Tonight I’m raising a dram of Glenfiddich 15 Year Old to all the account handlers who work in social – the un-sung hero’s of our industry. We’re not Social Planners. We don’t get to call ourselves Social Media Gurus or Rockstars (nor would we want to) and we aren’t in the cool, funky Creative department. But we do so much more than just forward things to clients and format spreadsheets…
When people ask me what I do for a living, I’ve stopped saying “I work in marketing”. For some reason the new stereotype for ‘someone who works in marketing’ seems to be a Sales Person. Not that there is anything wrong with being a Sales Person – I’m just not one. Yes, I sell ideas to brands. Yes, I sell brands to consumers. But I am not a sales person.
My official title is “Account Director” – but truth be told, overseeing an account at the agency is just one part of my role here at Gravity.
Sometimes people ask if I am just a female “Pete Campbell" from Mad Men. Pete, Sterling Coopers Account Executive, paints a very poor picture of what account handlers do. His own office, a PA, whisky on his desk (ok, sometimes I do have whisky on my desk - #deskboozin), lunches that last all day to name a few. He spends most of his day arranging meetings, schmoozing clients and trying to undermine his Creative Director, Don Draper. It may have been like that in the 60s, but it isn’t now. It may still be a bit like that in big integrated agencies. It’s definitely not like that here at Gravity. So I rarely say I am an Account Director, when people ask.
I now say 'I work in social marketing’ and this seems to prompt questions like “What, like facebook?”. People are fascinated and usually horrified when they find out that sometimes brands hire agencies to manage their communities.
People are even more perplexed when they hear that I, a young(ish) woman work on a whisky brand like Glenfiddich – in their eyes I am completely unqualified to. I can understand the point they’re making – most whisky drinkers are old(er) men. So yes, I do have to compensate for that. But it doesn’t mean I can’t. No one has ever told me I can’t do something and been right, and they’re not about to start. It always make for fascinating discussion:
“You mean you guys reply, pretending to be the brand?”
“Well no, we don’t pretend, we speak on behalf of. We’re silent ambassadors.”
“But what do you know about whisky? You’re a woman! You’re not a Distiller. You’ve never worked at a distillery. What qualifies you to talk about it with people?”
“I know a hell of a lot more than you’d think. And I make it my business to know.”
I go to extraordinary measures to immerse myself in the brands I work on. And the more I work in social, the more I see that this is becoming the norm for social marketers.
Here’s a few things good, modern account handlers who work in social do:
1. “I’m with the brand”
We buy it. We drink/ eat/ drive/ spray/ use it. We talk about it with friends and family. We brand call it in-store, in the on-trade, at events.
We post in all our social networks about the site/ app/ page/ campaign we’re working on. We promote it everywhere we go, to anyone who will listen. We convert friends and family from buying competitor brands.
We do things like turn the bottle labels front and center on-shelf, in stores. It’s just what we do. If the brand isn’t available, we want to know why. Anyone who loves or lives with someone who works for an agency can probably testify to this – we know it’s frustrating, we know it’s annoying.
So to all the family and friends out theere, on behalf of all of us account handlers who work in marketing (social or other wsie), thanks for letting that slide and putting up with us.
2. Double life
We take great care to ensure we understand both the target and current audience behavior’s in social – sometimes this means lying. Example: I currently have 12 twitter profiles. One of them is an older man who loves Single Malts and is Scottish. The other is a younger man from the US who also loves Single Malts. Both connect and regularly engage with influencers, competitor brands and consumers in their local markets. I get a wonderful plethora of consumer behaviors insight and trends.
We see this kind of thing as an essential part of our job. We are resourceful beyond relying on just the Mintel Report (which, in today's fast-paced world, is probably already out-of-date).
3. We go the extra 5 miles. At least.
Many account handlers know that by “going the extra mile” for a client, they’ll build better rapport, get more insight and generally build better relationships. But I’m not talking about staying late to do a contact report. Or taking your client out for a boozy lunch once in a while.
When you work in social, this includes things like reviewing a client’s relative’s business’ facebook page and offering support & advice out of our working hours.
It means being happy that you can't sleep at 3am because it means you can check your brand's twitter and instagram accounts and be "totally in time with the US consumer".
It includes sharing insight with the right people – even if it isn’t directly related to the social portion of their brand we’re working on. Sometimes it even means giving up a weekend to travel across the country with your own camera to get some assets for next month’s content calendar. Sometimes it means reading biographies of people in tech you’ve never heard of. It means going to SXSW (ok, that’s a few extra miles no one minds…!) and reporting back daily. It means going to events and not enjoying them, but rather tweeting them. It means understanding industry responsibility codes of conduct and have a legal hat on.
It means having some good old-fashioned stamina and really caring about your client, your brand and your community.
4. We’re forever learning, but always expected to be experts
Gone are the days when Account Handlers can just be the “pen-pushers” (Truth be told, I've always known we are much more and twitched uncomfortably when someone refered to us as such. Even worse: "suits"). I believe we need to know more. More about how things are build, more about how the internet works, more about UX and production, more about strategy and insight, more about everything.
We’re registered Facebook developers (not to code, but to follow the developers roadmap and be prepared when the platform changes), we’ve started teaching ourselves how to code (the basics!), we watch keynotes and speeches by developers, tech “gurus”, industry personalities and other agency types more than we watch terrestrial television. We’re the ones on our daily commutes streaming through twitter feeds of media publications and monitoring competitors of brands we work on.
Everyone wants to know our opinions on what they should and shouldn't do in social - and we need to have one. A well informed one. Everyone wants to know what the next big thing is. And there is always someone who has stumbled on an obscure, new social network or an app and God help you if you haven't heard of it.
5. We are the real super-users
As social marketers, we are connected and signed up to every damn social network out there and we need to use them on a daily basis to ensure we understand them all. I’ve already mentioned I have 12 twitter accounts. I also have a profile on just about every single social network there is. I have a monster spreadsheet of log-ins.
This can sometimes be exhausting - I’ll be honest. Especially when networks have mobile and desktop apps that differ in functionality. Especially when all you want to do is throw your phone against a brick wall and be free of the relentless notification icons and push notifications. Definitely when it feels like you are the only sad loser signed up to newfandangledsocialnetworkforsocialnetworkers.com. But it’s essential.
6. We are story-tellers
But by far and away the most important things we do is tell stories.
A large part of my job as a social marketer is trying to define how I can tell a brands’ story in a way that is compelling to the target audience.
And the more I do this, the more I realise that our team of Social Planners, Community Managers and Creatives are not unlike the Creative & Production teams at PIXAR. Famously, PIXAR have “22 Rules for Storytelling”, which I think can, and should be, applied to brands in social media marketing.
Perhaps I’ll write my version: “22 Rules for Brand Storytelling.” Watch this space.
In the meatime, God Bless every Account Handler, Community Manager, Content Planner – every one of you deserve some love. You rock.
By Michaela MacIntyre, Account Director. @mich_maci