Managing client expectations throughout an outsourced social media marketing program

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By Alexandra Reid

Demonstrating a marketing program’s success is key to maintaining a happy client. Do good work and prove how it contributed to the client’s goals – seems like a simple enough equation. But managing client expectations throughout a social media marketing program can be tricky. This is because these programs typically require a huge amount of small work spread out over a long period of time and over a large number of channels. It can be tough to maintain the faith at the outset of a program while communities are still being developed. Without a strategy and regular communication, it will be challenging to convince your client to see past the masses of tweets and status updates and understand that all of your wee daily efforts add up and support larger goals that will provide a return on investment.

As an outsourced community manager, it’s imperative that I maintain regular communication with my clients and demonstrate that I am using their dollars wisely. While my clients can see all my activity online, it’s my responsibility to articulate how each of these activities are contributing to their goals and show that the program is on track for success. I really have two management responsibilities – managing my client’s online presence as well as their expectations.

Here are some tips that I employ to maintain good client relations throughout a social media marketing program:

Make sure the strategy is sound and detailed at the outset

As mentioned, you can’t prove return on investment if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it is your client is investing in. Social media provides lots of opportunities for businesses, including the ability to increase influence, provide customer service, foster customer loyalty, boost awareness about a product or service, bridge relationships with industry influencers and form partnerships, garner media attention and attract leads. What does your client want to do, how much are they willing to invest in pursuing these initiatives, what exactly will you do to carry out their requirements, and what can they expect as a result of their investment? The more precisely you can identify your activities and establish a time frame with specific objectives, the better you will be able to manage your client’s expectations.

Your client has every right to know exactly where their dollars are being spent every step of the way; to maintain good faith you need to articulate how those dollars are being invested. Your strategy should therefore mark clear checkpoints that indicate where the program should be at established time periods to assure them that your strategy is on course.

You can make predictions by examining your client’s online marketplace. How successful are their competitors? How engaged is the community that is interested in their space? What are analysts saying about their industry? Is the media particularly interested in that space right now? Does your client have a powerful story that will attract interest? Social media should be regarded as an element of a full marketing program. Whether the marketing team is in house or outsourced, you should be able to collaborate with those people to determine realistic social media marketing targets.

Track your progress and communicate that progress regularly

Carrying out a successful social media marketing program requires frequent communication. In my opinion, social media managers should be regarded as communications liaisons, connecting company representatives with their interest groups online. Communication runs between the account owners and their managers and between managers and their communities. It doesn’t matter whether social media marketing activities are carried out in house or if they are outsourced, communication is imperative to success.

For social media managers, the success that comes from maintaining good communications in both directions is twofold.  First, when communications is smooth between account owners and managers, social media communities thrive because they have the benefit of receiving the most current information and having direct access to company representatives.  Second, the social media success you see as a result of proper management will put you in higher standing with those people who pay for your work.

Have a conversation with your client about how often they want to be updated on your activities and successes. I provide my clients with metrics every week or every month depending on how closely they want to monitor my progress (see social media measurement for more details on what I include in my reports).

When you send them your report, be sure to explain what has been accomplished. Was there a surge in followers and likes as a result of a particular initiative? Did your client receive a record number of mentions? What drove that level of engagement? If something didn’t work, tell your client about that too, but be sure to communicate what you learned as a result. They will be far more understanding if you maintain open and honest communications throughout the extent of the program. Bad things happen and sometimes these things are out of your control. Being able to identify what went wrong gives confidence to your client that you are effectively steering the program’s course.

Encourage the client’s participation

I’ve found that allowing clients to participate in social media activities gives them a better understanding of what’s required to build and maintain social media communities as well as the results that can come from certain activities. Familiarizing your clients with the social media space helps them to understand your job and all that is required to grow a presence online. Understanding the full scope of work as well as the individual activities that go into running a successful social media program helps to ground their expectations and instill a greater appreciation for the work you do.

For example, because LinkedIn only allows individuals, but not companies, to participate in Groups and Answers, I encourage my clients to participate through their personal accounts on behalf of their companies. I’m here to write and edit their responses as necessary and can even post their responses if they provide me with their login credentials, but I try to convince them that they will be better able to establish a thought leadership position by showcasing their own knowledge.

In one case, a client saw more than 100 responses to his Group discussion. He was “chuffed” to see such a positive reaction to his work and the experience helped him understand the benefits of the platform. I also encourage clients to participate in social media by posting Facebook status updates and tweets when they are feeling particularly inspired. Again, I’m here to review, edit, add comments and post if necessary.

How are you managing your client’s expectations for your social media program?

Image: Totally how to


  • Nick Stamoulis

    May 22, 2012 10:53 am

    Communication throughout the process is essential. You can’t outsource social media and expect that you no longer are involved. In order for the campaign to be successful you need to communicate regularly with your social media partner to help fuel the strategy and provide them with industry/business information.

  • Social Media Best Practices for Brands: 6 Keys to Getting Started - LaunchSquad

    April 15, 2015 8:37 am

    [...] to the strategy. If you’re working with a client, consider how to incorporate both of your goals and expectations for checking in on progress and reporting results. Maybe you both envision serious collaboration. [...]

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