My business model for a social media agency

We report today on the launch of yet another social media agency – The Social PR Consultancy.

And while it’s easy to make the argument that the last thing the media and marketing industry needs is another social media guru, I’m beginning to think that the emerging model is the right one.  

I used to think that the place where social media most naturally sat in the agency ecosystem was with creative agencies.

In recent months, I’ve changed my mind.

Here, for what it’s worth, is the model for the social media agency I’d launch.

For starters, its heartland would be PR. Most likely all of the key team members would come from a public relations background.

Mainly this is because of the second word of “public relations”. Social media is about relationships.

But also because of the rapid speed with which a social media misstep can become a PR disaster if you don’t have a media radar.

Next, the services. A key component of the offering would be training for clients. The goal of this organisation is to train most organisations to maintain and monitor their own social media in-house. Routine stuff belongs clientside.

Part of the service, I’m sure, would be helping people set up internal procedures and structures, and also to help them make that first leap (and for many it is still the first leap) into the likes of Facebook pages and Twitter conversations.

The role of the agency would be to help with specific campaigns and initiatives, while the client gets on with the ongoing consumer relationships.

However, this PR/ social media hybrid also needs a couple of key allegiances.

One is a means of rapidly producing and editing decent video content. We’re only just at the beginning of what’s going to be a big area for brands. For my imaginary agency start-up, that means at the very least, a link with a production house that can create a YouTube friendly video overnight if necessary. And possibly an in-house producer.

And next comes a link to a good SEO agency or person. With the rapid changes Google makes to its algorithms, dabbling is a dangerous option. So my theoretical new agency needs to either have at least one full time specialist or an excellent partner in the market.

What will have to be in-house though is a content creator who can build quality, link-friendly material for the client.

Another essential, by the way, is that at start-up stage, every member of staff needs to deliver billable hours. On the whole, social media is not yet a sector which delivers big margins. So everyone, from the imaginary CEO down, will need to work on the accounts.

I reckon the questions a client needs a social media agency to answer for them are:

  • Tell me about your PR experience and PR risk management strategies?
  • What are you going to teach us?
  • What will our social media footprint look like a year after we hire you?
  • What are your SEO – for natural and paid search – capabilities?
  • And of course, it makes sense to look at the agency staff’s own social media footprints. Are they in it or are they just talking about it?

I suspect I’m missing a few key question – and a staff role or two. What do you reckon?

Tim Burrowes



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