6 Things You Need To Know About Running A Social Media Program: The Client

111-social networksPart 1 of 6

Over the years I’ve run a lot of social media programs, sometimes for companies or services that I own or manage, sometimes for organizations that have hired me to consult or drive their efforts in the various online communities.  This article is primarily aimed at those that do the latter, although several points can apply to the former.  That is to say, if you are a consultant or work at an agency whose primary focus is running social programs for somebody else, I’m writing this for you.

I’ve created this list of “things you must know” mostly based upon very positive experiences I’ve had, but also from negative ones…things that I’ve either experienced myself or seen others do.  This isn’t a tactical post, I think I write plenty of those.  Instead, this is my advice to those that are going to lend their expertise to others, and hopefully by checking these off you will avoid some common mistakes that often result in unmet expectations, from one side or the other…or both.

You may notice, if you’ve peeked ahead, that there is only one item in this post.  Why did I title it “6 Things You Need to Know”?  There are six in total, so be patient. However, as I wrote this post it because evident to me very quickly that I couldn’t possibly make a quick bullet point list without some thorough explanation…information without context is often misunderstood.  Therefore, I’m going to break this up into six different posts, each with a slightly different focus.  Hopefully all six can be read individually, but really they are meant to come together to form a more complete picture.  As always, if you have question I would be happy to try to answer them.  Leaving a comment here is a great way, but I’m also overly-active on Twitter, so please hit me up there as well.  Without further adieu I give you point one of six in things that you need to know about running a social media program.

Point 1: Know Your Client

You’ve made contact.  Maybe you’ve done the selling, maybe somebody else has…no matter.  We’re jumping past that and right into the assumption that the scope of the work lies ahead of you. It’s easy to get so eager for the sale that once it happens you don’t take the time to get to know your client personally.  I’m not talking about finding out their kids’ names, although if you get to that level of a relationship it’s nice.  I’m talking about understanding the type of personality you are working with, and how they operate professionally.  Running a campaign for a very laid back, hands-off person is far different than running one for somebody that expects reports and heavy communication.  Make no mistake….the point person on the other side is essentially paying your salary.  It’s just as important to understand them as it is your direct boss.  If you don’t have a boss because you are a consultant, don’t let this point get lost, because it’s even more important for you.  If you cannot operate well with your point person, you do not have much to fall back on…your boss isn’t going to rescue you.

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Knowing How Your Client Communicates Is Critical

The first thing I like to do with a new client is establish how they prefer to communicate.  Some will want to do almost everything over email, some will want a lot of phone time, and some with need that always-critical face time.  By establishing their best method of communication up front you’re going to save yourself a lot of trouble.  For example, if somebody really does prefer updates and chatter through email, calling them regularly is going to annoy the hell out of them.  Likewise, if they prefer phone or in-person updates, trying to force them down the path of email only will instantly make them feel like they are not important to you.  Being the social media guy that I am, I prefer to do quick touch points via Twitter and the like…but I know that most of my clients do not.  I like to suggest new and effective ways of communicating, but I always communicate with them on their terms, in their preferred method. An important part of understand how you will be communicating is to know when they want reports, check ins, etc.  I have a couple of clients that I speak to every day, and some that I only check in with once per week.  In all cases, we make this determination together at the beginning of the project. Both over-communication and under-communication can kill a relationship quickly.

Understanding Client Expectations Prevents A Lot Of Problems Before They Start

Understanding Client Expectations Prevents A Lot Of Problems Before They Start

Once you know how they communicate, it’s important to understand what they want communicated.  If you’re dealing with a traditional company that is used to traditional metrics, they’re going to jump straight to easy-to-measure things like follower count, tweets, video views,click through rates, etc.  Companies that are more comfortable with social media may look for key indicators that are more subjective, like sentiment.  All of these are important to measure and report, but make sure you know where you client wants to put their emphasis. I strongly recommend developing a reporting template that can be used and re-used with each client, making only slight changes for each.

It sounds exhausting before the work is even started, right? I assure you, time and time again setting this foundation with the client and being open and clear about expectations on both sides will make for a much smoother program…and that ultimately leads to more work, more revenue and fewer headaches.

In the next post I will talk about what it means to know the product.


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Photos used under Creative Commons License.  Social media from anonymonk and telephone booth from wallyg with cartoon from Scott Hampson
By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to