Today one of my twitter chums, Andrew Spong, posted a very valid comment on twitter about digital agencies and their own use of twitter (see the image). Essentially if as a digital agency you are not regularly using your twitter account then do not highlight your twitter account on your home page. Very wise words indeed.
This reminds me also of a comment made by @skoko a while back about digital media agencies practicing what they preach. How can a digital agency be credible if it does not participate actively and effectively in at least some form of digital media. Most digital agencies now have very snazzy websites – and how those that do not (and they do exist) get any digital business is beyond me.
Websites are still generally the first port of call for potential clients and as such a website needs to accurately reflect the business you are in and your skill areas. If you are a company supposedly skilled in digital having a poorly designed website is not a good start. There is of course the danger that some websites become too “over-ambitious” – lots of dazzling flash imagery and pop-out boxes all looking great but not much actual content. Websites need to be visually appealing but also need to be functional. They need to grab enough attention to hold the visitor when they first land on the website – and here the visual impact is crucial – but also contain the information a visitor is looking for and expects to find on the website. This information also needs to be easy to find or the visitor will give up and look elsewhere. This is actually a big problem with pharma websites but that is worthy of a post all to itself.
Some of the things to consider for websites are:
- Objective: What is the objective of the website? Is it to sell products / business, provide information, etc?
- Audience: Who is the target audience and what is of value to them? What content do you expect and need to find? How are they accessing the website? What search terms are they using to get to the website? etc
- Internal factors: What are your internal resources dedicated to the website now and in the future? Do you have the manpower to keep the website updated? Do you have the budget to maintain the website? etc
- External factors: How is the competition using their website? Are there industry events that will impact traffic to the website? etc
If as an agency you have not looked at the above when building your own website then how can you advise clients on theirs?!
These days I also expect to see a link to any social media on the homepage (and this goes for pharmaceutical companies too). I expect a digital agency to be active on twitter, have video footage on YouTube and to have a blog. I am not that fussed about a Facebook page to be honest – to me Facebook is a personal space and I do not go there for business – but if your business is digital you probably should have a presence on Facebook. Of course it goes without saying that you also need to make sure your company’s Linkedin page is kept up to date.
Starting with Twitter, and Andrew’s tweet, I think it is fair to say that not all digital companies are doing brilliantly well here and Andrew is quite right – if you are not doing it well do not highlight it! I know of one UK digital media agency at least that as of today had not tweeted since the beginning of May – that is over one month of nothingness. I also recently had a discussion with another agency (also not very active on twitter) that said twitter was too time consuming. My response to that both these points is . . . yes building relationships is time consuming but that is what business development is also all about! How can you advise clients on how to run a twitter campaign if you yourself are unable to actively and effectively use the communication channel? Personally I have made some great business contacts through twitter and I strongly believe that by being active on twitter I as an individual build up my credos in digital media (providing I stick to saying relevant things and do not start drunk tweeting!).
My advice regarding twitter would be to make it the responsibility of one person and make it part of their job role. The chances are there is already at least one person in the office active on twitter – maybe see if they would be interesting in taking on the role. Another option is to split the responsibility up between various people – but personally I am not a fan of this method. Twitter is about a conversation and developing relationships – unless the team working on this are very clearly aligned and have very similar communication styles and closely follow what the others tweet it could soon become a very disjointed twitter account – essentially a multiple personality twitter. As to the time element – tweeting is not about taking hours out of a day. A quick glance at the twitter account a few times during the day (which takes all of five minutes all being well) and posting, responding or re-tweeting once a day (which again takes all of five minutes) would suffice.
The other bit of twitter advice I would give is not to just post company information such as “check out our new blog post” or “we just won this shiny award”. While that obviously should be tweeted that type of content is not particularly engaging – and personally I find it a bit dull most of the time. What makes for an engaging twitter account is not only posting new content (and yes here you can post the corporate blog posts) but also re-tweeting and sharing interesting articles (not written by the company) and taking part in conversations. An example of this is some of the agencies, such as @aurorahealthpr and @streamingwell, who take part in the various tweet-ups such as #HCSMEU. Not only do they engage using twitter they also highlight their expertise and knowledge.
Moving onto YouTube – admittedly not every agency will have video content but if they do then it should be on YouTube and sign-posted to via the corporate website. What every agency should have however are slide decks which they can share – for example the standard “this is us” pitch deck – and this should be shared. It can be turned into a video – you can add music, a few images etc – and then posted on YouTube or it could be shared via Slideshare (an under-utilised resource in my opinion).
Agency blogs are also a bit hit and miss – some agencies have regularly updated, content rich blogs/articles (e.g. http://creationhealthcare.com/articles/) whilst others have blogs that they only update sporadically and others have no intellectual content at all. Blogs and articles are essentially a great way of highlighting the company’s thinking and its intellectual capital. If a potential client reads a really engaging and thought provoking blog post or article they have a more positive image of the company. Of course the opposite is also true – a badly written, poorly thought-out blog post or article leaves clients walking away with a negative opinion. Whilst not updating blogs is obviously a sign of how furiously busy an agency is doing tons of great work (!) it is also a lost opportunity to share the agency’s great thinking. The time element again crops up with blogs – writing articles and posts is time consuming and very few people really have time to dedicate to this. One way round this is to encourage all employees to write blog posts (which can be signed off by a dedicated blog person) – why should it be down to just one person to do all the writing? If it is down to one person then this clearly needs to be part of their job role and they need objectives set up against this.
As to Facebook – wary as I am of corporate Facebook pages I think if you work in digital and you will be advising clients on the use of Facebook you should really have a Facebook page yourself. However I say that because I think I ought to – if you do not have a corporate Facebook page no worries! As long as no one else sets one up for you instead that is and hijacks your brand name. As Facebook pages move more towards a blend of website and twitter streams though I think it is getting easier to have a corporate Facebook page. You can stream your tweets via it already providing you with regularly updated content (that is if you have followed the above advice about twitter). You can also post your updated blog posts on Facebook (again providing you are writing decent blog posts). You can also use the Facebook page to share interesting articles – except of course you are already doing this via the twitter account – doh!
What is important with a Facebook page is the ensure it is regularly checked and comments responded to (if appropriate). Engagement can be solicited by posting questions – for example The Cat’s Whiskas (aka Whiskas cat food) regularly asks its fan’s what they are up to, what their cat likes, etc – and fans do respond. Today The Cat’s Whiskas posted a new Maru cat box video (and if you have not see Maru do his tricks check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbiedguhyvM) and within three hours it had over 270 likes and 78 comments as well as tons of cat posts on the wall. It comes back to the human element of social media – whoever is posting for The Cat’s Whiskas on Facebook has personality and the posts always feel personal (as opposed to corporate) and by someone who gets cats.
This really is perhaps one of the main rules of social media even when it is from a corporate perspective. Social media is about relationships and people. Any social media elements need to be sufficiently personal in order to be effective. Ideally it needs to be done by someone who is social, has decent social skills and who enjoys social media – and this may not always be the most “appropriate” or senior person in the organisation. Being active on social media from an agency perspective is not only a good way of demonstrating the agency “gets” social media it is also a good way of making the agency more personal and highlighting the agency culture and thinking. When it comes to choosing which agency to work with clients essentially buy people as well as skills – it is all about the personality and the ability to communicate effectively.