About a year ago we changed our agency model. From taking up all projects for execution we now mostly take up projects where we strategize and then train an in-house resource or setup an in-house team for the client and then leave. We are then again available as consultants or strategists for the next phase of social media enrichment for the brand.

Recently read an article on similar lines by Aditya Rao. He being an in-house social media guy, annoints the need for agencies to take up a more strategy+trainer role. We have worked on few projects with this model, they have gone pretty well and I would say show much more promise for a long-term sustainable setup for the brand. However from agency side there are some issues that need a quite a bit of figuring out,

Scaling Up

Generally the SM agency has it simple – hire someone and get them to manage brand accounts. The typical SM employee is also looking to do just this, work on lots of brands esp ‘big name’ brands with lots of fans! He wants to talk about managing a major Twitter or Facebook community!

So in the S+T model what work does the employee have to do? The S = strategy part is simple and prolly something he will enjoy, but the T = training?? Most typical employees will not be interested in training folks rather than working on SM accounts!

So how would the SM company build a team with such a service offering?

Short Term Projects

A typical S & T project would not last for more than 3 months. I could talk about how sustaining a company with short term projects is a lot more difficult but instead I will actually quote a detailed research report from Hubspot which throws light on this exactly – which kind of online marketing companies have the better chances of sustaining and winning? Ans: The ones with long term retainer model!

This report really got me thinking!
Brand says Outsource!
Another concern is that a lot of brands, I mean good brands that I want to work for.. want to outsource their social media. Sure they understand why I am recommending S&T but they want to outsource, thats all.
Ensure Success
When the campaign is managed by us, we know what we are doing and we know the demands of the work and have necessary setup to manage it. However when working on integrating social media within a company there are just lot of challenges and some random issues keep cropping up.
For example: Recently a brand had to setup Facebook payment so we could launch ads for its page. Getting a credit card and actually inputting it into Facebook took over 15 days!
These sort of delays are entirely avoided when the agency takes up the project execution.

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Even though, I find S&T a whole lot more challenging (which is a good thing) and its satisfying to see a brand manage its social media sustainably once we have helped them set it up but there are just a lot of questions to figure out for a company. In a way there seems a clash of whats right for the clients and what works for an agency. If the model doesn’t work for the agency then the agency can’t work for too long but for a more mature social media landscape in India its necessary for clients to have in-house team.
Probably a mixed model of working of sorts can be arrived at to keep agencies sustainable and yet provide better alternatives to the client!