Recently, I did some work with the social media experts in downtown Portland, Bonfire Social Media (or, Bonfire Marketing). I didn’t know it at the time, but Bonfire has a bit of a name here in the PDX. It’s BIG, according to one of my graphic designer friends.
As with any agency, mentioning their clients is a big no-no, so for this I’ll just refer you to their site to find the types accounts they work with. But I can say, that I’d never worked on accounts of this size (and influence) before–a popular brand with high visibility, a television network, and a large community of fans faithful to a childhood show. During my short time with the agency, I got to experience a different side of SMM, community management, and even fandom.
As an avid absorber of current, highly-publicized things, I know what it’s like to be a superfan. Boy bands, movies, books, reality television shows… If it’s being blasted across all channels, chances are that I’m into it. So when I visit popular Facebook pages as one of a million “likes,” I’m happy to go with the flow of whatever they say. A new episode of True Blood is coming out? I’m in the flurry of fans debating what’s going to happen, looking for spoilers, and sharing content on my blogs.
With Bonfire, I got the chance to be the moderator on 3 pages like this. I managed the files, the stats, the responses, and was aware of what the followers were talking about. They got a branded sweatshirt off Etsy? The actors are using profanity and posting inappropriate pics? It was my job to find these things, alert the primary, and document it in Basecamp. I also know how difficult it is to wait for the next chapter of a story, or a follow-up album, so it was a bit strange to be on the other end keeping fans excited about the new season, while not actually telling them anything new and deleting spoilers.
Another thing that was exciting (and darn scary) was posting on an account with a ton of fans just waiting for a new post. What if it wasn’t proofed correctly? What if the text skews while submitting? What if I post the wrong image? Thankfully none of these things happened! With pages this popular, over 1000 people see the post before it even loads on your screen. Spam is already all over the new post, as well as answers, comments, and fan praise.
What I learned in my previous position as a Community Specialist with Blue Volcano Media, is that nothing is more important than relating to your audience, focusing on your followers, and interacting as often as possible. Thanking each individual follower, directing them to your website, or a blog post they might find interesting, or commenting one of their own posts. I grew an account from 191 followers to 1200 in just a few months by doing this–and paying attention to them. What was the goal? Interacting, sharing, conversing. This was the way to grow the community into loyal customers!
It was a different ball game with Bonfire because of the size of the accounts. So much time was spent monitoring, brainstorming, and tracking metrics, that interaction was limited. And with the influence of the accounts, there were only a few approved answers to use for replies, and every post was meticulously done. But what was really the kicker, was the stats.
They are experts, specialists, and while creativity and “fun” are emphasized, it really only comes down to one thing: numbers. Every week, every day, clicks, likes, money on ads spent, cost per fan, people talking about this, are noted in a spreadsheet somewhere to be used in the client updates. Charts and graphs, analyses and summaries, all updated constantly. Instead of focusing on getting new fans (those are inevitable), they are going for having a specific number of fans by X date. Instead of telling the client that they will manage and grow their customers through Facebook, they are out to achieve goals and prove their influence on the business.
For this kind of company, social media is a science (not an art), and it’s worth it. One thing I took away from my time there was the passion that the boss had for proof in numbers. He is out to show every client that these techniques, these advertisements, and our social media efforts got them those sales, that influence, and that success. Every new development on Tech Crunch was so exciting because it was another way to promote social media and how it can make or break a company, or a marketing campaign. Also, I’ve never seen someone so pumped about Facebook ad re-targeting.
Every Social Media Manager should intern at an agency like this, just to see how it looks from the other side, where you aren’t focused on raising awareness and growing communities, but on learning how strategy plays a part in statistics. In these types of companies, the audience is the client.