What it takes to be a social media agency. Part two.

Picture 7OK, so you still want to be a social media agency after reading part one? Got all of those capabilities down? Good, on to part two. This will either motivate you or exhaust you. Turns out there’s much to master. And, if you’re a client, and you think you can do all of this yourself, think again. I’m not sure anyone can. Here are seven more capabilities you might need to do social media right.

8.    Technology, utility and apps

Think you can be a real social media agency without developers? I kind of doubt it. Twitter’s API, Firefox add ons, Facebook Connect, iPhone apps, and now augmented reality, seem to be as much a part of the landscape as 140-character sound bites. You may not have to build the applications yourself, but you’ll want to know how to conceive them and get them produced. Plus this is the fun stuff.

9.    Search engine optimization

In some ways this is simple. Generate great content that gets linked to. Blog. Increase your engineered presence. But it’s surprising to me how many brands don’t take advantage of the basics, from their own blog SEO to Google Local Business to a more thoughtful and measured use of keywords. You may also want to think about optimizing content for Stumbleupon, Delicious and Digg, even developing relationships with social bookmarkers who fall within a client’s business niche.  Just don’t be what SEO types call a black hat. All the tools are out there. Get your developers to show you how, hire a kid right out of college, or learn it yourself.

10.    Crowdsourcing

You can’t be in this business if you don’t start thinking about how to use the power of the crowd. Forget design competitions for a minute. Here’s a simple example. We’re about to make new TV spots for the Boston Bruins. We don’t need help. But if we invite the crowd to create along with us, we’ll end up with dozens of videos, a lot more buzz and conversation, and the appreciation of all those who get to play along. Why not get to know some of the companies that can help, firms such as Tongal and Kluster and Chaordix?

11.    Web development

True, the days of if you build it they will come are over. But in certain cases, this may still be the best place to do business, demonstrate your capabilities and host your content. And there’s no reason a brand can’t invite its community to join them here. (Think Starbucks and Dell.) Should a social media agency be able to build websites, or at least contribute to a client’s? Absolutely.

12.    Measurement and analytics

Yes, it is actually possible to measure social media: everything from reach (quality and quantity) to discussion (topics and sentiment) to impact and ROI (site traffic and purchase intent.  Of course that means you’ll need enterprising listening platforms, text mining partners, platform API tools, and site analytic solutions. (Can’t believe I just wrote that sentence; say what?)

13.    Alliances and partnerships

The good news is you don’t have to do all this yourself. You simply need to know where to get these capabilities or who to work with. Which means you’ll want partners and alliances no matter how many capabilities you have in house. This is a mindset more than anything. One that any agency should have and one that any client should demand. The future isn’t just about community and conversation, it’s about curating and collaborating, too.

14. Branding experience

I saved the most important for last. Even with all this social media stuff, we’re still taking about marketing. And marketing is all about brands: knowing what they stand for, staying relevant to your customers, being consistent in your voice and behavior, differentiating yourself through all of your content, even your posts on Twitter. Neglect to understand the fundamentals of branding and how social media efforts are but one piece of an overall marketing effort and you can do more damage than good.

Yesterday, Bob Rinderle left a comment that this was really about creating and defining a relationship agency. True. But as we all know, relationships are complicated and time consuming. They take work.

So, what do you think?  Are 14 capabilities enough to be a social media agency?

Chrisile from media agency
Chrisile from media agency

it's cool to use these add-ons (firefox). some really are great help. but some would have issue on compatibility with the browser

Catrina Boisson
Catrina Boisson

I’d argue that Bob Rinderle is not the only one advocating for the power of relationship building. Michael Calienes’ comment was equally focused on what it takes to build strong connections. Whether your customer is the brand itself or your customer is the person buying the product, good marketing starts with listening, caring and sharing (not coincidentally the same attributes you site as core to this new way of marketing we call social media). In so many ways, social media is just a new weapon in the CRM arsenal. Relationships are, as you point out, complicated and time-consuming (whether at home or in the office!), but they pay off. Whether you are venturing into social media or practicing more plain vanilla CRM, make sure that you are listening to understand not just waiting for your chance to speak.


Nice posts, btw.

The discussions around the evolution of agencies and the heebie-jeebiness of social media agencies reminds me of Michelle Tripp's Social Media Experts Are Scary post, earlier this year.

My view - then, as now (warning: rehashed comment follows) - is that whenever technology throws up a new medium you get your early adopters and evangelists who immerse themselves in it, call themselves experts, build a career on it and write a book.

At some point some agencies glimpse the bandwagon and hire them to impress their clients. They score, so more agencies do the same.

This is when the number of “experts” explodes: demand is high + real experts are rare + agencies can’t tell the difference between them and those bluffing and rehashing their way onto the bandwagon.

Shortly after that the new media goes mainstream: everyone understands what the expert once alone knew, and noone calls themselves an expert in it anymore. The new media becomes just another tool in the toolbox. The “Dummies for …” edition hits the shelves.

By which time, of course, the original expert has either moved on to a new field or had kids, got a mortgage and become a manager.

edward boches
edward boches

I suppose you could make an argument it's only a matter of time before everything is social, everything has consumer participation, everything is back to word of mouth. But I agree with you that a lot of people don't get or don't have the patience for communicating (if that's even the appropriate word) this way. Listening, inspiring, sharing, creating content rather than a sales message, allowing consumers to have a say is a new way of marketing. Lots of brands still approach this is a means of delivering a message for free. The best brands are those that simply stay true to themselves but in a way that acknowledges it isn't just about them. Why things like Chalkbot is brilliant. Or CNN/Facebook's Inauguration effort. Or Dell handing the brand's support over to customers. Or the new efforts in the crowdsourcing space. I think you are on to something in the idea that even positioning ideas will come from this space just as they could come from media or technology. Big ideas will emerge from this stuff. For sure.

steve benoit
steve benoit

Thanks for the posts Edward.

While I think that all of the things listed are necessary to be successful, the last two items I think are the most important. And the term "social media agency" kinda gives me the heebie jeebies and though it may be necessary, it brings about an interesting question.

It brings back memories of the emergence of the term interactive agency. A lot of us have seen how a division of disciplines has lead to a kind of flailing around of traditional model agencies to proclaim they were also interactive (which they weren't) and then to the interactive agencies just becoming agencies, partially because their medium became the dominant one and their ideas were the ones that garnered the attention for the brand that a tv commercial or print ad could not.

Social media takes a kind of understanding some traditional creative thinkers in ad agencies will have a lot of trouble coming to terms with (also very similar to the interactive world) and it will force partnerships like the ones out there now with large branding agencies partnering with interactive agencies.

Will there be any social media only agencies? What will happen when one of the people from a social media agency comes up with the best position for a brand based on the fact social media uses new tools and disciplines?

Wow, I guess you could say this post inspired me a bit...

Dan Hutson
Dan Hutson

OK, I read both posts. Great list, by the way. So my question to you and anyone else following along is this: Is there a short list of organizations actually doing all this at a high level of competence? Now there's a list I'd like to bookmark.
.-= Dan Hutson´s last blog ..Social Media and the Paradox of Choice =-.


I would posit that #13 is symbiotic with #14 as the most important. Through the evolution of the organic entity that is social media, branding is to alliance and partnerships as the chicken is to the egg.

It is impossible to stay relevant to your customer w/out engagement; alliances and partnerships allow access to those customers.

Marketing has always been about speaking to the customer 1. where (s)he is 2. when (s)he is open to communication and 3. in the manner in which (s)he wishes to be spoken to.

Social media is an expansive means (in flux) of attaining that goal (which, paradoxically, will never be achieved). Whoo hoo! Strap yourselves in!
.-= mckra1g´s last blog ..mckra1g: http://twitpic.com/jm4gc - For consideration in 2mrrw's pitch #altenergy Suggestions? =-.

edward boches
edward boches

One of the more articulate and logical thoughts I've heard yet. And dead on. Part of my point is to gently remind the alleged experts that if they really want to go around calling themselves such, here's the stuff they better know. Maybe it will chase some away. Also to give clients a little wider perspective of what they might want to look for in any sm agency relationship. And, of course, to remind all of us that this stuff is all tied together. Let's face it, in another year or two, given the speed of what's happened in the last 12 months, everyone and everything will be social. I'm simply trying to keep up and help everyone I work with do the same. Thanks.

edward boches
edward boches

Well, I do know that Mullen does much of it and is trying to figure out what we don't know. Assuming, or at least hoping, there are others, but not sure who they are. Will try and find out.

edward boches
edward boches

I was actually thinking that agencies should have alliances with our agencies (of a different kind) for access to the resources they don't have. But your point, if I get it, is a good one, too. We need alliances with all the networks and platforms that connect us to our communities. Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is well in Iowa.


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