Ever notice how when the economy is booming, everyone’s a hedge fund manager? Or at least a contractor? Well, we’re experiencing a similar phenomenon when it comes to social media. Everyone’s in the social media business and anyone can anoint himself an expert. So, just in case you want to be (or hire) a social media agency, here are some of the capabilities you might actually want to develop and offer (or look for.) Turns out there are a lot of them. I’m up to 14 so far, with the first seven listed below.
1. Professional listening stations
Everyone talks about listening, but guess what, you actually have to know the tools and techniques – from Google and Quantcast to Radian 6 or Techrigy –and probably be able to build custom dashboards to track conversation, follow competitors, and organize the feeds that matter to a client. Might help if you can train them in using some of this stuff, too.
I borrowed this term from Michael Calienes, but simply put it’s the orchestration of the content and conversation you share in the places your where audience and community gather. If your client’s customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and YouTube, they should be there, too. A good social media agency will know how to put them there in a way that integrates all of their (and your) efforts and responds to the habits and preferences of the community. Here’s a simple way of looking at it. Keep in mind, of course, that just because you’re there doesn’t mean anyone’s paying attention.
3. Content creation
Which leads us to capability number three. Create good content. Any marketer can put stuff on Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, Flickr or a company blog. Of course that’s also the problem. There’s a lot of crap out there. So get good at making content: not just messages, but the kind that starts conversation and dialog, that gets talked about and passed on, and that invites customers to get involved and teach you how to make them happy.
4. Blogger relations
This is the new PR. Don’t forget the offline press, but today the story starts online and then bubbles up. Problem is too many marketers think they can just send off some crappy press release and get coverage from key bloggers. Nope. You have to develop real relationships with the citizen journalists that your customers read. Know them, read them, promote them, too. And finally don’t get caught up in any of paid post stuff. It will come back to bite you.
5. Employee mobilization
This merits an entire post. But too few brands take advantage of their hundreds if not thousands of employees to spread the word. Office Max and EVB launched Elf Yourself that way. And Zappos does a really good job (note please they are a client.) But you should learn how to identify, educate, and invite (opt-in preferably) employees to represent a company and be part of its voice.
6. Viral mobilization
True, no one can make something go viral. But you can increase the odds if the potential is there by how you launch it, inform influencers, or incorporate co-created content from people who themselves have a community and followers. And don’t forget the importance of building in a meme.
7. Crisis management
Even if a client is ready to jump in head first, having a plan for how you’d deal with something like Dominoes or United or even Motrin is essential. It’s as important not to over react as it is to respond. You’ll need a model and a philosophy to be a social media agency. When do you roll out the CEO on tape for all the world to see? When do you simply connect with one irate individual to address his concern?
It may seem like a lot, but this is only half the list. There’s still: technology and apps; social bookmarking; search engine optimization; web development; crowdsourcing; measurement and analytics; and, since no one could possibly be great at everyone of these capabilities, alliances and partnerships. I’ll offer up my take on those in the next post.