Public relations and marketing agencies have been trying to take a slice of the social media pie for about five years now. Grow it or hire it, are the two options for incorporating new capabilities into agencies. Growing it means extensive training and support for existing team members. Firms have had limited success with this, since agencies often find it difficult to create a structure of accountability, forcing employees to get with the social program.
Forcing PR people (or old school marketers) into social media engagement just plain doesn’t work. Everyone I’ve known who is engaged in social media and who also has it as an element of their career does it because they love it. And because they love it, they do it well. They spend the time necessary to teach themselves and continue learning (which social media, by nature, necessitates).
Agencies who are claiming to “do” social media or offer digital communications as a practice area to clients think they can do this with limited personal experience in the social web. They’re trying, in my opinion, to “fake it till they make it” and in social media, that just doesn’t work. Having worked with several firms in my time, I know that immersing yourself in a client’s business, that learning on the fly and applying communications knowledge to the industry is how agencies work. It does work for PR practices, crisis work, media relations and a ton of other communications work — much of which is done behind the scenes and white-labeled with client brands and spokespeople.
As soon as a practitioner claims to offer social media counsel to clients, however, a quick look at that person’s digital footprint tells a very fast and accurate story. Do three things to test out anyone seeking work in the social media arena:
- Google them. What do you find? Do they have a Google profile? Is the content you find from them? Is it what you think they’d want you to find?
- Read their blog. What’s that you say? They don’t have a blog? Ditch them. If they “contribute” to a collaborative blog, check them out personally — how much of the content on a firm blog is theirs? 10 percent? 20? How many posts in a year?
- Check their Klout.com score. It’s not a perfect measurement system, but it will give you an overview of the outreach and impact your social media consultant has to offer on your business’s behalf.