Don’t let a social media agency fool you?

When social media started to become a buzzword in U.S. back in 2009, we were the first in this region to write about it and the rest – digital and print media – have followed us.

By that time, we were curious about this trend that started with Mountain Dew Facebook engagements campaign and other brands trying to make it click. We used to ask former executives of giant web companies such as Yahoo, chief executives of outstanding digital agencies such as Flip Media, or brilliant tech start-ups who were trying to breakthrough the market with their ideas. We were asking the right people, the right question, and got the right answer:

Social media is the new medium of promotion, we don’t know the best practices but we know that it’s a medium that allows human conversations and engagement on behalf of a brand.

This is a correct, true definition of what social media is. When they said it, it was sentiment based on what they’re seeing things developing, now it’s a fact. However, the voice of these honest, rationale people is not heard among the herd. The herd that gather so-called social media “experts” or agencies. Those who started popping up late 2010 in this region and still surprise us every now and then.

If this herd of social media freelancers and agencies tell you that they can bring you outstanding social media results by increasing the number of Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers,  and the rest of the bulls**t, then let me describe to you, on their behalf, what they mean and want to do.

This herd doesn’t do any kind of research to understand your existing competition or know the latest industry trends. This herd doesn’t plan (except for your Facebook ads spending). This herd doesn’t put a strategy, unless you pay for it, because if you don’t pay for it, they will work without a strategy. What an irony! This herd will put you a paid-for strategy that will not work and doesn’t  make any sense at execution level.

Trust me, I’m telling you this based on trial and I have evidence in emails and proposals. Those people know me very well and fear to pass their bulls**t to me, but they had no other choice than submitting it the way they know it, they don’t know how to cut the crap, they don’t know how to, at least, say it right, they can’t deliver what they’re truly ought to do. That’s the situation fellow readers.

Tell them you don’t have budget for ads, tell them you pay them only for their content creation (of social content), for their posts, for their engagement such as polls, competitions, or promotions. Tell them to put a plan for what they want to do. Challenge them, and you’ll see this:

The smiley gesture will convert to awkward look, the confident voice will become puppy squeaks, and the fancy, delusional pitch will be exposed to all people sitting around the table, simply because he/she can’t move to the next slide.

In other words, don’t be fooled by the number of clients they fooled.

They will tell you we delivered to X, Y, and Z companies, they will tell you we plan to do much more than you’re asking for, they will tell you that they plan to do this and that, and by the end of every statement they’d tell you “but Facebook ads will play a major role in doing X in order to boost our work”. Even, they might end up telling you just like that jordanian-based social media agency: “If you don’t follow our plan, we can’t guarantee results, we can’t deliver”. Excuse me, if I asked you for no advertising budget, you can’t deliver social media service?

When I heard the last statement couple of days ago, I said to myself, this guy is mentalist and not account manager.

Let me tell you this, this herd of social media freelancers and agencies have redefined “social media” to “buying media”. Their core work is buying media space on Facebook and Twitter and no wonder that one of them told me that Starcom MediaVest Group, a giant media buying group, is their main competitor. No wonder!

The right one should have a combination of skills that include: marketing, public relations, copy writing, crisis management, sociology, pschyology, and much more…

So let’s kill it, right here, right now, no solo player – freelancer – can be a Social Media Guru. If you found one with such superpower skills, then I will allow you to blog about him/her here titling “Superman Returns”.

The right agency should have researchers and analysts who understand current trends and competition related to your brand. Let me note here, a fresh graduate is a person who just graduated from university wasn’t professor over there, so open your eyes on this issue.

The right agency should educate, teach, lead, engage, generate hype, support fans, make conversations at one-on-one level and manage community at large.

The right agency is your intelligence unit, it helps you understand your customers and alert you on any event that could threaten and harms your brand, they should be the rest to hear what people are saying about you brand.

Social media is about conversations.

Let your brand reputation, fans, and conversations grow organically. Do you like be in an awkward situation that you make a post on Facebook and get 5 “Likes” out of 100,000 fans. Those 100,000 fans are not engaged and never cared about you. Look for those who care about you and those who will “Like” your page because they want to show their support, to learn about your brand, to get new updates, to share their ideas, or to brag about you.

If you need a “social push” of awareness in the start, or for some special event or promotion, then let it be, assign a small budget for “brand visibility” like a call-out and not “fierce pitching” just to like your page. We’re not saying Facebook advertising is wrong, we’re saying Facebook advertising is not everything a social media agency should be doing.

There are several good social media agencies in the region that you can hire, but you need to watch out from the “con man” category. I don’t want to list the good ones here so it doesn’t appear biased or promotional article. You know now what is the right question: 1) ask them about the collective expertise in their team 2) ask them to deliver what is defined as “social marketing”, and 3) ask them to measure and report back to you.

One last hint, if you still want a lot of fans on your Facebook page to please your boss and throw your money away, then I’d suggest you go directly to the professionals, those media buying agencies that know the mechanism and follow a decent process in media buying space on behalf of your brand.

Let us know your comments


Tarek is the founder and chief researcher at Youngberry, a youth research and marketing firm dedicated to the region. Tarek founded and previously worked as Manager at Flip Media (Interactive Agency), (Job Site) and Consulting House Qatar (Consulting firm). He is researcher and writer on internet & disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, and youth culture.