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In part one of our Social Business Future Gazing series, we look at how the client-agency model for managing social media will change in the year ahead.

To set the scene, let’s take a look back and consider three areas of notable development in the last year or two.

Firstly the internal interest in social media has continued to accelerate. As the Harvard Business Review and Marketing Week point towards, senior marketers, chief experience officers and even CEOs are dedicating increased time and investment to social media as it steadily climbs the business agenda. Furthermore we’ve seen most major brands bring social media customer service in-house, integrating it into their wider customer service operation.coming-home

Let’s also consider the increasing maturity of social media technologies and platforms out there. Of course we’re not ignoring the fact that the established networks continue to add features apace, or that new networks continue to pop-up (leaving brands pondering whether to be early adopters or to wait-and-see). However, if we strip things back to the fundamental functions of the major social networks, we’re seeing much greater stability and usability. Social media (paid) advertising is a clear example, as the process to “promote” content has simplified and been further integrated into mass-market social media management tools. This type of stability is enabling marketers and customer service teams in particular, to develop robust, repeatable processes that they can measure and track over time. And of course big businesses love this: order, process, planning… in a nutshell, more predictability.

Finally we’re now actually seeing the uptake of internal collaboration tools (like Slack and Yammer) in large organisations, as cloud-based services gain momentum and are considered more business-as-usual. They’re helping those teams who work on activities requiring lots of collaboration… conveniently like those involved in social media marketing.

So, we have greater visibility amongst senior stakeholders, more repeatable processes and streamlined internal communication. The future’s bright! But what of the impact?

We believe the proportion of social media activity managed in-house will significantly increase – if not by the end of 2016 then shortly afterwards. Three factors in particular will drive this:


Will we see more agency employees fully embedded into their client’s business?

1. More of the “heavy lifting” roles will flip in-house, as standardised processes (or ability to “rinse and repeat”) continue to grow. This will be assisted further by a natural increase in the pool of employees with experience of working in and around social media. A colleague’s ability to work on activities that play out across social media will fast become an assumed part of brand, marketing and/or customer experience job descriptions.

2. The sophistication of hardware in the client’s hand and the nature of platforms like Periscope will continue to make it easier for anyone to create content. It will be of sufficient quality, but more importantly capture the moment and benefit from being timely.

3. Finally let’s consider the ever-growing need for those teams creating content and distributing it (through social media advertising) to collaborate closely. This is by no means a new concept, but the impact on client-agency team structures will start to increase. Joint agency teams are obviously very common these days, so we see the logical step of agency individuals sitting client-side, in more of an implanted “management consulting”, advisory type role. Something similar was called out in Forbes last year (see point 7), but expect to see it become more prominent in the coming year.

So, we believe that while external support will remain key, the increased level of internal focus and maturing of technologies will lead to the agency’s “role and responsibilities” looking a lot different in 2016.

What model do you anticipate using next year? More in-house expertise? A deeper agency relationship? Let us know.

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