The four types of social media clients

This will likely be my most challenging post to date and one I have been debating about actually writing for a long time.

For more than six months now, we have been working with clients and non-clients who have expressed some level of interest in either learning more about or executing social media as part of their marketing mix.  In that time we have found that most people (clients, potential clients, interested parties) usually fall into one of four categories.  This post will identify those categories and how we at THP have met the challenges of each in our continuing  journey to add social media into our public relations and marketing mix.

This post is meant to educate and not alienate.  It is my sincere hope that anyone who sees themselves in these categories will take the descriptions in the manner in which they were intended.  Here are the categories:

  • The “Dismisser”:  This is someone who has heard about social media but comes to the table with a personal or professional reason to dislike it.  Either they have had a negative personal experience, are late adopters, or come from an organization that is built to dissuade the use of this type of communications.  Usually that attitude comes from the C-level or from the IT department and makes it difficult for anyone to even consider including social media in the marketing mix.
    • Solutions include a slow, steady approach.  You cannot force something here.  Spoon-feeding is critical.  Show what can be done by using examples that have worked.  Get started with small, achievable goals like getting them started on LinkedIn or with a personal Twitter account.  Handholding is important here.  Progress is slow, and not guaranteed but in many cases once you can exhibit success these folks can be turned into evangelists.
  • The “ROIer”:  We have great respect for folks who need to prove return on investment.  It is something that PR folks have had to combat throughout history and very difficult to prove in social media, at least off the bat.  In most cases, these folks also have limited social media knowledge (just seems to happen that way).  The PR experience does help as we try to partner with them for mutually- agreeable opportunities.
    • The best solution here is a well-thought-out plan with extremely well-defined goals and outcomes.  These goals should not immediately be tied to ROI things like traffic or money but things more social media-friendly like community building and engagement.  Keep your initial time frames here short as well so you can adjust with the person on the other side of the table.  Eventually both you and he/she will become more comfortable with the medium and you will be able to meet in the middle on the question of ROI.
  • The “Gets it’:  This is someone who is already engaged in social media on a personal level or professional level and needs a knowledgeable partner to help them produce and manage the social media program at their organization.  On the surface, this is the best scenario, but….
    • As with all social media programs, the challenge is the ongoing content or “feeding the monster.”  Sometimes while the person gets it, the organization might not be able to provide enough robust content in a timely manner to satisfy both them and you.  Ironically, patience is key here on both sides to make sure you can maintain “your” end of the conversation.
  • The “Rock and Roller”:  This is the “Gets it” on steroids.  They are usually an early adopter in their personal life, so much so that once you steer them in the right direction, they will take things and run with it themselves.
    • Your tendency here is to pull them back in either for monetary gain or because you are worried that they might go off track.  That is likely a mistake.  Your best bet here is to let them go and experiment.  They are going to do it anyway.  It helps to checking in with them on a regular basis if they are interested.  This will help steer them in the right direction.  The truth is you can likely learn some things from their experimentation as well.

For any clients that self-identified in this post and require an apology.  I’m sorry.  We all have and will continue to learn a great deal together. 

There are likely other “categories” that folks can identify.  Please feel free to share them with your comments.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

Read more by Jon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to receive our blog posts by email