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Agency transformation through social integration

Posted by Chris Tuff on February 27th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

When I walk into the agency every morning, I go straight to where our social department sits. Each day, I look around and think, “Damn we’ve got a good crew.” Two and a half years ago, the department consisted of just me, and now we’re a group of 8 diverse strategists and community managers that can tackle any social media solution—not to mention, become iMedia’s 2011 Best Agency for Social Media.

The actual responsibilities of a social media department vary from agency to agency, but when that department becomes an integrated part of the internal agency structure, the benefits will be felt across all departments. So why should a social media department be more integrated?

CHANGE: Given the inherent need to innovate quickly, agencies need to adapt just as fast. With Facebook’s “fail fast” mentality, there are no guarantees about what will stick and what will fall to the wayside. In addition to platform changes, there are user changes with new sites and habits, and naturally, it becomes difficult for any agency to stay 100% on top of all emerging trends and changes. A social department that is linked into insider knowledge of these rapid and frequent changes and social trends provides a competitive edge for an agency. Take the recent Timeline and Graph Object changes that were just put in place. Without staying ahead of the curve and being able to anticipate these platform iterations, media and creative opportunities would have been missed.

EDUCATION: About 40% of our job is educating our clients, creatives and other agency employees about new technologies, platforms and APIs. We’ve learned that over-education is key for all facets of the business, so that everyone understands 1) what success in the social space looks like and 2) the necessity for a long-term, integrated strategy that accommodates for earned, owned and paid media rather than a quick win.

CHALLENGING IDEAS: The second a team becomes complacent, “group think” tends to take control and everyone becomes a lemming. A diverse team, with creative, media and social media department members ideating collaboratively, brings differing opinions that challenge ideas and strategies, making executions unique and disruptive in what is becoming a highly homogeneous and saturated market. Whether it’s someone calling Pinterest the “equivalent to tinsel on a Christmas tree because it gets more and more lame as time wears on,” or even our core strategies, without disruption and disagreement there is no progress or evolution to be had.

COHESIVE IDEATION: With the proliferation of social elements across all media channels, social media teams, more than ever, need to work directly with brand planners, creatives and developers. They help identify APIs, platform priorities and KPIs so that when it comes time to ideate a creative execution, a social layer can be accommodated for, regardless of which medium the idea will live in. This proliferation is reliant on a cohesive solution to a brand problem that can also live in different spaces like TV AND Facebook. It takes working very closely as an integrated team to bring an idea to life, engineered to create the largest digital WOM footprint possible.

BRAND CONSISTENCY: Social media allows a brand to cultivate a genuine online persona, personifying the brand in a way that no other medium can. The social media department helps to create cohesive social executions by ensuring that the brand personality is consistent across all channels. There’s nothing worse than reading a Facebook update from a brand and having that tone not accurately reflect the brand voice. This discrepancy usually happens when brands outsource their social copywriting.

DATA: As social marketers, we have a treasure trove of data available to us—it’s essentially the closest marketers can get to consumers, short of jumping into our consumers’ heads. But once again, data (no matter how much of it) is useless unless it is contextualized to bring actionable insights to all aspects of a marketing endeavor. When social insights can be shared with all departments in an agency, true marketing kismet materializes: brand planners can better position the brief, media planners can make more accurate buys based on the target, copywriters can be informed on what taglines perform best, and brand insights that no one ever thought possible begin to arise. Altogether creating a campaign that is not only efficient but also sure to truly resonate with the audience that should matter the most to a brand—its fans.

Tweet me @christuff.

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