Head to Head: Should community management be executed by an agency?

In this series, Mumbrella invites senior PR professionals to share their opposing views on the industry's biggest issues. This week, Red Havas' Amaury Treguer and Andrew Siwka, managing partner at The Royals, go head to head on whether community management should be outsourced to an agency.

Community management is a tricky game for brands to play. Brands that are quick to react to customers, reply with sass, refer to current affairs and interact with other brands can be rewarded with widespread praise across digital and social media.

But, deliver automated responses or show it is out of touch with its consumer base and brands can face swift condemnation.

What is the most effective way for brands to manage their social channels? Should it be done in-house, or outsourced to an agency?

Red Havas’ Amaury Treguer says that agencies can move quickly, integrate community management into the wider social media strategy and act as ‘unbiased guardians’ of brand reputations.

However, The Royals’ Andrew Siwka believes taking out the middle man brings brands closer to their customer base – something all brands should be focused on right now.

Should community management be executed by an agency?

Amaury Treguer, executive director of social at Red Havas, argues ‘Yes’:

“Community management and overall social customer care are playing a crucial part in enabling brands to uphold their online reputation. Over the past few years, we have seen multiple example of brands ‘winning the internet’ by actively jumping on a topical news story or by the way they’ve handled a customer complaint.

“Just as the aim is to respect a digital community, the utmost respect needs to be given to the role of community managers in making that happen and making your comms tick.

“When you entrust your agency with community management, what you pay for is not only the services of an experienced social media manager, but a team of savvy strategists, creatives, content creators and paid media experts behind them.

“A team with years of experience in brand communications, crisis management, that shares experience and knowledge between clients, talks ‘social and comms’ every day and has direct access to a plethora of crucial social platforms and tools; is across the latest updates and algorithms and most importantly is able to strategically and creatively respond to anything that comes its way. Agency-side community managers are the ‘tuned-in’ professionals you want and need to make a real-time difference.

“Moreover, when you are outsourcing to your agency, you are effectively relying on an unbiased guardian of your brand reputation – not derailed by an emotional attachment or potential bureaucracy that could prevent the content or response to be as authentic and relatable, and timely, as it should be.

“When the community management is internalised, chances are there is always something more urgent that comes up and therefore the community can sometimes be pushed to the side while dealing with the other matter – and this goes against core principles of what community management is all about.”

Andrew Siwka, managing partner at The Royals, argues ‘No’:

“Community management should not be done by an agency.

“There is no doubt that agencies can do it and do it very well, however by outsourcing this important conversation channel, clients are distancing themselves from the one thing they need to be getting closer to – their customers.

“It is vitally important that clients retain these opportunities to keep a close customer connection.

“It enables them to learn more about their customers on a daily basis, it enables them to respond more quickly to any potential customer service issues (taking out the middleman), and ultimately it enables them to improve their ability to satisfy their customers’ needs (something I would argue is their ultimate reason for being).

“The client’s agency can certainly help develop strategic frameworks of response to assist in answering more standard frequently asked questions or comment types, but no one is closer to the detailed product understanding, no one is better placed to understand the nuances of the business, and no one is better placed to leverage customer feedback than the client themselves.

“Have your agency super-charge other aspects of your social mix – social channel strategy, messaging strategy, creative ideation and asset creation – but keep community management close to home.

“I appreciate there are circumstances where this may not be possible – after-hours servicing, limited resources and a lack of social management experience – all of which may lead clients to outsource. However, I suggest that these just be used as bridging strategies to a predominantly in-house community management model sometime soon.”

  • As told to Zoe Wilkinson. If you’re a senior PR professional who would like to take part in a future Head to Head, please email zoew@mumbrella.com.au

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