since they attended an industry event in February last year. We set it up, branded it and got them to 50 influential local business followers and their content being shared in just 4 days.

    We have countless other cases of our blogs and videos generating leads that have converted, because our clients have worked with us.

    Social media generates business and if you don’t have a Scooby how to make it do that for you, hire professionals that can. Are all professionals worth hiring, you tell me?

  • Thank you Simon for taking the time to reply so fully. I think the twitter discussion didn’t always focus on the assumption that the professional was skilled and experienced – and that is a whole other debate.

  • Thanks Bridget (and Simon). The big issue for me is trust and that’s associated with brand- if you can create an online presence that’s trusted both to be interesting and honest, you are there.

    I get a regular flow of infographics and links to shoddy content from third parties trying to put their clients into play via our blogs and streams.

    Most of these are chancers but sometimes you are being asked to front content from large organisations.

    It’s a demonstration of the topsy turvy world of social media that small organisations and individuals become mavens for the bigger companies who can’t do it themselves.

    But isn’t this how business is? Large companies are constantly being refreshed by the activities of start ups and micro businesses?

    This democratisation of marketing is really healthy and if Bridget and others can catalyse small companies to take advantage of the current opportunities, good luck to her!

    There will always be some natural users- I suspect most on Adviser Lounge are such, but many people need encouragement and guidance to do it themselves and I totally agree- “you cannot outsource engagement” !

  • Comment from Simon Falconer, EMR Recruitment via LinkedIn:

    Apologies I was hoping to comment on your blog but do not have an account and seem to need login details to post my comments. So thought I’d drop some comments here.

    You’ve raised some really interesting points around the whole social media debate.

    I certainly agree that social media is most successful when a company’s visions, values, services, products and most importantly culture are developed and well communicated internally first. A business with happy employees who have already bought into the company’s vision is most likely to come out on top through social engagement.

    As a recruiter we regularly see a desire for candidates to work for businesses who have a clear vision and who effectively communicate this through their various social channels. Those who do this successfully, as you rightly point out, are the ones who often attract the best employees and therefore talent to take their business forward.

    Also, I love the talk by Simon Sinek. Really interesting and thought provoking. I like his examples of how Apple have adopted this approach.

    Many thanks for sharing.

    I look forward to our next discussion.



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