Social media is maturing and becoming a core part of business for many organisations. Should it managed by an agency or is it better looked after in-house? To answer this question I’ve had a chat with Rylan Holey who is a music blogger, a cellist, a member of the London Philharmonic Choir, speaker at #smlondon LIVE! last year, London operator for #FollowTheSun and of course the EMEA Partner Manager at Hootsuite in London.
Have a listen to the podcast interview below or on iTunes. Or why not just keep reading for a transcript of our conversation.
Tell us about your role at Hootsuite?
I am the partner manager for agencies here at Hootsuite, I work across Europe in different markets to help agencies be empowered with social, empowered with knowledge around our product suite, around Hootsuite, and work with them and their clients to help to define these strategies so that they can build better services for their clients and also provide the best client solutions around social to the biggest brands, well, every brand, potentially, that the agencies are working with.
Do brands need agencies for social media?
I think it’s been an interesting change. I think if we take a step back a little bit, and before I answer yes or no, I think where we saw social really, really accelerate has been largely through agencies. I think they were the one who saw the capabilities of social first, for brands. And they were the ones that said, “Look, we should be doing this. You need to innovative. This is a great way to reach the audiences. It’s an interactive, existing audiences.” And because of that, they’ve got a lot of advantage and a lot of knowledge around social. Gradually, his time has moved on. Social has become a different beast and a different ballgame now, where it’s becoming not so much as crazy innovative thing. It’s now were something in which company is going, “Oh, we need to do something about this in our organisation. This is a business critical situation now, where people are using social across organisation. We have no control over this.” So similar to email, it’s starting to become an infrastructure to business, social media.
So social has moved a little bit more in-house, whereas in the past, you would see a lot of agencies doing complete outsourced work for community management, the whole process have been in one agencies that’s changed. I think we have seen a lot of social going in-house. And agencies are still being involved but in a different way. And to answer the question; brands still need agencies for social. The reason why I say that is because agencies are the one that are able to create the content which makes a much more impact than often anything that can happen, anything that can be done by in-house.
So in some ways, it’s a question now of rather than do they still need them, it’s more how do they work together instead.
What could go wrong when an agency runs social media for a brand?
I think there’s several things. A lot of agencies have different ways of working, but I think from a branding point of view, if I put my in-house hat on, I used to work client side for a law firm in the city, and my fears of handling over stuff to an agency to do community management for a law firm, for example, would be there’s a little bit, people were at risk. So giving access to a social network without having any knowledge of what they are writing for example, maybe a lot of people in agencies, it changes quite regularly. The workforce in agencies, so people can leave and they potentially have the passwords and all these kind of stuff.
And then also on top of that, it’s about the voice of the brand as well. How can you ensure that the agency is consistent with your brand voice? Hopefully the agency should be, actually, in most cases, know your branding better than you do. But with that change of personnel at agencies, that can be a bit of a challenge. And then lastly, I think it comes down to the idea of, I guess, control, really looking at a who is saying what in those networks and in showing everything’s in their proper place.
What role should agencies be looking to play with brands?
I think the important thing that agencies really need to focus on is moving more into the consultative space. Taking what have they done from advertising and different marketing, all of that, and taken that skill set into necessarily here, where they’re looking at creating content… Well, first, strategising how an organisation can manage social across the business, so one thing that if you can look at… Actually one of the other pitfalls I was going to mention was around the cost of social being outsourced. So as social is spreading across the organisation, I think what would also happens was that agencies were starting to do customer service more and more. But that becomes quite a big cost for, not only for the agency but also for the clients when there’s a big team, potentially, at the client side that can do a lot of the customer service. You’ve got to find ways, as an agency, to help the client be more efficient around customer service. How can you, as an agency, help triage the conversations to the right people, and how can you bring that all in light with an organisation key business objectives.
So for me, really looking at an agency, really need to start looking at how they can help their clients not only be strategic around social but they’ll also have that system, processes, and KPIs, which are related to their client’s business objectives, that can actually show the value of social. So there’s one side, that consultative approach, but also I think there is the important part as well. I’d never advocate saying that, “agencies should never take over accounts of brands at all.” Where agencies should really come in is actually helping to provide that awesome content that makes it different per brand.
I think the example of what James Whatley in Ogilvy did for Expedia and the Travel Yourself Interesting campaign was brilliant. When they took tweets and actually did it live reenactments of them in strange ways, like getting a lion to eat tweet which someone had mentioned in the hashtag. I thought that was brilliant. You need agencies to really help you with that, because I think as a client side marketer, you need to be focused on showing the value, processes, systems, and getting those metrics to find for the agencies to be able to deliver that.
And I think nowadays, when you’re looking at the shift from being something which is outsourced to being in-house and a mixture in collaboration is a very interesting, especially for agencies. There’s a lot of opportunity there for agencies to potentially build more revenue streams in other areas which are actually more profitable than simply doing customer service for client.
How can agencies optimise content for their clients?
A lot of what I talk about with agencies is how they can be more efficient with how are they are working with their clients. So I think there are several aspects to these. Some of the best examples I see where agencies are really helping is looking at creating social playbooks, for example. Not only are these great projects to get, but it’s also a way that you can help be efficient between what the agency does, the customer service team does, what the HR team does, across all of the brands, different social networks, and really building that into one place.
Other things will be things like planning as well. So one of the great things that we do at Hootsuite sometimes is we do plug in some events. Everyone talks about dunking in the dark. But one of the great things we did last year was the Game of Thrones launch. The night before we released this cool video called Social Game of Thrones and they got really good views and stuff. And just planning things around an event which you can tap into to is going to be really important.
But I can split it up into three things around planning and content planning. You’ve got your blockbuster event, something like the Olympics or World Cups or whatever it might be. Then you have your industry events which are going to be relevant for your brand, whether that’s in B2B, it might be the announcement of the budgets, or in B2C, it might be one of those, I don’t know, World Flower Day or something, you know, who knows, but you can take advantage of that. And then for your own brand, your own product releases, launches, campaigns. You want to plan everything around that. And that allows you to be more agile with the client as well.
For me, I think this is really important for you, because as an agency, you want to make sure that you are reducing the amount of email which is going around, cutting the time it takes to build your reports, and making everything so much more efficient and actually showing that value as well. And lastly, using data more effectively, there is so much data you can collect from social. And agencies are in a great place to be able to find that information that actually make a sense of it for the clients who often don’t have those capabilities and skills in-house to do that. So if you look at the tools out there, obviously, there’s Hootsuite which can help in particular, but there’s a lot of tools out there, for earned, for example, earned social which might be Brandwatch, your Crimson, Synthesio, just to name a few, that could really help you to show the value of social to your clients in that kind of way as well. So I think, efficiencies is the key, really, that will allow you to create better content for your client. You can focus on it, all that sort of thing.
Move away from daily management, focus on fantastic content instead?
Exactly. And I think also that whole consultancy piece as well is important. We’re seeing in this industry now, this battleground forming, let’s say between the traditional consultancies and system integrators, those are the likes Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, who have seen the opportunity here, because this is their bread and butter, the consultancy side of things. Helping organisations transform digitally is massively important. And these guys have bought digital agencies to pick up their offering and actually build out teams which can deliver this kind of transformation on a digital level and buying these skills in. At the same time, we’re seeing the likes of Ogilvy, SapientNitro, DigitasLBi, the big agencies and the big agency groups who are also doing the same thing, who were kind of buying into this consultancy space, delivering more consultancy outside of traditional advertising and helping organisations transform, because I think its key for agencies to help their clients transform, because the sooner they can do that, the more data they could collect about everything.
So imagine if you’re a brand and you were able to… If you’re a bank and you managed to get every employee in your organisation to share content. And I know Link Humans was talking about employee advocacy. If you’ve got all of your 50,000 employees to talk about what you’re doing every day and the deals you have, the loans or the great stuff that HSBC does, for example, you’d be able to tap into a much wider network. And you can potentially have more data about the audiences out there. So I think the potential is huge for agencies to really help organisations on this path to being social businesses.
Would Hootsuite extend its offering into the social consulting space?
No, I wouldn’t say that. We don’t go into the consulting space, but what we’re trying to do is help with education. So we can now help brands. We can help deliver education programs at scale to brands where, I’m sure many of the people listening to this podcast have gone through Hootsuite University, for example. So that’s always been a core part of our business, to be able to train people up. Not only on Hootsuite, but on how to use social in the best practice ways. And what we’ve done with this customer education is to be able to help organisations have an at-scale but more bespoke offering for their brands. So for those, we would work with consultants and with our own education team to deliver something which is bespoke of that brand.
And again here, actually, agencies are massively important, because this is where they have influence on the brand, and they’re the ones who specifically set the brand message, all this kind of stuff. Agencies are increasingly involved in this kind of process. Helping organisations to transform and education is a part of that. Consultancy and business transformation is the layover road of that where it’s helping to make all that whole business change and education forms a part of that as well as technology as well as adoption and so forth.
What brands (and agencies) are getting it right?
I’m lucky enough to go to Cannes Lions most years nowadays, working with agencies. It’s an interesting event, I will say that for sure. But I think where I’ve really seen it where agencies are providing really great content or something really creative for their clients. I love one of the winners this year. Not directly related to social, but I guess they’ve created their own social network in some ways, but one of the Grand Prix won by Young & Rubicam Istanbul, part of WPP, and also with Vodafone.
So they created this app, called the Bedlight (Easy Rescue) app, which is designed for women to download, purely for them. And it’s a nondescript torch app. It does change. It’s probably something else now. Because what it does, rather than actually being a torch app, what it does is as women can put in three contacts, three main contacts into the app and what will happen is that when they’re in trouble, let’s say they’re in an abusive relationship, they will be able to shake the phone with the app open, and that would send out a message to all those three people that they put in there saying, “This is where I am. If you don’t hear from me within the next 24 hours, call this number. Please seek for help.”
And I just think that’s really interesting and noble way to create a meaningful difference for a brand. So not only is it absolutely building brand equity, but it’s also tapping into something which is a real issue in Turkey. Great innovative stuff, there may be a number on the app, which they only advertise to people at hair salons and places where you may associate with more female audience.
Also the app will change every month to something else, nondescript as well. And there’s a number on it as well, so if you call the number and it recognises it, it will do a voice recognition and save you a dial or give you a automated response related to the app, if it’s a woman or a girlfriend to the line. I think Young & Rubicam did a great job there in actually creating something really innovative for a brand that’s just beyond digital advertising and community management.
And so the more of that, I think, the better, from agencies, I think, like the Ogilvy campaign, which is the Travel Yourself Interesting. It was creating something that has impact, that’s good, and drive something on the bottom line, whether that be downloads, revenue, or share of voice, or customer satisfaction, even that, that’s going to be key.
What will happen next in the social media space?
One of the things I’m really interested in, as I know Link Humans is as well, is around employee advocacy for sure. I think the opportunity of a brand to be able to empower everyone in the organisation is going to be enormous. Maybe not for every brand, I can’t see it particularly that successfully unless it’s for HR, for example. But someone like Hootsuite, B2B, is going to be huge and agencies need to be all over this, because not only can they tap into a much wider data set, they can also help with the transformation part, the education part.
If you’re a brand and you’re able to empower every employee to be able to share content in the right way, then you’ll be able to collect much more, have much larger reach and be able to effectively tap into networks of networks which is a bit of a Holy Grail. You have your own best influencers in your organisation. And I think it really helps, not only on an employee branding side.
Connect with with Rylan on Twitter @holeytonal.