In the first of a series of articles for Adworld.ie, Andrew Murray, Director of Social Media & Content, TBWA\Dublin argues that brands are missing a trick by putting positive and proactive community management down the pecking order when it comes to digital/social/content budgets.
Many experts and articles say that we shouldn’t exist. They say that there’s no need to have a separate social & content specialism in the modern day agency. They say that everyone should have the knowledge and be able to perform the functions of a high performing social & content team. Sure isn’t it all just communications?
At TBWA\Dublin – we respectfully disagree.
The photo above is the TBWA\Dublin Social & Content Department. There’s seven of us. We’re a social & content director, manager, specialist and executive. We’re a strategy director. And we’re community managers.
And there’s also two freelancers. One helps us out with some inside-the-box thinking (bottom right), and one has a very detective-like mind that questions things that “just don’t just seem right” (top right).
We’re a fairly motley crew. We’ve backgrounds in computer science, journalism, film, law, town planning… and marketing. And we’re all reluctantly in love with the constant consumption and critique of never-ending feeds of content. Instagram. Twitter. TikTok. YouTube. Facebook. VOD. We don’t discriminate. We live and breathe it. Always-on.
We act as consultants or an extension of the in-house digital, social & content teams at SuperValu, Centra, BMW and laya healthcare. We advise on everything from ‘TiKTok launch strategies’, to ‘how to fill your content library with great UGC’. From ‘channel and communications planning’ to ‘defining new content themes post-Covid rebound’.
The team works alongside our strategy department to feed human-centred insight and thinking into crafting social and content strategy development for Burger King – we’ve just been appointed as their new social and content agency – Creative Ireland, National Transport Authority and Jameson Graduate Programme. You have to recruit the right people. Those that can integrate with other teams and disciplines. Social can’t be a socially distanced siloed island.
We combine with our creative department to develop fully integrated and social-led communications and experiences for Jameson in international markets. We also work alongside art directors and copywriters on tens of campaigns for SuperValu, Centra, laya healthcare, National Dairy Council and MiWadi.
Then there’s the creation of influencer/ambassador strategies, advising on media planning, and we also write and edit longer form articles for many of the above brands.
No one day is like the last, and it will be different to the next.
And it’s that variety – plus the constant need to have fanatical people to stay on top of the latest social media format and platform developments, trends and human behaviors – that makes it essential to create or maintain a dedicated team in the agency of 2020. As the new business opportunities have arrived this year – most are now oriented towards digital, social, content solutions and strategies.
So, shock, horror! TBWA\Dublin still has a social & content team… and we’re busier than ever.
And why are we so busy? One of team’s core offerings, that you may not know about, is community management. At TBWA\Dublin we have dedicated community managers working on SuperValu and Centra’s social media channels from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday. And 9am to 7pm on weekends. During the height of the Covid-19 Crisis, the team was assessing, escalating, engaging with over 12,000 interactions per week. We also provide community management services for Burger King and Creative Ireland.
Our Social Media & Content Manager Dylan Newe is the community management lead on SuperValu & Centra and he says:
“It can be easy to scoff about community management and social media comms. In the grand picture they’re a mere drop in the water compared to the sheer impact of your big brand 30-second TV ad, but I think increasingly we’ve seen a steady appreciation and understanding of what we’re doing and why it’s so essential. When the Covid crisis happened, physical stores closed their doors and ATL communications paused overnight – but we kept working and customers quite literally relied on our interactions to help them navigate the shock and panic of what was happening. During lockdown, social media was also the only outlet for a lot of people in the country and I think we really felt that too. You really saw the ripples of compassion and togetherness along with a sense of how the nation was really feeling. Alongside this, our insights and reports became increasingly more urgent to clients. We were seeing trends and reactions to things that were growing from little acorns, as community management insights, into oak trees of content pillars. There’s great validation in that too because you know it comes from something human and genuine.”
So back to me – Andrew Murray.
The Resurrection of Real Community Management:
A considerable amount of moons ago I started my advertising career in a digital agency. My title was ‘community manager’. The job was to engage the public through organic content creation/sourcing, upload and subsequent conversations on multiple brand’s Facebook and Twitter pages. I also had to keep an eye on various forums and message boards for negative sentiment towards the said brands.
Back then, the agency acted as the digital/social/customer service department of many large domestic and international brands such as Guinness, AIB, Vodafone, Mars, Coca Cola, Failte Ireland, Carlsberg Football, Liberty Insurance, plus more. This was the time before brands began to hire specialists in these areas, and it was before email/phone customer service shops were primed to take over social media responses.
As a community manager, I was tasked with building multiple brand’s social footprint, and a general affinity towards these brands – while attempting to ladder back to a brand platform, and remembering to keep a consistent tone of voice in the absence of any type of digital/social brand guidelines.
This was done through attempting to form one-on-one “relationships” with fans/followers of brand channels, and by inciting/instigating brand conversation. And it was highly effective. It led to a large-scale increase in customer satisfaction, a specialist implementation of online customer service, and it also led to high levels of awareness of various brand activity.
It wasn’t pay-to-play then, so it challenged the team’s creativity on a daily basis. Imagine a time when you couldn’t buy high reach with poor content. That was then.
And it was incredibly fun work. Anything nearly went. The eyes of the upper echelons of many large brands were not on social media, and while there was a ‘fear factor’, there was a lot of agency trust from the brand side as they struggled to come to terms with the potential power of social media.
As the years have passed, good community management has become a bit of a dying art. And it’s rare to find community managers in agencies. The title is now – social media specialist or content manager or social & content specialist. The focus has shifted to the more ‘sexy’ side of social media and digital marketing – content strategy and/or ideation/creation.
And that does make sense. Creating “effective” content is essential to cut-through constantly clogged-up and crowded feeds. Even more so for the younger, tech-savvy and highly engaged ‘Content Connoisseurs’. However, I strongly feel that a good community management approach goes hand-in-hand with this.
The problem is that most conventional community management for larger brands is now implemented by a one-stop-shop customer service agency. In yesteryear, one person, with the title of community manager, would know their brand’s communities inside out, plan content, publish content – all the while leaning on social/data analysts, and other creative and strategy resource in an agency. If a customer service agent (the modern day community manager) in a battery farm-esque operation has 27 tickets to respond to across 5 accounts… can they really be expected to step into a conversation in a meaningful and engaging way?
There are many brands that focus and spend a lot of money creating content. They distribute this content through paid social on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Weibo, WeChat and they reach millions of people… yet you regularly see questions posed on this content, or general brand queries going unanswered. Most frustrating for me is when you see thousands of missed opportunities to step into conversations in clever, witty, helpful, creative or whatever is appropriate for a brand’s personality/values/tone, ways that will drive additional positive engagements.
With a strong brand-led and understood community management strategy, like the strategy we have created for SuperValu and Centra, brands and organisations can gather support of customers and potential customers, and provide support and utility. A solid community management strategy can also facilitate peer-to-peer support, increase awareness of the brand and products, use proactive customer care methods to develop content to negate future negative dialogue, source valuable information about target consumers and gather feedback and test new brand messaging, initiatives and products. Yes, all that!
A recent study placed the value of a positive brand social interaction at over €3 per year. That can add up quickly. And brands such as SuperValu, Centra, Taco Bell, Netflix, Urban Outfitters, Go Pro, Lego, PlayStation understand and acknowledge the value these interactions bring to their organisation.
Brands are missing a trick by putting positive and proactive community management down the pecking order when it comes to digital/social/content budgets. It’s very easy to get caught up in the sexy-side of things… but most content lives for a few days or week at most. Your always-on community management strategy can generate awareness and affinity through a million small but value or entertainment-filled interactions.
It’s time to resurrect real brand-led community management. The brands that are put on a pedestal for one-to-one interactions are there for a reason – the value it brings to the company or organisation.
Next week, in Part Two – I’ll talk about our approach to developing human-centred social & content strategies.
Andrew Murray, Director of Social Media & Content