Should agencies be promoting clients via their social media accounts?

Tue, Oct 30, 2012

HAPPO, Online marketing strategy, PR

There was a time a while back (probably a year or two ago) when everyone was talking about the language agencies and consultants can and should use to disclaim relationships with clients on social media platforms.

A lot of different phrases and language were bandied about. I tend to think a simple “(client)” inclusion is just fine. But, at the end of the day this is a pretty simple equation: If you work for an agency or you’re a consultant, you disclaim the relationship EVERY TIME when using social accounts. No questions. No excuses. Every time. Period.

But some agencies/consultants still aren’t heeding those guidelines–see this example of a media win one high-profile agency was promoting via its Twitter account recently (I blurred out the agency name/avatar to protect the “innocent”):

 

Now that we got that out of the way (no one’s arguing, right?), I also want to talk about the real question here–whether agencies and consultants SHOULD promote their clients on social media platforms.

I’m not sure the answer is as cut-and-dry as you might think.

I asked the question on Twitter yesterday and received a number of interesting responses including:

Good point, Kasey. And I agree. If sharing as a “point of pride” I see no problem with agencies sharing client results/work (in moderation).

Yes, Lauren, always disclose. And yes, it should be relevant (in other words, I don’t care about your client who manufacturers porcelian Santas in the Phillippines).

I’ve seen Rachel share client wins/projects before, and it always seems like a point of pride with her (and largely, in a “here’s what happened today” kind of way). And, a key note at the end of her tweet–it should never be included in metrics.

Now we start to get into the meat. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Why would you share client campaigns with your audience? It’s likely not the target audience.

And here’s the icing on the cake. Does this happen? I think so. Should it happen. Probably not. Our work, as consultants, should stand on its own. It shouldn’t be predicated on our personal networks, our Twitter followers or the number of Facebook fans we have.

Personally, for me, the answer to this question is a bit cloudy. As a rule, I typically don’t promote my clients on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my blog. It just feels weird. I’ll do it once in a while–if the offer, program or milestone achieved is significant. But, for the most part, I try to stay out of it. I feel like clients pay me for my advice and ideas–not my Twitter following.

But, based on the responses I got on Twitter, I may be in the minority here. What do you think. SHOULD agencies/consultants promote their clients via their agency and personal social networks?

I’m curious to here what you have to say…

 

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11 comments
Jon Vick
Jon Vick

This is a great topic. I think that if done well, there's not only nothing wrong with it, but it can be very effective. The only thing I have to back up that opinion is this example. I follow the JAM Media Collective on Twitter (@JAMcollective). I began following them when a couple companies they work with sponsored an event series I was promoting. They have a pretty specific type of client, and as a result, their Twitter feed is almost as good as my Amazon recommendations engine in terms of "if you like this company that we represent, you'll probably also like this other company that we represent." It certainly works for them where it would fail for many PR firms because their clients all fall within a certain niche. I'd encourage you to take a look at their feed as an example of a PR firm that is promoting clients via their social media streams very well and very effectively.

jeffshelman
jeffshelman

I guess to me I need to know why agencies are doing this? Are they doing it to serve the client and help tell the story the client wants out there? Or are they doing it to help themselves and as a brag/case study?

 

To me those are two pretty different things. There are times when both are totally acceptable. And times when both are spammy or tacky.

 

Just my two cents on the topic.

HeatherWhaling
HeatherWhaling

I love that you blogged about this, Arik. As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, as a general rule of thumb, I try to limit client-related tweets to things that I think are interesting/relevant. For example, I have a B2B client in the manufacturing industry. I hardly ever post about them. But, if it's a more consumer-facing product/service client that I think people would be interested in, I don't see harm in sharing.

 

That said, getting to topic of network, I think it's a very fine line. I think brands make a mistake if they *just* hire someone because that person has a large network. Brands should hire a PR person for their ability to develop and execute a strategy that aligns with business objectives. Though, in some cases, having a network to tap into can make implementation easier, but that shouldn't be the deciding factor.

 

So, here's a question that I think builds on top of this: As @JayBaer mentioned, brands are tapping into their consultants' networks. In fact, I know a few PR agencies (not mine) who tout "networking" as one of the services they offer -- meaning they can facilitate high-level introductions in a key market segment. Certainly, there's a lot of potential value for a company if their PR person can open new doors to big opportunities. Even at Geben, we've been able to make introductions for clients that have turned into major business deals for them. That's part of the value we're able to deliver. We don't "sell" on that, but I also don't think it should be discounted or ignored. That begs another question: How do you bill for that? Are you billing hourly or based on the value you're delivering? If you bill hourly, the 15 minutes it took to facilitate that intro diminishes the value. It's worth more than whatever you're billing for that quarter-hour of time. But, if you're not billing based on the *value* you offer, are you not being fairly compensated for the services you're providing? Or, do those introductions just become a value-add and something you do to be a good partner to the client? I've had interesting conversations with people running agencies who bill hourly as well as some who bill based on value ... I'd love to hear pros and cons from people on both (or other options!) ...

TomMartin
TomMartin

Tend to agree with @JayBaer -- no one policy can cover this. I also think it depends on who your clients are... if they are brands that you'd gladly do business with even if they were not your client, and you'd likely follow on social accounts and share their content anyhow, then there really is no reason not to do it just because they are a client. I have less concern about disclosure. If you're a spammy person, you're a spammy person and you're likely sharing a lot of stuff just because someone is "paying" you to do so. That will show in your social stream and the stream will self organize, meaning those of us that don't want to follow you just to get a stream of client/payed me posts, will opt out. Thus, the self organizing principal holds (as I think Jay mentioned) that in the end, the spammy person won't have a community to spam so it becomes a non issue.

  @TomMartin

 

JayBaer
JayBaer

 @prtini point is realistic. Some companies are paying for access + expertise. But the reality is that there should never be a blanket policy on this.

 

I universally try to use the "Mom" rule for promoting clients, sponsors, and even my own stuff. If my Mom wouldn't care, I don't talk about it.

 

I do believe we should be using #client on posts, or use cmp.ly technology (#investor). But I think the bigger issue is that you only have so many bullets in your promotional gun. People follow you because they trust you, and if you start promoting stuff of dubious value solely because it's about a client, you fray that trust at your own peril. 

JodiEchakowitz
JodiEchakowitz

This is an interesting topic, but I don't think there's a cut and dry answer as to whether or not PR agencies/consultants should share client info via social networks. For example, I have a lot of followers on Twitter who are trade and business media that write about mobile, wireless, and technology - three key areas that my agency is focused on. They know that in my stream I share a mix of personal information, articles related to those core areas of focus as well as interesting client news on those topic areas. Unless I'm RT'ing something using Twitter.com (which no longer let's me do a quote tweet that I can edit or add to), anything that is client specific is always marked as such with #client at the end. That way, there's never any doubt as to my intentions. 

lulugrimm
lulugrimm

This is such a great topic, Arik! Thanks for writing about it. I think, like most things in our industry, this is being redefined and is extremely trick. Disclosure is kind of a no brainer. Where you live day-to-day should be represented in public persona and it should be represented well and transparently in any public communication. Having that  piece cleared up, I think that client promotion is largely dependent upon the person promoting it. In my case, I promote client work that I'm proud of due to either for my involvement in the work or the admiration and respect for someone else's work. It's always in alignment with anything else I would share and something I believe people who follow my updates may care about or have comments on. @PRTini also makes a great point. In this day and age a strong following can equate to a killer rolodex and strong relationships or PR's past, which is something brands/clients have always been interested in. With the changing landscape of information discovery, including the journalists who've joined the modern information highway, a publicists following can generate the buzz necessary to make a multi-channel media impact. Love this topic. Thanks for writing about it!

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @jeffshelman I think it depends on if they're trying to recognize teammates (acceptable in my view) or if they're trying to jumpstart a client campaign (not acceptable, in most instances).

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @HeatherWhaling  @JayBaer Value billing! Much like you, I'd like to hear from people who have been running agencies longer than I have (not that I'm running an agency). That's a very interesting discussion. I've done the same with my clients. I've connected them with speaking opportunities, for example. Not a huge value add, but a value add nonetheless and something that came as a result of relationships I had. I guess I see that as part of the benefit of working with me. It's part of my competitive advantage, in a way. I'm not sure I'd bill more for that...

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

 @JayBaer  @prtini Right, yet we see people continue to do it day after day. And people are still following them (it seems). But, I agree with you. If your agency account isn't funny/useful/interesting, no one will follow eventually. And, like @TomMartin  said, you won't have a community to spam...

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