Often active lifestyle consumer brands approach their marketing agencies seeking assistance with publishing content and engaging with consumers on social media. Allowing an agency to control the complete social experience for a brand almost always creates what we call an “authenticity gap.”
While social platforms are ubiquitous, the social interactions consumers have with brands are actually pretty intimate and are based on the belief that the communique is coming from the brand. When you know the consumer assumes one thing and you do something else without bothering to tell them, one way to describe that behavior is inauthentic.
That’s why we believe Tweets, Google+, Facebook posts, any communications designed to attract and engage consumers over social media or in a community, really needs to be coming from the brand itself.
We believe any communications designed to attract and engage consumers over social media or in a community, really needs to be coming from the brand itself.
That said, here is where brands can and should ask their agency to assist them:
- Formation of a brand tone, messaging and acceptable use policy on social channels
- Social campaign ideation and strategy
- Content creation to be shared via social channels (video, infographics, photography, etc) based on Community Manager’s needs and insights
- Research on timing of social media campaigns or posts to maximize impact
- Development of campaign tools or platforms for social, such as Facebook applications or tabs
- Assistance with social media platform advertising campaigns
Here is more reasoning behind our “No Social Media Proxy” position:
1. Agencies cannot speak to brand audiences with the same authenticity
The brand (meaning the people responsible for it) will always care much more about their audience than anyone else could – or should, for that matter. Moreover, consumers, especially active lifestyle consumers, care what the brand thinks. They are reaching out on social media to experience an authentic individual (albeit public) interaction with the brand through this customer service.
Moreover, consumers, especially active lifestyle consumers, care what the brand thinks.
When an agency runs social accounts it’s like an operator for a customer service “hotline” who doesn’t work for the company and so has to read everything from a script vs. someone inside the company who really, truly knows their product line and is empowered to solve problems. If the brand is not tweeting, etc. themselves, but is acting as though they do, consumers or followers will experience a sense of betrayal by brand if/when they realize the communication is one way or not actually coming from the brand at all.
2. Agency Community Managers are rarely “of sport” enough to rally the community
If the resource who is posting to a brand’s social media channels by engaging with consumers, answering questions or offering relevant content, is not “of sport”, consumers will recognize this very quickly.
For instance, if a hunting goods brand who sells crossbows and arrows has their marketing agency control their social media accounts, the subject matter expertise it can provide will likely be much more limited than that of an active Community Manager in-house at the brand.
In-house Community Managers are plugged into community events and news on a daily basis. They also possess a deep knowledge of the brand’s product line and offerings so they are able to answer very specific questions about the newest arrow offering (i.e., which arrow is right for the consumer’s needs). Community managers also must speak both the language of their industry and the language of consumer, and be able to translate as needed. Optimally this person is also working with their brand’s marketing agency to optimize the return on their social media interactions.
Community managers also must speak both the language of their industry and the language of consumer, and be able to translate as needed.
Most importantly, however, the best community managers are deeply passionate about the same things consumers are passionate about and so their contributions to the conversation about the brand are natural, honest and thus, authentic. This is great, because consumer will attribute that authentic experience not only to the manager, but also to the brand. But the converse is also true. If the social media communications by the agency come across as inauthentic to the consumer, that bad experience also will stick to your brand.
3. Agencies are not empowered to provide a high level of customer service
An in-house Community Manager will have access to appropriate resources and contacts within the brand for consumer questions or issues expressed via social media.
Marketing agencies typically are not on-site with the brand, nor are they empowered with the resources or capabilities to provide a consistent customer service experience.
Marketing agencies, on the other hand, typically are not on-site with the brand, nor are they empowered with the resources or capabilities to provide a consistent customer service experience, and without those things, there’s no possible way an agency can successfully manage a brand’s customer service experience on social media channels.
4. Agencies are not interconnected within brand organizations to effect change
We have consistently found that the roles of Community Managers and Customer Service Representatives and are kept separate and so the experiences the Community Manager has with consumers is not tapped as a resource for surfacing and correcting negative brand experiences. Bringing the Community Manager into the fold for consumer feedback can provide additional perspective and a fresh source of ideas for improvement within other areas of the business.
Bringing the Community Manager into the fold for consumer feedback can provide additional perspective and a fresh source of ideas for improvement within other areas of the business.
Additionally, internal resources can assist with product development ideas the community raises on social channels. And social channels can become a proving ground for new product lines or product bundles only offered on a brand e-commerce site.
By taking control of their social media presences instead of passing the responsibility on to their digital marketing agency, and engaging with consumers with authentic exchanges through a few simple methods, brands can turn social media channels into growth drivers.