We all know how tenuous the client/agency dynamic can be.
Politics sometimes matters more than results, and promised outcomes can be hard to guarantee in the ever-shifting world of 2014 social media. However, you can show your worth and ensure a healthy relationship with your client contact through smart, sometimes brutally honest communication.
Explain the good, the bad, and the ugly realities of today’s social media, and never promise what simply cannot be realistically expected. You will gain your client’s trust and respect and, hopefully, a long and profitable business arrangement.
There are three tenets of managing a healthy social media agency/client dynamic, which will help set mutually acceptable expectations:
Turn updates into education
Change in social media is continual. Networks, platforms, user behavior, and algorithms are always in flux. Those changes mean that you must keep your client informed by shifting the standard client update into an explanation of what it is they see.
As Facebook's organic reach drops to 6 percent—and threatens to go even lower—client education is a crucial, ongoing part of an agency's job. Specify what realistically can be achieved on today's social networks.
By continually treating updates as educational opportunities for clients—whether it is the latest trend, a modified algorithm, or the newest platform—clients will be more amenable to the direction you want to take them.
Use reporting to keep surprises to a minimum
Regular and detailed reporting is the only way a social agency working remotely for a client can allay any concerns and minimize surprises. Specifics should be summarized in a cover sheet that can be shared.
Thorough reporting¬—even if clients don’t fully digest it—helps build a case for your services, and it can assist with documenting the work your agency does daily.
Social media reporting is too often distilled to numbers alone, even though it is community-driven. Offer human stories to convey the work you do to build and maintain relationships with your client’s audience.
Employ a social media expert to manage relationships
Encourage a candid relationship between agency and client. Pair an agency contact person possessing strong interpersonal skills with a knowledgeable, experienced agency team member for a highly effective relationship.
Often informal, impromptu calls and chats between these two key people will reveal more than formalized meetings do. Insight and foresight are born from frank dialogue and must be grounded in real-life experience in this emerging channel. Once you have true integration, the agency can produce work that reflects client needs and wants.
[WORKSHOP: Brand Journalism for Corporate Communicators Workshop. Dates in 4 cities: Chicago, Washington, D.C., Toronto and Denver.]
Managing expectations is a balancing act that endures throughout an agency’s tenure with a client. Remember the adage: Always under-promise and over-deliver.
Andy White is director of social business strategy at Sprout Social, a social media management and engagement platform. Follow him on Twitter @white.