Now that we’re in Ramadan, the prime time for advertising, media and communication, it reminded me of why we’ve come to consciously and intentionally shut down our social media operations only a little bit less than 1 year ago. Back then, we had an amazing team of creatives and a bunch of notable accounts yet we still decided to cut it off and, since then, chatting with other agencies about social media only feels relieving and reassuring.
I feel socially obliged to share it with my fellow entrepreneurs out there to either save them precious years of their lives or inspire them to come up with their own recipe of success.
We’re not so impulsive here at robusta nor do we follow the crowd. We have exhausted all analysis before finally deciding social media is not for us. Here are 10 reasons why.
- Barriers… What barriers? I can’t see no barriers!
Everybody knows that a market with a high entry barrier for competition is a market that’s more secure and sustainable and as the barrier becomes lower it quickly becomes a red ocean where only the lower price wins. In the social media ground, your grandma can start her own social media agency, today, right from her comfy couch, and compete with you tomorrow on that Culinary Workshops account. No?
- Fresh Blood.. You’re Bloody
Now that everyone already knows there’s a social media agency around every corner and a social media freelancer in every family, you become easy to replace. Clients will always feel empowered, tempted and encouraged to ditch you and try something new. Even if you’ve done a good job, at some point it’s always time for fresh blood. Your agency will probably exhaust its creative concepts for the client in the first couple of campaigns and just as you’re recharging your creative energies for the next campaign, your client will seek out to other agencies knocking their door to listen to new pitches, lower prices and once this starts they will find every reason to ditch you and find their next prey.
Social media account management market prices are somewhere between EGP 4K to EGP 12K for at least 80% of local accounts. This should supposedly pay for team’s salaries (designers, copywriters, community managers, creatives, media and account manager), indirect salaries to keep your agency running and expenses such as your rent & utilities and make a worth-it-enough profit. That’s probably one reason why agency owners turn out to be so mean to their people, pay them peanuts, delay their salaries or even skip it at all or they reach out to deep pockets to finance the show and keep their star accounts alive and rocking, despite losing.
- It’s not really social media, it’s a game of PR
Social media on its own is really not an offering; however, PR is. If you’re into PR with its different practices from Events to Press to Media Relations etc… social media can be an essential complementary service. If you’re only doing social media, you’re as good as gone.
- You’re either friends with the “influencers” or you’re screwed
In a country like Egypt, social media is driven by shepherds, commonly known as social media influencers. They would tell the people what to like, what to eat and where to go, and you’re either friends with them (you can buy it at $9.99 in low seasons and as high as $99,999 in higher seasons) or you can struggle to speak in the vacuum
Your agency is being paid peanuts that can’t even cover your costs and then your competitors come up with that creative pitch and bottom low pricing. How can they do that? Ads. Most of the agencies lose on their social media fees and make “profits” out of the ads business. Ads, being a slightly more technically involved business, are almost not audited by the clients. But even that has a price war to the extent that you find agencies claiming to run ads for 5% management fees aka out of a 100K campaign over 3 months (which is a relatively well-funded campaign), they charge 5K which is less than 2K a month. WTF? 2K to finance the ads manager, designs, optimization, reporting and account management? You guys are either losing or you’re just taking a cut out of the 100K behind the client’s back and poor clients barely understand 20% of what the agency wants them to understand about their ads.
- Social Media is not steroids, say that to your client!
Clients expect social media campaign today – tomorrow I’m the most popular on Facebook or nothing. Clients want to have their say on the design, the copy writing, posting frequency & posting times and on the claim of company policy and then you’re held accountable for results.
They expect every post to be a campaign on its own. While it’s understood that every now and then a campaign to shake things up is a nice thing but it’s just unfair to expect. They compare a post to a TV commercial that takes shit loads of money, time & team to produce and has a lifetime that could extend anywhere between 1 to 6 months. They expect a post to drive sales, directly, all the time.Moreover, clients don’t want to spend enough on ads to make social media work and they’re not even educated about the difference between a social media post and the lifetime of a post.
- Payments & Cash flow
Knowing how contracts work around Egypt, a wise agency needs to have its own collection strategy that keep its cash flow near healthy and know for sure this has to be a mixture of relations, politics, red eye and knowing where and when to stop the tap. With social media, you have to keep the show running for the account day in and day out if you want to stay in it. Regardless of your payments status, you have to always be a giver and your client will almost always find a reason to delay your payments, and poor you having to keep their show running regardless or just lose it at all.
- The illusion of growth
80% if not more of the social media agencies are either unethical in the ways they make money (see: ads) or they’re chasing after the illusion that they’re now incurring losses to build their portfolio and once they strike the right balance, they’re on the way to endless profits. This is just bullshit.
- You don’t really have a strategy & the model is immature
You need to be joker of all trades.. and yes you will be master of none. The game between a company’s marketing team, creative agency and production agency is just not that mature, yet.
Few last words…
We see it as an integral part of the communication and requires lots of customer service and alignment on day in & day out business operations so better done in house. If you want to survive you need to focus on the niche. It’s collaborative team work. It will not work without a PR who takes care of events coverage.
If you want to survive you need to do it 1. a-la-a call center style, 2. creatively and find your niche (like Kijami) and 3. complement it with a powerful barrier (own your own media channels like MO4).
We told you what’s going wrong with social media. Here’s a list of social media agencies worth considering who’re good at what they do and can tell you what’s good about it.