Social Media Agency Simply Zesty Creates Content in Balance

Irish social media agency Simply Zesty has made quite a name for themselves creating content and growing their social media footprint. They do this with a small staff, while serving blue chip clients like Sony and Volkswagen. When founder Lauren Fisher reached out to me to let me know they were acquired by UTV Media, I jumped at the chance to ask her about their content strategy.

Agencies are often in their own category from a social media perspective, but since their customers are other businesses, they can be thought of as B2B companies. And the lessons Lauren shared with me below can apply to any B2B company.

Lauren Fisher, Founder, Simply Zesty; John McCann, Group CEO, UTV Media plc; Niall Harbison, Founder, Simply Zesty; Nigel Robbins, Commercial Director – Ireland, UTV Media and Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO, Simply Zesty.

Let’s start at the top. Agencies frequently struggle creating social media content because their staff needs to focus on billable work. How do you manage to strike that balance?
For us, it’s been a learning curve of getting the right mix between brainstorming for the right video, design, app etc., the actual production time and then the eventual distribution. It’s very easy to get sidetracked with focusing on the content without figuring out how much time you need to properly plan and get the best idea. As a business, we’ve worked hard on ensuring we have the right mix of time spent on all 3 areas, and of course that the billing accurately reflects this!

Can you provide some insight into your content strategy? Are there certain topics you focus on, and others you steer away from?
In terms of the blog, we have decided to keep a focus on news, analysis and also easy to follow guides/tips. We’ve found that there is a ready audience there for each of those areas, provided we put the work in to do it well! We’ve also been genuinely honest about what we would find useful or interesting. Unless we have an exclusive, we would rarely cover a breaking news story with a simple summing up, but we would provide additional insights for brands to put something into practice, or how it might change things for them. And we have learned that if you put the time in to an article, it will generally pay off.

Even though you work with a number of large consumer brands, you are a B2B company because you are selling your services to other businesses. How do you bring that consumer sensibility to your social media properties?
We have tried to keep the company social media properties as personable as possible. No one really has an interest in joining our Facebook Page if we’re just going to post links to our blog. RSS is fine for that! We think about how we run our personal social media accounts and try to replicate this where we can, with informal questions, pictures etc. I think that is where we stand out, but again it has been a learning curve. There were times, particularly when we struggling with a smaller team and being maxed out on client work, when we let our own social media activities slip. But this was wrong. After all, we have actually gained new clients purely through our own social media profiles. One time we even gained a new client as one of our videos was shown as a similar video in the sidebar of YouTube and they got in touch!

How closely do you track conversions, in the form of new business, from your social media efforts?
Honestly, probably not as much as we should. Firstly because it is quite time consuming to do it well, but also because it is of a much more organic nature, and not always easy to track. We tend to be quite anecdotal about it. If a client mentions that they found us through a particular blog post, video etc. we would try and implement more of those. But unfortunately it’s not an exact science. Sometimes you just get lucky and it can be hard to replicate the success.

Any final tips for companies looking to grow their social media presence to drive new business?
Definitely take the time to do it properly. It’s very easy to let it slip when you have client work coming out of your ears! But you will probably find that the work you get through social media channels will have a longer lead time, so it’s important to keep it up even during busy periods in your agency, as you could see the benefit even months down the line.

Also try and focus on where the decision makers are, and what they might be looking for that you can help out with. It might well be the case that networking in groups on LinkedIn won’t drive that many business leads (it hasn’t really for us), but that by tweeting interesting campaign links etc. you provide people with a useful resource and these may well be the decision makers in an organisation.

Internal And External Collaboration In B2B Social Media

As more B2B companies devote more of their budgets to social media marketing, many social media thought leaders are debating the value of outsourcing time spent on tools such as Facebook, Twitter, blog content development and community management. Social media’s inherently personal take on customer service, media relations and brand development has caused some B2B marketers to wonder if marketing agencies can tap into companies’ cultures and present them online as authentically as internal communicators.

Like public relations and advertising services, however, the time and attention outside agencies can devote to planning and executing a B2B company’s social media strategy can often increase its reach. Perhaps the best way to approach B2B social media is a marriage of internal and external minds that maximizes a social media campaign’s success. When each side’s strengths are combined, the worth of social media exceeds individual status updates, Twitter mentions and blog posts.

Here are six things both sides should bring to the table to make sure social media supports overall B2B communication and sales goals:

Agency strengths

1. Experience

Any agency worth its salt will be able to provide case studies of successful social media campaigns it has accomplished for other clients. The social media space is a relatively new one, so having a team of experienced, hands-on professionals can be much more valuable than in-house employees who may have just heard about the business uses of Facebook and Twitter at an industry conference.

Agencies that offer social media services are constantly staying on top of new tools, practices, monitoring services and research, and that expertise can make a B2B company’s journey into social media marketing more successful in less time. By drawing off of other social media campaigns’ failures and successes, agencies can better navigate and streamline social media strategies and standards.

2. 24/7 Monitoring

The time requirements of B2B social media can seem daunting for internal communicators with to-do lists that seemingly grow by the hour. An agency has an arsenal of tools in place that allow its employees to monitor the 24/7 online world more effectively in less time. This takes the “I’ll never catch it all” anxiety out of social media, and allows internal communicators to focus on the most valuable online interactions that could lead to sales and long-term relationships.

3. Reporting

To justify their services, agencies must prove their value with regular, detailed reports and measurements. This type of reporting – often overlooked or put on the back burner by internal marketers – is key, and gives much-needed metrics for internal management teams. Beyond graphs and numbers, these reports’ analytical approaches can provide recommendations and foundations for future goals, strategies and budgets.

Internal strengths

1. Passion

Working internally for a B2B company requires a deeper connection with a company, its goals and its employees, something that is hard to develop externally in a short amount of time. An internal communicator can bring an authentic passion and tone that speaks to target audiences, boosts online sincerity and develops lasting digital relationships, while an agency can help channel and direct that know-how in the best, most-efficient ways.

2. Multi-departmental integration

Social media shouldn’t exist in a silo. An agency will help B2B companies develop their digital strategies, but internal teams will have the knowledge necessary to also integrate those plans with their sales, marketing and customer service teams’ initiatives. By bringing these relationships to the table, internal teams can maximize their agency’s knowledge and experience to pull together a social media strategy that accounts for and supports their overall B2B business goals.

3. Access to company thought leaders

No matter the industry, valuable content designed for specific target audiences is the most important part of a social media strategy. And as much as an agency can dive into a company’s product roster, brand position and communication practices, the experts with the most industry pull, respect and expertise reside inside a company. Internal communicators work with them every day, and have the relationships that can make specific social media tactics such as expert blog posts, video interviews with B2B CEOs and blogger interviews valuable to key stakeholders.

Do you think a balanced approach utilizing the strengths of both an agency and a B2B company’s internal team can lead to social media success?