How to Write a Social Media Brief

Courtesy of Tom Fishburne

We've all heard by now about the importance of having a digital engagement strategy to complement one's marketing communications plan. In an age where virtually everybody is on either Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, forums, or blogs, it is important for companies to have a useful presence on these social spaces.

To do so, one could consider two possible options.

The first approach is to Do It Yourself (DIY). With practically all the tools available for free, what you simply need to do is to devote time, energy and lots of creative juices to generate oodles of great content while cultivating awesome relationships. After all, aren't membership to all of these wonderful social networks mostly free?

Of course, that probably sounds easier than it really is. Trust me, I've been in this space long enough to understand how difficult it is.

The second and perhaps more practical approach for most organisations is to partner an agency to conceptualise, develop and implement its social media strategy. Hopefully, along the way, your team members can learn from the experts on the dos and don'ts of digital influence, and eventually do it themselves. Of course, you can also work on a long-term retainer if you find an agency/consultant whom you can trust and rely on.

Before you engage any firm, however, it is probably important to explicitly state what you wish the agency to achieve for you. As a general guide, such a brief could contain the following:

1) Background of the Organisation

This covers your vision, mission, values, primary activities, company history and so on. What is your unique value proposition? How do you differentiate yourself from others in the field?

It is also useful to outline what the current brand identity of the organisation is like. Are there any personality attributes to be considered? What about its overall look and feel? These help your agency to develop campaigns that are coherent with your brand.

2) Current Status of Online/Social Media Efforts

Describe your existing online properties (eg websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Youtube channels etc) and the current activities undertaken (types of campaigns, levels of intensity, frequency, and so on). Where possible, be candid about your previous successes and failures. These help your agency to understand the road you have taken thus far and to be more precise moving forward.

3) Target Audiences

If they are PMETs (ie Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians), which subset within this huge group are you pinpointing at? Are you able to paint a brief profile picture of who these folks are? Some demographic/behavioural information may be useful.

4) Objectives/Targets of Social Media Engagement

What is the overall goal of your programme? Here, it pays to be as specific as possible.

A good way to do this is to break it down into specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and targets. For example, number of Likes on Facebook, number of followers on Twitter, recruitment of ____ online influencers/ambassadors, number of positive comments on social networks, number of Shares, or ranking on Klout or Alexa. 

If possible, include both qualitative and quantitative indicators of success, bearing in mind the principle that sometimes less is more.

5) Job Specifications

This is where it can get a little tedious. While one can write a blank cheque and hope for the best, it may be fairer to both parties if the expectations for the job are clearly defined. 

These could include the following:

a) Create and design or refresh social media properties. This can include your web portal, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, LinkedIn profile, Youtube channel and so on.

b) Content Management on Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. This can either be highly specific or be left open so that they are measured principally on outcomes as opposed to outputs.

c) Social Media Engagement activities on social networks. This can include the organising of blogger cultivation activities, one-to-one interviews, blogger functions, contests, and the establishing of brand communities on forums and networks.

d) Development and Maintenance of a Blog/Facebook fan page/LinkedIn profile for your organisation. This includes design, booking of domain names (URL), writing and editorial work, photographs, videos and all other related work.

e) User training and equipping. This is extremely important as your ultimate goal should be to build internal capabilities such that you can eventually handle your own social media activities.

If you're "kiasu", you could craft the above to be as specific as possible (eg two blog posts every week, daily updates on Facebook). However, bear in mind that the more you ringfence the tasks, the lower the flexibility for the social media agency.

6) Profile/Curriculum Vitae of Agency/Consultant

With so many "gurus" out there claiming to be social media experts, one would be hard-pressed to select an appropriate partner without screening these candidates. Here, you may wish to specify the following:

a) Background and resumes of the team handling the project
b) Client list of agency/consultancy
c) Case studies/examples of campaign successes achieved by the consultancy
d) Other information (eg date of establishment, number of staff, paid-up capital of firm, agency website etc)

7) Technical Specifications (consult your IT department)

Don't go into any new web or digital platform without ensuring that your IT Department has got your back covered (unless of course, they're absolutely unhelpful). Consider the following:

a) Types of platforms and languages used (eg open-source, PHP, etc). You can also specify (if you're up to it) what preferred platform your blog should be on, eg Wordpress, for instance
b) Hosting and domain name registration (if necessary)
c) Compatibility and inter-operability issues
d) Maintenance and service expectations (eg reponse times to "downtime", service recovery measures)
e) Security requirements

8) Deliverables and Reports

Unless you plan to track your social media influence on your own, it is useful to plan what your agency can deliver to you in terms of reports and updates. Weave in the following:

a) Submission formats and dates
b) Weekly/monthly/quarterly/? reports to be submitted
c) Format of reports and types of information captured
d) Other forms of updates needed (eg number of "attacks" from Internet trolls, incidences)

9) Duration and Timeframes

Be clear about the extent of your engagement as it extends to the following:

a) Start and end dates of engagement
b) Operating hours (eg for manning of hotlines or response times and whether they include after office hours and weekends)
c) Options for renewal

10) All the Remaining Legalese

Finally, ensure that your contract with the agency minimally covers the following:

a) Intellectual property ownership/copyrights (all designs, templates, campaign materials, etc should belong to your company wherever possible)
b) Termination and liquidated damages clauses
c) Non-disclosure and confidentiality clauses
d) Other legal terms and conditions (eg abiding by the laws of the land, privacy of customer information, etc)

Naturally, the above simply serves as a guide. What's most important is to tailor your brief to suit the specific needs of your organisation.

While it can be painful (trust me, I've been there), taking the time to list down what you're looking for helps a great deal. By doing so, you not only reduce the ambiguity of the relationship between the client and the agency but help to cement it into a mutually beneficial win-win partnership.

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