I know, I know. Before all the social media experts, ninjas, mavericks and wizards start finding 101 ways to murder (crucify?) me – hear me out first! Also note that I do not in any way say that agencies are redundant, It just seems like the kind of social media work agencies do is completely bogus.
I think to build my case well, I’ll tell you a little bit about me. In 2009, Ankita and I co-founded Superchooha, one of the earliest social media firms in India. And we did quite well actually. We worked with 30+ clients from all kind of industries – ranging from beauty products to insurance houses. We tried building our own social media product, which bombed; post which I have been on the other side at YourNextLeap (career counseling around Fresher Jobs) – working on Product and Marketing. And yes of course, one of the major marketing channels at YourNextLeap for us is social media. We also use social media for product research, user feedback and hiring etc.
Looking back, and now having a little experience of both, I think all of Superchooha clients were fools to give their social media work to us.
They did need social media help, not knowing anything about that vertical themselves. But they should have hired us as trainers and strategists, not executioners. They needed someone who can help them build that social media DNA into the building blocks of the company. After all, you can outsource creativity via advertisements, applications and campaigns, but you cannot outsource your company’s core philosophy.
# 1 – Social media cuts through verticals that agencies cannot penetrate
All of social media operations, be it conversations or brand monitoring or lead generation, get mapped back to business deliverables like CRM, Market Research and Sales. But agencies are always restricted to the marketing or corporate communications department. The happy customers you retain while doing customer support never go into the CRM dashboards and the new leads you get by generating FB likes never come in touch with the sales team. If the social media agency generates brand monitoring reports, the market research people never come to know where their real customers are, what they think about their products and how many people are actually happy with the services.
Social media is like telephone systems, it cannot be owned by one team. All of them must do it, in their own way and capacity and only then it becomes truly successfully.
#2 – Agencies can never react fast enough to the social media velocity
This is how a Twitter social media operation works > you do an update, and then if a conversation comes back which is controversial, you have to follow a process as big as the Indian constitution itself. You call up the client corporate communications team who then finds the relevant sales/product person in the company (if ever) and then reverts back with the relevant response. And in the meanwhile, during this delay, the issue is getting escalated. And before you know it, you have #CCDsucks like trending topics on Twitter.
How many times have you seen intelligent responses from Airtel and ICICI Bank Twitter accounts for customer support? They never tweet anything apart from – “Hi! Your support ticket number is 1235, we will get back to you.”
The beauty of new internet platforms lie in the quickness with which they connect products to their end users, and this whole process destroys it.
#3 – Agencies are costlier in the longer run than building your own team
Clients should invest in letting the social media agencies train their various departments. They should invest some money for the long run, rather than giving it to a social media agency that bills you for doing 2 updates a day and 5 days a week. And once you have built a social media culture into your company, you will see the benefits yourself. And you will be able to actually see some ROI – a clear improvements in your top lines and bottom lines and a crystal clear improvement in customer happiness. By knowing, which department is doing what; you can also track your internal metrics better.
And that my friends, is true Nirvana!
This article is also in no way an intended offence meant to the hundreds of more knowledgeable and wiser people than me. I am simply here to say what I have believed for a long time now.