The First 100 Days: How Social Agencies Can Build a Foundation for Success

Rick Liebling
Rick Liebling

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In its 2015 State of Marketing Report, Salesforce surveyed more than 5,000 marketers to learn about their top priorities. Seventy percent said they plan to increase social media marketing spend. While many companies manage this in-house, an uptick in budgets is likely good news for social/digital agencies.

However, after winning business, social agencies face intense pressure to perform, and the first few months are critical to set the tone and expectations for the agency-client relationship. Becoming a trusted partner, one that brings sharp thinking and creative punch to the table, is every agency’s goal.

Tim Leake, SVP, Growth & Innovation at Los Angeles-based digital agency RPA, notes the importance of establishing a proper agency-client relationship from the get go.

“We’ve found that it’s critical to have an early and open dialogue with our clients about what success looks like, and also what creativity looks like for their brand. People occasionally fear setting goals, because they might not reach them. But without that clarity, it’s difficult to learn and improve. Instead, we get stuck rationalizing what happened after the fact, and trying to make it look like whatever happened was a success.”

The ‘honeymoon’ period is a perfect time to set your agenda. Whether you’re an account director, strategist, analyst, or creative, the first 100 days are your best chance to shine. Here are several steps that involve using data and analytics to build a foundation for a long lasting relationship that can become a cornerstone for your agency.

Deep Dive Audit

Chances are the client brought you on because their current social efforts were not delivering. You probably did your due diligence during the pitch phase, but now is the time to dig deep and see where potential problems exist both in social strategy and execution.

This is where you identify the networks and content that has worked and what hasn’t. Has the client been developing too much content or not enough? Perhaps the brand has been publishing content more suited for comments, but shares are what will help drive business objectives.

Doing a deep dive audit -- really going beyond vanity metrics such as likes and follows -- is a critical first step in the early part of a client-agency relationship. It also helps the agency get a better understanding of the brand, and through the types of engagement, a clear perspective on how people want to interact with that brand.

Goal Development

Once the deep dive audit is complete, you can get to work setting goals for your efforts. It’s crucial to do this in order to have a roadmap and avoid confusion with the client over what success looks like.

Goal development should include benchmarking. Understanding how your client performs relative to others in social media can help gauge progress and can be correlated to metrics such as share of mind and sentiment.

But specific goals related to deeper level metrics are also important, and you must align them with campaign objectives. A decrease in Average Response Time (ART) or consistently producing campaigns with higher engagement metrics signifies a deep comprehension of what social media can do and how to align social media with larger business objectives.

Reporting

Reporting isn’t glamorous. They don’t spend a lot of time showing those meetings on Mad Men, do they? But it’s an essential part of the agency-client relationship and one that is often given little thought.

In social media marketing, reporting needs to be more than a data dump that gets ignored by the client. But identifying real insights requires more than filling in a spreadsheet with this week’s numbers. Agencies need to showcase metrics that matter.

This means providing data in a visual, easy-to-digest way for everyone in your client’s marketing department all the way up to the CMO. Reports should be easy to download, share, and use a variety of formats including charts and graphs that capture information on the campaign level across all social networks.

Ongoing Monitoring

Agencies compete in the marketplace of ideas. Today, being on top means more than just having a great creative idea. You’ve got to have a keen understanding of the competitive set and be able to identify insights that inform strategy.

Social media analytics can show you which competitors are earning the most engagement -- and what type of engagement around which type of content. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses, and the successes and failures of a client’s competitive set, can be a catalyst to identifying a unique creative idea.

Historical data -- what did the industry players do around the Super Bowl or Oscars this year and previous years -- can also be analyzed. The year-on-year trends, and how competitors changed strategy and tactics over time, is the type of intelligence required in today’s competitive landscape.

Report Card

The first 100 days is also a great time to set up a report card. With many brands producing content for four or more social networks, establishing an evaluation process to grade each one can help see where progress is being made and where work still needs to be done.

A report card can be an impactful way to demonstrate that you are accountable for goals you established previously.

If possible, tying the analytics from your social media report card to your client’s larger business objectives can help them see the value of social media. It may not always be possible to show causality, but even correlations between social media and business objectives can help establish your value in the early periods of working with a client.

The Next 100 Days ... and Beyond

Ultimately, your first 100 days will set the foundation for what comes next. How will you go beyond this period and maintain a successful relationship?

Data and analytics can be a constant source of information and inspiration for social/digital agencies. Don’t just rely on them for your regularly scheduled reports. Familiarity can lead to taking data for granted, or worse, becoming numb to its potential.

Internally, data should be shared across the agency team -- planners, strategists, analysts, and creatives can all find insights that will spark ideas for the next campaign. Externally, identify the members of the client team most interested in analytics and take them through your findings in the spirit of collaboration -- not just in end-of-month reports.

Social media analytics can be a valuable part of demonstrating your value to new clients early on in the relationship. Regardless of what type of agency you work for, social media projects have the potential to open doors to new clients, and new revenue.

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