Any company can benefit from the networking, knowledge sharing, relationship building and customer service opportunities that exist through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Fashion is especially poised to succeed through social media because of the way that so many of us are compelled to build rapport with one another around our favorite garments, stores and recent steals.
Social media provides opportunities for brands and customers to get to know one another, building loyalty while at the same time driving sales and WOM. However, from an agency perspective, certain companies are more likely to experience success through social media, and it's not necessarily even about their product - it's more to do with how the company is shaped internally - how well social media pursuits sit with their internal agenda and values.
Below is a list designed to help fashion PR and social media marketing agencies evaluate if a client is a good fit. If the prospective client doesn't meet most of these requirements, you may want to move on. Certainly part of the process is educating clients about the pace, but hopefully these questions help guide initial discovery to help ascertain if and how social media can be integrated for success. For businesses looking to begin or expand their social media efforts, these prompts can also act as a checklist.
Are the client business goals are a good fit for social media?
Ideally, overall business and marketing goals should include things like growing brand awareness, increasing brand loyalty, community development etc. These goals lend themselves well to softer metrics and evaluative measures that are valuable to track for a social media program. While direct sales has been a proven component of social media (and something that can be tracked easily with unique coupon codes and trackable links) it should not be the primary driver of participation.
Is your sense that the client feels obligated to do social media or are they genuinely excited about it?
Some clients feel like they need to be active through social media just because everyone else is doing it. Often this means they are expecting to hire an agency and be done with it. This is not setting anyone up for success because a social media program needs to be a collaborative effort between the agency and the client.
Is your sense that the client is looking at social media as a quick fix or a one-time gig to promote a specific campaign or are they in this for the long-term?
A client that recognizes a social media strategy as an integrated piece of an overall marketing or PR plan is more likely to see long-term success than a client that just wants to have a video "go viral," and never engage again. Too often fashion brands begin a social media program but lose steam a few weeks afterward. Clients need to understand that social media is a long-term strategy and in terms of brand communication, its here to stay.
Do they have a great story to tell and are they willing to tell it?
Some clients are tighter than Spanx when it comes to letting a little light into their operations. Clients who would rather let their marketing slogans speak for them are going to find it difficult to see the value and be successful when it comes to social media. Clients that are willing to share insight, have a personality and be accessible and have that human touch will have much better luck.
How well does the client know their brand and target customer?It's surprising how many clients never stop to do any research to learn about their customers. Certainly social media provides insight into customers but understanding a few basics - What makes them tick? What other brands are they likely to purchase? How often do they shop online? What kind of a role does social media play in their lives? is crucial when developing social media messaging, campaign parameters and tone.
Has the client grown primarily through WOM and editorial or through large ad budgets?
A client that understands organic growth and the value of public relations is more likely to understand the ramp up time and softer approach that drives successful social media programs.
Do they have an internal culture that puts the customer at the center of all efforts and supports change?
Customer-driven organizations are often better at letting social media fans participate in the community development or co-create along with the brand. But sometimes launching a social media presence requires a fundamental shift in how the company operates. At minimum, it requires participation and a willingness to elevate and quickly resolve customer service related issues that will inevitably come about through this presence. Is this client willing to let go of the old way and embrace change?
Do they have the internal bandwith to provide support customer service through social media channels.
Have they identified someone who can do this and do you feel comfortable that this person will represent the brand well online? If they expect customer service to come though PR support, is there a clear process in place to support escalating and resolving issues as they arise?
Does the client willing to develop multi-media content to support their online presence?
Behind-the-scenes photos, quick video clips with the models before a runway show, a sneak peak of the new collection? Social media is all about content, and the more quality content produced and shared the better. Have a conversation about what kind of new content can be expected as well as the additional budget that may be required for production.
Does the client have a quick approval process/turn-around time for approvals and content development?
Social media is an all-day everyday operation. Clients that require twenty signatures on a piece of content are not set up to flourish when it comes to social media. Key players need to be empowered to engage through social media - and cannot expect to approve every single tweet.
Is the client willing to take risks and experiment and play?
The ideal social media client is willing to take some risks, loosen the reigns and have fun. The characteristics you love about your social butterfly best friend and the same things that make a brand's social media presence gleam or glare.
Does the client have an existing community? Does the product or brand inspire passion in their customers? The better the product, the more defined the niche, and the more obsessed people are with your client the better. The community doesn't necessarily have to be on social media sites, they could have a large email database or offline contingent, but an existing community you can tap into when launching a social media promotion or presence can be a great way to jumpstart things. If the community isn't there already, set expectations upfront about the amount of time and engagement necessary to grow a social media community. If the product or the voice just isn't there, it might not be a good fit. Encourage the CEO to consider the above questions and re-evaluate in six months.