Agency Perspectives: On Becoming a Trusted Resource

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As a leading social media agency that specializes in operations and community management on behalf of global, A-list brands, we believe it’s important to define your approach and philosophy when it comes to the working arrangements with your clients. When clients contract with you to provide social media services, they expect professionalism and an increasingly gradual integration with their internal team and external target audiences. After all, your primary objective is to build trust and rapport with the client’s most cherished asset – their loyal and engaged customers. That’s why we prefer an onshore – or embedded – approach, as the most valuable and efficient way to gain their mutual trust. As you’ll see, convincing a client that onshoring isn’t just another cost center often proves to be a prescient strategy – and can subsequently pay big dividends down the line.

Gaining an understanding of a new client’s cultural nuances can often be a difficult and time-consuming exercise and requires a real commitment to engaging in the proper amount of due diligence. However, as more and more agencies are discovering, it can be quite advantageous to deploy agency resources in an embedded arrangement – even up to establishing a permanent onsite presence. As many social media management agencies know all too well, clients often outsource their community management needs because they themselves struggle to connect and communicate with their own target audience. For social media agencies tasked with righting the client’s proverbial ship, here are some best practices designed to create a truly collaborative environment right from the start:

Getting to Know Your Clients…

As confident and experienced social media practitioners, we often enter into new relationships thinking that we’re pre-programmed with the right answers and approach in solving their problems. But in reality, this initial phase is far more complex. Onboarding a new client properly can take several weeks. It’s vital to set expectations up front, allowing your staffers enough grace, time, and resources to gain a proper understanding of each client’s unique corporate culture, values, and tone of voice. The same applies to gaining a thorough understanding of the varied personas of the client’s target markets. During the initial assessment phase, it’s highly advisable to review the brand’s usage on a channel-by-channel basis to gain enough context to plan a strategic approach. In short, there’s no need to show off right out of the gate. Just commit to giving your agency team members the requisite amount of time to evaluate and assess the whole picture.

What Does the Situation Call For?

Because embedding an employee typically requires an additional investment from the client, the necessity depends on the assignment. For most organizations – especially among enterprise-level clients – social media is often a lower priority than other marketing and branding initiatives. Whether onshoring makes sense as a solution is wholly dependent on the purpose of the engagement. If it’s a straightforward moderation assignment, seasonal or promotional engagement, or just additional manpower needed to handle a special event, the onshoring approach may not be the best fit. But for top-tier clients with high visibility, a complex organizational structure, or special assignments that involve multiple technologies and entities to manage, onshoring can pay big dividends.

What Benefits Does Onshoring Provide?

In the grand scheme of things, embedding your agency’s social media staffers onsite with a client offers several benefits and very few drawbacks. The onshoring approach provides a conducive atmosphere for understanding your client’s needs on a cultural level. By osmosis, your staffers will gain a much clearer understanding of the client’s marketing goals and initiatives. Likewise, clients can subsequently gain a useful, third-party perspective in helping them navigate the roadblocks which tend to slow down response rates among their target audience – an extremely common problem. The obvious drawback is the added expense, of course. But if you can convince your client that the additional investment is a sound strategy from a cost-benefit analysis, it becomes that much easier to establish a mutually beneficial engagement between agency and client.

Essentially, the onshoring approach comes down to a simple equation – cost efficiency, which has always been an age-old consideration for any corporate communications-related engagement. But embedding and integrating your team members directly with clients can provide a beneficial return on investment. It can lead to much higher volumes of content moderation, better management of corporate social media governance, an elevated understanding of internal communications, and a more productive environment for achieving the long-term strategic initiatives that any social media engagement requires.

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