Social Media Retainer? ten things to consider

There are a lot of people who ask me the question- why have a social media retainer?

It is an important question with deep roots. To consider the reasons behind having a social media retainer and working with a professional like myself or bringing on a full social media firm like Salience Data, decision makers need to understand the value points of what a good business partner brings to the table. They also need to think about the overall models of business and how these interact with the goals they are trying to accomplish.

You may need a social media retainer to show your team how to internally support your projects and build tactical processes. In such a case you should consider how your culture needs to be transformed, where internal business segments need to be overhauled, and how to maximize existing employee resources.

What is your time worth?

Anyone who says social media is free is talking about tools and buttons.
The knowledge and wisdom to know when to push a button costs money.

Like a good brain surgeon, you need to know where to make a cut and you only have ten seconds to make a decision.

Social Media Retainer – 1st steps

Paying a retainer to a professional or firm should require the establishment of expertise. The term “social media expert” has been beaten to death by countless freelancers and agencies trying to fake understanding, a real social media expert should have a breadth of knowledge.

  • They should understand business models: social media is an all encompassing trend that reaches multiple points in your business. A social media expert should understand how new ideas can be applied in multiple parts of your business.
  • They should know process efficiencies: when dealing across business units, multiple processes are affected. Each process interacts with multiple points in the business, creating different levels of opportunity and risk associated with the change.
  • They should have both strategic and technical understanding: there are a tremendous number of strategic minds that lack tactical understanding (and vice versa.) An expert partner should have a balance of both sides to reate functional strategies that have attainable goals. All while having management and implementation within scope, budget, timeframe and expectation.
  • They should have a professional network: due to the multiple business models and technical issues affecting social media, being restricted to specific silos such as mobile, or limited to platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, creates an inability to maximize results across the business. A healthy professional network that IS NOT on payroll allows them to work with talented performers in different niches.
  • They should understand education and training: the technology and trends surrounding social media is moving at light speed. Most professionals have no idea how much social media changes every thirty days. There are complex and massive thoughts that need to be communicated to different levels of people interacting with those changes.

Social Media Retainer vs Project

There are some fundamental differences between a social media retainer and a project.

A properly defined social media retainer should maximize on multiple areas of opportunity, while a project based solution should focus on specific goals.

  • If a business can identify exactly how it plans to achieve a goal, it should probably be project based.
  • If a business has undefined elements or doesn’t know the business ramifications of a project, it should probably be formed as a retainer.

Once that difference is understood, here are five points to consider

  • Think about the education value. Unless you are implementing a training project, a social media retainer offers the opportunity to update multiple silos within your business. A basic strategic review and educational session should be reviewed for all department heads when dealing with a retainer.
  • Think about the market opportunities. Projects are tactical in implementation. If you have not addressed the secondary opportunities of a project, unknown benefits and budget efficiencies can be lost to project goals. Projects formed under retainer structures should always be asking “what about the things we don’t know about?”
  • Think about where the cheese is. Agencies suffer from payroll. Some agencies need to focus on efficiencies of tactical project work to cover specific costs.  In order to keep an agency afloat, someone has to pay for Monkey A, B,C to survive when they are not working. This causes firms to be impartial towards using internal employees on payroll when a better solution is externally available. You have to keep in mind that most ‘cutting edge‘ tools and technologies in social media have never been used in your industry. This makes it hard to justify a full-time staff member who only knows how to use Widget XYZ.
  • Think about the mishap value. Projects are incredibly isolated. When engaging in updating one segment of your business with social media (such as marketing) – you run the risk of turbo-charging your business without understanding that your team lacks the ability to support it. A good analogy would be installing a 500 horse power V8 on a golf cart. It can be done, but you will probably end up killing someone.
  • Think about budget. Social media projects rarely have an ending. The simple fact of touching multiple business silos creates a situation where sets of numbers never match up for everyone on a specific day. In many instances metrics and business factors take weeks or months to collect and analyze, creating loss of knowledge and education if ‘hard stops’ are forced by project time lines.

Bonus points to consider:

  • “I don’t do that… but I know someone who does.” A valid social media retainer with a professional that has established social media expertise… should be open and willing to admit what they don’t know. The ability to admit to what they cannot do is a sign of trust, honesty, and business necessity. If an ‘expert’ does not admit to lack of capabilities, a decision maker cannot formulate business processes that take pitfalls into consideration.
  • How will success be measured? Whether it is web analytics using free tools like Google or customer service engagement metrics using brand surveys, a good venture should have social media benchmarks and improvement goals established. The most vital part of going on a business venture is knowing where you are and where you want to go.

So is a social media retainer a way to go?

* disclaimer *

I don’t know, my team and I do both social media retainer and project based work!