Hard lessons agency customers need to learn about social media marketing

agency customers

By Leah Schultz, {grow} Community Member

Four and a half years ago I was hired into an agency that needed help outlining social media solutions for its customers. So I did that. The experience was like getting a root canal every day.

I worked tirelessly with my VP to design “robust turnkey social media solutions.” But no one bought them. For about a year I prepared countless pitches, proposals, and webinars for our agency customers … who bought almost nothing.

Some of our most important agency customers were in the transportation industry. At first these seasoned trucking executives did not understand why I was trying to get them to spend money on Facebook … and blogging? It seemed more likely they would sign up for a manned mission to Mars.

These were smart clients with million dollar advertising budgets. Why couldn’t they understand social media?

Resistance and misunderstanding

I refer to this period fondly as the era of resistance. Many of our agency customers were still spending a significant portion of their budget on newspapers and magazines (often as much as 75%!). Their denial is slowly morphing into a new Era of Misunderstanding. Despite the fact that social media is now a fairly mature channel, the speed of change seems to breed confusion.

The answer is patience and education. We are finally selling social media services easier than we ever have before. However, we often still encounter one big hurdle with some decision makers: they are lying to themselves with preconceived ideas about what social media is or isn’t. My guess is that you’ve run across these same lies with your own clients or when trying to convince your executive management?

The six social media lies

1. It’s free.

While it’s true that it may cost nothing to set up a Facebook page, Twitter account or YouTube channel, the real price of social media is often mis-judged. Costs include a knowledgeable team, software, paid efforts, and most importantly: time to develop a strategic plan. My friend Laura Click of Blue Kite Marketing wrote a fab post outlining the problem with cheap social media marketing. Isn’t your brand worth more than a cheap or free strategy?

2. Nobody has time for this. 

I hate this excuse more than anything. We are all busy. But you know what? Everyone has the same hours in a day as Beyoncé or Barack Obama. And I can guarantee you that they are both busier than you or me. You make the time for what is important to you.  Or, you hire someone who can devote the time. If you are a one-man band trying to do social media on your own, try setting a certain amount of time every day. Even starting out small with 15 minutes per day is a good place to begin.

3. I can’t track it.

Yep, I still have clients telling me that social media can’t be measured. My response is to ask them how well their newspaper, radio, or tradeshow tracking is going for them. Often they have no clue. Every marketing activity should be measured.  The real problem with social media tracking is that it’s almost too good. There is so much data available that it can be hard to know what KPIs to track.

If I can, I like to track the same metrics across all media to compare. Apples to apples, if you will. For example, my clients care about leads. So, I show them reporting with metrics around volume of leads and cost per lead. When I can prove a cost per lead that crushers traditional media and rivals PPC or digital retargeting, their tune often changes.

4. It doesn’t drive sales/conversions. 

Using social media to drive conversions requires 1) well-defined goals and 2) use of technical devices. Start with being purposeful. Set clear objectives and deploy explicit calls to action. If you want to produce conversions, you have to have the right technical pieces in place to track success. This includes techniques like campaign tracking links, tags, pixels, etc.

Fortunately many platforms have analytics built into the back end to help with this. Get yourself familiar with Google Analytics, Facebook Insights/Power Editor/Ad Manager, Twitter Analytics and others. Use the data to test and adjust your strategy. If it doesn’t move the needle, it doesn’t make sense!

5. I don’t know how to do it. 

That’s OK. You have two options: learn or hire someone who does know what they are doing. What’s not an option is just ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Your competitors will be leaving you in the dust.

6. People just want to complain. 

This is driven by fear. Social media skeptics are afraid that being present will open up the floodgates for complaints. The truth is that your business will receive complaints, compliments and everything in between from customers, regardless of if you are on social media or not. Having a brand-owned channel just allows for it to happen publicly in your own backyard. This is a great opportunity! Embrace the positive and use the negatives as a chance to improve and deliver a good customer service experience.

Many of these questions are also addressed in Mark Schaefer’s book Social Media Explained, which is an excellent way to get customers up to speed fast. Hand those things out!

What “lies” are your clients and executives telling you about social media?

leah schultzLeah Schultz is the Director of Social Media at ACS Advertising, a full service agency based in Nashville, TN.  She is also the President of Social Media Club’s Nashville Chapter.  You can find her watching college basketball (Go Cards!), cruising on her motorcycle or hanging out on the interwebs.  Come say ‘hi’ on Twitter at @MackeyLeah.

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